Tactile Research Lab

is  a very hands-on lab of the Artscience Interfaculty of the Royal Conservatory and the Royal Academy in The Hague (NL). The lab (2009-2016) run by Cocky Eek, is dealing with all sorts of physical structures, operating in the interstitial spaces between artistic and scientific, grown and built, physical and digital worlds. The lab aims to stimulate the participants to navigate these worlds in their own way and offers a place for synesthetic and playful exploration. During the year one can  focus on various topics such as; micro/macro-words, wearables, lightweight structures and bio-grown or bio-engineerd structures. In all these matters, we encourage you to think in whole systems and cycles. Trial and error play an important part in the process and is rewarded over results.

Outputs of the lab are amongst presented at Salone Internationale del Mobile – Milano [The Candy-Cotton-Clouds installation, 13- 18 april 2010]. Van Gogh Museum [ part of  “Paul Gauguin, doorbraak naar de moderniteit”  23 april 2010 – Amsterdam], TransNatural exhibition [march 2011, De Verdieping/Trouw Amsterdam] Amsterdam, Korzo Theater  [The Lighthouse 13-17 march 2012 The Hague], Habitat – Amsterdam,


Falco Pols, Tactile Research Lab BA3 2015 report:

Voor tactile research wilde ik gaan werken met trilling door geluid, en met name het gevoel van de trilling op de vingers of handpalmen. Eerst nam ik verschillende grotes metale plaatjes waar ik met behulp van piezo elementen feedback in opbouwde en met mijn vingers de plaatjes dempte om de tonen als het ware te voelen. Hier kwam ik erachter dat piezo’s niet genoeg kracht leveren voor een goede feedback. Ik legde de een plaat met alleen een piezo als microfoon op een speaker en merkte dat dit een veel sterkere trilling geeft. Tijdens het drukken op de plaat voelde je nogsteeds een sterke trilling en je
kon de toon als het waren voelen. Hier kwam ik erachter dat het ook een interessant geluid gaf als je de plaat indrukte. Ik kon de toon en de feedback besturen. Ik begon halve vakjes uit te snijden uit de plaatjes waar ik de piezo dan opdeed, en als je dit vakje tegen de speaker drukte terwijl het plaatje erop lag, had ik nog meer controle over de toon en voelde je de trilling echt in je vingers. Het was duidelijk dat het buigen van het metaal waar feedback doorheen ging een sterk effect had, en fijn was om mee te spelen door de connectie die je krijgt via de trilling. Je komt in contact met het geluid. Hier heb ik een kleine presentatie van gegeven in de les. Hierna besloot ik een grote dunne metale plaat met piezo in het midden op de speaker te leggen, en zo met mijn handen aan bijde kanten drukkend de feedback te besturen. Dit werkte heel goed, en ik kon meerdere tonen
en effecten creeren door de piezo`s anders te plaatsen of bijvoorbeeld alleen neer te leggen op de plaat, zonder vast te plakken. Hier kon ik composities mee maken. Ik heb er een tijd mee gespeeld in RecPlay lab, en kwam erachter dat er kleine transducers zijn die het object waar je het op plakt doen trillen inplaatsvan de lucht zoals een normale speaker. Hiermee kon ik mooiere feedback uit de plaat krijgen en experimenteren met verschillende plaatsen om de transducer te plakken. Hier uit is mijn semester presentatie voor dat half jaar ontstaan.

plastic sheets

For tactile research lab this semester Beng wanted to work with plastics…. ” I wanted to create structures that, depending on the movements of the audience would change their perception of space. I started with plastic sheets that I hung up in a row to see what sort light of light qualities it had. By putting them in a row and passing my hand through them I saw that layering the material was interesting. Because of the diffusion of the light objects between the surfaces would fade in accordance to how much layers of material was in between. I wanted to see how this would work on a life size scale so I made a bigger version. That was really unhandy to work with. Afterwards I decided to hang up smaller versions in space.



I wanted to know how it would feel like walking through it for a person would be. But I soon found out that when the sheets are too small. The way we perceive the objects would destroy the effect of the material. Because the sheets of plastic are not very wide they don’t feel like a real object that’s integrated with the space. It was hard to transform this material. So I decided to make a frame and tried to wrap it around that. But the plastic breaks very fast when put under tension. Trying to put tension on the plastic did not work. Hanging it was a better option. But I still wanted to integrate it more in the space and make it part of the space it was in. I started to make models to see how that would look in space. Because I could make faster setups. In the model I made the sheets of plastic almost as wide as the walls. This way wanted to try and integrate it with the space more.

