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Bend the Knee

“Bend the knee“ is an interactive system between a left knee and a shoe lace, derived by my will and tendency to generate movement that is discreet as well as worth of gazing at.

When bending the knee, you untie the shoe. When stretching the knee, you loosen the shoe lace. When finding a neutral angle range for the knee, the shoe lace stays still.

produced by: (E)irini Kalaitzidi

Body is the habitat of this system but not as a whole. Since I am keen in creating eye-catching details, I choose a fragment of the body (the knee) and define that as my prototype’s habitat. My choreographic intention is to create a system that will extent body’s movement to a disorientated, unexpected and distractive direction. 

Treating the body’s fragment as the habitat of my system led me to treat its synthesis as architecture and so I referred to Robert Venturi: 

“The difficult whole in an architecture of complexity and contradiction includes multiplicity and diversity of elements in relationships that are inconsistent or among the weaker kinds perceptually. [...] Parts can be more or less whole in themselves, or, to put it in another way, in greater or lesser degree they can be fragments of a greater whole.”

By the time I decided to keep my system local and generate a distracting action, I made a somatic research of this condition. I spent time exploring the bouncing movement of the knees, treating them as if they were springs and trying to imagine contrasting interactions with neighbouring parts of the leg: the trousers, the socks, the laces, the shoes. Being loyal to the concept of detail, I kept visualising small and discreet changes. I liked the idea of lifting something up when bending the knee as a conflict of levels and therefore, I begun building my system with the idea of lifting the shoe lace when bending the knee and releasing it when stretching.

“Bend the knee” is a prototype that consists of an athletic knee pad within which are attached a long flex sensor, a servo motor of continuous rotation, a Flora electronic platform and a LiPo battery pack 2000mAh. The battery and the Flora platform are placed inside a pocket that is created in the front, protruded side of the knee pad. The flex sensor is kept inside a second, narrow and long pocket in the front but inner part of the knee pad. The exact position of this pocket depends on the physical characteristics of the knee (length, neutral angle) in order to monitor correctly its movement. In all occasions, the flex sensor must be over the patella (kneecap) when the knee pad is worn, so that it can be bent relatively to the knee curve. The servo is attached to the left, outer part of the knee pad and linked through invisible thread to a clip that grabs the target lace.

When bending the knee, the servo-pulley rotates forwards, pulling the shoe lace until untying the shoe. When stretching the knee, the servo-pulley rotates backwards, loosening the shoe lace and allowing you to tie manually your shoe. In between a small range of flex values, the servo stays still.

The participants of my system are knees of disorientated bodies which perform a distracting detail while using a flex sensor as the means for sensing the left knee’s tension (oscillating between flexion and extension).



Turner, Joseph Mallord William, 1816, “A Standing Nude Woman, Left Arm Raised to her Head, a Standing Draped Figure and a Detail of a Foot”

Venturi, Robert, 1966, “The Obligation Toward the Difficult Whole in: Complexity and Contradiction in architecture”