April 28, 2019

46% Bad – the zine

46% Bad

The 46% Bad sculpture of a drawing of a bike is accompanied by a 20-page (A5, B&W) zine. You can have a copy for £4 (includes UK postage, please contact me to arrange bulk or international orders)





The zine takes a short journey through some thoughts and observations about cycling infrastructure and other systems and frameworks that impact on us as we are mobile by bicycle (and tricycle, and…), all the time hoping that impact is something that doesn’t happen to us. Not on this ride; please not this time.

46% Bad

Working fast and intuitively with paper and pens over a long weekend has been a nice contrast to the slow processes of working with metal and hand files to make the sculpture. I’ve been increasingly interested in the potential of zines within my work and this has been a great space in which to try out a few ideas. Keeping an eye on my use of language and side-stepping the usual tropes of cyclists vs motorists has also been very good practise and hugely fascinating to observe how easy it is to fall into other people’s habits. Writing for mix of cycling/non-cycling, academic/non-academic audiences has been a good challenge all round.

Let me know what you think, as I suspect there’ll be more of this sort of thing to come.

46% Bad – making tools

A recurring theme throughout this project has been the need to make my own tools. I suspect this is something professional framebuilders find themselves doing quite a lot too, although hopefully with a bit more finesse!

Still, if it gets the job done…

Job #1: Removing bearing cups

There are a couple of places on the donor bike where there are races to hold ball bearings: the bottom bracket, where the cranks turn; and the headset, where the steering arrangement turns.

Bottom bracket cup

Bottom bracket cup

I still want these functions in the new bike I’m making, even if the pedals can’t turn without hitting the ground and the front wheel can’t turn very far before hitting the frame. This means I needed to remove the bearing cups from the frame to keep them safe whilst I was hacking the surrounding steel to bits and then welding stuff back together again.

The cups are pretty solidly wedged into their respective parts of the frame, so trying to prise them out with a screwdriver wasn’t going to work. This needed a proper tool …well, not a proper tool, as I couldn’t afford it, but at STEAMhouse I have access to other tools, so I could make my own bearing cup remover!

Cutting disc

A bit of work with the cutting disc

 

Cup remover

4 slits in a length of tube

 

Cup remover

Slightly splayed so the tube spreads out to be wider than the cup

 

Bearing race remover

And POP!

It took a few attempts to not overshoot, but once I got the knack it was easy to hammer out the cups.

Cup remover

You hammer on the other end of the tool and the splayed out fins catch on the edge of the cup

 

Removed cups

Cups removed and ready to be put somewhere safe

 

Job #2: Gripping tubes

I’m going to have to do a lot of filing mitres into tubes so that they fit snugly up against other tubes. Thin-walled tubes held firmly in vices doesn’t tend to go well, so I had to make some tube blocks.

Tube block halves

Tube block halves

Not a particularly tricky tool to build, just there’s so many sizes!

Tube blocks

A not quite complete set of not quite complete tube blocks

Anyway, they seem to be doing the job well.

Mitred tube

Mitred tube

Job #3: Bending stays

Here’s a reminder of the bike drawing I’m trying to make in 3D:

The bike I'm making

It’s not quite right, y’know…

That’s quite a lot of thingies that have to meet at the wheel axles.

Bicycle anatomy terminology breaks down a bit here, but I seem to have settled on calling them “stays” in a hand-waving kind of manner. Also I’ve had to make the executive decision that they will indeed go all the way to the wheel axles.

I’ve got some chunky tube to do the main bit of the frame, but I need something that comes out from that central plane, clears the width of the tyres and then joins on to the dropouts at the wheel axles. So I made a three-part jig so I could reliably replicate a suitable s-bend in some smaller diameter tube.

Stay jig

Side view: the tube is pushed up against a stop at the far right hand end, then clamped to the wall along the back edge, fitting behind the right-most pillar, which it is then bent out against.

 

Stay jig

Once the tube has been bent out towards the right, a plate with another pillar is slid up into position, clamped, and then the tube is bent back against it towards the left.

