Art in the age of “big data”


pinterest – interactive display / interactive exhibition


Wearable Tech #4 – Biomimicry

TASK: Research existing examples and projects of wearables recontextualizing biomimicry- the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.


While researching, I found several examples of biomimicry in fashion and realised that they could also be categorised into the Science/Aesthetic approach I previously used on what wearable tech was to me.

I felt that technology and the innovation of new textiles that mimicked solutions/mechanics/science from nature were a more scientific take on biomimicry.  On the other hand, a more aesthetic take would be a more direct and visual representation of biomimicry- like designs that mimicked patterns found in nature. I felt like the definition of biomimicry in the project task was more aligned to the scientific-approach rather than the aesthetics. However, I will still be including some examples of both in the following paragraphs!




The following examples,  practices the use of the marvels of nature and its functioning for developing new innovative technology. Many innovative textile products have been engineered using biomimicry.  They serve a more functional purposes, being purposefully created with specific properties and intended uses



Image result for velcro structureImage result for velcro structure
Invented in 1948, Velcro has become a textbook example of biomimicry – an emerging science that emulates nature to solve human problems. After a walk in the fields, George de Mestral noticed burrs stuck to his trousers and his dog’s fur, which led to his creation of a new hook and loop fastening device that we know as velcro


Waterproof Textile

Image result for lotus leaf effectImage result for lotus leaf effect fabric
Image result for lotus leaf effect fabric

Water spilled on a lotus leaf does not wet its surface but beads up and rolls off, also cleaning its surface from accumulated dust and dirt. This effect is known as “superhydrophobicity”. Researchers have mimicked this process to create water-repellent and self-cleaning materials and fabrics.


Speedo Fastskin

Image result for speedo shark suitImage result for speedo shark suit

Inspired by sharks’ sandpaper-like skin that reduces drag in water,

Researchers studied the swiftness with movements of sharks under water, and found that a sharks’ sandpaper-like skin reduces drag in water. Inspired by this, they developed their own material that reduces friction caused by human skin, while swimming under water. Speedo’s Fastskin line of performance-enhancing swimwear was thus created and helps one swim faster and  more smoothly.

BIOMIMICRY LEVEL: Kind of both scientific and aesthetics? Borrowing the form/structure and texture of the sharks skin to apply it for a human-use context


Self-healing fabric

A group of researchers from PennState implemented a new way to produce fabric in order for it to be self-healing and act as a barrier between the bearer and the outside world. By dipping the fabrics in several liquids, they create layers of material that then form a polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer coating. This process was inspired by polymers present in Nature in the form of squid ring teeth proteins, where positively and negatively charged polymers compose the polyelectrolyte coating. For the coating to protect the human body, enzymes can be incorporated into it during the layering: when matched to the harmful chemical being targeted, the enzymes would make the coating tailored to protect the wearer from being contaminated

BIOMIMICRY LEVEL: Feels very scientific as the level of biomimicry is down to a microscopic level, trying to emulate the cellular process that nature has.


There are a lot more similar examples of biomimicry in textile, such as warm clothing, inspired from the thermal insulation properties of a polar bear.  Or dye-free coloured fabric inspired by Morpho butterflies’ wings which appear cobalt blue despite lacking any colour pigment.  Or a fabric that imitates how a squid changes colors, by expanding or contracting their pigment-filled cells.  By taking inspiration from these underwater colour shifters, scientists are taking the first steps towards developing self-camouflaging clothing that could be a boon to the military



The following examples, don’t really serve a functional purpose or solve complex human problems as they function as mainly works of art. However, they still make use of biomimicry in their designs. make fabrics self-healing using conventional textiles. So we came up with this coating technology. For the coating to protect the human body, enzymes can be incorporated into it during the layering


Biomimicry Shoe by Marieka Ratsma and Kostika Spaho

Biomimicry shoe by Marieka RatsmaBiomimicry shoe by Marieka Ratsma

Nature has been the main source of inspiration for the making and shaping of this shoe. Ratsma and Spaho used the shape of a bird’s cranium for the front of the shoe, with the tapered beak as the spike of the heel. The idea for this shoe highlights the aesthetics and the shape of the bird skull, along with the characteristics of the lightweight and highly differentiated bone structure within the cranium.

BIOMIMICRY LEVEL: Leaning  towards aesthetics, as the form of the shoe itself directly borrows the anatomy of the bird. Very appearance based mimicry. I feel like there is not much science-approach in this as its a very visual surface-level work, lacking a deeper conceptual meaning that is inspired from processes/behaviors we see in nature.


Iridescence by Behnaz Farahi

The male Anna’s hummingbird has feathers around his throat that appear completely green, but  can turn  into an iridescent pink when he moves.  This is how the Anna’s hummingbird attracts mates during his spectacular displays of aerial courtship. Iridescence is an interactive collar, inspired by the gorget of the Anna’s hummingbird. It is equipped with a facial tracking camera and an array of 200 rotating quills. The custom-made quills flip their colors and start to make patterns, in response to the movement of onlookers and their facial expressions.

BIOMIMICRY LEVEL: Both  science and aesthetics, but a less direct copying of a hummingbird. Aesthetically borrows the visual language of the humming bird feathers, and has a very similar appearance. However, Farahi created his own material that uses lenticular science to mimic the color changing feathers of the hummingbird. The logic/system behind the why the custom-made quills also mimic the mating process of the hummingbird, making use of a deeper level of biomimicry




While researching, I found some research papers online that are related to the topic. I especially liked the paper “Nature Inspired Clothing Design Based on Biomimicry (2016)” as it was elaborate/detailed; and Anzabi gave numerous good examples, that I did not mention above.  He even had the same method of classifying the different levels of biomimicry in clothing design as me.

  • Nature Inspired Clothing Design Based on Biomimicry (2016)
    • PDF download  (in case the link doesn’t work)
  • Biologically Inspired Textiles (2008)



  • EXAMPLES (couture):
  • EXAMPLES (textile):

Interactive II #1: Inspiring example of interactive art

While researching for an inspiring example of interactive art, I discovered a few artists who make quite a lot of interactive art pieces. Thus, I will be sharing a few works by each artists because I find them too interesting not to share!!

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer was born 1967 in Mexico. His work can be considered a blend of interactive art and performance art, using both large and small scales, indoor and outdoor settings, and a wide variety of audiovisual technologies. Lozano-Hemmer is best known for creating and presenting theatrical interactive installations in public spaces across Europe, Asia and America. Using robotics, real-time computer graphics, film projections, positional sound, internet links, cell phone interfaces, video and ultrasonic sensors, LED screens and other devices, his installations seek to interrupt the increasingly homogenized urban condition by providing critical platforms for participation. His smaller-scaled sculptural and video installations explore themes of perception, deception and surveillance.


Under Scan is an interactive video art installation for public space. Passers-by are detected by a computerized tracking system, which activates video-portraits projected. The portraits projected were recordings of volunteers who were free to portray themselves in whatever way they desired. These portraits are projected at random positions.  When the viewer covers the projections with their shadow, the portraits are “revealed” and thus “wake-up” and establish eye contact with the viewer. As the viewer walks away, the portrait reacts by looking away, and eventually disappears if no one activates it.
Every 7 minutes the entire project stops and resets. The tracking system is revealed in a brief “interlude” lighting sequence, which projects all of the calibration grids used by the computerized surveillance system. Under Scan was inspired by

The piece was inspired by mise en abyme in visual works such as Jan Van Eyck’s paintings, where the portrayed (who is also the viewer) makes eye-contact with the viewer. Other inspirations for this work include the post-photographic device described in La invención de Morel, written by Adolfo Bioy Casares (1940). In the novel, a character called Morel tells the tourists he has been recording their actions of the past week with a machine he invented that is capable of reproducing reality. The recording capture their souls, and  enables them to relive that week forever through relooping the recording. As such, the recording is able to overlap with reality.

