critics: Theodore SPYROPOULOS, Mustafa EL-SAYED, & Apostolis DESPOTIDIS.
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
XO (Aleksandar BURSAC, Lisa KUHNHAUSEN, Suzan IBRAHIM, & Georgia TSOLI): In our research we work on self-regulated, high-population, machinic ecologies that engage their local environments to create prototypical spaces.
Within these ecologies we use modular soft robotics as a means to engage the questions of self-structuring and spatial articulation within architecture. Softness for us comes in two forms: programmatically and materially.
One of our core interests has been the development of distinct “species” of soft modules that make up the ecology. One species is called the gripper and the other is the sphere.* These distinct species divide labour and enter symbiotic relationships through communication. This, in turn, enables them to address more complex goals, no longer as individuals, but as co-dependents.
In the physical world of our work the grippers and the spheres are cast silicone robots that are actuated into choreographed movements by compressed air. Both species were developed through multiple design iterations, which tested their material properties and mobility capabilities. Computationally, we work to simulate behaviours that come about from local communications and interactions between species and how those scenarios are played out across the ecology.
*Incidentally, this speciation is also what led to our name, where the spidery gripper took the place of an X and the soft sphere of the O.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
XO: It might be cliché to say, but the list of people and work that inspired us seems to go on forever. Some of our core inspirations, but certainly not all, would have to be Karl Sims, Haus-Rucker-Co, Harvard Whitesides Research Group, Festo and Boston Dynanmics.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
XO: Seeing as how this research project took over a year to develop we were sustained in our work by endless playlists of our favourite artists all year round. Those playlists were populated by La Femme, Glass Animals, Cat Power, Jungle, Alt-J and for sure many, many others to match the many, many hours of working in studio.
On a tad more serious note, Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean B. Carroll, proved to be an essential read to get into the methodology that would later define or work as we went along. As far as video content is concerned we would include Raymond Flood’s Butterflies, Chaos and Fractals lecture as well as re-watching the very cinematic project trailer by soProto, a team from our course a few years back, to look for both visual and conceptual inspiration in our own research.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
XO: In addition to those mentioned as our direct influence in the project, we would also add Daan Doosegaarde, Francois Roche, Rachel Armstrong, Stelarc, Neri Oxman.