Julia Vergazova, Nikolya Ulyanov

Machine learning, 3d printing, fashion design, virtual try-on in AR, video, zine




- Šopa Gallery, Košice, Slovakia

- Ground Solyanka, Moscow


- Ars Electronica, Museum of Soil Science, St. Petersburg

- Born Digital, Karne Kunst&Flusslab virtual exhibition, Berlin


footwear design—Oran Sheinman, 3d printing—Urs Fries, graphic design—Konstantin Tsokur

The main idea of the project is that we use a neural network to generate new patterns of sneaker soles and select the optimal shapes depending on the needs of the terrain. 

The Gaia hypothesis, according to which the Earth is a single living superorganism, was put forward by the British climatologist James Lovelock and the American microbiologist Lynn Margulis. Soil is the upper fertile layer of the surface of this superorganism, inhabited by collaborating communities (bacteria, fungi, plants), upon which the existence of all other life forms on the planet depends. Reasoning in dialogue with this sensitive skin of the Earth, the project prepares the conditions for a radical transformation of our relationship with surfaces - from extraction/exploitation to being gentle, caring and following their needs. 

We use a forensic database of shoe soles, and feed it to StyleGAN2 network. The network has a threshold parameter psi, which correlates with the creativity and weirdness of the resulting images, so we use some unconventional values for this parameter. 

The network can produce 2d footprints, so we went further and collected smooth interpolations between the footprints, thus forming the 3d soles. The final 3d model is built from these images, interpreting them as some kind of MRI scan. 

User interface design is about designing relationships. The main interface of human-soil communication (Sole-Soil) is the reliefs and dents left by the surface of the soles of our shoes. These tactile interactions could become conscious and heal the soil layers by choosing the optimal shape of the sole, taking into account their individual needs and problems. The main tasks now include the fight against erosion, weathering, and desertification.

Geological signs of the Anthropocene are chicken bones and sneaker footprints. We are problematizing this kind of footwear fetishized by commodity capitalism. The process of their production is extremely non-friendly to the environment. Therefore the symbolically charged sign of the era is reoriented to fulfill a recreational role for the environment, the restoration of which has become a necessary condition for our survival. 

Preview of video with Sole-Soil adoptation process:

Solo show in Šopa Gallery, Košice, Slovakia


Our footwear masks for virtual try-on: