Digital Fabrication Midterm: Future Portraits

“In another reality I am half-human, half-machine. I can read Base64 and see you.”

final iteration

Kim and I created self-portraits for the future.


The self-portraits are Base64 representations of images taken by a web-camera. The ideal viewer is a human-machine hybrid/cyborg that is capable of both decoding etched Base64 and recognizing the human element of the artifact.


After going through several iterations with felt, honey and rituals, we finally settled on etching timeless digital code onto a physical medium that ages over time.

The image is taken with a nodejs chat app that I created for LiveWeb: It takes a picture with the user’s webcam every three seconds and shows the Base64 code on the page - again an example of an interface for human-machine hybrids or cyborgs of the future.


After taking portraits with my webapp, we copy/pasted the code for each of us into MacOS TextEdit, exported it as a pdf, copy/pasted the contents of it into Adobe Illustrator and outlined the font, Helvetica. We chose this font as it is a very legible font, even at a very small font size. Our laser computer did not have Helvetica installed, therefore we outlined all letters.


The files were very large, as portraits varied between 160,000 and 180,000 characters. After 2 days of test-etchings on crescent medium gray and crescent black mounting-boards and experiments with different laser settings (speed, power and focus), we started the final etchings: Speed 90, Power 55, 600 dpi and focus slightly closer to the material than usual turned out the best results on our 75-watt laser. Each portrait took 1:33 hours to etch, in total we completed 4 portraits.


Digital Fabrication: Midterm Iterations on Healing, Honey and Felt

“In your backbone you feel a pointed something and it works its way up. The base of your spine is tingling, tingling, tingling, tingling. Then n|om makes your thoughts nothing in your head”

[Kxao ≠Oah - a healer from |Kae|kae area, quoted in Biesele, Katz & St Denis 1997:19]

(taken from JU|’HOANSI HEALING SONGS on NTS-radio)


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For our midterm in Digital Fabrication, we iterated on the idea of the swarm based behavior. After reading more about Joseph Beuys’ use of felt and honey in his fluxus-performances in the late 60s and the JU|’HOANSI tribe and their use of healing through dance, we shifted our focus to the idea of a healing ritual for the digital age.

We are thinking about making a piece that uses three components in an interactive installation:

  • an image in Base64 code on paper (used for image encoding on the web)

  • felt with a perforated structure

  • honey

As shown in the image above, a depiction of the artists in a waterfall-like silhouette made from Base64 encoding is printed on paper. This is the foundation of the sculpture that reflects ourselves that we want to heal. Above the paper is a layer of felt cut in strips and shaped in a web. It filters the honey dripping from above which acts as a part of the healing ritual: Beuys saw honey as a healing material as it is gathered by bees, which represented a “peaceful” entity.

A coincidence we found out while cutting felt with the laser: it smells like honey afterwards.


Digital Fabrication: Felt_Laser Explorations

Our assignment this week took us into unknown lands of laser-cutting (at least for us unknown…): I teamed up with Kimberly Lin and we went to mood-fabrics in the NY fashion-district to buy different shades of grey felt in a thicker quality (around 1/8 inch).


We opted for grey felt because of its iconic role in sculpture and art installations in the 20th century: Robert Morris, Joseph Beuys and Bianca Pratorious were our main inspirations for the choice of material. We were curious on how the material could be cut with the laser - and how the digital process could alter the artistic output and execution. So we decided to play !


We used Vectorworks to create simple slots and lines for our first prototype. After copying it into Adobe Illustrator we started laser-cutting - and to our surprise the felt turned out to be a great choice: it has a certain sturdiness and structural integrity that helps maintaining the form. There is still a lot of movement and room for re-shaping of the object. And the laser cuts it pretty fast, efficient and precise. We did three rounds of cutting (to prevent the material from too much burning) at conservative settings: 500hz frequency, 30 speed, 10 power worked well on the 60watt laser.

We prototyped different shapes and arrangements of the fabric pieces as we plan to build a large-scale kinetic sculpture later in the semester.


After playing with different combinations we decided to keep a self-standing organic structure for now and later on experimented how it would behave in motion.

Digital Fabrication: 2-D Object Drawing

I chose the Teenage Engineering OP-1 synthesizer for my Vectorworks object drawing assignment.


It was challenging to get all the measurements correctly into the drawing, after a while I became a bit detail obsessed - as Vectorworks gives you the opportunity to be very exact:

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It took me quite a while to get used to the basic tools in Vectorworks - but it was great fun, very meditative.

Here my measured drawing:


And because it is such a beautiful object, here without measurements: