Irene Posch & Ebru Kurbak – The Embroidered Computer

The Embroidered Computer is a programmable 8-bit computer that’s made completely out of magnets, glass & metal beads, the cloth frame, and metal threads. It uses gold thread to create relays, and “Individual relays switch and consequently pass through signals to perform the calculation based on the instructions given.”

What I admire about this project is that the artist took more traditional fields of embroidery and quilting, and re purposed them as a way to create a simple computer. The fact that it is an 8-bit computer is also important because it highlights the history of computing as well as the simplicity (in contrast to modern cutting edge tech like multi GPU computers, etc)

There is not a lot of documentation of how this piece was physically created, but we have the schematics of the logic circuit, and so by necessity we can mostly assume that it was created by embroidering thread in the pattern of the schematic, following the outline and sewing the various pieces and attachments. There was a very specialized team involved in creating this piece.

This work seems to have been inspired by a history of wearable technology, interactive textiles, and embroidered circuitry such as the kind of stuff found on http://www.kobakant.at/DIY/


People involved in making the project: (quoted from link)

Irene Posch, Ebru Kurbak

Computer circuit design and simulation software: Matthias Mold
Generative routing: Raimund Krennmüller
Embroidery consultant: Susanne Frantal
Metal thread consultant: Sophie Fürnkranz
Crafting assistants: Pascale Ballieul, Abdulrahman Ghibeh, Ramona Hirt, Ngo Thi Dao Nha, Katta Spiel, Isabella Wöber, with special thanks to Eva Ganglbauer, Anna Masoner and Angela Posch
Video documentation: Ulrich A. Reiterer / UAR Media

Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): AR 284-G21 in the Programme for Arts-based Research (PEEK).


Assemblance was the first media-art piece I saw in an art gallery.  I saw it at the Digital Revolutions exhibition at the Barbarian in 2014.  It was created by Umbrellium for the show, by a team of many people and two creative directors.

I found its mix of participatory collaborative interaction with strange visual experiences.  I had never experienced a projection that so clearly was able to define shapes and create semi-solid surfaces.  I found myself feeling almost surprised each time my hand pushed the projected walls away without physically feeling them.

It was successful in eliciting participation amongst the viewers, as there weren’t any explicit instructions detailing the various gestures you could use to draw and remove rigid objects and chains, leaving viewers to show each other the movements to make to activate them.  The objects could be pushed around and would collide with other people’s creations.

I spent a while in the installation and it as also interesting to see how first time participants would react—mostly by drawing a wall around themselves and pushing it around.

The visuals possible were necessarily limited due to being 2D objects extruded out in space over the projection volume, but still had sufficient variability to be satisfying.


Although my work isn’t necessarily directly inspired by Assemblage, it still points to interesting directions in participatory, emergent interaction between people.


Char Davies’ Ephémère (1998)


Ephémère is an immersive, interactive visual/aural experience of spatial poetry, a nature-inspired philosophical meditation of sorts expressed in light, space and sound. The ‘immersant,’ equipped with a virtual reality (VR) Head-Mounted Display (HMD) and a body vest for sensing breathing/balance, floats in the virtual three-dimensional space of Davies’ creation and navigates its many temporal-spatial layers through controlled breathing, like a scuba diver deep in sea. Described in her notes as an embodiment of “the garden in the machine,” the artwork strives to “create an existential vertigo – not narrative, but stripping away to an existential level of being – a spinning in slow motion [1].”

In Ephémère, we find Char Davies approaching the pinnacle of artistry and technical fluidity, experimenting with cutting-edge technologies at the time to explore new forms of expression and ways of experiencing imagery, and expanding our sense of space-time. Her innovative use of transparent texture maps, for instance, creates soft edges and spatial/perceptual ambiguity that achieves a strange dematerializing effect and ethereal quality [2], subverting visual conventions in computer graphics. The custom-made bodily interface allows us to encounter and experience the dynamically changing dreamscape and ephemeral imagery through our bodies. The way she brought together many disparate elements – technical feats, philosophical ideas, symbolic painterly forms – to work as a cohesive whole that speaks to us on so many levels is astonishing.


