BEAM – Swatch


Short biography
E-textile designer, artist, teacher “Design” & the Future, at art school, Rotterdam
After studying Astronomy (MA) and Art, autonomous art practice was combined in Art-Science projects. Painting and drawing transformed in installations, video, Game programming, embedded electronics. Synthesis by combining fabrics and electronics: e-textiles. E-textiles feels as alive and future. Extending e-textiles with Design, Giving courses smart textiles and The Future of Fashion.

Links to previous projects


Describe the context (art/design/academia/other) of your project
The work is called an e-textile swatch and is made in the context of the e-textile summer camp, which is within the field of e-textiles. E-textiles develops interactive, new materials and explores “the future”, where technology invades the human surroundings. E-textiles extends to wearables and with the aspect of design it extends to Fashion. This swatch is a mix of art, design and electronics.

Was there a specific framework for your project? Was it aimed to a specific call, exhibition or other defined frame? If yes, what kind?
The work is made in the framework of the E-Textile Swatch Exchange, part of the E-textile Summer Camp. There is a call on internet. 25 Participants start with an idea and make 25 real copies. There is an exchange ritual. Each participant ends up with a book of 25 swatches, one of all participants. This means the exchange is meant as community building.

What was the motivation for your project?
Participating in the exchange ritual feels as magic. The magic of exchanging e-textiles ideas, which are real and not internet copies, likes, shares and digital friends. The ritual is the absolute opposite of our money driven society, as our ego driven normal life in this society. The magic probably is deeply rooted in for instance primitive exchange sacrifices. The second motivation is the joy of invention. The small size allows for enormous versatility and freshness of ideas and execution.

Give a short description of your project
Swatch 2017, 150 x 110 mm, Title: Inessential. With a rectangular piece of carbon non woven, a microcontroller ATtiny85, with two analog inputs and 4 LED’s a device can be made which indicates on which quadrangle of the carbon a droplet of water has been fallen. On each of the 25 swatches a different keyword from the text of Baudrillard (Le systeme des objets, 1978, pg 198, 199) on inessential personalisation features of industrial design are embroidered.

How did the project fail?
other (describe) personalisation

Describe how you failed, the reason you think you failed, what you have learned and what you would do differently from today’s perspective.
This swatch is a failure on the social level. The personalisation idea was caused by production. Why make 25 copies? Why not variations. Different keywords from the text of Baudrillard on “the inessential” (“The system of Objects”, 1978, p 198,199) embroidered on the items were meant to personalize the swatch. But these words only make the item “unique” – autonomous. Also the swatches were distributed randomly and still participants thought the word was meant personally for them.

What was the afterlife of the project?
After reading Baudrillard’s book “la société de consommation”, 1976, the failure of personalization was clear. The items are distributed in 25 swatch books. A procedure will be set up to ask the owners of the swatch books to destroy (recycle) the failed swatch “Inessential”. This raises the question of ownership. Then it could be envisioned that a new swatch is made, with a number of design variations. The participants can chose the variation which makes them “realize their true nature”.

How did the failure affect your work and your progress?
The acquired knowledge on personalisation made me realize that the only thing that counts is not invention, uniqueness or autonomy in the swatch but the social community of participants in this ritual. It doesn’t matter what the content of the swatch is, as long as it asks for a sacrifice of the hard labor of the production of 25 copies, which is then exchanged between the small community of the participants in this ritual.


What make e-textiles an interesting subject that matters to you?
For me personally e-textiles reconciles different aspects of my interests, drives and obsessions. The textiles being soft and a manifold. The programming and circuitry is logic, functioning. The making means using my hands, not only thinking or trying to be intelligent. The design aspect makes it visual, not only a concept. And being worn, it means it becomes human, not only utopian. It can even fail.

What make e-textiles interesting to the world as such?
E-textiles is a combination of technology and the real. Technology has developed social media, which was promising but has driven us apart. Failure. Nobody to blame, this was unforeseen. With this experience – try again. E-textiles is a medium for technology. A fresh way to reconcile technology with being human. Combining fabrics, soft, flexible, stretchable with hard electronics and programming could bring technological possibilities more in touch with a human way of being human.

Which aspects should be given more importance in the future developments of e-textiles products and services?
More Community building, Developing weird strategies. Not confirming to economical pressure and becoming yet another start-up. Reading. Studying social theory more than financial theory. Ignoring social media. Going for a balance with the real and forgetting about the virtual. This all means that e-textilers should realize their exceptional purpose. Saving the world and the Universe from dictators, politicians, corruption, but also from your own ego problem.