"TGarden" (2001) by Sponge, FoAM and V2_Lab, is an interdisciplinary project exploring methods of artistic expression and social interaction in mixed reality.


TGarden play; photo: Jan Sprij


After a short waiting period in the waiting room, visitors are individually escorted to dressing rooms where they find a range of TGarden costumes. The clothing is designed with specific physical constraints in order to interfere with the visitors' habitual movements. The costumes are embedded with wearable, movement-sensing devices and wireless-transmission modules, which enable the visitors' gestures to be tracked and sent to a central computer for analysis and processing.

Subsequently, the visitors enter the PlaySpace. Each novice player goes through an initial period of rehearsal, for him/her to grasp the responsivity of the environment to his/her movements. In this period, the immediate results of their gestures are easily perceivable: as if scratching the surface, the players leave their personal traces in the environment. Gradually, the PlaySpace begins to fill with transforming computer-generated imagery and atmospheric soundscapes, that appear to possess life-life properties (growing, breathing, moving, resting or dying) and to respond to player's actions. Through practice, the players can learn to spawn, feed or decompose the media entities, prolonging or shortening their cycles in the PlaySpace, making the TGarden grow and decay.

As visitors interact with each other, social relations begin to form. Locations and groupings are tracked and will radically change the visual and aural properties of the environment: player's individual marks are amplified and can cause an extreme disruption in the media environments. By increasingly distorting the environment, the group is 'extracting energy' from the PlaySpace. Once the individual player's efforts of feeding and spawning the media entities have been used up and all energy in the system is exhausted, the TGarden will move into a stasis (becoming dark and silent), and will prepare itself for a new cycle.


TGarden by Sponge and FoAM (2001) from V2_ on Vimeo.



TGarden emerged from an ongoing discussion between sponge and FoAM about development of technologically (computationally) augmented fluid environments that emphasize social play between people and help catalyze new ways of making meaning. How long and how intensely can people play with one another inside a hybrid environment when they don't have hard, fast rules and can improvise everything: their voice, gesture and body? How do social conventions of play drive experience? Out of these questions come two trajectories for the project: production and research.

Production constitutes the development of TGarden as a temporary event and installation as well as a new type of play zone. Since the project challenges existing modes of disembodied interaction, TGarden as a public event aims not only to give people a compelling, physically responsive experience, but also to serve as a real world laboratory to test out new developing technologies that may come about and be developed as a result of direct audience/visitor/participant feedback.

Long Term Research: TGarden is not just a production project. The aim is to create a consortium of cultural, academic, non profit and industry partners who are interested in the project's long term cultural, technological and entertainment potential. The consortium will use the TGarden as a laboratory for a spectrum of research ranging from models of responsive, real time computation, new responsive fabrics and wearable architectures, new authoring languages for designers, heuristics for measuring audience experience and finally, as research into new modes for designing the merge between the physical and the digital.



TGarden is co-production between sponge, FoAM and V2_Organisation and is developed in collaboration with V2_Lab, aRt&D - interdisciplinary art, research and development Rotterdam

TGarden is an interdisciplinary project exploring methods of artistic expression and social interaction in mixed reality. The project has originated in a partnership between FoAM in Brussels and sponge in San Francisco. The direct and tangible result of the project is a responsive Play Space whose visitors shape the media environment around them through their movement, gesture and social interaction. TGarden is currently being developed in collaboration with several art and technology centers (in 2001: Georgia Institute of Technology, Ars Electronica, V2_Organisation, Banff Centre for the Arts) and a number of independent artists, technologists and scientists from Europe, USA and Australia.

The letter "T" in the title of this project stands for 'topology', 'time', and 'tea'. The "Garden" stands for an emergent region, balancing between autonomous wilderness and a cultivated work of art. A site that evolves on its own accord but can be moulded extensively by its caretakers and temporary dwellers.

TGarden is, first and foremost, a built space that the visitors can inhabit. Second, it is a growing environment in which the visitors can comfortably linger, surrounded by responsive media, and third, an instrument that allows the visitors to (collaboratively) shape and modify the environment's processes of growth, decay and transformation.

There are no users in the TGarden, or tasks to be solved. The space is not there to be navigated or searched but rather to hang out and dance in. The movement of players' bodies is used by the TGarden's nervous system (hardware and software network) to shape visual, aural and tactile media. The gestures - that are not so different from everyday gestures such as touching, brushing along other bodies, dancing, stretching and falling - are an impetus for the generative processes in TGarden. Ultimately, the virtuosity of the players should grow through the interaction with the TGarden system, and allow them to actualize their imagination.



Involved institutions are:
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta Ars Electronica Center, Linz Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff

Project Initiators:
Sha Xin Wei, Maja Kuzmanovic, Chris Salter, Laura Farabo
Concept: FoAM, sponge and Associates
Project Management and Art Direction: Chris Salter, Maja Kuzmanovic
Technical and Systems Design Director: Sha Xin Wei
Tactile Media Design (Textile and Garments): Evelina Kusaite, Maja Kuzmanovic, Cocky Eek, Peggy Jacobs, Marcel van Doorn
Sensors + Wearable Computing: Stock (V2_Lab), Ozan Cakmakci
Vision Tracking: Yifan Shi and Aaron Bobick (Georgia Tech)
Room Dynamics: Sha Xin Wei, Nik Gaffney, Yon Visell, Steven Pickles
Sound System Design and Sound Interaction: Joel Ryan, Chris Salter
Visual Design and Video Interaction: Maja Kuzmanovic, Hiaz Gmachl
Network, Systems Administration: Nik Gaffney

With the financial assistance of (for V2_Organisation):
Las Palmas, International centre for Image Culture and Media Technology, The Netherlands - Rotterdam 2001, Cultural Capital of Europe, The Netherlands - Rotterdam 2001, Werkstad in Las Palmas, The Netherlands - Cultural Affairs, City of Rotterdam, The Netherlands - Ministry of Education, Culture & Science, The Netherlands - SkyberNet, The Netherlands - Luna.nl, The Netherlands - MK2, The Netherlands

With the financial assistance of (for sponge and FoAM):
Ars Electronica Festival 2001, Austria - Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada - Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, Canada - Flemish Ministry of Culture, Belgium - FUTURE PHYSICAL (East England Arts/shinkansen in association with the Arts Council of England New Audience Programme) - Georgia Institute of Technology, USA - Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, The Netherlands - V2_Organisation, Institute for Unstable Media, The Netherlands - Australian Network for Art and Technology, Australia

Thanks to:
Guy van Belle, Yves Bernard and IMAL, Ghislaine Boddington, Joris Bois, Veronique Daussy, Sara Diamond, Bronac Ferran, Mark Goldstein, Nat Muller, Michael Naimark, Anne Nigten, Roomade and Barbara van der Linden, Mark Scheeff, Joel Slayton, Beau Takahara, Michel Waisvisz, F.H.W. De Zwart Project Description



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