Sometimes you like to look at art. Sometimes you like to marvel at science. Last week, the Emory community got to experience both of them working together in a beautiful display at Marcus Neustetter’s “Light Experiments.”

On Friday, March 20, Emory students, faculty and staff gathered in the darkened campus quad to enjoy a night full of lasers, lights and long-exposure photography.


Hagar Elsayed/Photo Editor

Neustetter’s plan was to direct the crowd around the quad with various combinations of lights and then take long-exposure photographs of the movements in order to create stunning visual displays of light movement.

Neustetter, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based artist, producer and culture activist, is staying at Emory on a one-week residency program performing and creating experiments with students and giving talks about his work as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s exhibition African Cosmos: Stellar Arts, which also features another light-based work of his “Chasing Light.” The exhibition is currently hosted at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum.

Neustetter uses an interdisciplinary approach in his work to combine art, science and technology. In “Light Experiments,” the photographs he took had the camera shutter exposed for up to four seconds. This extra time is used to track moving light sources from where they begin to where they are when the exposure ends, and the end result in photographs is a trail of light that follows the movement of the light source during the shutter exposure.

He had students pass the light-up balls around in a circle to a rhythm, hoping to get a very clear image.

Nine thousand glow sticks were broken in preparation for the performance, and Neustetter brought two-hundred bouncy balls that lit up whenever they hit something. Students were also given laser pointers and strings of lights. The lights on the quad were turned off to create a better effect, making every laser pointer and glow stick shine more brightly in the darkness.


Hagar Elsayed/Photo Editor

Neustetter stood upon a platform in front of the Michael C. Carlos Museum, calling directions into a microphone.

It was tough at times for the huge crowd to organize themselves properly, and Neustetter cracked a few jokes about the difficulty everyone was having following simple instructions, laughing along with everyone as they moved into position.

He first had students hold up white mesh nets and move their glow sticks around behind them, shooting pictures of the rainbow light movements. One mysterious student showed up with a high-power green laser pointer built for pointing to the stars, and Neustetter delighted in the opportunity, directing one student to stand behind the mesh and asking “Green Laser Man” to stand behind her, flicking the beam back and forth along her body. The resulting photograph was a thin green light moving back and forth as it traveled up with a dark silhouette of the student’s body carved out in the middle.

Neustetter then brought out strings of white Christmas lights, also known as fairy lights. Students were instructed to take the lights and move around in a giant circle, creating a fairy light windmill.


Hagar Elsayed/Photo Editor


He then had the crowd lay the strings out on the grass, creating an intricate pattern, and gave out light-up bouncy balls, asking the crowd to throw the balls back and forth over the fairy light design.

He had students pass the light-up balls around in a circle to a rhythm, hoping to get a very clear image.

Throughout the evening, students showed off their own creativity by hanging glow sticks from the trees and building designs with them, including headbands and windmills that created rainbows when spun. They also enjoyed dressing themselves in the fairy lights when they weren’t being used for Neustetter’s photographs. Students everywhere were taking pictures of themselves and each other with their various light displays, clearly having a blast in the lit-up night.

Students were then given wooden poles to raise into the air and a thin white mesh was hung over it. Other students, who Neustetter had given red laser pointers, flicked the lights back and forth between the mesh, making the light bounce through ten layers of film at one time. Neustetter took some long-exposure shots of the lasers in the mesh canopy.


Hagar Elsayed/Photo Editor


He then directed the crowd towards the Carlos Museum wall, where he asked everyone with a laser pointer to make various designs, including drawing circles, writing their initials, and slowly drawing the lights down the wall.

Any students holding a light-up bouncy ball were then asked to climb the stairs in front of the Carlos Museum, where they would throw them all down at once.

Neustetter positioned his camera at the bottom of the stairs, ready to capture the light-up balls as they fell towards him. In the darkness, the sight was fantastic: a bunch of flickering blue-and-red lights bouncing down the stairs, each at its own pace.

To end the night, Neustetter asked the crowd to gather on the quad in front of the Carlos Museum, preparing to take a long-exposure shot of the crowd moving their glow sticks around.

Green Laser Man was asked to move his laser pointer around on the tree behind the crowd, creating a beautiful sight as the beam moved through every twig and branch, almost making it look as though the tree was glittering.


Benazir Wehelie/Copy Chief


Neustetter will post the finished photographs online under the hashtag #marcuslights within the next few days, and students will be able to see the results of their fun.

Anyone who attended the event and those who are interested in seeing how the photographs turned out should keep an eye on the hashtag, which will light up very soon.

Corrections (3/30 at 10:07 p.m.): The article omitted information pertaining to the relationship between Neustetter and the African Cosmos: Stellar Arts exhibition. Also, in the final paragraph, a reference to a display of the “final product” in the Michael C. Carlos Museum was removed, as the work was never to be displayed there.