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I felt that now that it was as wide as the space it was presented it really became a part of the space. But to let people still walk through the space the plastic sheets could not be static objects anymore. They had to move around. This is why I hung the plastic sheets up on motors that rotated the sheets. This created new openings and paths and closed others.
After this tried to see how this setup would react to light. By putting up an LED pad I wanted to see how the object would react to light. The multiple light sources of the pad created multiple shadows of the objects rotating in space. Creating lines and patterns on the floor of the space.

The test with lights created nice visual results. After this I wanted to see what would happen if used colored lights. By making my model white and using a mix of two colors (red and blue) that were hanging from above creating a new color (purple) I wanted to find out if the plastic would act as a wall and break the light or would let the light mix.  The colors mixed really weird creating this blue purplish space, with nice changing shadows across the surface of the floor and the walls. The changes were subtle you could see the shadows on the floor very. And the because of the diffusion of the plastic some parts of the space disappeared in some sort of haze. The plastic sheets didn’t really act as a barrier and let the different colored lights mix in an interesting way.

Kinetic body sticks

The Kinetic body sticks-project by Naja Ryde Ankarfeldt 2015, started out with one small block of foam, and a piece of double sided tape. I cut the block into a lot of smaller parts, still keeping them together. Hereafter I taped this created structure directly onto my skin, and recognized something very interesting. When moving my fingers the small parts stuck onto my hand would move from the underlying mussels. From even the smallest movements invisible to the eye, the height of the sticks enlarge the tiny movements and move the entire structure like waves. When placed on the neck the sticks are moved synchronized with the voice and action of Adam’s apple. And like that different sections and muscles of the body causes different kinds of effect on the structure. I think it is interesting to research the materiality of the body and how to pay attention to and study the anatomic movements: how do I move my own finger in the first place. The functionality of the anatomical body is so familiar to its owner and taken for granted, that it can be hard to recognize and study the amazing machinery we move around. When having this structure of alienated sticks stuck to your body it suddenly becomes easier to pay attention those moving sticks since they are not an integrated part of you. And it now becomes possible, from an objective point of view to focus on the thrilling anatomic motions. The flexibility of the structure is made possible from the several parts that affect one another and appears to be a connected material or organism. It is the spaces in between the separated parts that allow the movement. I have been experimenting with a broad range of different shapes, sizes, tools and materials. The construction is quite challenging, and I been around different solutions for making the sticks balance, making the structure light enough to remain upright, how to glue them to the material, whiteout gluing them together, how to connect them to the body and so on. The project is still ongoing and will be presented as a part of my graduation project later the year.

01Anajaankarkineticstickscopy04najaankarkineticstickscopy 03najaankarkineticstickscopy 01najaankarkineticstickscopyImage documentation by Alexander Benjamin Vinther, Victoria Douka-Doukopoulou, Cocky Eek, Nanda Milbreta, Ingrid Eel and Naja Ryde Ankarfeldt

growing chrystals

During the first part of Tactile Research Lab, John Sandli began growing crystals, for the specific purpose of making lenses. John: …”My first experiments were with table salt, but soon after I began experimentation with both magnesium sulphate and alum.

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Epsom salt, or magnesium sulphate, when grown from a new hot solution, then rapidly cooled down usually seem form as either a bed of tiny spikes of crystals reaching upwards (img1), or when grown on a larger flat surface as similar spikes, only growing along the surface. While growing them, I’ve noticed a dense, usually almost opaque, base forming at the bottom of the bed. This kind of bed, of tiny crystalline structures is unsuitable for optics. When growing with a large amount of saturated solution, the beds form so tiny crystals, so as to resemble slushed ice. I discovered by pouring some of the remaining, cold, solution of different beds, and reapplying them to other beds grown with very little solution, with only partially formed crystals, that the crystals formed would grow larger, more rectangular in shape rather than spiky (img2). They often formed along the bottom, instead of upwards. I continued pouring off and reapplying solution in this manner, over and over in varying amounts and discovered that the solution-mix would form a thin, nearly translucent base, with larger, unique crystals embedded and fans of crystals growing out here and there (img3).


I also discovered that by taking some larger spikes as seeds and apply it to such a solution-mix would sometimes form a single larger crystal (imgs4/5). One such turned out to be surprisingly clear with only some faults in the middle going along the crystal. I grew several others, ranging in sizes between two centimetres to up to around four in length. One thing I discovered was how the crystalline structures would enlarge separately while forming a larger crystals. On some crystals you could see it quite clearly, forming a staircase pattern (imgs6/7) along the surface.


While I’d had some success growing the kind of beds I thought I needed, I’d never been able to get such a result starting from a new solution, only mixed solutions of unknown saturation. To form crystals in any realistic time-frame you will need to cook up a fairly saturated solution, but both the heat and the saturation will affect how the crystals grow, together with how rapidly the solution is allowed to cool down. I tried out different ways of preparing solutions, and found that when dissolved in cold water allowed to slowly heat up on the stove, taking the solution of the heat at between 70 and 80 degrees C, I would fairly consistently (let’s be liberal with the definition of “consistently” here.) achieve either beds with larger spikes or one larger crystal without the need of mixing old solutions. Now, I thought that these beds would be suitable for my purposes, but they turned out not to be, or to be specific, the light-source used was not suitable for these beds. But that’s a different topic.

