Homebrew Electronics: A Studio Visit with Pete Edwards of Casperelectronics

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Pete playing his homemade synth

I met with artist, musician, educator and circuit-bending guru Pete Edwards last week, as he was preparing for his exhibition “Specter Flux” at Long Island City’s Flux Factory, where he is currently an artist in residence. The show opens on June 30th and will run until July 3rd. Since 2000, Pete has sold his handmade electronic instruments through his company Casperelectronics, and performed with his creations under the same name. Over the span of his career, he’s created unique and special instruments out of a variety of unusual items, such as a Jack-In-The-Box Toy, an Amazing Ally doll, megaphones, and a BarbieKaraoke Machine. His work on Casio SK-1s and Speak&Spells; have been an inspiration for many in the world of circuit-bending, and no doubt his output has helped popularize these objects as ideal for these sorts of projects.

Circuit-bent Barbie Karaoke by Casperelectronics

More recently, Pete has begun incorporating plastic orbs into his practice, producing them as standalone interactive, color-mixing lights or as components to his machines. These orbs will be central to his installation at Flux Factory, and he showed me a few of them during my visit, as well as a nifty analog synth he built from scratch. Both will be used in “Specter Flux”.

Pete mentioned that he enjoys the mesmerizing quality of the orbs, and the fact that they immediately captivate an audience, regardless of context. Each orb is individually tuned to respond to volume and tone, so that viewers must play with them in order to gauge their sensitivity. The orbs were installed in an elevator at the Tang Museum last year, and Pete recalled, with delight, that despite the seeming privacy of the elevator, that the sounds of visitors clapping, singing and yelling at the orbs travelled throughout the building.

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Homebrew Electronics: A Studio Visit with Phillip Stearns

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An example of one of Phillip Stearns' instruments

I met with artist Phillip Stearns last weekend, who took me around his studio. Phillip is giving a class through Harvestworks beginning Monday titled DIY Synth Building Intensive, and he began by showing me the kind of projects he intends to teach students to build in the workshop.

Phillip explained that he enjoys the opaque process of working with CMOS logic integrated circuits, which he finds to be more physical, user-friendly and transparent than working with Arduino. CMOS allows him to essentially program without a computer. Sounds in the instrument below can be modified by moving the patch cables around the breadboard. Phillip demonstrates:

There is one single oscillator, and the pins control the octaves. In his workshop, Phillip will instruct students on how to build an oscillator. Once one learns this basic step, they can then take the instrument further by making multiple oscillators or by mixing or dividing signals.

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Required Reading

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We do not think that taking a stand for or against WikiLeaks is what matters most. WikiLeaks is here to stay, until it either scuttles itself or is destroyed by opposing forces. Our point is rather to (try to) assess and ascertain what WikiLeaks can, could — and maybe even should — do, and to help formulate how “we” could relate to and interact with WikiLeaks. Despite all its drawbacks, and against all odds, WikiLeaks has rendered a sterling service to the cause of transparency, democracy and openness. As the French would say, if something like it did not exist, it would have to be invented. The quantitative — and what looks soon to become the qualitative — turn of information overload is a fact of contemporary life. The glut of disclosable information can only be expected to continue grow — and exponentially so. To organize and interpret this Himalaya of data is a collective challenge that is clearly out there, whether we give it the name “WikiLeaks” or not.

-- EXCERPT FROM "TWELVES THESES ON WIKILEAKS" BY GEERT LOVINK AND PATRICE RIEMENS

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Paik Raster Manipulation Unit or Wobbulator

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Demo video of the Paik Raster Manipulation Unit or Wobbulator, an example of Paik's "prepared television" which distorts broadcast signals or, if used as a monitor, images from a live or prerecorded source. Experimental Television Center provides a lengthy description and diagrams for building a Wobbulator, here.

Originally via Noted by Daniel Rehn

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The Sound of Hard Drives: Jin Sangtae

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It's ironic that Jin Sangtae learned computer repair working at a mammoth South Korean tech market, since he eventually applied those skills to creatively destroying electronics. One of Seoul's most important audio artists, Jin Sangtae creates glitched noise improvisations by manipulating exposed computer hard drive parts.

Jin produces his initial signal in Clanger Theremin, a digital theremin available as freeware designed for use on PDA devices. Controlling pitch, volume and modular effects with a stylus, Jin leads the signal through several exposed computer hard drives, each fed to a separate track on a mixer, a process that methodically undermines his instrument.

Jin's impressive level of control over hardware errors does generally overshadow the theremin signal. A repeated series of staccatos resembling vinyl skips can be gradually protracted into a striated drone and then diminished into a paper-thin hiss. High-pitched sounds are emphasized; although harsh noise artists Otomo Yoshihide and Merzbow are certainly influences on Jin, his squealing feedback evokes scientific, mechanical imagery rather than a nihilistic anti-aesthetic. Although Park's improvisations are structureless, his decisions of which ideas to develop at length and which to briefly interject reward deep listening.