 

Stays and jig

Here you can see the three parts of the jig and two of the bent stays

 

Stays

Quite nice

 

Stays

Birds-eye view with a wheel between them

The results were quite nice, but you can see from the above photo that it takes a fair bit of space for the stays to come back in to the centre line and the thicker tube. This would mean there would only be a small length of the thicker tube and I’d lose the effect of it stopping at the edge of the tyre.

I realised that I had been led astray by how I knew bikes were made, versus how this drawing of a bike looks. I ditched the jig and have instead switched to a much more clunky approach that will be a much better conceptual fit for what I’m trying to achieve.

 

Stay array

An array of stays. Straight, this time.

46% Bad – the beginnings

I’ve been one of the Artists in Residence at the Birmingham School of Jewellery for the last year or so and, more recently, a member of STEAMhouse. Both these have given me the opportunity to get my hands dirty and start working with metal again. Something that I’ve been enjoying immensely!

I’m currently working on a project that has grown out of this representation of a bicycle that I spotted on a cycle path in Stourbridge:

A bike painted on a cycle path

I had to go back for a second look…

It’s nearly convincing, but when you start looking at it properly, you start to notice more and more ways in which it’s not quite right. …and then you start looking at painted bikes all over the place and you start realising more and more of them that are, well, just wrong.

(Some of a) bike icon in Bristol

(Some of a) bike icon in Bristol.

A bike icon in Birmingham

An offering from National Cycle Route 5 in Birmingham.

Well, there was only one thing for it, and I’ve embarked on trying to build a 3D version of the 2D version of the 3D object.

A donor bike and the measurements of the drawing it is to become

Recursive bikes and drawings.

I found a kid’s bike on ebay that seemed like it would be about the right size to use as a starting point, and I’ve stripped it and chopped it to get at various component parts that I want to use in the final build.

A cardboard box full of bits of bike

A lesson in how many bits go into a bicycle…

Translating the rough sketch from the photo into a 1:1 scale drawing to work off

Translating the rough sketch from the photo into a 1:1 scale drawing to work off

Bike frame and angle grinder

Ready for the chop

Angle grinding action

The chop

Bits of stuff laid out in a sort of bike shape

Trying to get a feel for what the drawing might look like as an object

STEAMhouse is supporting me to improve my welding skills and, whereas it’s mostly TIG welding that I want to learn, I’ve done a bit of MIG welding before and this has been a quick and easy way of adding bits of metal to other bits of metal to make bigger bits of metal. The first component to get this treatment was the crankset: the pedals need to be on long enough cranks that they extend below where the tyres make contact with the road surface, so I had to make and integrate some extensions.

Crank extenders being welded in

Crank extenders being welded in

In the photo above you can see the difference in the original and modified crank lengths. Below is the end result.

Finished, extended cranks

Finished, extended cranks

Paint and powder coatings aren’t great when they get zapped by the heat from welding (nasty fumes) so I spent half a day peering into a sandblasting cabinet stripping things down to the steel surface.

Fork about to get blasted with sand

Fork about to get blasted with sand

I’d originally thought I might use more of the original frame in the sculpture, but I think it’s likely to just be these components and the wheels.

Sandblasted parts

Sandblasted parts: head tube, bottom bracket, crankset, fork and seatpost. (Square tin for another project I’m working on…)

So, now begins the job of cutting and fitting all the remaining parts…

Tokyo Interactions: a pre-collaboration

A key part of my research trip to Japan is to check out the feasibility of collaborating with artist Megumi Ishibashi. We’ve know each other for several years – having first met when I did an exchange visit with the university she was working at – and I really like her style of re-imagining urban landscapes when we’ve walked around Tokyo together. I’m not very familiar with her working processes and her aims for her sculptural work, however, so we arranged to spend some time together doing some experiments and generally figuring out how a working relationship might shape up.

Unfortunately our time working together was reduced by illness and a few work commitments that came up however, over the course of five days we were able to explore combining interactive and sculptural elements of both our practices.

