Imagine a fabric that constantly changes patterns. While you might picture Rorschach’s mask from the Watchmen series/movie, creators Victoria Manganiello and Julian Goldman have made this a reality with their “Computer 1.0” art installation at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. The project takes the form of a handwoven tapestry 9 meters long — yes, nearly 30 feet! — with what appears to be pneumatic tubing running through a fabric framework.
An Arduino board controls pumps and valves in order to push air and blue-dyed liquid via tubing, in sequences meant mimic traditional woven patterns, such as “bird’s eye” and “monk’s cloth.” As water and air progress through the cloth, however, gravity and pressure cause things to become more abstract. The air/water progression through the woven tubing is still amazing to watch, though, appearing like a strange cross between the biological and technological. Manganiello notes that she considers this to be analogous to how we relinquish full control over our images once they’re uploaded to the Internet.
The idea for the installatioon, and the “Computer 1.0” moniker, is a reference to the fact that fabric manufacturing — especially the Jacquard loom that helped inspire Ada Lovelace — could be very much be considered an ancestor to modern computers.
As noted in the video below, if further refined, this kind of fabric could even display images or text, or even produce smartphone-readable patterns to help tell the story of the loom.