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 SoftLab is a space dedicated to the research and development of artistic projects using soft-circuits and wearable technology in the Center for Digital Arts & Experimental Media (DxArts) at the University of Washington, in Seattle.


SoilSample(1) by Stevie Koepp

SoilSample(1) by Stevie Koepp

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SoilSample(1) is a handful of earth on the move. I’m interested the way we describe natural things and the form nature takes between opposites like technological/organic, domestic/wild, artificial/real, and human/non-human. Soil seems like a fun place to start because it’s constructed in the mixing and intermingling of creative agents - microbes, plants, abiotic processes, and human hands/feet.

 
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I’m also interested in soil because it is a common element in the landscape that deserves more imagination. In manipulating “softscape,” landscape designers commonly interact with soil through the use of textiles— specifically, geotextiles. A waterproof membrane named EPDM was used for SoilSample(1).

 

After spending a very long time unsure exactly what what SoilSample(1) was useful for while it grew next to me in my studio space, a classmate had decided it was a pocket park. So I took it for a walk and attached it to a railing, next to a bench, in a lonely space. It had become a small companion.

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Below I’ve illustrated the process making SoilSample(1). The black EPDM material that the pocket is composed of is a common rooftop liner. Sedum was selected because it is commonly used in rooftop plantings which up-stand highly variable conditions including drought. The soil mix was a cactus and succulent mix, combined with residuals from the original flower pot. In choosing the LEDs, I had read that red lights stimulated growth, while blue was good for photosynthesis. Here are few resources I located to explain the effect of different color LEDs on plant growth + development:

BLUE LIGHT: http://www.flor.hrt.msu.edu/assets/Uploads/Blue-light.pdf

RED LIGHT: http://www.flor.hrt.msu.edu/assets/Uploads/Red-light.pdf

 
 

Three species of sedum spp. growing in a clay pot outside my front door were transplanted into the EDPM pocket. Originally, I had installed both pink and blue LEDs but reconfigured the lights a couple of times. I found that bright pink/red lights made the plant sprout new growth true to my research. In the end, I connected 2 new violet LEDs in a better, brighter circuit. The leaves began to darken and the new plant growth refocused its energy in growing stronger stems.

SoilSample(1) stuck to my fridge at home (October 2017)

SoilSample(1) stuck to my fridge at home (October 2017)

Overtime, only one of the original sedum species survived. It may have out competed the other 2, or simply held tight while others were lost to one of the many drops and accidents SoilSample(1) experienced. Care for the portable object was minimal and it was probably given water once or twice a month. I also fed it fertilizer on one occasion, in which I accidentally spilled half the bottle into the sample. This also may have been a cause of plant casualties.

SoilSample(1) after a year + of growth, 1 species flourishing (January 2019)

SoilSample(1) after a year + of growth, 1 species flourishing (January 2019)

Last week I left SoilSample(1) on the second floor outside the Gould Hall gallery late at night, assuming it may be there when I returned. It was not. I hope it is keeping someone else company, surviving well on a fully charged battery pack.

Last seen soaking up the photons (January 14th 2019)

Last seen soaking up the photons (January 14th 2019)

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Shifting Embroidery: Imbuing Movement into tapestry by Maxx Yamasaki

Shifting Embroidery: Imbuing Movement into tapestry by Maxx Yamasaki