Not Just In Processing: broadening my creative agenda

It’s been a while since my last blog post – so this is an overdue round-up of what’s been keeping me busy.

It feels like I’ve been focusing on Processing to the exclusion of anything else for sometime… and not just my own creative development… but also all the time and energy I’ve been investing into InProcess:ing – the open forum for sharing creative coding and practice at Madlab.

Don’t get me wrong… I lurve Processing… but I think it’s time to take a bit of a breather and outline ideas and strategies to move forward with new opportunities and other creative ideas that have been bubbling on my back-burner for a while…

Themes include:

  1. KiNoSeq – a kinetic nodal sequencer for the iPad
  2. Fun with Arduino
  3. PEAL ‘Hand Bells’
  4. The Augmented Tonoscope
  5. shado – monome widgets
  6. Dirty Electronics – Skull Etching
  7. ‘Analogue is the new Digital’ exhibition

Some of these are relatively brief and included within this post – others are more substantial so I’ve opened up a separate post in their own right.

3. PEAL ‘Hand Bells’

Through Kinetica Art Fair 10 we’ve had some interest in PEAL from the House Of Fairy Taleswho are running a series of events and workshops with children and teenagers through the Summer and onwards.

So we want to try and make a portable version of PEAL – using the same essential hardware/electronics configuration as the full-scale installation (Nick’s posted a fairly thorough overview of the electronics design for PEAL on our development blog) but replacing the lasers with simple buttons or preferably Nintendo WiiMote controllers – and the two BlinkM MaxM RGB LED clusters in each of the columns with a 6×8 grid of LED nodes – using the DMX controlled iColor FlexTM SLX fitted into a custom-made mount using the fabrication facilities at FabLab.

The idea is that the whole set-up – probably integrating an LCD screen – would fit into a flightcase – such as this Maplin Record Deck Case… and enable us to take a compact version of PEAL – driven by a single laptop – pretty much anywhere.

4. The Augmented Tonoscope

I’ve recently submitted a PhD and Studentship application to the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD) at Manchester Metropolitan University – developed from ideas first mooted in my ‘On building a tonoscope…’ post in September 2007.

I’ve been thinking seriously for a while now about whether to start a PhD and trying to decide whether this could be a research project to pursue my interest in Cymatics. But it was 2 weeks notice of the May 1st submission deadline and a epiphanic realisation that I really do need to find a focus other than Cybersonica and freelance production that spurred me into action.

It was an intense couple of weeks but I really enjoyed the process and think I’ve crystallised an interesting project outline based on my past and current research, advice from staff and academic friends and a bit of critical reflection. Here’s a PDF of my proposal…

5. shado – monome widgets

It’s 12 months since I started to work with Nick Rothwell’s shado – an open-source compositing and sprite library for the monome – with the intention of developing a set of configurable widgets – faders, cross faders, push, toggle and radio buttons, xy pads and tilt data – so I can use my monome as a real-time controller in some of my Processing sketches.

Although I’ve been using MonoControl for my Mirror2 real-time video processing sketch in the interim – and it’s been working quite well – since my upgrade to Snow Leopard and the subsequent Problems with MIDI and Java after update to Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 1 on OS X 10.6.2 I’m finding that MonoControl crashes out so frequently it’s become effectively useless.

So I now intend to actually try and implement some of the necessary development with shado I noted a while back – “I still have to encapsulate each widget type – my coding is a bit longhand, think about and implement associated animations and actually get the button presses to send something“ – for which I’ll need Nick’s help.

6. Dirty Electronics – Skull Etching

While working as Contact Venue Manager on the FutureEverything Festival I bumped into John Richards of Dirty Electronics – based at the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre (MTI), De Montfort University – and my main contact for the Future Of Sound 08-09 Tour event in Jan 09.

I had noticed there was a Dirty Electronics Workshop scheduled as part of the PlayEverything! event on the Saturday at Contact – I just hadn’t quite made the connection.

John has recently produced a series of customised Dirty Electronics devices – and for this workshop participants had signed up to build their own ‘Skull Etching’ device consisting of an artistically etched, custom-made circuit board and a kit of components that with a soldering iron and ~90mins of construction time becomes a playable instrument featuring: touch control, two oscillators, distortion, feedback network, filter and interference/hum/radio.

After building their own devices and under John’s direction the group then rehearsed several pieces using their own newly made instruments and other Dirty Electronics devices – such as the Suduphone – a speaker in a Heinz Baked Beans tin – for a performance later on that evening.

The whole package – custom instrument, practical electronics workshop, rehearsal and performance – is a fantastic product – and one that’s been keeping John extremely busy recently – and understandably so.

He kindly gave me a kit which I’m planning to build and play with when i get half a chance.

7. ‘Analogue is the new Digital’

Andrea Zapp, Programme Leader, Media LAB, Manchester Metropolitan University and Simon Blackmore of the Owl Project are co-curating a new exhibition project entitled ‘Analogue is the new Digital’ that will be part of the program of the AND (Abandon Normal Devices) Festival in Manchester in October 2010. They’ve invited me to contribute – and despite the modest fee I’ve asked Nick whether he’d like to collaborate and present a Monomatic project.

Exhibition theme

  • We are interested in works that explore the digital through analogue processes.
  • Inspirational, experimental, ironic, imaginative, physical artworks that reflect or interact with the invisible sub-structure of data that permeates our world.
  • We are looking for works that do not use computers or digital devices but reflect their omnipresence within society. Analogue content or concept would then discuss a digital phenomena or process.
  • We would like the show to include sculptures, drawings, visual imagery, kinetics, sound, textiles, ready-made objects etc.

So thinking cap on to try and come up with some ideas before seeing Nick next… and reckon I’ll start by buying a compact sketch book from Paperchase 😉

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