Char Davies never considers her artworks to be solely of her own creation [2]. She had a small, dedicated team working with her to implement her grand vision for this work, and she credits herself for concept, direction, and art direction;  George Mauro, computer graphics; John Harrison, custom VR software; Dorota Blaszczak, sonic architecture and programming; and Rick Bidlack, sound composition and programming [3]. The production was co-sponsored by Immersense and Softimage.

Ephémère alone took 2-3 years to create (’96-’98). The work naturally evolved from Osmose, her first immersive virtual artwork, which also took 2-3 years to produce (’93-’95) [2].



According to her notes, Char Davies found much inspiration in the later works of English painter J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851), whose landscape and maritime paintings were highly expressive and abstract in its representations of light, time and space [2]. Visual elements in her work are also reflective and evocative of ideas and imagery found in her favorite philosophers and poets such as Heidegger and Rilke. [2]




[1] Char Davies, Numina Notebook #1. 

[2] Laurie McRobert, Immersive Virtual Art and the Essence of Spatiality 

[3] Immersense website: http://www.immersence.com/ephemere/


Graffiti Nature – teamLab

Graffiti Nature is an exhibition in teamLab’s Borderless Museum. After coloring in either an animal or flower outline with crayons, your drawing will be scanned in and then projected onto the floor. Your creature comes alive and can walk around, but people can also step on it and eventually kill it.

teamLab is a Tokyo-based company of ~600 people (though the technical department is much smaller). One interactive team member takes on the bulk of the work per project (and coordinates with other departments). The projects are made predominantly in Unity, and are created over the course of a few months.

^ My creature!

^ Strangers, both adults and kids, intentionally stepped on my creature ;-;

I really enjoy how the project transforms the common coloring book experience, giving both kids and adults the chance to bring their drawings to life (with no shame to those bad at drawing). I was however quite surprised by the darker side of this project and a few other teamLab works (you can burn little people in another kids’ project, and the animals covered in flowers in the hallways will die if you remove all the flowers on them). Creating death complicates an otherwise utopic world and pushes it more towards reality, but part of me wishes there was more consequence to the virtual murder of my baby creature.

jaqaur – Looking Outwards 1

When I went to SF MoMa in 2017, my favorite floor was the one full of sound-based artworks (a temporary installation). I have always had a strong reaction to sounds (some positive, some negative), and so all of these were especially moving. However, one stands out in my memory as particularly interactive: Cloud by Christina Kubisch.

The artwork is a large tangle of red wires suspended in midair. Different prerecorded sounds play in different parts of the sculpture. These sounds are mostly recordings of electromagnetic fields from locations around the world, with some generated sounds mixed in. By wearing special headphones, guests can pick up the sounds and hear the magnetic fields themselves, creating their own soundscape as they move around the sculpture.

I really like how accessible this piece is. The visual of this massive net of wires fits perfectly with the audio experience it delivers: chaotic, dense with detailed but unintelligible information. It also really makes me feel the presence of all the data–public, mundane, or extremely intimate–that is being transmitted through the air.

Here is a video of Kubisch discussing the piece (note that Clouds is actually a series, and she is talking about a different but very similar Cloud from the one I experienced):



Algorithm by Dimitris Ladopoulos is series of images created an algorithm that makes a treemap-esque by recursively splitting. What I admire of this project is the processing he does using the results of the algorithm, with making 3d versions of his outputs with protruding rectangles and different materials and colors. Those are just gorgeous to look at.

I think the idea of the art is incredibly simple. The use of a recursive algorithm to generate fractal artwork is pretty basic and un-novel. The results are lovely and show great design choices, but I wonder what the process behind creating those is like. The artists describes very little beyond the algorithm that generates the treemap structures.

Ladopoulos has another similar project on his site. It’s called “Portraits”, and instead of randomly generated images, you input a painting and it’ll segment it into a treemap-looking thing based on where color transitions are. That project is a much less interesting one. Without the abstraction and art direction of “Algorithm”, “Portraits” is just a rather bland data visualization.