December 2017. The Garage contemporary arts centre invited me to wrek Russian e-waste with local participants and build some post-apocalypse trees as part of their 8th Art Experiment season. This year the theme was Laboratories of Earthly Survival. Curator Snejana Kratseva says:
“Each winter, Garage transforms its galleries into an experimental laboratory for art. Visitors of all ages are invited to participate in hands-on experiences with artists, as well as innovative creative collaborations between peers. Art Experiment is the flagship initiative of Garage Education and Public Programs and attracts students, parents, local residents, and Moscow visitors.
This year will be the eighth annual interactive initiative,focusing on science art and survival ethics. It will consist of hands-on experiments in “hacking” life sciences and equipping participants with skills in agricultural, biological, genetic as well as robo engineering, preparing kids and adults for an imaginary future after the world ended, cultivating a future generation of home-grown brand of “garage scientists” who will be able to not only to generate new inventions with low-fi materials but do so evaluating one’s ethical values with every new discovery.”
I knew there was little hope to get some exotic soviet era e-waste, and I was right. We got lots of Hewlett-Packard PCs, a crate of early 2000s Panasonic cameras and various other familiar consumer electronics items.
Other artists in the show were Anastasia Potemkina with an hydroponics installation for growing resilient, apocalypse resistant plants such as nettles, and the collective Where Dogs Run who had 20 odd live chicks providing the data for a vintage slide show and a great-looking electronic sculpture based on Dante’s inferno.
Art Experiment, Laboratories of Earthly Survival ran from December 19th 2017 to January 8th 2018.
Robotic artist Paul Granjon and bio-engineer Michka Melo are exploring the usability of microbial fuel cells for powering small robotic, sensing, interactive systems. Microbial fuel cells work by harnessing the electron-releasing capability of certain types of bacteria widely found in soil and mud. Paul and Michka have started working together on Microbial Fuel Cells, commonly known as Mud Batteries, in 2016.
Their batteries contain sediment mud from Barry Island, Wales. The mud is rich in bacteria of the Shewanella (below) or Geobacter type, that deliver bioelectrogenesis (generation of electricity by living organisms).
In September 2017 we showed our first working prototype in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Digital Design Weekend in London, here is the link to fully detailed report on our experiments on microbial fuel cells before the event.
We had a great time, lots of questions and interest with amazed, amused, puzzled looks. Our bacteria worked hard and slow, 12 mud batteries powering 2 small robots for 10 seconds every 10 minutes. The robots run from a BBC Microbit each, with a small motor and an LED.
Thanks to Irini Papadimitriou for inviting us!
photo: Martine Goldschmidt-Clermont
With support from FabCre8 @ Cardiff School of Art and Design
See our mini machines moved by bacterial mud power, among a great selection of cutting edge projects by international artists and designers, during the Digital Design Weekend in Victoria and Albert Museum London, 23rd and 24th September 2017.
Detailed info on our work with microbial fuel cells here.
Just back from the Deershed Festival in Topcliffe UK where I ran a 3 days Wrekshop for kids. The festival’s theme was Wilderwild [not sure where they got that from. I understood it as something to do with woods and some spooky friendly vibe you can get in nature]. I thought it would be a good opportunity to make an ELECTRIC WILDERTREE combining e-waste, the relentless energy of children with screwdrivers and a bit of expert technological creativity.
One hour before the attack
Wrekshop leftovers ready to go back to recycling facilities
Good old Combover Jo the purple hairy robot with an unfortunate hairstyle is roaming until September 24th in Humber Street Gallery Hull as part of States of Play, an exhibition organised by the Craft Council of England.
“States of Play is a new Crafts Council exhibition for Hull City of Culture 2017 which shows how play shapes our lives and the world around us.
Work by sixteen UK and international makers and designers turn upside down the idea that play is the preserve of children. Instead it is revealed as a creative, social and political force that infuses all areas of life.”
For the occasion Combover Jo has been updated to version 2.0, losing its hands but gaining an eye, and a much improved dream state. Confirming its crowd-pleaser status, the trickster robot moved among and played with a busy crowd on the opening night amongst incredulous gasps and loud laughs. The show runs until September 24th.
Photo by Tom Arran
Things I liked in States of Play include twisted 3D printer works Thingiverse gone GMO nightmare by Matthew Plummer Hernandez, rejection letter automated crows by Ting Tong Chang, blow-activated wind device by MischerTraxler Studio, the optical non-things by Glithero and the silver pineapples on the gallery’s front by Silo Studio. Check it out, Hull as City of Culture 2017 has lots going on!
The project was part of the Lead Creative Schools run by the Arts Council. Aimed at promoting a creative approach to teaching and life, the scheme allows a class to work with a creative practitioner for approximately 10 teaching days on a made to measure project. Check the scheme out, you can apply to take part in the next round if you are a school, teacher, or creative practitioner based in Wales.
Good vibes all along, ace dodgy robots, enthusiatic young makers, this was a fine adventure! Thanks to all involved.
I finished running a Wrekshop for kids with a Year 4 class near Bridgend (UK). A typical Wrekshop combines creative taking apart and reconstruction of electronic waste with coding. The kids made sort of robots from electronic waste. For the coding aspect I decided to use the recently released BBC Micro:bits. Micro:bits are small, child-friendly programmable devices developed by the BBC, the University of Lancaster, Microsoft and other partners.
micro:bit in a scrap robot’s “brain socket”
The BBC and partners are aiming to generate an enthusiasm for coding in young people similar to what happened when the original BBC Microcomputer was released in 1981. A generation of British coders learned their skills on this flexible machine (and me 15 years later). Unlike current computers or tablets, the user had to code so as to get the best of the machine’s possibilities.
I used Micropython to finalise the programs for the class, not an ideal solution for the children who were used to the block editor, but the only way so far for including speech in the project. The kids were keen to get their robots to speak.
Unfortunately the Block Editor is only available online, which can be seriously limiting if you have no or slow internet access. For more advanced users I recommend the MU editor, a self-contained, downloadable MicroPython programming environment that works very well.
The crocodile clips connections system, although a good idea, makes it easy to short-circuit the board as the 3 Volts and Ground holes are next to each other. The clips can also easily cross-connect adjacent pins. Most 8 year olds do not find it straightforward to use crocodile clips and several of the boards used in the project have suffered already. Still, with a little care it works fine.