We’ve put together a wearable randomness generator and display that, by way of a simple gestural interface, shows hexagrams from the Book of Changes (I Ching).
The Hexagram shirt was inspired by and conceived to fit into the dystopic universe of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, a novel depicting what the world would have been like during the 1960s, had the Axis won WWII.
In the book, the U.S. west coast is a colony of Japan, whose rule and influence has permeated and dominated Californian society for years. The Book of Changes has become the mainstream method, for Japanese and Californian people alike, to take important decisions in life.
Whenever someone has a choice to make, that person takes out three little coins that are shaken and tossed on a surface several times, the resulting heads and tails data is then translated into one of the 64 hexagrams that comprise the Book of Changes.
In a way, from an absurdist point of view, characters in the book are embracing and surrendering to randomness, almost as if they were saying “Since the ultimate purpose of the universe and my own life is beyond my comprehension, I don’t see how hard, rational cold analysis is in any way a better tool for living than random pieces of wisdom fortuitously thrown at me by the cosmos.” Some of these fictional people would probably be willing to wear a Hexagram shirt.
The shirt itself is a very simple device that allows the 1960s dystopian inhabitant to obtain a hexagram that can be looked up in the Book of Changes. It also works as an active agent of randomness by publicly displaying the hexagram, thus giving onlookers an unsolicited random answer to a question that possibly hasn’t been asked yet. (Which might make some sort of sense in Philip K. Dick’s universe.)
To cast a hexagram, the wearer shakes the sleeves of the shirt (as if he was shaking coins in the traditional I Ching way), this gesture generates a series of clicking noises and random luminescent patterns that ritualistically make way for the final configuration of the hexagram (as shown in the videos.)
Most components* that make up the Hexagram shirt are really old school. Arguably someone could have gathered all the materials and built the shirt in the 1960s, it just uses some clicking-sounding relays, noisy inverters, aluminum foil and electroluminescent sheets. That wasn’t really planned for, it all sort of fell into place, you see.
(*) Okay, the whole thing is driven by a contemporary, not-from-a-parallel-universe Wiring board. So much for the parahistorical accidental accuracy!
Photograph model: Orlando Moreno