While growing I noticed oxidation of Epsom salt and alum. After a while when exposed to air, they will get coated in a white layer. This is possible to clean off with water, though when exposed to water Epsom salt will get very fragile. To protect the crystals of oxidation, I tried coating them with various lacquers. My first try was with clear epoxy glue. The glue was difficult to apply because of it’s thick consistency, so I later tried heating the glue first. It was still a bit to thick, so I abandoned epoxy in favour of clear acrylic spray. The spray, when applied liberally, did work to protect the crystals, but in some cases it wouldn’t form a coherent, smooth layer, but rather a layer made up of spots and indentations. This was only a problem in some cases, so I will continue with the spray and see how it works with alum.workspace1workspace2


I also experimented with magnesium sulphate in another way. Me and Andreas conducted experiments of how a piezoelectric microphone would act in a solution of Epsom salt. We hoped to achieve the sounds of crystals forming. We was able to record such sounds, but we achieved a much more interesting and surprising result: They began behaving as field microphones, picking up air vibrations. The sound was affected by the process of crystallisation, so underneath other sounds you hear blubbering sounds, flutters, pops and clicks of crystalline structures forming. The microphone must be placed on a suitably resonating surface to work. We found wood worked best. We took this with us to Poland where we continued the research and eventually found a use for it in our project. Together with this, we also worked with laser-projections. Lasers appeared to project a microscopic image of the crystals, showing lots of small crystalline structures. The image will have an effect close to that of 3D. Ultimately we projected lasers through magnesium sulphate solutions on a mirror, projecting the crystallisation as it occurred.

While working on growing crystals of magnesium sulphate, I also started experimenting with different plastics. One material I found interesting was dried sheets of wood glue. While cold it behaves semi-rigid, slowly shaping itself back to approximately it’s original shape, but when heated it becomes very soft and malleable. It will to a degree retain the shape given while soft as it hardens again. For each time it is heated, then cooled, it turns more brittle, until it is no longer flexible and breaks. It is also semi-translucent, and will act as a filter when looked through. The closer it is to something, the more it shines through, sort of like baking paper.

I chose not to focus too much on alum during the first semester. They grow a lot more slowly, and they usually form either single crystals or very brittle beds of extremely small crystals. As I was more interested in beds of larger crystals at the moment, I grew alum more as a side project to teach myself more. I did find this very helpful for practice and developing a process. They have a habit of rather forming several larger crystal seeds rather than beds, and can grow quite large when reapplied in solution for continued growth. You have to constantly pour off solution to rinse for competing seeds, the reapply the solution, which helps in developing a method of constant care balanced with as little disturbance as possible. I have now chosen to focus more on alum, as they are a lot easier to grow without impurities, which broadens their use for optical experiments.

I have added a few pictures, labelled as “img[nr]”, but I am notoriously bad at visual documentation, so keep that in mind. I’ve also added some sound file.

– John

cricket composition


This experimental installation of Luke Boorman is the first setup within a larger research project which aims to see how we can compose with the sonic properties of crickets. Luke .” in this setup four shotgun microphones are connected to four bags of netting each of which contains a population of african field crickets this setup allowed the sound of the crickets to be amplified enabling myself and the rest of the group to create a detailed picture of the crickets sonic palette. With this installation i also wanted to examine if a feedback loop was created between the amplified cricket chirps and the amount of acoustic cricket song or more simply to examine the relation between the amount relation between these two ways of listening to the sound and if so, how could I develop another setup to research this more thoroughly…”

collective screaming

luke screaming exercise screaming  luke 2

This mini project was initiated by an assignment provided to me which simply had to be a performance which involved screaming, i was interested in different types of screaming and the reasons as to why we scream be it for aggression, aggravation or pain  i asked the group for help and we decided to complete a warm up whereby we would scream in a collaborative group exercise from this an number of different attempts were made for example we walked around screaming at each other or individually peoples lone screams prompted others to scream and a collaborative chorus was made  other iterations included organising the group into a giant circle, where we lay on our fronts facing each other, we would scream in unison after a que, similarly we also completed an iteration on our backs again in a circle screaming in unison  The most interesting thing which came from these mini experiments was how a collaborative an deliberate act of screaming changed the atmosphere in the room on an individual and group level after the exercises there was a sense of calm relief intact many members of the group found themselves to
be extremely relaxed. the whole process was humorous and enjoyable and was a total re-appropriation of, and distinct change to the situations people usually scream i.

