The Minangkabau curtain | Interactive Installation

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The “Minankgabau curtain” is a collaborative research project by [UAL MA IDC students] Kalypso Kaplani and Ashraf Saifullah that aims to dive deeper and enhance the communication between the viewers of an interactive artifact. It is a social art installation that aims to narrate and reveal the politics behind a model of a Sumatran Palace which is exhibited at the V&A museum. It attempts to combine the art of documentary with physical computing and projection mapping in order to reveal the story of the Minakgabau culture and create an immersive experience to the viewer – user and a successful interaction.

A big part of our research is dealing with the narration of the historical, cultural, social and anthropological features of Minankgabau civilization. An “in situ” research which consists of interviewing of different types of Malaysians enriched our narration to the “Sumatran Palace”. The story of the roof’s shape, the history of the name, the customary laws system in Minankgabau society, personal experiences and memories from residents of these houses, the role of women in society are some of the questions that Minankgabaus were asked to answer.

Apart from knowledge contribution to the object we dealt with, interviewing experimentations gave another perspective to the approach of this narration. As a result it became a crucial part of our installation. The interviews consist the core of our installation as they set to be the emergent piece that we aim to reveal. Additional layer to the installation is a wooden “curtain wall” that consists of 21 panels, whose shape of it, is an abstract form of the roof of Minankgabau architectural type.

In an attempt to explore the line between physical and digital two different experiments are taking place that inform our research process.
The first one has to do with the simulation of the physical scale of the installation using digital mediums. We are using projection mapping to set the scene and a kinect to detect viewer’s presence and track their height. Visual programming languages [MAX MSP] gives us the opportunity to control the motion of the panels according to the viewer’ s motion in space. Our goal is to find a method to move the panels according to each viewer’s height so that to personalize the experience and exemplify in a way the Minankgabaus proverb “Sit as low, stand as high” which is related to the idea of democracy.

At the second experiment we use mockups (two models: scales 1:10 & 1:5) prototyping method in connection with physical computing which we aim to use as a way to explore two things: the constructability of the installation (wooden panels, motion with nylon strings, monitors, projection), and the possibilities of different motions of the panels with servo motors connected to Arduino Kit according to different external triggers that takes as input.

Our goal is to connect these two experiments, that are used as a way to design and test the user experience of the actual scale installation, in one that gives the absolute user experience mock up to work on. This system could afford much more experimentation, which means that the final outcome will be more accurate and interesting, in terms of user experience.

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