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Force of Nature

tumblr_nock79w2XF1qav3uso2_r1_540.gif?zoIn April 2015, Nike released its revolutionary kinetic digital art project, Force of Nature, for the Nike Innovation Summit at Truman Brewery in London. The work was created in collaboration with Field, a London-based design studio. By stepping onto a treadmill and beginning to create movement, the participating runner is presented with a fluctuating shower of stunning, multicolored sparks, similar to an energy “mirror” of themselves, created by the movement put forth by him or her on the treadmill. The flux of lights is meant to imitate the runner’s motion and turn the human body into a digital art piece. [1]. The work recalls earlier artworks, including Nancy Paterson’s Bicycle TV (1989) and Jeffery Shaw’s Legible City (1989-91), both of which used a bicycle as the interface by which the user’s activity generates an animated video environment. Also a similar work in terms of light presentation and movement is Otto Piene’s Light Ballet (1959-60), featuring beams of light that move with each other as the synthetic projector spins from a fixed point.

This installation also reflects a quote from Mario Merz “on the symbolic significance of neon as an artistic medium: Light is nevertheless technological energy in the making … Light is a comprehensible representation of the human mind, whereas flame is incomprehensible and hence difficult to represent. So the decision to use neon represents the possibility of mental control.”[2] The neon colors in the display of the installation seem to directly influence the mentality of the runners, convincing them to get into a rhythm for exercise. FIELD_NIKE_FON_0398.jpg

Additionally, the beams of light are controllable, whereas natural flame is not, therefore also alluding to the notion that the human mind is able to be overseen by the bright flashes of neon light, and not so much flame. The kinetic beams are created by the movements of the runner, leading the runner to believe he or she is in control of the lights, while the lights are directing the person’s movements and enhancing his or her endurance.

The custom-fitted sensors in the treadmill and the Kinect interaction from the screen allow the runner to be able to visualize the flow of getting into a rhythm during exercise. The visuals on the screen depend on the runner’s speed, movement, tempo, and the colors they happen to be wearing as well. The image mirrors the runner in a way that conveys the message of individuality, that you are running your own path and creating your own flow, and that Nike is geared towards everybody.

“Force of Nature” was directed and designed by the co-founder of Field, Marcus Wendt, who specializes in shareable digital artifacts through advanced technology and research led approaches. [3] Also contributing to the installation were Maran Coats and Vera-Maria Glahn in Project Management, Andrea Cuius and Laurence Symonds in Electronics, David Kamp for Sounddesign, David Li in Software Development, and James Medcraft in Documentation.



The color that the runner wears, as well as the speed of the runner on the treadmill directly impact how quickly the beams of light move, in parallel to the motion sensed from the treadmill.