We based ourselves at Tokyo Gakugei university, where Megumi has been working part time for a few years. After getting a bit tangled up in trying to get started we decided to go for a walk around campus to look for sites where we might locate artworks.

I liked the look of this islanded set of steps surrounded by long grass:

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We also explored down little paths (this one involved ducking under lots of big spider’s webs and swatting at lots of hungry mosquitos) and had a wander around a little allotment where there seemed to be some experiemts going on with growing different varieties of rice.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

The campus has quite a lot of trees and green space, so we were constantly surrounded by the sound of the insects in the trees. I finally got to see a semi/cicada up close. Boy are these things loud!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

The pivot point came when Megumi suggested we visited the exhibition room of a building next to campus; she had walked past it, but didn’t really understand what they did there and was curious to find out more.

We weren’t disappointed!

The place turned out to be the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), a National Research and Development Agency, and the exhibition hall was full of things that made us go “wow!”.

The first thing we learned was that NICT is responsible for time in Japan: they do lots of work with caesium atomic clocks and calibrating the length of a second. They also determine Japan Standard Time and broadcast it across the country.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

The two ladies on duty did a really good job of explaining everything to me in English and we essentially had a personal guided tour of most of the exhibition. This included microwave imagery from planes; a haptic stylus; a funky smell squirting thing that involved activated carbon, an app and me having to guess some aromas; and live visualisations of internet attacks.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We left a few hours later, a little overwhelmed but very excited by what we had learned. The tower and the big clock made a lot more sense now, too!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

I felt there were some interesting resonances between the semi and the caesium clock – vibrations, being dormant for long periods then all of the action happening in a short space of time (read more about the semi here), those amazing cooling fins…

This kind of stuck and combined with Megumi’s preference for mechanised animation (rather than electronic) in the style of Pythagoras Switch.

Pythagora Switch from cereal griego on Vimeo.

So we sketched and dripped and carved and then spent hours days trying to refine a way of popping water balloons filled with paint over a model of a semi.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Alongside this, we were also trying to find ways of triggering sounds at intervals. We’d bought a radio controlled car, hoping that that would introduce a kind of clock function and visual interest as it circled around the semi. We got this working quite well as a trigger for audio via a Bare Conductive touch board, but alas it stopped working so well once we’d ‘waterproofed’ the sensor mat with some tape.

I also made a few noisemakers that used an arduino to count the number of times a microswitch got hit by the passing car. This gave us better control over the intervals between sounds, but we didn’t quite have the set up to be able to get it mounted securely.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We also had concerns about the splashiness of the paint, so Megumi learned how to make DIY slime, which we then added colour to.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Getting the slime into the water balloons also took a certain amount of experimentation!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We’d done some really long days, so on our last day we set ourselves the deadline of 4pm and said we’d run with whatever we had working by then.

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

After a few test runs with water, we were ready to add some colour to semi-san.
It (mostly) worked!

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

We decided to go for broke and try the slime…

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

Tokyo Interactions, Kokubunji

A lot of cleaning up to do afterwards, but quite a pleasing result!

Megumi usually works intuitively from her imagination, but I think we both struggled with the lack of a context for our experiments – the sorts of information that would shape size, construction and portability decisions. We didn’t have time or the resources to make a refined, finished piece of work, but at times it felt like that’s what we were trying to achieve. We made something interesting at the end of i but, as ever with me, it was the process that I was most interested in. Megumi and I are still friends (as far as I can tell!), so that’s a positive sign given the sorts of hours we were doing in the heat and mosquitos trying to get mechanical and electrical systems to work! I’ve learned more about the way she works and that will help shape any future proposals.

We’ll be meeting up again next week to think more about art that happens outside.
Photos and videos of splatty paint are gradually going up on Flickr as internet connectivity allows…

Tokyo Interactions: Akihabara and reclaimed spaces

As part of my research into how I might go about making art in Japan, I needed to find out where to source the various microcontrollers and sensors that sometimes go into my interactive contraptions. That’ll be Akihabara then, but where to start – I remember going there a decade ago, getting a bit bewildered and leaving fairly rapidly.

