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 Crazy Phosphenes

A project-mapped piece inspired by the visual phenomenon, "Phosphenes".

produced by: Julia Corkhill


My project is based on Phosphenes, a visual phenomenon where colourful bursts of light appear, usually with pressure on the eyes or stimulation of the visual cortex. I attempted to recreate various presentations of phosphenes, through interesting different colours, movement and patterns in each of my scenes.

Concept and background research

With my background being in psychology and vision, I have always been interested in how we perceive the world around us and the interesting visual effects we experience. When we experience phosphenes, it is as if we are experiencing generative art through seemingly random bursts of colours, geometric patterns and movement.  The fact our brains can simulate such complex and interesting art is something that fascinates me. I used various images that aimed to mimic phosphenes as inspiration[1].


For my project I used Openframeworks, coding in C++.  In my code, I used a range of functions and statements, including sin, randomness, for loops, lerping and many more. Scene 1 focused on mimicking the intense, crazy movements of phosphenes and how they may expand and contract. Scene 2 focused on the way phosphenes may change size and how they constantly move and rotate, using rectangles. Scene 3 focused on presented phosphenes as geometric patterns, also capturing the way they change size and rotate.

With my limited experience in coding this project was a challenge for me, but through practice I managed to achieve a piece of work to be proud of. Some challenges I occurred included having to fix errors , but I have learnt that this is a part of coding in general and it has made me made at debugging and understanding code.

Future development

I think my work can be developed further in a number of ways. Using inspiration from more art pieces to create more phosphene-like scenes is something I am interested in, as we all have our own unique experience of phosphenes. Also, I would like to make use of Perlin noise to present phosphenes, as personally phosphenes have Perlin-like characteristics for me.

I am also interested in further adapting my artwork by exploring visual illusions. I believe illusions are an incredible visual phenomenon that has the capability of inspiring incredible pieces of artwork. 


I personally believe if I had more time I could have developed some of my scenes a bit more, especially scene 2, to make it more phosphene-like. I had some issues coding in general but doing the project taught me a lot about how to code in C++ and how to be resilient. I do think my work lacked complexity in a number of ways. I could have been more ambitious if I were more confident with my coding skills, and made use of more coding techniques and functions, such as vectors and Perlin Noise

Another thing I would like to change in the future would simply be the background images – certain errors prevented me from changing my projection-mapped dummy images, and I would have preferred it to be a darker, clearer background to really give the feeling the scenes were being projected in real life.



[2] - Oster, G. (1970). Phosphenes. Scientific American, 222(2), 82-87.

[3]“Pulsating Rings” – Week 7, Theo Papatheodorou

[4]“Magnetic grid” – Week 4 – Theo Papatheodorou