Spelaion offers the public to explore and interact with an ever-changing surface. This surface, made out of a new and intelligent material, hangs from the ceiling. The public is invited to enter the space underneath the surface and interact with the material by moving. Together, people influence the surface and create shapes that simulate geological formations found in caves. Each individual interactions add up to create a collective piece. Spelaion offers a reflection on the effects of time and renders noticeable movements that usually occur over decades. By letting people interact with such events, Spelaion questions our own impacts on the environment and our relationship to nature and matter. This opens up opportunities for innovation in product design, home design and urbanism. In the digital age, it is important to rethink the way we design and use the products we use
ALFRED is an installation that explores the role of innovation today. It uses a polymer thermoplastic developed by a group of scientists in CEA Grenoble. The material in question offers a more durable alternative to plastic that, ideally, would never have to be thrown away. Its characteristics change depending on its temperature. At room temperature and below, the material behaves like a regular plastic: it is rigid, smooth and has a cream color. At around 50°C it becomes softer and malleable. It can then be shaped by hands or deformed by any other mechanical input. At higher temperatures, it tends to behave more and more like a liquid and has a honey texture. The innovative part of the material is that - if not exceeding 180°C - it does not deteriorate. That means that it can be heated up and cooled down an infinite number of times, the same quantity of matter remains. Collectif TOAST studied this new matter by exploring all its different modes of deformation and how to interact with it. The collective’s work was based on scientific protocols to create sculptures, textures and shapes with this new material.
This back and forth between aesthetic and scientific research resulted in the will to deeply question the matter’s role within our innovation-driven societies. ALFRED offers the public to see some of the sculptures made by the collective alongside a camera linked to an AI. It finds the closest looking image in a dataset of 1000 images. The resulting associations are displayed on a screen behind the conveyor. The AI software is constantly trying to assign meaning to what it sees, much like the artists when they were working with the material. The resulting installation, with its never-ending cyclic motion and strange associations, aims to make the public question the very state of innovation today.
Residency Mid-Term Video
The basis of this project was this new polymer reusable and transformable endlessly, that is itself innovative. It is not commercialized yet but the researchers are looking for companies willing to use it. During the residency, they founded a start-up to commercialize this innovative material. As first users of this technology, the artists could express their difficulties while using the material and suggest improvements for it to become handier and more usable. By discovering the material, the artists helped the researcher to think about sustainable usages. They explored the way humans can conceive their environment differently. They reflected on everyday life challenges as well as societal challenges, such as material saving, energy-saving, etc. As this material is reusable indefinitely and can be re-shaped, it has great potential for sustainable innovation. Despite the sustainable facet of this material, it remains a polymer. The artists questioned the ethics behind this innovation and more broadly our current innovation race. Thanks to this residency, the researchers challenged their material. They believe in its great potential but they are re-thinking their business model and how they are going to present and sell this product. Thanks to the long talks and reflections they had with the artists they confront the critics they would have had once the product would have been on the market. It helped them develop a wiser speech. They also decided to work with designers to use this material as packaging that can then be used by the customer as objects. The business strategy is still under development, but this residency allowed the researchers to focus on a more sustainable and ethical direction. As the Tech Project likes to say “there will be a before and an after Alfred”. The time spent during the biennale EXPERIMENTA where they presented the work, also showcased this material and allowed the researchers to meet with the public and get feedback on the material.
Residency Final Video