If you visited the Exploratorium in the 1970s or 1980s, you might remember this tree lighting up—mysteriously, delightfully—at the sound of clapping. “This tree was created by Burt Libe as a fantastic approach to the new field of electronic art,” the artist wrote.
A feat of engineering in 1971, this beloved work is now over 50 years old. Though The Enchanted Tree no longer functions fully, it’s still a wonderful expression of one tinkerer’s skill and vision. You can tap a pedal to light up the tree and its circuits. The circuit board is hand-built, unique in design, and too fragile to disassemble; its exact logic remains a mystery.
On view in Glow: Discover the Art of Light, November 17, 2022–January 29, 2023.
Photo: The Enchanted Tree at the Palace of Fine Arts in 1976. Photo © Exploratorium Archives.
Burt Libe is an electronics engineer and the founder of Libe Company. He invented and developed Libe Computer Modules in 1966, and published the book A New Approach to Digital Computer Logic in 1970. He has created various works of electronic art from his modules.