Tapis Magique: A Choreomusical Interactive Carpet
Tapis Magique is a pressure-sensitive, knitted electronic textile carpet that generates three-dimensional sensor data based on body locations and gestures and drives an immersive sonic environment in real-time. Demonstrating an organic and expressive relationship between choreography and music has been a never-ending feat in the performance arts, as seen in previous work by Cage and Cunningham, Horst and Graham, or Stravinsky and Balanchine. Our work unveils dancers' creative, unconventional possibilities of agency, intimacy, and improvisation over the music through a textile interface. Motivated by the craftsmanship and connections of cultural textiles to their traditional performance arts, we began to apply an artistic approach into technological textile design and merge new materials, sensing technologies, and digital fabrication with contemporary dance and music into one united and harmonious piece of object and performance.
We employed digital knitting, conductive yarns, and piezoresistive knit fabrics to develop a large-scale, interactive electronic textile carpet, and intrinsically fused sensing and computation into the layers. The tapis not only serves for aesthetic, comfort, and insulation purposes, but is also augmented as responsive skin that bridges the tactile-physical with the immersive-digital world. In Tapis Magique, we carefully considered the textile design from the yarn choices, textures, mechanical properties, to the aesthetics. The dense geometrical patterns of the stars scattered around the brushstroke details on the tapis represent 1800 pressure-sensing pixels and are inspired by the galactic space. Parametric design transformed these patterns into a 3-D spatial illusion to illustrate the multidimensionality of the sensor data. It resonates with "Venus Sunrise," one of our performance pieces that presents a metaphorical celestial sound of the universe as the dancer is twirling around the stars, traveling through space and time. These pixels, representing postures and gestures, collectively generate 3D spatiotemporal sensor data. Behind the scene is an arrangement of digital modular synthesizers that simultaneously process the incoming sensor- MIDI data and control discrete, melodic sounds, effects, and continuously evolving soundscapes through science-inspired musical tools. The tapis design is composed of multi-layer knitted textiles. The top and bottom layers are orthogonal conductive line matrices knitted within a single operation using multi-material twisted yarns. The middle layer is a knitted piezo-resistive textile, a pressure-sensitive layer that interfaces with the conductive matrices to create a sensing grid. The furry textures from the synthetic mink yarns provide a soft tactility for physical feedback and give an intimate and comforting feel of the tapis. The thermoplastic fibers were then steamed to melt the multi-layer knitted textiles into one rigid surface, giving it structural reinforcements. In addition, the outer-facing textile glows in the dark from the luminous yarns, bringing out the starry effects for night performance. Tapis Magique demonstrates the interplay between art, culture, and technology, highlighting the deep emotional link between contemporary textiles, dance, and music. It provides a canvas for dancers and sound artists to program and compose their choreomusical pieces and push their limits of experimentation. It also creates an auditory-gestural synesthetic environment that invites and encourages audiences to interact and express themselves with the tapis, experiencing a magical connection that stimulates the body and mind.