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Jacquard and Google Arts and Culture weave tech into art

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Words that appear out of white tapestries. Music that streams out of black fabric. A mysterious blue cloth-draped spiral that guides you with light and sound.

It may sound like a fantasy novel, but these are real works of art made possible with Jacquard by Google. Combining advanced hardware and software technology with textile and manufacturing know-how, Jacquard helps designers make digital experiences out of everyday objects. An ordinary denim jacket or a backpack transforms into something that answers calls, plays music and takes photos. 

In March, Jacquard (part of Google ATAP) and Google Arts & Culture created an artists in residency program to bring together technology, art and fashion. It was a unique opportunity for creative communities to enhance their work digitally—by weaving Jacquard technology into physical installations—while remaining focused on their original design.

We received more than 200 fascinating project ideas from artists, collectives and technologists all over the world. Chloé Bensahel, Amor Muñoz and OMA Space were selected to turn their proposals into monumental installations. Over the past six months, they collaborated with Google ATAP and Google Arts & Culture Lab engineers to deploy Jacquard technology within the hallowed exhibition rooms of Paris’s Mobilier national, a historic mainstay of furniture and textile manufacturing. Two of the installations were even produced in collaboration with the Mobilier national’s own weaving and pleating experts.

The result is “Please Touch the Thread,” a multisensory exhibition that triggers sounds and light effects when you touch the art. “Tree of Light” by OMA Space is a ten-meter-wide meditative walk. Bensahel’s “Words Wear Worlds” is an ensemble of seven tapestries that took 840 hours of weaving to create. Muñoz’s “Notes & Folds” is a tribute to the works of mathematician Ada Lovelace and composer Conlon Nancarrow. 

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    OMA Space’s “Tree of Light”

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    Chloé Bensahel’s “Words Weave Worlds”

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    Amor Muñoz’s “Notes and Folds

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    Behind the scenes with OMA Space

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    Muñoz prototyping  “Notes and Folds” installation.

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    The making of Bensahel’s installation at Google Arts & Culture Lab in Paris.

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    OMA Space, Muñoz and Bensahel with the exhibition’s curator, Pamela Golbin & mentor artist Memo Atken.

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    Daniel Kapelian (from OMA Space) testing light effect on a scale model of Tree of Light installation, Seoul (South Korea)

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    Chloe Bensahel weaving Words Weave Worlds tapestries at Mobilier national, Paris (France).

Touching, tapping or skimming the art corresponds to hundreds of different combinations, and each visitor has a different experience of the exhibit. Press one letter of Bensahel's tapestry, and you’ll hear that letter being sung. Swipe over a word, and you’ll hear that instead. The volume goes up or down depending on the strength of your touch.

The exhibition is open to the public from October 16 to 20, during the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC), but will also live on digitally on Google Arts & Culture. Online visitors can navigate through 3D models of the installations and dig deeper into each artist’s creative process through exclusive video content.

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