Eileen Mandir

TRAJECTORIES — Printing the mobility landscapes of your city in wax

Prototype printing mobility data in wax
Media installation printing real-time mobility data in wax

How do our urban spacial stories intersect? What if we could see the invisible data fallout of our digital services? How might we provoke thoughtful discourse about the usage of our digital and physical mobility infrastructure?

Every day millions of people write spatial stories. Stories that only very few will ever be able to read. »TRAJECTORIES« is a media installation that can reveal these spatial stories, written by millions of city-dwellers wandering about their daily lives.

Taking the words of the cultural philosopher Michel de Certeau:

The networks of these moving intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representation, it remains daily and indefinitely other.

Michel de Certeau

The installation TRAJECTORIES reveals the invisible traces of our everyday mobility. Real-time mobility data provided by the mobility app moovel is automatically dripped onto an illuminated paper canvas. Printing the intersecting movements with melted wax creates a mobility narrative mapping these spatial stories over time.

The wax picture that is generated on canvas accumulates more and more lines and slowly unveils a panoptic view of the city. TRAJECTORIES uses a unique vantage point by pulling together the “arts of doing” of a mass of people searching for trips by using the moovel app.

2 by 2 meter installation

2 by 2 meter installation

Dripping wax on canvas

Wax layers on canvas

Principles of TRAJECTORIES

The use of color-coded wax allows the installation to display different modes of transportation in the mobility relief. The starting- and end-point of moovel trip searches for a given are used to preprocess routes for TRAJECTORIES’ print job. Two driving shafts maneuver the X and Y position of the printing head, which drips the heated wax onto the canvas to form the previously calculated route.

The translucent illuminated canvas highlights hotspots, making the different overlaid colors visible. The longer the installation runs, the more movement patterns are visualized, creating a piece of wax art with a warm and friendly haptic.

A migrational, or metaphorical, city thus slips into the clear text of the planned and readable city.

Michel de Certeau

The data is collected as users search for transport options on their way through the city. The moovel app shows different modes of transport (Public Transit, Car sharing, Bike sharing, and Taxi) and offers users the choice of the best option suited to their situation. The results of the performed searches are then converted by time and space to fit onto the canvas of TRAJECTORIES. It illustrates the complexity of the invisible infrastructure behind our mobility.


Making TRAJECTORIES has been quite a process. The first prototypes we created with nui lab to answer questions raised by the fundamental principles of the installation. Will it be accumulative or subtractive? Will the information be temporary or permanent? What roles will colors play? What materials are used? What metaphors do we want to associate with it?

We experimented with several different materials like memory foam or gel, using falling steel balls. We quickly concluded that we wanted something permanent but still differentiable. We tried water on dyed paper but it dried away, leaving no traces …

Using Wax was the best way to create different colors and still keep the layered effect. This decision later turned out to have some painful points - think of the mechanics of heating and extruding the wax while not buying AAA-Industry grade machines. Another problematic choice was the idea of doubling the size to the current four-square meter canvas. Handling propulsion and stability was significantly different at this scale.

Prototyping dripping liquid on canvas
Prototyping robo arm drawing on canvas
Testing sledge mechanism

All in all TRAJECTORIES has become a project that visualizes the data fallout of our digital services, combining it with philosophical thoughts on the invisible infrastructure of mobility. It enables us to have an excellent vantage point of a mobility landscape that changes from hour to hour.

Project host:
moovel lab
People involved @ moovel lab:
Benedikt Groß, Tilman Häuser, Raphael Reimann, Marco Berends, Bjørn Karmann, Eileen Mandir
nui lab, Christoph Hermle

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