The National Bank of Belgium commissioned FoAM to create a proposal for an installation, to be included in the NBB's permanent art collection. The proposed artwork is a site-specific installation for the main underground thoroughfare of the NBB building.

“Tech Nouveau” is a responsive audiovisual installation inspired by the surreal mélange of cultures and styles coexisting in Brussels. Six panels combining non-emissive visual displays, flat panel speakers and motion-sensors are deployed to generate the abstract imagery and ambient sound-scapes of “Tech Nouveau”.

“Tech Nouveau” is an installation in which seemingly static line drawings can become animate, changing their geometry to respond to the movement of people through the corridor. The installation references the growth of plants and other organic forms, drawing upon the crafts of hand-drawing and pattern making, while using new technologies to make the work responsive to human activity. Different patterns of motion through the corridor change the configuration of images and sound in real time. In this media composition, a straight line begins to curve when it senses a person passing through the tunnel; a linear pattern transforms into a curvilinear design; a monotonous hum changes into a rich textural sound. The changes occur on the edge of perception - slowly and quietly, recognisable only to the people who want to pay attention to the changes. For all others, the images and sounds appear constant, static and permanent.

Research in 2006: Technological survey audiovisual displays

Most technological research in 2006 has been conducted in the field of low-power, non-emissive visual displays and unobtrusive, flat and high fidelity loudspeakers. The remaining technological components (computing, networking and sensing) will be constructed with standardised off-the-shelf components that will make the maintenance of the work financially and logistically easier.

Low power, non-emissive visual displays

Visual displays that change colour or shape, without emiting light have proven to be the most innovative, but also the most challenging design requirement for the “Tech Nouveau” installation. Several applicable technologies have been surveyed and some of them tested. Although most of these technologies would pass the test in the short run, their manufacturers cannot give a guarantee past a few months of continuous operation. It is very likely that in the coming years some of the existing technologies will be improved to suit our requirements, we have not been able to isolate an ideal technology for “Tech Nouveau”.

We have conducted surveys of:

  • Thermochromic materials (inks and pigments able to change colour depending of changing temperature)
  • Shape-memory alloys (metal wires, strips and sheets capable of changing their shape at particular set temperatures)
  • Electronic Paper / E-paper (a non-emissive visual display (VGA) that produces images by modulating the electric field around the charged, micro-encapsulated pigment particles)

Related topics: Electronic Paper, Active Materials, Flexible Displays , Project Lyta Materials Research, Shape Memory Websites

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