Fortunately, Kaho Abe had been on a similar quest a week or so ahead of me and was able to make some recommendations, pointing me in the direction of this useful blog post, including a handy map.

Found them!

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

I expect I’d probably end up mostly ordering online, but it’s super useful to know I can buy things in the real world too, should I need to and, as Kaho pointed out, sometimes you need to be able to hear/feel how a switch thunks before you decide if it’s right for your project.

I made a purchase, just to show willing…

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

After that I wove my way back through the crowds to the station and then followed the train tracks looking for traces of artisan makers: next on the to-do list was a visit to 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan (machine translated link, more information here).

In a way that reminded me of Koganecho, small units have been constructed underneath elevated train tracks and made available to be used as shops by artists and craftspeople.

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

It’s amazing what a coat of white paint will do. I just wish I had the means to take a load of lovely handmade ceramics and woodwork back home with me in my rucksack…

Next up: 3331 Arts Chiyoda.

Housed in what used to be a junior high school, 3331 is now an arts centre that hosts a variety of creative businesses, galleries, shop, cafe and events space. They also run an artists in residence programme, so I was keen to get a sense of their personality, as it were.

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

It was gone 6pm by the time I got there, so some of the units had already closed, but even so the echoes of the old school made for an interesting time wandering along the corridors.

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions, Akihabara

Tokyo Interactions: putting the work in

My first full day in Tokyo.

Making my way to my digs the afternoon before, I’d surfaced out of the train station to find myself at Tokyo Opera City: a place I recognised because I’ve been to the Intercommunication Center (ICC) a couple of times. The ICC is run by the telecommunications company NTT East and exhibits media art and interactive multimedia and I quite like their programming although I haven’t yet quite got to the stage where I remember this and go there by default! Anyway, making the most of being local and it being the last day of a multi-sensory sound-based exhibition I went for a look.

OTO NO BA: Sound-digging with the senses took its theme as “sound that is not only perceived with the ears, but with various other senses, or even with the whole of the body”. Being part of the kids programme, I was anticipating it being quite hands-on, and arrived prepared to prance around a bit to interact with things!

I don’t usually have to gird my loins for interactive art in this manner: I think there may be something interesting going on there where I feel more self conscious here and aware that there’s loads more potential for doing The Wrong Thing.

Grabbing the bull by the horns I jumped straight in with a bit of tambourine action and some sort of motion-tracking projection set up (ratatap, Junichi Kanebako) that responded with visuals when you made a noise with your tambourine (or bongo, or shaker…). As an interesting side observation in hindsight, I think most of the noise was being made by the gallery staff – perhaps a reminder that interactive work either needs a facilitator or to be intuitive to use?

Next I donned a stripy tabbard and approached the Border Shirtsizer (Ei Wada) to make some noise in a pleasingly loud, lo-fi, CRT, B&W, tone generator stylee.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

There was some nice experimenting to be done with jiggling/twisting/wafting to see how the changing camera view of the stripes changed the tone that was output.

After all that noise I made a beeline for touch the sound picnic (Junichi Kanebako). Ear defenders to block out a lot of the ambient noise and a sort of microphone set-up that transformed the sound signal into a buzz from a vibration motor.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It would be interesting to take this outside and through a variety of spaces, as it was quite uniformly loud in the gallery. There was a nice percussive moment when a small child ran past me, though!

For me, the star of the show was Perfumery Organ (Perfumery Organ Project) and not just because of its massive sweeping curve and assortment of small storage.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

I really like this literal take on the idea that perfumes have high and low notes. It was also very engaging trying to figure out the different mechanisms at work and general detail spotting. The organ played at 15 minute intervals and, between performances, you could pick up the little canisters on the front row and sniff the different scents. (During the performance you got buffetted by heady wafts coming from the brown bottles.)

I went to Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent at Somerset House in London a few months ago, but this was very different in feel.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It’s only now as I look back at the video footage that I’m starting to realise that there were a range of different mechanisms for moving the jars/blowy things into position to make the noise.

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It was close to closing time by now so I removed my ear defenders and had a quick look at the main exhibition.