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Photo of Jin Sangtae's Exposed Disk Drives

Professionally, Jin Sangtae runs an audiovisual supplies distribution company, but Jin's office doubles as a small experimental performance space called Dotolim. Along with a few other venues in Seoul like Park Chang Soo's Houseconcert and Lee Han Joo's Yogiga gallery, Jin Sangtae's Dotolim concert has made him central to Seoul's experimental scene. While Houseconcert emphazises acoustic free jazz and Yogiga is a freeform sprawl, the circle of musicians surrounding Dotolim concerts is an erudite group of tech-savvy electroacoustic noise artists. The Balloon and Needle label, run by noise musicians Choi Joonyong and Hong Chulki ...

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Interview with Olga Goriunova, Curator of Fun with Software

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Humor, fun and nonsense often figure greatly in the current modes of communication on the web, whereby memes and sardonic blog comments are commonplace -- if not expected. Such trappings have found their way into media art practices from Cory Arcangel’s cover of Arnold Schoenberg’s op.11 Drie Klavierstucke using cat videos on YouTube to F.A.T. Lab’s Kanye West Interrupt bookmarklet. The question that these works and others like it raises is this: does humor appear to be a synergistic outgrowth of technology (and how does it relate to its development)?

In the latest exhibition "Fun with Software" at Bristol’s Arnolfini, curator Olga Goriunova seeks to document and explore how humorous approaches to software lead to innovation. Working with early net and media artists from JODI to Graham Harwood, the exhibition is a retrospective of peculiar approaches to computation. I sat down with Goriunova to talk about the show’s premise and how that premise contextualizes and contrasts the current era of humor and technology.

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Code Eroded: At GLI.TC/H

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In the inverted world of glitch art, functionality is just a sterile enclosure of creative space and degradation an agent of renewal.

Such was the spirit in the air at GLI.TC/H, a five-day conference in Chicago organized by Nick Briz, Evan Meaney, Rosa Menkman and Jon Satrom that included workshops, lectures, performances, installations and screenings. Intuitively, most people involved with new media know what glitch art is - it’s art that tweaks technology and causes either hardware or software to sputter, fail, misfire or otherwise wig out. Narrowing in on a more precise definition can be perilous, though. Purists would insist on a distinction between art that uses actual malfunctions and art that imitates malfunctions, but the organizers of GLI.TC/H took a catholic approach to their programming.

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FREE KEVIN at Art in General

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Hackers Trailer

Next week, on October 14th at 6pm, Laurel Ptak of photography blog iheartphotograph will host FREE KEVIN at Art in General. The screening will present films depicting hackers and computer culture from the past 30 years, all sourced from Pirate Bay member pirateturk. For the AIG event, Ptak will show WarGames (1983) and Hackers (1995) from pirateturk's 15.4 GB collection, and the screening will also be an informal ripping party, so attendees are encouraged to bring their USB sticks and laptops to lift material for later viewing. Named for Kevin Mitnick, a hacker arrested in 1995 by the U.S. Government for computer fraud, FREE KEVIN examines the representation of hackers in popular culture and its relation to concerns about security, intellectual property, and technology. A roving, evolving project at its core, FREE KEVIN is realized as a website as well, with a smattering of clips from the films in the collection, and the organizers invite other, parallel FREE KEVIN screenings around the globe. (To arrange a screening in your town, email screening [at] freekevin [dot] info.)

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Sala de Máquinas (Engine Room) (2010) - Daphne Polyzos, Jordi Planas, Miguel Neto, Rodrigo Carvalho

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An electronic oscillator is connected to an open circuit, in a way that when the user touches 2 metal bars he/she himself/herself becomes the electrical resistance therefore being able to vary the frequency of sound.

The old modified TVs react to this sound as an oscilloscope having all kinds of different patterns and reactions.

-- FROM THE VIMEO DESCRIPTION

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Group Chatting with gli.tc/h Organizers from Bad At Sports

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In this clip, Nicholas O'Brien interviews via tinychat the organizers behind the gli.ct/h festival (going on right now in Chicago) for Bad At Sports. The festival organizers - Nick Briz (not in the video), Evan Meaney, Rosa Menkman, and Jon Satrom - are all artists themselves, and they aimed to create a collaborative, creative space in their programming for this event, a motivation that comes across in the conversation, as well as larger issues, such as the genre's historicization, facing glitch culture.

Note: Tom McCormack is at the festival right now, and he'll be writing it up for Rhizome's blog soon!

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