What to do with cow bladders

leaking cow bladderbladder 3
the above documentation from Luke Boorman shows a very fast and constructive hands on research session that revolved around the potential for bladders to be used as an artistic medium we started of a series of very fast and playful experiments whereby we reflected on the bladders as objects in themselves but also tried to construct new was of viewing them starting by blowing them up with a bike pump, we exposed them to sunlight, used them as bouncing balls, stretched their membranes, filled them up with water suspended them from the ceiling where they span around and leaked their water contents,placed pots and pans underneath them turning them from a object of biological function into a bizarre organ-instrument which we found to be cerebral and captivating, from here i was able to take this project further by creating an installation of many bladder organ-instruments which built up a composition from their collective leakage.

Salt and Agar

This semester Beng has been researching the growth of salt crystals on different materials.

…”With a saturated solution of water created by adding sea salt to water, I keep adding salt till the liquid becomes saturated and put different materials I used metal and wood into it. The crystals start to grow naturally in the solution and as the water evaporates the crystal growth increases.”

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Even the container that was holding the salt water was transformed by the crystals. The crystals even began growing over the edge of the pan where I put the salt water in. Because of the small pathways in between the crystals capillary effect can take place. This results in the water travelling up over the edge of the container. This in turns makes the crystals grow in places where the water flows and deposits the salt.

The most interesting reaction for me was the oxidization of a metal rod that I had put into the solution. The rust that was created due to the oxidization was changing the colors of the crystals. This interplay between the two materials. The reaction upon another I found very interesting. I wanted to see how I could this better.



The problem for me was that making the crystals grow there is a need for a container to put the salt water into. Afterwards placing materials inside the container of the solution to make salt grow onto it. This giving an interesting end product ones the materials have formed. But the container for keeping the saturated water seems to distract from what was really going on. The process what was interested me the most. The transformation of the object that was put inside the solution being taken over by the crystals. To make a clear image of the process I wanted to cut away everything that distracted from the creation of the crystals.

beng 4 Tactile Research La1

For showcasing the reaction I wanted just the two materials. The saturated salt water and the metal. But the problem was how to create a container for the salt water without using a container. The solution was in a substance that I have used in sketching methods and the bio art living art research group. Agar a gelling agent used in cooking to jellify liquids. Agar is derived from the polysaccharide agarose, which forms the supporting structure in the cell walls of certain species of algae, and which is released on boiling. These algae are known as agarophytes and belong to the Rhodophyta (red algae) phylum. Adding the agar to the salt water solution created a gel with the same properties as the liquid but without the container.

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With this jellified solution in began to try and find out if I could sculpt with it. I made a test for the gel combining it with a metal rod in a small container. The interesting thing was that when the metal started to rust, the color of the rust went into the agar. Creating swirls of orange color in the gel.



I wanted to see if it was possible to create this reaction on a bigger scale by making a sculpture on a bigger scale with the same ingredients. I made a cast that I filled with agar and suspended a metal rod within. Unfortunately for some reason the color was not visible within the sculpture. I still don’t know precisely why. I still presented my experiment at an exhibition held by KABK students at the Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam that was occupied by the students of UVA.

Tactile Research La1

Because of the increase in size the agar became cloudy, I wanted to remedy this by making my next work with the gel on a 2D plane. I made a new batch of Agar but this time poured it out on a metal plate. This making the layer of gel thinner. In this way I wanted the process of transformation to become clearer.
Over time the metal plate oxidized because of the moisture in the gel. Changing the appearance of the Agar. You can clearly see the rust changing the color of the agar and where the layer of agar is thin the salt crystals are already starting to form. After 2 weeks you can clearly see the salt crystals starting to form more and more and changing color because of the rust being deposited on the crystals by the plate.
At this stage I am trying to make series of my last experiment trying different thicknesses ratios of the gel and the salt water. I find the interaction of the two materials very interesting and want to develop different ways to combine the metal and gel together. My next goal besides the series of metal plates is redoing the sculpture with different ratios of agar gel and metal.

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PDF complete research document Beng Agar and Salt

tactile poem

Nanda Milbreta / Tactile Research Lab, Semester 2
For my second, and eventually third presentation I was making Tactile Poems.
First I presented 4 Tactile Poems. Each of them were meant for one specific body part. I was creating these poems with the theme ‘Pleasure’ in my mind.

I finished this lab with Poem #5 ‘The Pleasure Sweater’
Some people dream of having wings and being able to fly. But all I would like to have is a long tale, like a cat.

I decided to create a garment that can be felt on various body parts.
By selecting a number of soft and fluffy materials, I designed a wearable that is at the same time pleasant for the wearer as for those who touch the person wearing it. There’s no such thing as too much love and too many hugs.

I’ve added some photos and a link to the video, where ladies’ reaction is quite clear:)