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Project focus: Valse automatique

“Valse Automatique is probably the weirdest project we’ve ever worked on,” says Studio Nand co-founder Stephan Thiel, “because it was the first project in which we faced major challenges related to the complexity of all the disciplines involved. It basically showed me that saying you work in an interdisciplinary way is easy, but truly making it work is extremely difficult.”

The project was a ‘design performance’ featuring a KUKA industrial robot and two musicians – put together to ‘illustrate the symbiosis between humans and technology’ – showcased at Made Berlin, an event for creative people from various disciplines to meet and share ideas.

KUKA’s robots are traditionally used on production lines for palletising, welding and handling. In the performance, one of its machines manufactured more delicate objects, such as vases. German composer Miki, accompanied by a pianist, performed the violin. Nand acted as the ‘mediator’ between the machine and the musicians, coming up with an interface and generative design principle to give the performance cohesion.

“In figuring out how to create a process to get from music to fabricated objects,” Thiel says, “we received many weird responses from engineers which left us puzzled. We usually know the way forward, but there were times in which we just had to laugh about the entire mess. It felt extremely weird experiencing how people can act as if they communicate, but they essentially don’t. Luckily it worked out in the end and we learnt a lot.”