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.
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.
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!
Combover Jo is the moving part of the installation Am I Robot, originally commissioned for The Imitation Game exhibition in Manchester Art Gallery. The exhibition was inspired by Alan Turing’s seminal paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence.
Last week the exhibition Eppur Si Muove opened in MUDAM museum, Luxemburg. Lots of good stuff in there. The exhibition is a combination of historical scientific and technical artefacts from Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris and contemporary artworks related to similar techniques and science. Until February 2016.
The exhibition features many excellent works, including Tinguely’s Fata Morgana, Eliasson’s Trust Compass, Kowalski’s Arc en Ciel, Stelarc’s Third Hand and many more. My own Smartbot has been uncrated for living another segment of its limited existence on one square metre.
The MUDAM commissioned me and a team of artists, engineers and business students from Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France, to develop a robot guide for Eppur Si Muove. Guido the Robot Guide started its visits the day after the opening. There is a fair bit of work to be done before it can take over the human guides (phew) but Guido is popular with visitors, especially young ones. It talks about a selection of artworks and inventions from a robotic perspective, only in French for the moment. Two engineering students are working on Guido’s navigation and telepresence until end August.
I was invited by Blast (Bournemouth laboratory for arts science and technology) to run a Wrekshop as part of their guest artists workshops seasons. In good company there, after Anna Dumitriu and Brandon Ballangée. I had been thinking for a while about how to boost the Wrekshop format (informed deconstruction and creative reconstruction of e-waste). I finally found the time to build a Wrekshop controller box, a sort of general purpose programmable device with easy connection and built-in functionalities. More details here.
The Wrekshop was attended by a gender-balanced group of mostly artists. They all-but-one built functional (if not useful) items to be connected to the controller. The results will be included in the final exhibition of the Blast projects alongside all the other things that were built. This should be an interesting show, planned for June.
I also presented a lecture on the latest of my practice and thinking on the Co-evolution of humans and machines. The not fully uplifting aspects such as superintelligence and Algorithmic regulation were compensated by funny old classics such as the Cybernetic Parrot Sausage video.
I just came back from running a Man|Machine workshop organised by Laznia Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gdansk, Poland, 17th to 23rd November 2014.
“The Man|Machine workshops will concentrate on the creation of robots as works of art. The workshops are meant to enhance interdisciplinary attitudes among young artists, engineers and designers. They open to all audiences, with a special focus on students of art academies and technical universities from Poland and Norway. They will be lead by three robotic artists. The participants will form interdisciplinary teams, each of which shall create at least one robot under the supervision of a chosen artist.”
We worked for 6 days in a technopark in Gdynia and created a thing out of arduinos and Polish electronic waste. The students called it “Sasza – the love machine’. It has heart that moves and beats, a mouth made of felt that comes to kiss people who touch Sasza’a hands, and two excitable vibrating pets. Sasza will be exhibited in May in Laznia Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gdansk, then in Oslo in September.
At the end of July I ran a workshop as part of the original and friendly Dartmoor Arts Summer School, an independent organisation that runs art courses on a variety of subjects in or near Drewsteignton, Dartmoor, UK. For the first time the team included a drawing robot course in addition to more traditional subjects like drawing or stone carving.
7 participants registered and over the course of three days we covered the basics required to build and start programming an Arduino-powered drawing vehicle. All went well. Robotic drawing happened, culminating in a semi-chaotic demo in the local pub on the last night.
For the second year I was invited to run a Wrekshop in the Deershed festival in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire UK. Deershed is festival for families, with a science tent specially for the kids. It is in that tent that I ran my shop, deconstruction of used consumer electronic items. The most persitent of children re-constructed something from the parts, and we included all creations in a lo-tech programmable kinetic portal.
The activity was very popular and I had to fight continuously to prevent my tools and laptop from being digested by the frantic activity. I was more prepared and, with the help of a great team of volunteers, we managed to get our electro-kinetic portal on the go. The portal started from the Big E-Waste Tech Head that we made in Brentford in May.
A sequencer based on an Arduino Mega and some controlling electronics allowed the portal to be programmed, all bits and bobs moving and sounding in turn. Kids loved to see their item added to the mix, but the majority of children and grown-ups got their kicks from the taking apart/destruction of the items. At the end of day 3 pretty much everything that could be taken apart was.
After another citizen science experimental day in Brussels, Michka and I went along to a recycled goods workshop in the premises of la Foire aux savoir-faire (know-how fair). In a similar way to Hacker Space Brussels we visited two nights before, la Foire aux savoirs takes over several levels of a town house in the city centre. We arrived at the end of the workshop, where a small group was assembling Brazil inspired ornament with recycled corks and bits. We had a good chat with one of the main organisers, Damien, about the vision for the organisation.
As implied in the name, members and visitors are invited to share skills in all sorts of domains, from cooking to knitting to designing alternative energy sources. The top floor is crammed with donated material to be upcycled. The attic also hosts an ominous methaniser tank, a device that generates usable methane gas from organic waste, potentially enabling the operation of a cooker or other heating device.
La foire aux savoir-faire is always on the lookout for volunteers and driven by an enthusiastic team, pay them a visit if you are around this part of the world!