Abnormal x Jessica Ostrowicz

Cleave is an installation by Jessica Ostrowicz. "Cleave is a liminal act of mourning for the unseen landscape of our collective wounds. The installation is in a twofold state; while it delineates the healing nature of ritual, the actual experience of the installation itself could be, with its kinetic wails and fleshy artificial appendages, traumatic."

Ostrowicz in front of the two wall-mounted vessels

Abnormal produced several elements of the installation. The whistles and water vessels were parametrically designed and 3d printed. Furthermore abnormal designed and produced the custom electronics and software.

Overview of the cleave installation

Overall parametric design

The working principle of the wailing whistles is based on Peruvian Water Whistles - ancient instruments that whistle when tilted. Abnormal applied parametric design methods to reverse engineer their functionality and make a 3D printable version. The parametric model allowed for several quick iterations to fine tune the proportions.

Additive manufacturing to casting

The 3D printed vessels created by abnormal were used to create silicon moulds. From the moulds the artist then casted a series of vessels from resin and ground animal bone. For prototyping with the initial plaster 3D print was infiltrated with a binder making it watertight. We also delivered several parametrically designed exterior patterns.

One of the robotic flutes

Tuned flute

As the flute design was done parametrically the 3D model can be tuned to any frequency. For Cleave we developed a custom piece of software that extrapolates the fundamental frequency of a person's voice and tunes the flute to match it. We then printed five flutes each matching the pitch of a specific person.


Each of the flutes in the installation has its own computer and electronics. The flutes have microphone which enables them to listen. Through analysing the surrounding sounds the flute can recognise the wails of the other flutes and respond. If the flute detects a specific audio frequency it tilts the flute, making it wail in response.

One of the garments with gravel


Parameters such as the pitches the flute is sensitive to and the speed and angle of the flute during its response can all be altered to a custom piece of software. Through this application the artist can fine-tune the behaviour of each flute without have to edit any code.


The behaviour of the system as whole emerges from the interaction between the flutes and the public. The 'melody' of the wails is not precomposed but stems from the context of the installation. This type of behaviour is referred to as emergence often features in abnormal's work in both the physical and digital elements.