My thoughts: I found the concept of using peoples
shadows as an input to trigger an output really
interesting. I am also amazed at how their shadows
makes the projections clearer, instead of obscuring
them completely. Additionally,I think that the small
details like how when the viewer walks away, the
portrait looks away, and "sleeps" if there is no 
input anymore. I find the whole trigger and 
deactivating system well thought about. I can also 
see how the artwork relates to Morel's photographic
device- The portrait projections and viewers shadows
parallels (in the novel,)the recording overlapping 
with reality.

SANDBOX (2010)

Sandbox is a large-scale interactive installation.  On two small sandboxes tiny projections of people appear.  These projections are actually real time projections of people on the two larger sandboxes (a.k.a the beach). As participants reach out to touch the small projection of people , a camera detects their hands and relays them live to two of the world’s brightest projectors, which hang from a boom lift. Their hands are live-streamed and projected  over the beach.  In this way people share three scales: the tiny sandbox images, the real human scale and the gigantic scale of special effects. These images are amplified by digital cinema projectors which create an animated topology over the beach, make tangible the power asymmetry inherent in technologies of amplification.

I really love how simple, and yet complicated this 
project is. It is amazing to see how participants 
are able to interact with each other indirectly and
yet directly, through the clever manipulation of 
scale. The use of live-streaming and real time 
feedback is a very immersive way to get participants
to play with each other through the artwork. Perhaps
something we can think about! This work amplifies 
human connection, and I think it is a very successful
interactive media artwork as it is v engaging.
Lozano-Hammer's use of projections as a medium, 
although tricky, is also something I think we can
consider using. I find the technical execution of 
this work really impressive, as it looks rather 
seamless and considering this was made back in 2010!
RAFAEL LOZANO-HEMMER has a lot of really cool works,
you can check them out!! :
- Pulse (2019)
- Cloud Display (2019)
- Pareidolium (2018)


Jeppe Hein  was born in 1974, and is an artist based in Berlin and Copenhagen. His interactive sculptures and installations combine elements of humour with the 1970s traditions of minimalism and conceptual art.


Path of Frequencies is a site-specific installation of steel tracks that responds to the architectural configuration of the museum, assembled to run through the entire exhibition space like a guided path. As each visitor enters the space, a sensor is activated and releases a ball on a string. The ball is then set in motion along a dynamic and meandering track, creating various tones as it collides with singing bowls dispersed throughout the space. Visitors are accompanied by a unique and continuous sound during their visit, experienced physically in the vibrations that the singing bowls produce. In addition, the emerging melody becomes a connecting element between visitors as they unconsciously make music together.

I personally like how this artwork is both an 
individual and a collective experience. Each 
visitor experiences the same path that the ball is
set on, yet depending on other fellow visitors,
the collective sound this work generates in the
end is different. I also enjoy how input is the
viewers presence, while output is the motion of the
ball; and that the motion of the ball creates an 
additional audio output for the viewers.


A large mirror hangs on the wall with a small bench positioned in front of it. Upon taking a seat on the bench, visitors begin to observe their own reflections. However, a small trigger activates a fog machine within the bench, releasing smoke from small holes that surround the seat. Thus while contemplating their reflections in the mirror, they see themselves engulfed in a cloud of smoke, gradually reappearing only as the fog dissipates.

I like the idea of how you can see yourself go through 
the process of the artwork, but not through a digital 
medium such as live-stream or recording. Instead a 
mirror is used for the viewer to see their own 
reflection and to witness what is happening to them as
they are engulfed. Being able to see yourself through
the mirror provides a sort of out of body experience
due to seeing your entire self through someone else's
pov (instead of first person); And I feel that this
enhances the ephemeral and other-wordly experience
that the fog also comes with. The visuals of the fog
coming out through small holes in the chair due to
the viewer's pressure (upon sitting) is definitely
eye catching, and pretty engaging.



