Richard Vijgen makes the invisible visible

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Richard Vijgen is a Dutch designer who specialises in interactive projects that reimagine digital archives, present data in interesting new ways, and make visible ubiquitous but invisible infrastructures that permeate our lives. He has worked on archiving projects for cultural institutions, but also continues to produce self-initiated work. In a monumental feat, in 2012 Vijgen designed The Deleted City, an interface for exploring the entire Geocities archive that was compiled by the Archive Team. The 650 Gigabyte universe is an important record of a milestone in the history of the internet. In the third iteration of the project, users are free to browse its depth online. The Deleted City 3.0 has also been transformed into an installation. This is something Vijgen does well — using data-rich content, turning it into a compelling digital experience, but also adding an experiential element that immerses the user in the work, producing a richer, more impactful experience.

The Architecture of Radio is one such project. Here Richard Vijgen built an app that enables us to visualise the invisible signals and waves that create the “infosphere.” We use wireless internet connections, GPS signals, and radio waves in our daily lives, but it is easy to take them for granted and forget that they are not some kind of background magic, but are connected to a sprawling physical infrastructure. The Architecture of Radio can be downloaded to a smartphone or a tablet. The app becomes a portal to a whole new world of informational layers that transform our spacial experience of any given location. Richard Vijgen has also made a huge installation of the experience for the STRP Biennale in 2017.

A more recent work, and a departure for the designer, Wifi Tapestry, also visualises the radio frequencies around us. This time, the visualisation is directly embedded in a physical object. It makes the invisible visible in a more visceral and tactile way. In this piece, a controller picks up signals across 13 channels of the 2.4GHz WiFi spectrum. Whenever it picks up a signal, it activates the thermodynamic yarn woven into the tapestry, making it glow. The designer has produced a beautiful piece of weaving, but has chosen to leave the wires that power it exposed. This may clash aesthetically, but stays true to the concept behind the work, revealing enough of its secrets, whilst maintaining an air of mystery upon initial view.

Explore more of Richard Vijgen’s thoughtful projects here.