The Craft Museum of Finland nominated me today as the Artisan of the Year. I’m very honoured by the nomination, and I feel that the museum was quite brave in selecting someone like me. Every year they nominate someone that they feel highlights modern artisanship or somehow approaches the idea from a fresh perspective, and this year they picked me.
Photo: Sami Perttilä
This thing came as a really big surprise to me, although artisanship or craftsmanship in the field of digital art, media art, and design is a topic I have been giving a lot of thought to recently. I’m writing a longer text on the subject soon and will publish it here. But for now I just wanted to say thank you!
My studio. Photo: Sami Perttilä
The museum gave me a little spot on their permanent exhibition to create something new. I took the opportunity to create a bigger and better version of the Oversized Electronics idea that I had been messing with before.
The breadboard you see above is a wooden, fully functional breadboard, built in 10:1 scale. The lit up little thing on the right is an actual breadboard. The object itself is behind a glass in the exhibition, but the brightness of the LEDs can be controlled with the potentiometers. I didn’t have time to take proper documentation of the project, but I’ll post some other pictures and videos once I go visit the place again.
You can go see it for yourself in the Craft Museum in Jyväskylä.
Have you ever wondered what kind of pets would intelligent robots or androids keep? I have, so I made a pet store for robots. You can visit the store in the beautiful town of Jyväskylä at Galleria Ratamo
Here is a little sample of the creatures on display:
Live Herring ’14
23/1 – 2/3/2014
You might have heard of Vuo, a new visual programming environment made by Kosada, the same people who are behind all the excellent Kineme plugins for Quartz Composer. The first public beta version of Vuo was just released (you need to pay for a subscription to access it) and I wanted to talk a little about what I think about it.
Why do I care?
For the past 5+ years, I’ve made my living mainly by making art, interaction design, installations, animations, real-time graphics, performances, custom tools and other various things using Quartz Composer. I use openFrameworks, Pure Data, Max, Processing and other tools also, but I will pretty much always choose to work in QC if it’s possible to create the project at hand using it. For me, it’s the environment where I work the fastest.
Sadly, QC is made by Apple and it has been quite obvious for a few years that Apple doesn’t really give a shit about the people working with Quartz Composer. It’s not aimed for the corporate executives creating their slideshows, funny posters and generic GarageBand songs on their MacBook Airs at the airport while waiting for their connecting flight.
I’m still hoping that a QC 5.0 update magically appears from somewhere and fixes all the bugs that have been there for a long time, but still it’s good to have a plan B. That’s why I’m happy to see Vuo actually getting released.
Is Vuo any good?
I’ve been using the 0.4.9 alpha release for a little while now and I’m going to say that it’s very promising. A lot of features are still missing, but the overall feeling is positive.
What you can do with it right now (Vuo 0.5.0):
Load and display images (local files or from the internet)
Blend and fade images together using different blending modes
So many key features are still not there, but the basic infrastructure is pretty solid and the feeling of working in Vuo is pretty similar for me as working in QC. There are of course bugs and I think a couple of confusing things in the event triggering need to be clarified, but overall I’m quite happy with it. Looking forward to seeing what kind of custom nodes people develop when they get their hands on this.
What have I done with Vuo so far?
Nothing super exciting, but go check out my GitHub repository for Vuo related things:
The compositions folder has a bunch of experiments I’ve been messing with.
I also made a bunch of custom nodes, mainly just to get to know the process of doing that, but people might find them useful. They are more like abstractions rather than really complex new nodes.
I made a few basic math nodes and bpm/fps to event timing converters:
Input Splitters. Vuo didn’t have these so I decided to make them. I use them a lot for routing values to multiple nodes or input ports more easily. I got bored and didn’t make splitters for all data types, but these should get you started. Integer and Real are the most used for me anyway.
What does it cost? Why isn’t it free?
See the website for pricing details. I personally really don’t mind paying the subscription price. The Kineme plugins (free and paid) have been a real lifesaver for me and without them I would have had to spend countless of hours more on many projects or some projects might have not been finished at all. So every single euro I’ve sent their way has paid itself back multiple times. If Vuo becomes what I hope it will, I’m sure I will be quite glad to support the development.
I wanted to quickly mention my Tree Review project. What started as a random Instagram picture, has now evolved into a collection of photographs and stories. Here is a little sample:
Vuosaari, Helsinki, FI
Hundreds of years ago a lonely squid got into a horrible storm and was washed on top of a cliff long way away from the sea. It pondered about its future for a little while on this sllippery cliff. The squid had never really felt like it was actually a squid. All that water business didn’t feel right. The squid was also a very lazy squid and it didn’t want to make the effort to squiggle its way back to the sea through the thick forest. Under the circumstances, being a tree instead of a squid seemed like a brilliant idea. And there the squid still is today, living its life as a tree. A good choice, in my opinion. 4/5
Just a quick update on the MnstriOSCTools plugin for Quartz Composer. Should not conflict anymore with any other plugin or application that uses the VVOSC framework. So should also fix any issues people were having with VDMX and the Animata Plugins.