At first sight, with their black leather and white-painted wood, Jeppe Hein’s benches seem to be a permanent fixture in the museum’s décor. Looking like any average bench in a museum institution, each bench is positioned parallel to the architectural form of the space.  However, this benches are also motorized. The moment visitors sit on them, the benches unexpectedly move.  The benches reposition the seated visitor by moving a calculated distance when activated by the weight of the body. By adding this surprising element Jeppe Hein creates food for discussion and puts a smile on people’s lips. At the same time, he draws attention to the bench and its function.

Although the execution of this work is rather straight
forward, it is not only fun, but also quite meaningful.
Thebench is a common item in a museum, but this time,
it has become the artwork itself. However, if no one
were to sit on the bench, then it does not function
as how it was intended to as an artwork. So then, if
there is no human input, the bench is still just a
bench right? But once there is human input (weight
via pressure sensors), the bench comes to live and
moves- becoming the statement piece of art it was
programmed to be. It is interesting that the work
only comes into its own right, when visitors use it.
It is also interesting that the artwork in focus is
now a bench, instead of the artwork that the bench was 
placed in front of. This is a simple interactive work 
of art yet worthy of discussions, which I think is
something our works should strive for too!
JEPPE HEIN has other interesting works, you can check:
- Appearing Rooms (2004) 
- Self Destructing Wall (2003)
- Let Me Show You The World (2000)
- Bear Your Consequences (2018)
- Today I Feel Like (2018)

Gelitin is a group of four artists from Vienna, Austria. The  group consists of Wolfgang Gantner, Florian Reither, Ali Janka and Tobias Urban. They were formerly known as Gelatin and changed their name in 2005. They are known for creating sensational art events in the tradition of Relational Aesthetics, often with a lively sense of humor, and the occasional nudity involved. 

ZAPF DE PIPI (2005) 



In the Moscow Lenin Museum, a hanging hut outside was mainly built to keep the cold temperatures outside the museum halls and to offer some privacy. However, Gelitin did a cheeky move and turned it into an outdoor loo where people could “support(ed) Gelatin by donating a watery solution of metabolic wastes (such as urea), dissolved salts and organic materials”.  This waste would then be poured down a chute in the hut. In the cold temperatures of russian winter, the hot piss was frozen really quickly and formed an ice sculpture.  In the end, this collective ice sculpture was made with the help of  “some 200 thousand kidneys” (aka. museum goers who volunteered to play a part in this artwork). The iceicle eventually ” turned into a handsome 7 meter tall and one meter fat pipi amber colored iceicle” after some weeks.

This interactive artwork is amazing because it is 
cheeky and really funny. It is kind of provocative?
Some people might call it a piss-poor work of art: 
how is frozen pee art?? Its hilarious. I think that
this is a really unique artwork that invites 
participants to come and do something really weird 
together. And evidently, the appeal of this project 
was really strong... so many volunteers, with such 
a tall and fat icicle as a final product... 
It works well as an engaging work of interactive art! 
Obviously, in a school setting, I doubt we can use 
such controversial materials, but this work can 
inspire us to start thinking out of the box when we 
are considering what mediums to use; or how/what 
every participant is able to contribute to the 
interactive artwork.


A wooden and metal structure was built for Parallel Vienna 2016. With the help of 30 strong men, participants were provided the experience of riding a human elevator. Participants were manually lifted several floors up by the men

Like Zapf de Pipi, I find that this work is a good 
example of interactive works that are non-digital.
There is no technological element at all in both 
these works, yet they are able to provide a very 
interactive experience for the participant. Human 
Elevator is a performance artwork that makes use of
volunteers in the process to create not only a
performative process, but also a personal experience
for other participants. It has definitely inspired me 
to think of how I can perhaps aim to create a work 
whereby, the whole process and end result is heavily 
dependent on the actions of those who participate/
volunteer, and to create a work that is more playful/fun
GELITIN has a lot of really weird and funny works, I 
implore you to check them out!! :
- Ritratto Analitico (2013)
- Klunk Garden (2009)
- Gedichte von einem Freund (2014)
- Normally, Proceeding and Unrestricted With 
  Without Title(2008)
- Die Tusovka Runde (2014)
- Gelatin at the Shore of Lake Pipi Kacka (2003)