Karakuri Block

March 24, 2010

Karakuri Block by Natsu Kawakita and Nobuya Suzuki is a project from 2004, but I have decided to include them into my reviewing of the exhibition Device_art 3.009 because it’s based on storytelling concept.

Karakuri Block by Natsu Kawakita and Nobuya Suzuki

It’s not a secret here that I really enjoy storytelling, particularly different virtual and web based platforms in that context. Sometimes thinking within the story structure as a technique helps me to get clearer to the point or idea I previously had in my mind, but couldn’t articulate it exactly as I wanted.

Because I have rather fast online rhythm, what is compelling for me in storytelling is the fact that when I come back to stuff I had already chewed and spited out in different ways, I can sort of get inspired for new stuff. Naturally, this happens sometimes, not always…

Karakuri Block exhibited at Device_art 3.009 taken from Kontejner

Illustration, design, computer games and applications for mobile devices allow us to recreate the idea of storytelling through visual culture, semantic meanings, cultural symbolic (often involves anthropology, ethnography, art history and cultural studies) through interactive interface culture.

Natsu Kawakita is a former IAMAS student of Interactive Art where she has graduated in 2004. She’s currently working on methods of storytelling presentation that includes animation and illustration. Natsu Kawakita has developed the concept of Karakuri Block.


Nobuya Suzuki is Associate Professor at IAMAS and was involved in Karakuri Block project as a researcher. His fields of interests are interactive art and design through programming. At the moment he’s interested in digital archiving and ubiquitous computing.

Karakuri Block is an intuitive and interactive device made from several wireless mini TV monitors displaying cute and small animations with virtual characters. These displays, actually small cubes, don’t have any buttons or switches, so your fingers don’t have much to do like with video games and so. This is very simple and natural playing with pocket digital narratives.

Minimal stories and characters appear and grow depending on combination you are getting by rearranging small monitors.


The whole game happens on the interaction table, because small micro chips are integrated in the table too, allowing the wireless connections between the objects. When plugged into a 3 x 3 grid, the images between two displays react and change mutually when the user puts them together.

As you play with devices and change their positions, the image, actually the story, goes on.


As for the narrative context, it shows an animated Japanese family crest and it’s based on two content concepts: Mon and Otogi. Mon is created to represent family crests. In Japanese culture there are more than 20,000 different family crests. Those few family crests picked up by Natsu and Nobuya are designed in order to represent them in the basic design recognizable to all cultures. There are some differences in their motifs which can be combined then in several ways to complete one crest.


Karakuri Blocks are designed to enable user to create their own Mon, combining it from offered motifs.

Otogo or Otogituzura is the second content based on symbolism and mathematics. Namely, nine animations ‘inhabit’ the nine spaces of Karakuri Block, symbolically meaning that nine souls have a duty and a colour in each.

Whenever you put a block on each place it shows an animation within display. Additionally, when you combine two blocks, these two animations, displayed on each, will influence each other via previously mentioned micro-chips.

Natsu Kawakita and Nobuya Suzuki see the future of such multiple complexes in upgrading it to three-dimensional form and integrating it with mobile devices. Connecting it with iPhone application market the project could find new interactive ways of living.

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