“I feel like I’m in the The Sword in the Stone, with Merlin and his enchanted objects”. I heard this kind of sentence quite a lot during the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, while presenting the work known as the Walking Canvas for the first time, in the ETH Zurich pavilion there. I have to say, this artwork by Aparna Rao and Soren Pors, looked quite enchanting prancing around the floor in the exhibit. And on my side, I definitely felt like a magician. Not so much because I presented some entertaining objects during a week, but because I had been involved behind the scenes, bringing the illusion to life. When you stand behind the scenes, when you know the tricks, and especially when you have created the trick yourself – in my case by working on it in India for 6 months last year – it is difficult to feel the magic that was part of the creative process again… If you want a hint from an insider, behind the scenes there is a lot of work, some unexpected complications, but above all a great team. And if you are still curious, and if you are willing to risk losing a bit of the magic, I will show you part of the ruse through this photo series. But don’t worry, the magic actually reappeared when we saw visitors reacting to the illusion of the canvases in a spontaneous and joyful way. And I can tell you, our week in Davos was definitely a magical week. I saw people petting the canvases, looking for the puppet strings, and even dancing with them.
Testing one of the walking canvas’ feet. Credit: Lucie Houel/ETH Zurich
Soren Pors, creating the baby walk for the canvas. The motion is then extracted from the video to be replicated by the mechanical system. Credit: Lucie Houel/ETH Zurich
The walking canvas walking in the sunlight, in front of the Davos mountains. Credit: Pankaj Borthakur
About the author
Lucie Houel, holds a MSc in Micro-Engineering from EPFL. She recently joined ETH Zurich at the Wyss Institute where she is working for PATHOS, continuing the adventure doing robotics for artists.