During my studies in Paris I lived and worked in an Atelier of the Fondation des États-Unis (FEU) in the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (FR). It is a place that offers space for international artists, musicians, students and academics in Paris to promote exchanges between these people from around the world in the spirit of peace, unity and friendly cooperation and to develop their talents within this context.


I was located on the 5th floor, a space that was dedicated to artist and musicians with truly amazing Atelier spaces and studios. Here I used my key multiple times a day to enter my Atelier. The keys that were used in the building were not standard (hotel) keys, but a kind of precursor, it was basically a punch card that opened the door via a mechanical lock. Thanks to the omnipresence of music all days because of my practicing musician neighbours I suddenly had this idea that this punchcard key could potentially also produce music. How? The punchcard key reminded me of organ books. Then this thought was immediatly followed with the idea that this key could also produce textiles. Thinking of the jacquard loom system and domestic knitting machines that could be operated with punchcards to create a pattern. Basically they represent early computing/programming.


Back then I proposed this idea to the directors and they where curious about the potential project. Ofcourse the keys and locks where still in use so this posed the first problem of translating the keys of the building into textiles and music. Second although I had an idea I had no idea how to realise the project but I was curious to at least make an attempt to figure it out.


Fast forward about 3 years. Due to renovations all the locks in the building have been replaced. The directors have handed me all the punchcard keys of the building (around 800, of which there are roughly 300 singular keys/patterns) and I could get started with the project.


With regard to the textile issue. In my eyes the design is determined by the patterns in the punch card keys (coincidence) and not by myself. How that should be translated into practice is therefore part of my question. I would like it to look at this issue with the expertise of people from the textile lab team and to investigate what is possible. I send the project in for weaving after telephone contact with the textile lab, but perhaps I have to conclude from my question that knitting (or perhaps even another textile form) is a better option.About the keys project. I have all the punchcard keys from FEUSA at home (about 800 of them , including doubles. Feu changed the locks and they gave the keys to me). In 2020 FEU has their 90th anniversary and I would like to make a work for the celebration year.


I don't remember if I ever talked to you about this, but the punchcard keys reminded me of organ books and of the punchcards of a jacquard loom. Basically early computing. So i had this I dea.. what if I could turn the Feu keys into a musical composition and textiles.


I am looking to make these keys into a (perhaps aleatoric) musical composition. I found a small organette type that I could program myself. It used the same size punch holes as the feu keys, so I could make a direct translation from the key, to this little organette. I send you a video of an experiment turning my former Atelier key 505 into sound and the 508 key of John's studio (what was your room no.? I can check if the no. is still one one of the keys to make a sound of that ones as well). What you see/hear is a repetition of the key pattern in different notes. The black horizontal lines on the yellow paper mark the end and the beginning of the key pattern. I thought it would be interesting to potentially collaborate with musicians/ composers on this.

Since you always seem to have an interest in kind of cross over projects I thought of you. My musical knowledge is limited to several year of clarinet playing more then 20 years ago so I cannot exactly tell you what I need, I think it would be more interesting if you would see an angle and interest in the idea and see what we can do with that. If I continue the way of the mechenical organettes, i think it would contribute to the project if someone who is good in mechanical engineering would be involved as well, to perhaps take it to the next level.

FEU 505 atelier sound experiment - K. Bartels.m4v

FEU 508 studio john.m4v


I also thought about a digital solution. For a digital solution I think I would need someone who is skilled with code and programming to figure out the possibilities alongside with a composer/musician. For this it would be a solution to work with a camera that has a vision system that can recognize patterns. Or perhaps with Arduino https://www.arduino.cc/. Via programming/coding it would potentially be possible to program any kind of sounds, colors or actions to the holes in te keys.


Another thing I could imagine is an applied installation in which the doors in the building will all get a designed organette box next to them as a doorbell. The box would have a hand crank that would play the pattern of the key that corresponds with their room no if you would turn it around (like in the video.) Or something interactive in the shape of an exhibition/installation, where people (imagine alumni) could compose their own melodies with the former keys.


Something else that I'm figuring out is if it is possible to also make a translation from the keys into a weaved or knitted fabric/ textile. So it would create for instance a contemporary tapestry (for the grand salon?) inspired by Jacquard Mechanism and Cards and punchcard knitting machines.


I've been in touch with the Textile lab of the textile museum https://www.textiellab.nl/en/ in Tilburg (NL) (article in NYTimes about the textilellab https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/fashion/textiles-laboratory-tilburg-netherlands.html?fbclid=IwAR2yemKDe9H7P9CK4G3elcTFzxW87K5HNL8Lp5RMOB6pAb1mtIwBYoHMAoY. I have send in my proposal and we had a meeting there. They where very excited about this idea and want to work with me, but of course in need to find a grant to make all of these things possible. So I'm looking into that. I also need to figure out what the FEU could potentially contribute..


Anyway so far my ideas for this project. There are no clear deadlines or anything yet. Only that I would like it to come into being somewhere the next, so it can be presented as part of the 90 year FEUSA anniversary. In the attachment you will find some more images that I used as an inspiration.


I'd love to hear from you if you have some thoughts on this. Also please let me know if you found something of the Voices from within vid. Succes with all you research!

Punchcards /Early computing/ Jacuard


Karin Bartels' project Intuïtieve Atlas van Venlo is part of  Circular Art Lab Limburg (CALL), in which artists are linked to social issues. One of those issues focused on attractive neighborhoods and communities. The Intuitive Atlas of Venlo has been carried out in close collaboration with Museum van Bommel van Dam, the Municipality of Venlo, Wonen Limburg and Antares.

After the pilot project "De Poëzie van Ruimte", Museum van Bommel van Dam invited Bartels to develop and execute the Intuitive Atlas project. Which mapped how the residents of Venlo experience their city.

Unlocking Potentiality, project, Fondation des États-Unis, CIUP Paris (FR)

Below excerpts of the Intuitive Atlas of Venlo.

© 2020 by Karin Bartels

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