It made me happy to see a piece referencing Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, having only recently discovered the writing and used it in a workshop. Also this dead bug soldered windchime triggered by a Geiger counter was nice:

Tokyo Interactions, ICC

It happened that I was able to book the last slot of the day for Akio Suzuki’s acoustic installation, so I settled down to listen to Kugiuchi & Water Bottle on my own, in the dark, sealed into an anechoic chamber.

I asked the assistant if the artist provided the room or if it was in their tech specs for the gallery to sort one out. It turns out that the chamber is a permanent feature of the gallery and it gets used to house different artworks as part of different exhibitions. hmmmmmmmm……

***bingle bongle ***
Incoming message from Megumi

There’s an opening event and after party at a new shared studio space, would I like to go?
It’s in Kabata *googles “Kabata”* Yikes that’s half way to Yokohama! And it’s already gone 6 o’clock. What is this place anyway?

We talked ourselves in an out of it a few times, mostly just pitching our tiredness against knowing that it would be a really relevant thing for me to go and see and that tonight would be our best chance to meet a range of people.

We got ourselves there in the end though, and the studio was pretty impressive! Some interesting work, too, slightly different to the sorts of things I usually see at artist run exhibitions.

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

I’ll direct you to the Hunch website to find out more about the artists, but mostly so you can mouse over their profile pictures, too: http://hunch-label.com/habitat/

Tokyo Interactions, Hunch launch

The after party involved a few chats with people to the backdrop of steel and regular drum solos by fairy light whilst a cross between Sesame Street’s Big Bird and a mirror ball rotated above us. I met a glass artist, a lecturer in English History, and an artist who also has what sounds like quite a participatory practice – another unusual find for me in Japan, we’ve arranged to meet up and chat next week without the drum soloist…

More photos from the day here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nikki_pugh/albums/72157685522258521

Tokyo Interactions: in transit

My Sapporo jaunt makes traveling around Japan by shinkansen impractical (never thought I’d say that!), so I’m doing some of my bigger journeys via domestic flights instead. I’m not entirely happy with this, but …photos!

Always interesting to get a new viewpoint on cities:

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Once we got above the cloud line I continued to snap away as the clouds were on very good form:

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Remembering the stepping stones I reproduced for the By Duddon’s Side project in the Spring, I wondered if it might be possible to do photogrammetry from a series of photos of the same clouds. Only one way to find out…

Tokyo Interactions, transit

[x lots]

Here is the result after fumbling my way through software installation and guessing the workflow:
[noodle around with dragging/clicking in the window to move the model]

I think a 3D model was always going to be limited because of not circling around to get the cloud from all angles (can’t decide if that would be fun to do or not…). I also took many more photos of these clouds shown below, but for some reason got a really flat array of points from my first attempt at rendering them.

Tokyo Interactions, transit

The 3D model above was generated from a much smaller set of photos – I was interrupted by a member of the cabin crew asking me if I wanted something to drink!

Approaching Tokyo we flew over a few islands and promontories, where I found it fascinating to see how the clouds gathered above the land masses.

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Tokyo Interactions, transit

Flickr album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nikki_pugh/albums/72157688432373285

Tokyo Interactions: the Osaka chapter

As previously noted, the title for this research project is no longer accurate but, in the absence of having had any better ideas, I’m just going to run with it. So, here’s a bit of a write up of the first few days of Tokyo Interactions, er, in Osaka.

[Actually there was a bit of a prelude in Kyoto with artist/game designer Kaho Abe and a selection of local independent game dev types, but that was mostly social and somewhat jetlagged!]

My luggage failed to make it onto the same flight as I did over to Japan from Amsterdam, so my first full day in Osaka was spent at the nearby castle, ready to hotfoot it back to our room in time for the delivery of one large rucksack and miscellaneous contents.

