A Portrait Created by Swordsmanship


CIVIC challenged Red Paper Heart to create an art installation inspired by the HBO series, Game of Thrones. We were asked to convey Arya Stark’s journey in becoming an assassin, starting with her wooden training sword from Season 1 of the series.

Arya’s character and image changed dramatically over the last 5 seasons. Early on, we became interested in the idea of fans changing their own image by their sword training.

In the experience, fans get their profile photographed in a special photo studio, then step on stage to wield a replica of Arya’s training sword. Facing a 10×10 foot projection, fans swing the sword to try and hit targets. Once hit, the targets spill artwork onto the canvas including blades, dragon claws, raven feathers and direwolf fur. As the artwork grows and becomes dense, fans reveal a portrait of themselves, made from the elements of the show.

We created a unique generative art system that translates the physics of sword play into an artful self portrait. To accomplish this, we embedded wooden swords with wireless gyroscope and accelerometer sensors that measure the trajectory and velocity of each swing. As the user slices the on-screen targets, projected artwork spills out based on the swing. Each piece of art rotates, scales and moves in the particular way the user swings their sword. Our custom graphics engine, written in the C++ framework Cinder, blends both 2d and 3d visual elements inspired by Game of Thrones. This 3D world is then masked by the user’s own photo, so that the build up artwork fills in their portrait. The final artwork is then uploaded to a server and available for sharing the moment a user steps off stage.
The Sword Experience was installed at SXSW, Austin and Comic Con, San Diego 2015.