So, having already armed her with a selection of wax pods, on Sunday I filled a large rucksack full of microcontrollers and sensors and headed over to see what I could add.
Lisa was already experimenting with projecting onto different surfaces, including the pods which resulted in a really nice scale and distorted image.
I made some systems for colour shifting some LEDs in response to inputs of touch and distance. I also grabbed some snippets of the audio accompanying the piece and rigged up an ultrasound trigger in the passageway leading through the seating tiers to the performance area (Shipwreck is to be a promenade style experience where the audience moves freely around the auditorium, making discoveries along the way.
What was really interesting though, was the process by which I decided to not include any of these. Putting circuitry in the pods limited the way they could be carried and the sense of otherworldliness. The effect of the proximity sensor in the corridor could so easily be replicated with an mp3 player for a fraction of the stress and uncertainty in my absence (I was only there for the one day).
In the end it may be that the one make I have contributed to the eventual realisation of the performance is a scrunched up soaked piece of brown paper.
Last weekend I took part in The Public’s experimental Gallery Hack Camp event. Experimental in that they’ve never hosted anything like this before and also, well, it’s a bunch of creative people in a space – we’re going to end up trying stuff out!
First up: rearrange the letters. GRAHAM CAKELY PLC. That’ll do nicely.
Third up: a tour of the 230 metre long gallery ramp that we had been invited to tweak and re-imagine.
++th up: IDEAS!
Eventually the ebb and flow of conversations settled down into coagulations around ideas. Kim, Alyson and I set off in search of cracks and crevices to leverage towards exciting, secretive, human-scaled experiences. This involved some impromptu den-making and a certain amount of static electricity…
Eventually the gravitational pull of the ramp drew us back in to what had been most people’s first response to the ramp: by some administrative oversight, the ramp is currently without a marble run. Shocking!
We fixed that.
like marbles; but BIGGER
We only had a few hours making time, but we managed to scrump some interesting materials from various boxes, shelves and cupboards. We by this time being Kim, Dave and I.
I think we had a nice demo mix of mechanical and electrical going on with chutes, a bicycle wheel paddle wheel, drumroll, unfeasibly large alarm clock, fire bell and Christmas lights all either affecting or responding to the golf balls along their journey.
Things got a little eratic after we relocated from the camp HQ to the ramp, but I think the power of these things is all in the build. Remember the Improbable Machine?
On Monday I attended Museum Camp. As with MuseumNext in 2009 it was a) rather marvellous and b) a stimulating place to discuss ideas that relate directly and indirectly to my practice. Thanks to all involved!
Hello. We are interested in Museums and we want to think about...
I hadn’t intended to lead a session, but as a spur-of-the-moment decision I offered to instigate a session on ‘interesting digital stuff that doesn’t involve screens’. This was largely from a desire to carry on the conversation that had begun with my recent residency at Coventry Artspace linking in with Heritage Open Days, but also fly the flag for this other face of digital that perhaps institutions aren’t aware of.
I was really happy to see so many people come along to take part in the session. Sitting-on-tables-or-the-floor room only! This post is intended as a reference for those that were in the session and those that weren’t able to join us: pulling out the main areas of discussion and linking to some of the examples mentioned.
I started off by talking a bit about my background and why I was interested in interesting digital stuff that doesn’t involve screens: my journey through gradually more expanded forms of people+place and then influences from pervasive games (I like this definition) and the hackspace/makerspace movement.
I sat on a table and waved my hands a lot as I talked about two recent digital installations that encapsulated a lot of stuff I’m passionate about: making people look up; affecting how people interact with a space; instigating collaboration; making people think and speculate and do experiments to try and find out.
Not got a local hackspace? Why not host one? Museum 2.0 post
At the time of MuseumNext 2009 The Life Science Centre in Newcastle had got a long way towards planning to host one, not sure how far they got with implementing it.
Arduino is the platform I use: a small computer but also a community that shares a massive amount of information. A standard board costs about £25 and a lot of the sensors are available now as things aimed at a hobbyist market. It’s probably people’s time that’ll be the main expense.
Secrets, missions, games, small groups of people who are in-the-know and pantomine (as seen with the Secret Police Disco as people who had found it tried to enable others to make the discovery too).
How do you set/stage the space?
How you describe what’s going on and the process by which people enter that activity (or not).
Do I see it as performance? No – mostly because the idea would terrify me! – but I do see it as performative sometimes, and I’m interested in spectacle and different types of audiences that observe it.
I tend not to emphasise art (it’s scary to a lot of people!)
I tend not to emphasise technology (it’s scary to a lot of people!)
Can you pique people’s curiosity? Reward those that seek out the hidden things?
