Krystallos emerges from a research about the nineteenth century´s scientific imaginary that is approached from a contemporary and experimental artistic point of view. 

This work focuses on the studies carried out by authors such as Friedrich Reitnitzer, Otto Lehmann or Walter Hirt related to certain organic behaviors of liquid crystals.


The result is a multichannel visual and sound installation created using the visualization and sonification of data extracted from the structural characteristics of different liquid crystals samples attending to the multiple phases in which those can be found. The idea behind this work is to represent that which is invisible to the naked eye, to listen to inaudible phenomena and to animate what we perceive as inanimate.


Horacio González and Xoán-Xil López




Representation has been, and keeps being, an essential element not only for the dissemination of scientific discoveries but also for the processes involved on the conception of ideas and hypotheses and even for their formalization; “conceptualization and imaging shape scientific process ” (Wilson, Stephen: Information Arts. Intersections of Arts, Science and Technology. MIT Press. 2002, p. 76). Like any representation, the scientific one has an important aesthetic component associated.


Otto Lehmann Cristales líquidos





In 1888 the Austrian botanist and chemist Friedrich Reinitzer discovered that under certain circumstances some crystals showed organic behaviors, which would lead Otto Lehmann to call them liquid crystals or rheocrystals.


The structures of these crystals challenged the geometric structures known so far "flowing and circular, producing ambient lights effects. They formed complex spider webs, or were filled with oil-like patches expanding in a mucus substance ” (Papapetros, Spyros: On the animation of inorganic. University Chicago Press. 2012, p. 121).


These characteristics led these researchers to project on them animal behaviors that Lehmann himself enhanced with the creation of a beautiful film in which he uses microscope images together with animation techniques.


This discovery inspires the latest works of his master Ernst Haeckel, Crystal Souls. Studies of Inorganic Life (1917), which came to support his own evolutionary theories as well as his monistic thinking. The discoveries related to liquid crystals have had a great importance in the visual culture of the 20th century; thanks to them it has been possible to develop the screens and displays that we use today in multiple devices and that are necessary to create and shape this installation.


Ernst Haeckel El alma de los cristales




These spaces that stood between the strange, the magical and the scientific, reflecting “a scholarly interest on the part of their owners in the potential of the anomalous and the marvellous to unlock ‘nature´s secrets’ " (Henning, Michelle: Museums, media and cultural theory. Open University Press. 2006, p. 21), serve here as inspiration for the layout of the modules in the form of displays that we can approach to perceive their individual peculiarities completing, at the same time, a whole and more immersive installation displayed in the space.


Doménico Remps Gabinete de curiosiddes (1690)




Another resource linked to the nineteenth-century visual culture that we recycle in this installation is the effect known as Pepper Ghost.


This device premiered at the Royal Polytechnic Institution in London in 1862 combining "popular topics, scientific education, and spectacle " (Kattelman, Beth A.: “Spectres and Spectators: The Poly-Technologies of the Pepper’s Ghost Illusion”. On: Reilly, Kara (Ed.): Theatre, Performance and Analogue Technology: Historical Interfaces and Intermedialities. Springer, 2013, p. 199) allows the reproduction of images with an holographic appearance. This type of optical systems puts us once again at the crossroads between art and technology connecting also with the cultural discourse that underlies the science of the late nineteenth century and its attempt to address metaphysical questions through science.


Fantasma de Pepper




The sonification not only helps the comprehension and analysis of data flows and complex patterns, which may otherwise to be unnoticed, but also opens a space for questioning the oculocentric regime of scientific culture, placing listening as a valid form for the elaboration of scientific knowledge.


Using sonification (data mapping into sound parameters) and audification (direct conversion of data into audio signals) processes has been widely used in recent years not only in the scientific field (Auditory display), but has also served to inspire works of multiple artists who use this data as an extramusical material that serves as a structural element that gives coherence to their works.




Despite current imaginary treats mapping and augmented reality like recent technologies, their principles have long been used by artists. Mapping, the adaptation of images to the projection surface in order to achieve hyperreal three-dimensional effects, is nothing more than an application of anamorphosis and perspective, widely studied during the Renaissance and the Baroque.


Javier Navarro de Zuloaga Perspectiva


Paying attention to the detailed description made by Martin Kempt, in The science of ar (Kempt, Martin: The science of art. MIT Press. 2002, p. 16-29) of Brunelleschi's discovery of perspective, particularly to its demonstration at the Baptistery of Florence, we may realize something revealing. His authentic discovery has gone unnoticed for centuries, only now, in the age of computers, its possible to name what he really proposed.


Using tools as rudimentary as mirrors and diaphragms, Brunelleschi did not invent perspective, that had been widely anticipated on medieval optics treatises; Brunelleschi invented Augmented Reality.


What characterizes Brunelleschi's demonstration is not the ability to generate a systematized representation of reality, but the intention to coherently superimpose represented reality to reality itself. By using a mirror to reflect the clouds and forcing viewers to look through an eyehole that matched drawn perspective with the real buildings perspective, not only he must have caused an expectation similar to actual mapping projects in public spaces, but he successfully superimposed a virtual information plane, the picture, to reality. Integrating and complementing them, for the very first time, to produce a new experience.


