Seamlessly weaving textile art, culture, and technology in the Living Knitwork Pavilion

By Irmandy Wicaksono

It all began as a wish, while gazing upon the magical playa sunrise — a desire to curate an experience and create a space for shading and gathering. As I wandered through Waking Dreams last year, I found myself captivated by the majestic structural artworks of Burning Man, especially those involving textiles, such as inflatables and shade structures. In my perspective, textiles are unique materials that could imbue the desert art landscape with fluidity, softness, and a dynamic quality. They are an integral part of our daily lives and instrumental for human expression and survival. However, we often overlook and take them for granted, not realizing the complex materials, deep craftsmanship, and various elements that go into their design and creation.  

During a Science Talk at The Phage in Black Rock City last year, I also had the opportunity to present my research on the new fabrics/functional textiles. Currently based in the MIT Media Lab, my work revolves around the fusion of functional fibers, sensor networks, and digital knitting to develop interactive textiles spanning various scales, ranging from wearables, room-scale textiles, to architecture. As my presentation concluded, I couldn’t resist sharing my aspiration of bringing these captivating and interactive textiles to Burning Man. I believe there exists an exciting opportunity to introduce novel materials and technologies into the realm of architectural fabrics, while also integrating them with intricate details and avenues for self-expression.

Little did I anticipate that this dream would ultimately become reality. Fast forward almost one year, and we are fortunate to have received a Black Rock City Honoraria grant that allowed us to seed this vision at Burning Man. The journey since then has been nothing short of extraordinary, filled with constant challenges, boundless creativity, meaningful connections and fruitful collaborations.

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