The Heritage Open Day event that Trapeze Monkey and the Secret Police Disco were a part of had a short paragraph and the end of the heritage-orientated handout that said I’d been in residence and things were ‘available for discovery’.
Question from Nikki: How does this sit with pedagogical aims of institutions? Does it matter if only a small number of people make the discovery?
How do you connect these experiences with the outside?
One participant talked about experience using gamification, linking in to people’s online social networks and harnessing the technology people carried in their pockets.
Another reminded us that not everyone has smart phones and I reminded us this was a session about non-screen-based approaches!
We then talked about the urge to share stories/experiences and possibly also how to close the feedback loop and do something useful with the contributions coming in from social media (or I might be conflating that with later discussions).
Education and fun
I noticed a few undertones that seemed to suggest these two are mutually exclusive…
Flows of visitors
Institutions are aware that visitors tend to stay in the areas that are more populated. Can we use interactive installations to draw people into the less well-trodden areas?
We talked about conferring agency, and how this brings people back if they can see their actions are having a direct effect on the space.
Someone talked about the audio piece Shhh… at the Victoria and Albert Museum and how it had enabled things like men transgressing into the ladies loos.
Can I give some examples of exemplary projects?
Um, this threw me a little as I think this is what I’m trying to move towards understanding through getting more of the museums’ points of views. I fell back on describing things I had encountered that had resulted in me having a powerful experience.
Ran on blindfolds, binaural recordings and the gentlest of touches leading you down the rabbit hole.
We talked again about spectacle, and returning to see what things look like from the outside. Also buying in to an activity and submitting to the experience.
Blast Theory were mentioned as the technology big guns. I’d seen some of their control room for I’d Hide You. It’s a lot of tech!
Reminded me to say that things will go wrong. Embrace it! (And design for it!)
This linked us back to an open approach and fostering a sense of agency and ownership – you can playtest your prototypes and people will appreciate it, it doesn’t matter if it’s not polished and flawless.
Hide&Seek’s Sandpit approach (and use of low tech).
I also mentioned the previous week’s Heritage Sandbox showcase and the Ghosts in the Garden project at the Holburne Museum. Smartphone technology wrapped up in an intriguing interface and an engaging narrative.
By taping it to the underside of an umbrella. On a gloriously sunny afternoon.
This afternoon I spent an hour wandering around the picnic-ers and sunbathers in Holland Park whilst carrying an umbrella.
During that time one child exclaimed loud enough and close enough for me to engage him in conversation (and an explanation); one woman gave me a look and a smile; and two men who had just thrown a stone at a pigeon told me it wasn’t raining. The latter also got an explanation.
On this occasion, the explanation has something to do with this.
So, I spent most of the day prior to the Ikon walk wrapping GPS modules and Arduino microcontrollers in plastic bags.
This is not an ideal solution to the ongoing challenge of protecting electronics from the weather! Since having one of my GPS modules stop working on the Fermynwoods residency, I’m also increasingly aware of needing to protect the units from the mild battering they get every time I use them in a workshop or for an event.
It took about 30 minutes to print out the case. It needed a bit of knife work to trim off ‘squidgy bits’ that were preventing it from closing properly and to open up the case above the misaligned aerial dot, but the end result was pretty much as hoped.
One drawback is that it’s a nice snug fit. Fine if you’re going to leave the module inside the case, but trying to remove it involved a fair amount of prising with a screwdriver and this can’t be a good thing!
Second time around I placed some plastic under the module before placing it inside the case. This helped a little by providing something to pull on, but still not a real solution. (I’d probably try some ribbon or something with less stretch next time.)
The other main issue for me is that this process is not really of a high enough standard for me to use in an art project. Fair enough if it was hidden away, but these are likely to be on view quite a lot, so I need to pay careful attention to the material and quality of finish.
It would also be nice to be able to find a streamlined solution, but I think a certain amount of bulkiness is probably a price I’m going to have to pay.
Plan B is, I think, to investigate an acrylic laser-cut case. I want a certain amount of translucency so I can see the status LED on the GPS module, but I think having the tech on view is also a good thing for workshop scenarios.
Aided and abetted by one Mr Catfood, today I launched into making two more of the wooden drums I’m building as part of the AA2A project.
Much bandsawing, nail-gunning and guillotining was interspersed with making a bracket to mount the servo on (who knew finding the right screw would be so difficult?! Respect to Sol for the moment of genius that made her think of terminal blocks!) and then testing the resultant tappity object.
In other news: Jupiter, the moon and Venus are looking rather marvellous from my back window at the moment.
My main area of enquiry is centred around interactions between people and place: often using tools and strategies from areas such as pervasive games and physical computing to set up frameworks for exploration.
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