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
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
After several Wrekshops where we spent too much time building the interface for the creative down-cycling of e-waste items, I have finally found the time to build a general purpose Wrekshop controller. It features an Arduino Mega microcontroller, a recycled 400W PC power supply, three L298 dual channel motor controllers, an 8-digital outputs L2803 darlington array and a fast connecting system giving access to additional digital I/O, analog inputs, I2C and serial ports.
The Wrekshop controller was debugged and tested during the Blast Wrekshop in April 2015.
On Sunday 26th October I was in the Victoria and Albert Museum Art Studio in London with three other artists (Jonathan Kemp, Madaleine Trigg, Dani Ploeger) improvising with a large pile of electronic waste.
The day will concluded with a presentation of the work in progress and discussion with cultural theorists Neil Maycroft and Toby Miller.
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.
Wrekshop table 1
Wrekshop table 2
Wrekshop table 1
The portal on day 3
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.
The portal on day 1
E-waste stock at the end of day 1
Indispensable power switch
Empty lift carriage
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.
At the occasion of a week of citizen science research with my friend Michka Melo in Foam Brussels, I took the opportunity to record an interview. Michka talks about his atypical background, urban gardening, biomimicry, upcycling, future scenario, art and science collaboration. Inspiring and very well informed views on cutting edge topics!
An account of our experiments is available here. Thanks to Robert Murray Smith for valuable info on DIY supercapacitors.
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.
Damine and I
A colourful shelving unit
Dog made of cassette tape boxes
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!