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Curiously Strong

Amanda Parkes & Jessica Banks
Altoids™ boxes, solenoids, circuitry

open. close. repeat.
Altoids™ boxes with domino talents.
Curiously Strong transforms 250 Altoids tins into a living machine. Each box is equipped with an actuator mechanism that opens and closes the box's lid when it receives a mechanically controlled digital signal. Sequential activation of the connected boxes results in a wave of motion akin to that of a typical domino chain. Curiously Strong is a long and flexible snake that envelopes its surroundings both audibly and visually, traversing any landscape and creating a rhythmic, moving soundscape. Curiously Strong plays with the notion of what it means to be a kinetic sculpture in that its local state is passive and still even when it is globally active.

Amanda Parkes is a designer interested in the relationship of gesture, form, materiality and computation in the context of hybrid physical-digital objects. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab where her research focuses on developing intuitive and investigative learning and design tools. Before joining the Media Lab, Amanda developed exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, freelanced internationally in multimedia design, and developed installations and programs for the Science Museum in London and the the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (Product Design) and B.A. in Art History both from Stanford University and an M.S. in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT. Her work has been featured in various internationally recognized design and art awards including the ID Magazine Annual Design Review and the Prix Ars Electronica, though she's more interested in cultivating an award-winning shoe collection.
Jessica Banks is a PhD candidate at MIT's Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab. Her robotics work is driven by an interest in user interfaces from both social interaction and physical design perspectives. Jessica holds a B.S. in physics with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Michigan and an M.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. She also worked extensively in the entertainment industry before nerding out at grad school. Though Jessica is currently in the 23rd grade, her passion does not lie in academia, but in art. Her research motivations are similarly reflected in her sculpture and in her plan to start a secret robot-ish company as soon as she graduates (be it by dint of dissertation or default).

Acknowledgements: Curiously Strong is funded in part by a Director's Grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT. Thanks also to: Dan Paluska, Cameron Marlow, Einar Gustafson, Iuliu Vasilescu, Ron Wiken, Ben Dalton, Vincent Leclerc, Jeana Frost, Lijin Aryananda, and Alex Byrne for their invaluable dedication to monotony for art's sake and for our sake.

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