I love Japanese castles for their craftmanship and cunning [aka 101 beautiful ways to kill people = less nice], and they’re made all the more fascinating when an English speaker can give you a glimpse of their secrets. My collaborator Megumi Ishibashi did a great job of translating signage for me and we also chanced across ‘The Miracle Man’ at one of the outer gates talking about this puzzle-joint repair to one of the gate posts of Otemon:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

It’s really quite tricky to visualise how the bottom section was added in to replace the rotten timber (there’s a massive, appropriately castle-sized gate on top of it too, don’t forget!). Even with the model he produced from his tote bag, we couldn’t see how it worked, but he managed to deftly separate the two pieces. The solution is quite cunning and involves some sliding, but what I’m also liking is that he took the time to hand make his own model (look! You can too with this paper template!), or at least use some serious powers of persuasion so that someone else did…

Across from the gateway was this ginormous stone that had been split in two using hammer and wedges:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Not a bad lump of stuff to use to build your wall out of. The other half from the other side of the split was there next to it too, mirroring the gentle curve on the surface.

I think Japanese wedges are of a slightly different style to Western ones (wider and shorter, perhaps), but I’m including this demo video here because it gives a sense of the process. And also because I like the role listening and waiting have to play.

 

Elsewhere, in one of the turrets, we admired a section of original flooring (other parts of the castle had burned after a lightning strike). As far as I could make out, this floor is usually carpeted because the skills to repair it just don’t exist amongst today’s craftspeople, but it was out and on display on the day we were there. The sort of golfball divots you can see are a trace of what I think was an adze-like tool used to prepare the surface of the planks. Something to do with the samurai needing a particular sort of non-slip surface that worked with the footwear they trained in.
 
Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

We went into the main castle building too and admired the suits of armour …as we wilted in the heat and humidity in our lightweight summer clothes.

Back outside again there was a chance to admire the rooflines before heading back to our digs. (Note the offset as an earthquake resisting tactic.)

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

The next day I went to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living and had a good mooch around their reconstruction of an Edo Period Osaka street, complete with fireworks interval light show!

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

In the early evening I headed over to the Takashimaya department store and Gallery Next where my collaborator Megumi Ishibashi was exhibiting her work.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Takashimaya of course take their cut on the sales made, but we feel we recouped some of this via some recommendations from one of the staff members (the ‘Knows Everything Man’) on how we should spend our evening.

Megumi had already introduced me to the concept of “kuidaore”, defined by WWWJDIC as “financially ruining oneself by overindulging in food and drink (as a fabled tendency of the people of Osaka)”. Counterparts in Kyoto prefer their undoing to be by fine clothes, whilst the folks over in Kobe have a thing for shoes.

It would be rude to shun the local culture, so we set out on a trail of eateries just slightly off the beaten path of the main touristy bits of the Doutonburi district.

We did pop in on the brightly lit bits too:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Setting a more sombre tone the following day, I went to the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum where the special exhibition about childhood mostly involved treachery, betrayal, sacrifice and rather a lot of death.

Nice engraving skills, though:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

That evening, before Megumi caught the night bus back to Tokyo, we popped over to Osaka Makers’ Space to check out how it was taking shape in its early stages and to try and get an initial sense of the maker scene in Japan.

We admired the arduino-controlled sign, admired the arduino-named resident cat, and also rushed outside a lot each time young T went to launch his matchstick and foil rocket! Some promising ingredients for the future, then!

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

I was also impressed by the balance between rapid prototyping tools and the facilities for wood and metal work using regular power and hand tools. It’ll be interesting to see how this space evolves over the next year or so.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

We just had time to squeeze in some more culinary offerings at this side-street tempura restaurant.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

I was really taken by this space for reasons I haven’t yet fully understood. The photo is taken from the street – where we waited on benches for space to be freed up at the then full counter. The hefty wooden tabletop was appreciated, but I also quite enjoyed the narrowness of it all and how we were sat right up against the sliding doors that formed the front of the restaurant.

Hope it wasn’t our fault that they were no other customers by the time we had eaten…

Tokyo Interactions

A while back I was awarded a grant from the Arts Council’s Artists’ International Development Fund to support a trip to Japan, largely to nurture seeds sown when I was out there last year with Watershed’s Playable City programme and doing my own things.

