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Textural Threshold: Dreadlock

Felecia Davis sits in a hair salon chair in her display at the Venice Biennale.

Textural Threshold Hair Salon: Dreadlock

The project centers around the work of Felecia Davis and her SOFTLAB researchers on the “Dreadlock Series,” which looks at the art, design, and architectural works that have been inspired by Black hair and its unique material properties.

The project is about those spaces that use biodata, in this case hair, to permit or restrict access to spaces. This overlapping physical/digital threshold is created using electromagnetic media. This is space that currently and invisibly shapes architectural space without our noticing it. Forming a space between two words, dreadlock is a word of uncertain etymology but for those who are English speaking it is clear this word is two words making one. Dread, fear, anxiety about the future but also awe or reverence. [And] the word loc, Germanic in origin, that refers to a curled or strand of a person’s hair that curls together, or the property of matted hair, tangled beyond untangling, knotted forever. The threshold uses a machine learning algorithm trained on a designed database of global hair textures. The project highlights that design of these enmeshed worlds begins with the careful design of databases. The machine learning algorithm is only trained to look for hair. The authors of the project experiment with locking technique related to felting in textile practice and digital combing or sorting to make a hybrid threshold.

“Textural Threshold Hair Salon: Dreadlock” was part of the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, The Laboratory of the Future, in 2023.

Felecia Davis Associate Professor of Architecture Learn More

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  • Davis, F., Xu. H., Zhao, S., “Textural Threshold: Dreadlock”  in Artificial Intelligence and Materials, Edited by M. Kretzer, Published by AADR – Art Architecture Design Research, forthcoming 2024.