On our first day in Sydney, I attended the Spatio Temporal Anomalies Workshop, held at the University of Technology‘s Bon Marche Building’s digital media lab Studio 2. The workhop was led by Nick Wishart of Toy Death and artist FMGrande.
In the morning, Nick talked about Toy Death and his history of hacking toys and circuit bending. Toy Death is an “All toy circuit bent band”. The 3 members take a DIY approach to their “Toy Aesthetic”, dress up as toys and play self-bent instruments.
They have performed in Australia and internationally. After Nick discussed his work, he demonstrated circuit bending and the participants had the ability to solder together push-button sensors. I decided to delve into hacking a toy, which was a successful experiment all day, until the very end of the day when I fried the device!
There were four other participants in the workshop. One was Rachael Priddel, an emerging artist from Sydney who has just completed a master in interactive art. She did her undergraduate degree in New Media art at the UTS. Rachel is very knowledgable about all things Sydney New Media. I was able to speak to her more at the evening ISEA opening event. Also participating in the workshop was a faculty member at Arizona State in Tempe. His work and teaching are in the realm of sound art. He is originally Norwegian, but I didn’t get his name (must find out as I often visit Arizona!). Another of the workshop participants was studying an “honors” (a form of master’s degree here) program in interactive art. She has a background in textile design and fiber arts and was wearing a garment that she has worn for 10 months straight, embroidering something on it every day!
In the afternoon, Nick talked with me about what he called a “circuit bender’s tour of the US” that he undertook, visiting circuit benders and hackerspaces in Troy New York, Detroit, and Columbus Ohio. He was most excited about the size of some of the warehouse spaces that the American hackers living in post-industrial cities had access to in order to do their work. The tour began with a Toy Death performance in a storefront window in Manhattan.
FMGrande discussed his own work, then demonstrated VDMX software in conjunction with iCube_X sensors, an approach to interactivity using a pre-built sensor model rather than creating one’s own sensors with arduino or rasberry pi. His experience was that these sensors are very robust in an installation context and they stand up to a lot of abuse, but they are quite expensive! They offer a usb, a wi-fi, and a bluetooth interface, and the sensor kit includes a glove with flex sensors, laser sensors, touch and pressure sensors, light sensors (all of your normal go-to inputs). The kit seems useful as a time-saving measure over creating/building your own sensors if there is a quick turn-around time on an installation project.
FMGrande mentioned that, during one installation of his, the bluetooth interface gave up after only a few minutes of the opening of the show and he spent four days trying to get the piece working again. The pitfalls of NMA installation! I think that every artist runs into these snags. The iCube-X sensors would be something to consider if a project was well-funded and the time frame for production was short, or the scale too large to make the sensors oneself.
The laser sensor interested me the most as I have not worked with lasers before and remember a piece from GH Hovagnym’s artist talk at ISIS arts in Newcastle that used lasers to create a room-scale immersive environment that reminds viewers of being inside of a video game. The piece was early for laser technology in an art context, 2001.
After the workshops, I walked from the UTS to Carriageworks, where the ISEA opening celebration was being held. There I was able to catch up with Sarah, Marialaura, Dominic and Suzy from CRUMB and meet some of the other delegates to the conference, as well as catch up with old friends and contacts. I saw Fei Jun, my friend from CAFA in Beijing, who I didn’t expect to meet in Sydney. I also caught up with Ian Mcarthur and Brad Miller from COFA in Sydney, who I had met in Beijing in the Fall of 2012. These two artists are presenting the Running the City exhibition at COFA. I met for the first time Andrea Polli from Sante Fe, Toronto-based artist Peter Fleming, Canadian artist Judith Doyle and Naomi Lamb.
I had my first in-person experience of a Ryoji Ikeda installation at Carriageworks.