Here is the first step of a new project I’m working on.
I often teach electronics to people who have no previous experience and there are always the same problems. How do you explain how electricity works so that it’s understandable, but also so that you don’t simplify it too much? How to get the people to understand the way you need to connect different parts? How does the breadboard work?
I personally think that starting with schematics is not a good way. Especially when teaching people who are not very technically oriented. It’s important to eventually get to schematic symbols and understanding them, but it is challenging enough to get these tiny components in your hands and trying to get to know what they do without the level of abstraction that schematics bring. That is why I like to start with the actual components and real wires. And that is why I like to use Fritzing. I can draw a pretty clear picture of the circuit we are working on and show it to everyone without messing around with document cameras or similar setups.
Fritzing has its limitations also. It’s a 2d image and something more complicated than the picture above might get very messy and hard to read. Doing the same thing on a real breadboard is also not ideal since electronic components are very small and a dozen or so people trying to see what you are doing is not going to work so well.
So this got me thinking the other day: “What if I just make the breadboard much bigger?”
I fired up the laser cutter at Aalto Fablab and this is what came out of it. It’s not actually working yet, but I’ll probably make the metal strips for it next week. I have some ideas how to do that, but I’ll need to revise the designs a bit more. And I’ll also make supersized versions of all basic components. Here are some quick tests that I cut at the same time as the board.
I haven’t actually used these yet in teaching, but I will the next time. I’m hoping that larger scale 3d version of the breadboard should clarify things.
I also have another use for this same idea, but more on that later.
Rupriikki Media Museum opened their new exhibition Jokapäiväinen mediamme (Our Daily Media) on October 4, 2012. For the past year, I’ve been working on three interactive installations for the exhibition. The approach for designing the installations was Media Archaeological or Interface Archaeological. We used old technologies and interfaces – such as the telegraph, analog photography, rotary dial telephones – as the interfaces for providing digital content and user experiences for the visitors.
I would like to thank the staff of Rupriikki for inviting me to work on this project. The whole process was a collaboration with the museum. I would especially like to thank researchers Niklas Nylund and Outi Penninkangas, and exhibiton designer Elina Rantasaari. And of course the construction and technical crew who built the exhibition.
Pimiö [The Darkroom]
The first installation I would like to talk about is the Darkroom. Film photography and darkrooms are far from obsolete, but still the whole process of developing you photographs in a darkroom might be quite unfamiliar for the generation that has only used digital cameras. This installation uses the gestures and artefacts found in a real darkroom as the way to interact with the installation.
The visitor places an empty photograph paper into the developing tray and a picture appears on the paper. The picture then turns into a slideshow of other photographs of the same theme. There are currently five different papers and each paper is going to display different photographs from the Photo Archives of Tampere Museums.
The whole interaction experience is not very accurate compared to all the steps you need to do in a real darkroom, but is enough to trigger the memories of a real darkroom for anyone who has ever worked in one. Or it could inspire someone to get into analog photography. It also does what it is meant to do, which is to serve as an interface for browsing historical photographs.
Technical stuff: Each paper has an RFID tagembedded into it and the RFID reader under the developing tray recognizes each paper and displays the correct content. The reader is attached to an Arduino Uno board and Quartz Composer is used to display the projected images.
Sähkötyschat [Telegraph Chat]
There are two telegraph keys in different locations in the exhibition. The visitors can send messages from one location to the other with morse code. The display shows the message that you are writing and also the incoming telegram sent from someone from the other side of the room.
I started working on this in January 2012. A couple of weeks after that, I saw the Tworse Key project by Martin Kaltenbrunner. (Other Telegraph + Arduino projects exist too). Since he had done the work of converting morse code to text on the Arduino and released the source with a CC license, I decided to not reinvent the wheel and based my code on that. In accordance with the license (cc-by-sa), I will release the source as soon as I clean it up a bit.
Technical stuff: Arduino + Quartz Composer. One Mac Mini controlled both of the locations.
The third installation is a simple phone that allows the visitor to call various numbers from the past and present, such as Neiti Aika (Miss Time/Speaking Clock service) or Juho Holmstén-Heiniö, an inventor from Tampere.
Another installation still running this week! Vieraat jutut was made with Pasi Rauhala as a project for the Art Goes Kapakka festival. It’s an interactive installation where we set up two old rotary phones in different tables of the restaurant. You pick up one phone and the other starts ringing, and then you just wait for a stranger to answer your call.