About

WHO WE ARE

The Illuminator is an art-activist collective comprised of visual artists, educators, filmmakers, and technologists living and working in New York City.

The collective has staged hundreds of projection-interventions in public spaces, transforming the street from a space of passive consumption and transit into a site of engagement, conflict, and dialogue. Our work calls attention to the many urgent crises that confront us, in support of the ongoing struggle for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.

You can find us on instagram at @the.illuminator, and on twitter and facebook at @illuminator99.

Current members include Emily Andersen, Todd Anderson, Rachel Brown, Grayson Earle, Emily Ahn Levy, Mon M, Nadia Mohamed, Anna Ozbek, Chris Rogy and Jean Sonderand.

Former members include Zoe Bachman, Margaret Campbell, Kyle Depew, Betsy Fagin, Susan Forste, Hugo Genes, Daniel Latorre, Shaun Persaud, Mark Read, Ivan Safrin, Athena Soules, and Lucky Tran.

Guiding Values

*This is a living and iterative list and process. The following is an abbreviated version of our guiding values document. Click here for the full text.

  • Political Principles: We are an artist-activist collective committed to social, environmental, and political engagement and transformation. Our political principles help us draw boundaries to guide us on the projects we undertake. We fundamentally value an intersectional approach to justice and liberation: racial, climate, housing, economic, health, immigrant, gender, educational, labor, language, and disability. We believe that true change requires dismantling all systems of oppression.

    • Abolition
    • Anti-Capitalism
    • Autonomy and Self-Determination
    • Decolonization
    • Democratic Expression
    • Racial Justice
    • International Solidarity

 

  • Collective Principles: We are committed to respecting time and labor in our collective, as well as supporting one another’s growth and learning as individuals.

    • Accountability
    • Art as Cultural Work
    • Process is Political
    • Respect
    • Horizontal Leadership

 

  • Community Principles: We understand there is power in what we do and are discerning about who we choose to work with.

    • Inspiration
    • Mutuality + Reciprocity
    • Solidarity

Origins

The Illuminator emerged out of the context of the Occupy Wall Street movement, officially launching on March 3rd, 2012, after spending several months designing and building our customized cargo van.

The Occupy “Bat Signal” shines on the Verizon Building. Photo by Brandon Neubauer

Money Stuff

We were able to initiate the project thanks to the Money Resource Group of Occupy Wall Street, which funded our initial purchases of equipment and our fabrication costs. Since July 2012, we have been independently self-funded on a bare-bones budget through the commissioned work that we occasionally do for grassroots organizations and groups, along with donations (thank you!).

We ask for compensation from those who can afford to pay us in order to subsidize the work we try to do for low-to-no pay, on behalf of all-volunteer efforts and dedicated individuals. The majority of our funding goes to covering our operating costs – keeping our van insured and our gear in working order. Some funding also goes towards labor in order to ensure the sustainability of our project. Our rates are sliding scale.

We are committed to using our resources to fight for a more just and sustainable world.

The Van & Gear

The Illuminator van is a white 2002 Ford Econoline 350 diesel. We hacked it, installing a periscoping platform that can raise and lower a large projector through the roof, and then tilt and swivel as needed.

The Illuminator on the Prowl.
Behind the scenes in The Illuminator van.

For projection mapping we use MadMapper, VDMX, or a piece of custom mapping software developed by collective member Grayson Earle, which you can download here. We also frequently use a nifty tool we developed that we call the People’s Pad, which allows individuals to write on buildings in light, in real time. You can see the demo here, and learn more about it here.