• Photograph of Dark Places exhibition infrastructure.

  • Digital media storage / user interface units. Photo of the ground components for the Dark Places project, each of which holds a CPU carrying the digital content of the exhibition in addition to a touch-screen monitor for user-interaction.

  • Curatorial distribution map of digital media: fiber-optic circulation conduit, digital media projection units, digital media storage / user interface units

  • Photo of rear projection unit. The rear projection system for the Dark Places exhibition integrates various degrees of material information, from the plasticity of its vacuum-formed acrylic shell to the liquidity of data rendered in the form of projected imagery across the surfaces of that shell. Essentially a distribution and display infrastructure, the exhibition system integrates and synthesizes these various material and informational states to produce a series of ambient and environmental conditions and effects within the gallery.

  • Detail photograph of digital media projection unit and distribution conduit.

Display Environment 2: Dark Places


Exhibition Design


Exhibition design for Dark Places, organized by independent curator Joshua Decter for the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Los Angeles.

Project Description

Integrating both physical and virtual infrastructures, this exhibition environment operates less as a conventional display and lighting system and more as a dynamic spatial instrument, absorbing, processing, and ultimately indexing various forms of interaction between the environment and its users.

Working in collaboration with the independent curator Joshua Decter, servo developed an exhibition infrastructure incorporating fiber-optic lighting technology, digital projection equipment, touch-screen interfaces, and vacuum-formed acrylic panel systems to explore the resonance between material and formal systems and their distributional and indexical capacities.

The thematic of a “dark place” operates at the level of content and as a real site of production within the scale of the exhibition. In the 20th Century metropolis it was the residual openings or “dark places” within the city, spaces that were underused and thus held the potential for new forms of use to emerge, which became sites of creative and enigmatic agency. These dark places were sometimes physical and spatial, but they could also take the form of political, economic, and legal openings in the city’s infrastructure. In the 21st Century the Internet has generated a whole new urbanism of potentially productive dark places.  As seen in the rapid proliferation of on-line interest groups and semi-illicit trading cultures, the Internet engenders new forms of cultural and political agency whereby existing material power structures come into question by the emergence of new virtual ones. It is within this space of agency, at both material and virtual scales, that the creative potential of a dark place becomes the actual program of the exhibition environment. By way of the interactivity embedded in the display system, users find within the installation’s infrastructure new potential sites for the deployment and materialization of their individual and collective desires.

A system of suspended acrylic information / lighting conduits provides a physical as well as virtual network of connectivity between various display and user-interface technologies, including forward / rear projection equipment and touch-screen interfaces.  The projection system provides for a passive engagement with the display material, allowing users to view art in a more informal way as they move through the gallery.  The touch-screen interfaces, which are housed in a series of acrylic floor units, provide for a more active engagement with the display material, allowing the user to directly access the digital database of artwork.  As a means of indexing and by extension materializing this more active or direct form of engagement, the display environment monitors the frequency and density of interaction with the four touch-screen interfaces and adjusts the intensity levels of the fiber-optic lighting embedded in the acrylic conduits accordingly.  To this extent, the lighting intensity the system produces is a direct registration of the intensity of user-environment interaction over time.

Project Credits


Exhibition Design


David Erdman, Marcelyn Gow, Ulrika Karlsson, Chris Perry

Design Team: Mike Hill, Jeremy Whitener, Ellie Abrons, Kim Watts

Installation Team:  Mike Hill, Ellie Abrons, Kim Watts, Emmet Ashford-Trotter, Paul Locke, Jeff Sipprell, Celi Freeman, Fernando Olvera


Joshua Decter

Interaction Design

Elise Co, Peter Cho

Lighting Consultants

Kevin Larson

Structural Consultant

Robert Garlipp of ASI

Audio Visual Consultant

Joey D’Angelo of Charles M. Salter & Associates

Interaction Consultant

Casey Reas

Installation Contractors

Osinski Design

Installation Team: Tomas Osinski, Richard Haga, Richard Reyes

Fabrication Consultants

Warner Brothers (Vacuum Forming), Aria Group (CNC milling), Parrish Rash (Cabinetry/Prototype)