Playing with technology and representation is something that artists have always done, KRYSTALLOS is a project that aims to do the same. Nevertheless, instead of taking advantage of holography, mapping and augmented reality from a monumental approach, KRYSTALLOS glances small or microscopic processes to work on a more intimate, personal and magical scale.






The installation consist of four modules using each one a screen, a reflective surface and a loudspeaker. Inside there is a three-dimensional model that represents a polygonal structure of the crystalline series using the Bravais lattices. On it the video mapping is projected using a Pepper ghost effect creating audible and visual structures from data.








There are several ways to dispose the piece, but originally it is designed to be mounted on an array of shelves arranged frontally and at the same height on a wall. But modules location can be adapted to the different exhibition spaces depending on their configuration.






Both the visual and sound creation are made using data extracted from the analysis of different types of liquid crystals, taking as reference the three-dimensional models of the crystalline series. Crystallography Open Database ( and VESTA software ( -Visualization for Electronic and Industrial Analisys- are used to extract and manage scientific data of the crystals as their Powder Diffraction Patterns.






The data obtained from this process are used for the generation of images and sounds applying visual mapping processes on the small volumetric structures and generating sound using  sonification and audification strategies.


For the development of sound content Supercollider software will be used.



For the visual development of the piece (the image generation and its mapping on the three-dimensional paper crystal models) we will start working with SVG animations and browser based technology - for a fast prototyping approach that would allow us to experience the piece right from the beginning, in order to check all audiovisual interactions and to test how audience relates to the small holograms.


During this phase we will use Geogebra - to create sketches and to study the mathematic and geometric aspects of the projection system, build different setups an test them. After this initial phase, once we finalize a definitive audiovisual proposal for the installation.




Finally, we will create full screen applications for the tablets used as displays/projectors with OpenFrameworks - -. At the end of the project, all the software produced for the installation will be published under open source licenses.

Palabras clave
audiovisual instalaciones lumínicas realidad aumentada sonido
12 colaborators







Project status
CC By-Sa-Nc
Joint valuation


Debido a las peculiaridades lumínicas que requeire esta instalación no hemos podido documentar en vídeo la pieza en condiciones pero dejamos aquí algunas imágenes.



+ info en:

Primera versión de Krystallos. Ya están los módulos funcionando y estos días seguiremos con la residencia, trabajando en los contenidos, ajustando aspectos relativos a la visualización y experimentando con las posibilidades que ofrece el sistema multicanal de vídeo y audio.

Peana_detalle PeanasLogosCartelTaller


Otras alternativas para experimentar con procesos de sonificación:

xSonify programa basado en Java que permite analizar datos y transformarlos en sonido

Sonification Sandbox incluyendo la posibilidad de generar archivos MIDI

Además existen múltiples opciones en Pure Data, MaxMsp, etc.



El día 9 de marzo visitamos el laboratorio del cristalógrafo, especialista en cristales líquidos, y profesor en la Universidad COmplutense de Madrid, Jose Antonio Rodríguez Cheda. A través de este encuentro pudimos profundizar en numerosos aspectos sobre las posibilidades y la representación de estos elementos desde un punto de vista cientéfico y la creación de materiales.

Cheda 1Cheda 6Cheda 5Cheda 2Cheda libro


Prueba sencilla de audificación+sonificación. En este patch simple utilizamos síntesis granular para procesar las ondas generadas a partir de la lectura de la tablas y, al mismo tiempo, controlamos los parámetros con la lectura de otras columnas.



Otro método de audificación utilizando Env para generar ondas en Supercollider a partir de listas de números.



En este breve ejemplo los datos de las columna son utilizados para genear una onda de audio (audificación) como elemento para sintetizar sonidos.

Se pueden ver más posibilidades de la creación de sonidos a utilizando Wavetables en estos tutoriales [1] [2]



Ejemplo muy básico de Supercollider que permite leer columnas del archivo de texto con datos de un cristal y utilizar estos valores para controlar parámetros musicales. Se trata de un código muy básico de lo que convencionalmente se entiende como sonificación.



Uno de los cristales líquidos de los que partimos es el Benzoato de Colesteril, la primera sustancia identificada como cristal líquido por Friedrich Reinitzer.

Aquí algo más de información:

Descargar datos del Benzoato de colesteril

Esto datos se han extraido utilizando el programa VESTA.

Para obtener el archivo de texto con las reflexiones = Menu | utilities/Powder Difracttion Pattern -> Calculate -> File/Export Reflection Table.

Benzoato de colesteril


En la sección de repositorio hemos añadido un primer ejemplo para iniciar la sonificación en Supercollider.

Utilizando estas líneas de código podemos leer archivos .cvs o .txt, aunque en principio los que nos interesan en este proyecto son los ficheros .txt ya que es el formto que exporta VESTA con los datos del Powder Defraction Pattern de los modelos cristalinos.

Abriendo archivos