As with all good projects, since then the title of my proposal – Tokyo Interactions – has become hopelessly inaccurate as ambitions creep and good things get linked together.

I’ve just booked the final piece of my accommodation jigsaw puzzle, so hopefully all the major details are now stabilised and my trip will range from Kurashiki-shi in the West, up to Sapporo in the North. About 720 miles as the crow flies …which of course I won’t be doing.

The woman at the travel agents laughed when I enquired about the feasibility of doing Sapporo to Kurashiki-shi in one day by train. She reckoned that, even with the magnificent shinkansen, I’d be regretting my decision by about half way through. So, out with the rail pass and in with the domestic flights and night busses.

The main purpose of my trip is to work with artist Megumi Ishibashi. In December we were musing on what would happen if we combined some of the interactivity of my practice with the sculpture of her practice. Well, the plan is to find out.

Detail of 'dream U reality U phantom' installation at Gallery SEIHO, Megumi Ishibashi

Detail of ‘dream U reality U phantom’ installation at Gallery SEIHO, Megumi Ishibashi

I also have research questions around what sort of an ecosystem is out there that could support my practice in general. Most of the art I’ve encountered so far has been very much based in the system of commercial galleries, although I’m aware of a few friends – Megumi included – who have taken part in outdoor sculpture festivals. To this end I’ll also be visiting a lot of different fabrication spaces, figuring out where to buy kit, and also scoping the streets looking for opportunities to do interesting things where people aren’t necessarily expecting it. I’m looking forward to meeting up with the Playable City Tokyo crew too, as it’ll be really interesting to find out how/if last year’s workshop has infiltrated the way they do things.

I’ll also be visiting a few festivals. Sapporo International Festival is this year asking questions around critical mass with its themes of “How do we define ‘Art Festival’?” and “When Bits and Pieces Become Asterisms”. Yokohama Triennale’s theme of “Islands, Constellations and Galapagos” is similarly a way in for conversations about isolation and connectivity, whilst Koganecho Bazaar starts with “Double Façade: Multiple Ways to Encounter the Other” to express an encounter between art and local community. I’ll also spend a few days in Setouchi Triennale territory, curious about what art lingers out of season and whether places like this might be more predisposed towards unusual encounters in the streets.

It’s going to be a busy 38 days…

 

 

By Duddon’s Side – the exhibition

The By Duddon’s Side exhibition was installed at the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere and ran from the 8th of April through until the 25th of June.

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Inside the cabinet we were lucky enough to be able to display some original documents from the museum’s collection, as well as some other objects relevant to the theme of re-visiting the sonnets. The exhibition also included some documentation of my residency, presentation of some of the responses from participants to photographs by Herbert Rix (also on display), and the two artworks I produced from my residency.

Duddon installation

Participants had been out and about around the Duddon Valley seeking out the contemporary views that matched the locations in Herbert Rix’s photographs. We laser engraved some of the photos people shared with us and presented them on a map with other observations made about the process.

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

 

Duddon installation

Next to this was a touch-reactive sound wall, accompanied by a rather magnificent loaned handbuilt kayak. Wooden icons represented different locations along the River Duddon and, when touched, triggered an audio recording from that place.

Duddon installation

Duddon i

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

The reactions from people – even as I was still installing it – were great. The best response to “but why is it awesome?” was “BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A WIZARD!”

The egret from the estuary proudly bears some grubby finger marks from when, during installation, I invited a couple of kids over the barrier to help me with some ‘essential user testing’!

Duddon installation

The stepping stones (based on digital 3D models of actual stones across the Duddon) were popular as well, once people understood that they were intended to be played on. Focusing in on four lines from one of the sonnets and an account from the Reverend Malleson of his retracting of the sonnets’ journey down the Duddon, the stones were there to invite some “not unpleasant peril” within the gallery.

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

Duddon installation

A fifth stepping stone went to the Peter Scott Gallery at Lancaster University and was exhibited as part of their OPEN programme of events.

More photos of the exhibition at the Wordsworth Museum can be found here.



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