Sunjoo Lee
     Wavy Tales
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     Machine in Flux: Wood
     A Duplicate Life
     Red Beet


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Machine in Flux: Wood
2018 - ongoing

Working with support from MAD Emergent Art Center, and an electronics expert Ko de Beer.
Currently in progress as artist in residence at MADlab.
‘Machine in Flux: Wood’ is an art installation of a machine carrying out slow and delicate drawing performances, which its drawing resembles the cross section of a tree trunk.

Sunjoo Lee works together with Ko de Beer, who is a freelance electronics expert.

This project has two motivations. One was simply that I had an immense fascination about trees. The slowness, strength and the complexity in growth of such beautiful organic being was something that led me to start a project about them.

Secondly, I wanted to question the main drive of contemporary machine development, which are utilisation and productivity. Instead, we(Ko and I) want to look into the meeting point of machine behaviour and the natural state of being. This project therefore aims to seek possibilities of future machines as an intuitive, creative, and organically behaving entities.

I believe that this project in a bigger sense, suggests the possible hybrid future of machines and plants, where nature shapes the goals and behaviors of new technology, instead of the other way around. The drawings this machines makes not only suggests how organic and responsive a robot/machine can be, but also the imagined landscape where machines mimick the complexity and beauty of nature.
The final machine we aim for, is able to detect several varying forces of its surroundings, such as light intensity, humidity, temperature, etc, and use the data to constantly influence the drawing’s growing shape.

For now, the latest prototype (2.1) is able to grow its drawing by solely reading the light intensity of its surroundings. The light brightness affects the thickness of the line.

We made the machine draw and follow its own line in order for it to constanly be influenced by the previous circle it drew.

It therefore moves in a spiral. Once it is triggered with the first circle of the spiral, it enters an infinite loop of following and drawing. It operates autonomously from then on.

The small variations in the lines are amplified as it grows further and makes the shape more and more organic.

We aim to make the outcome always unique and surprising depending on where, when, and with which setting the robot performs in. 

For that we are now working on improving the code and adding more sensors, so that it reflects more how different trees grow and how different external forces affect a tree’s growth.


• Set up an ink tank system that can flow at least 12 hours without maintenance.

• Let it work with Teensy 3.6 as its brain.

• Dive into biological knowledge on tree growth and dendrochronology,  and be inspired for programming of the robot.
> develop code inspired/based on the actual tree growth.
> develop different codes for each tree specie.
   (for example, an african blackwood code could make the core of the drawing very dark, making it look like a huge black dot.)

• Add more sensors
> Temperature
> Humidity
> Sound
> Wind
> Gas

• Enable wheels to reverse, to follow the line more accurately.