Connection / Suspension

By: breedx

2011-08-21 15:31:47

Dorkbot PDX and Styloid Process are proud to present a collection of 11 works by local artists doing strange things with electricity:

The event is free and open to the public. Beverages (donation suggested) will be provided.


  1.  : causal, logical, or contextual relation, sequence, or association
  2.  : a relation of personal intimacy
  3.  : coherence, continuity
  4.  : something that connects/communicates : link/transport
  5.  : a source of contraband (as illegal drugs)


  1.  : the state of being hung
  2.  : temporary removal (as from office or privileges)
  3.  : temporary withholding (as of belief or decision)
  4.  : temporary revocation of a law or rule
  5.  : a carried-over musical tone which results in momentary dissonance
  6.  : stoppage of payment of business obligations
  7.  : a rhetorical device whereby the principal idea is deferred to the end of a sentence or longer unit

Wall Disruption

Ross Young

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Description: The gallery presents spatial and aural patterns as products of its construction and program. "Wall Disruption" improvises on these patterns, sonically activating the walls themselves. Three polyhedral modules seamlessly emerge from the walls, suggesting other geometries in collision with the space. Each module transmits vibrations to their attachment surface, creating audible rumbles, drones, and buzzes formed by the wall's inner structure. As ambient volume in the space increases, the modules begin producing sound more frequently, with variation in pitch, intensity, and timbre. Because each unit produces sound through vibration and is also responsive to sound, emergent patterns of behavior such as feedback loops of increasing intensity may occur, both in between units and with other sound works in the space. "Wall disruption" is an experiment in formal and aural interference, expanding causal relationships between sound and space in the gallery environment to examine resulting harmonies or dissonances.

Technical Description: Each module contains an Arduino Pro Mini, receiving volume levels from a Sparkfun electret microphone board and controlling a cellphone-type vibrating motor.

Artist Bio: Ross Young lives in Portland, Oregon. He is interested in space, sound, landscape, systems, conflict, deserts, wood, and jokes. These interests usually manifest in sound, sculptural, and electronic works. He graduated from Reed College with a degree in Biology.


Handmade Microphones: Audio Bricolage

Philip Graham (Ear Trumpet Labs)

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Description: Constructed from found and re-purposed materials - plumbing parts, tea balls, bicycle parts - with high-quality hand-wired electronics, the microphones of Ear Trumpet Labs offer visual and sonic beauty. They give a nod to the aesthetic of early broadcast equipment and Victorian scientific instruments, with modern studio-quality sound.

Technical Description: The electronics in a condenser microphone are fairly simple, but the quality demands are high to keep noise levels low. The capsule acts as a variable capacitor, with the stretched metalized membrane as one terminal, separated from a charged backplate by a tiny air gap. The electronics need to convert this variable capacitance (varying with the sound pressure waves in the air) to a varying voltage that has low impedance and is "balanced", or present in inverted form on the two conductors of the cable for noise cancellation. My mics use a common circuit known as the Schoeps circuit, named for the German microphone company that first used it. It is a particularly elegant design, requiring few components, drawing very little current, and not requiring a transformer. A single FET acts as both an impedance converter and a signal splitter/inverter, by taking signal off both the source and the drain. A further pair of transistors act as low impedance drivers for the two output signals. The housing of a microphone needs to be an effective shield for electronic interference - the signal levels are tiny and near the capsule the circuit has very high impedance, and so it is very susceptible to picking up noise and interference. The metal screen and body act as a Faraday cage, and are tied in to signal ground and the ground conductor in the cable.

Artist Bio: Philip Graham (aka Ear Trumpet Labs) has earned the exasperation of his family and the admiration of his pets for his copious inappropriate use of technology, and is very glad to have recently discovered the Dorkbot community.


Alcohol Swells

Jesse Mejia

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MQ-3 Alcohol Sensor, found 2-way radio transceiver, found whisky case, found lamp pedestal, cat-5e, teensy++ microcontroller, audio programmed in Pure-Data on a desktop computer running Ubuntu Linux.

Description: This work is an exploration of space, sound, and the effects of alcohol on an art gallery. Visitors are encouraged to walk up to the hanging transceiver and breathe into the handset. Nothing will happen if there is no alcohol content in the visitors breath, however - upon the detection of even a small amount of alcohol - the sound projected into the gallery will respond immediately, and then exponentially change over time as more alcohol is detected.

Technical Description: The MQ-3 alcohol sensor is interfaced using a Teensy++ programmed using the Arduino IDE. The sensor is constrained, and ranged from 500-1026, to 0-128, and output via USB-Midi CC messages. The midi data is then used to control a 4-operator FM synthesis patch, implemented in the open-source object oriented programming language Pure-Data. The Pure Data patch is based on John Chowning's algorithms, discovered in 1967, and subsequently licensed to Yamaha in 1973.

Ratios control the 4-operator's pitches, and are globally affected by the instantaneous detection of alcohol gas as the visitors breath into the sensor. The patch's index of modulation is globally increased incrementally per instance of substantial alcohol detection. Across 50-60 samples, separated by 30-60 seconds - a gradual index of modulation change happens resulting in harsher, brighter sounds. After a threshold is reached, the sound in the room transforms to something more reminiscent of a drunken techno party happening nearby, and subsequently in?uences the gallery goers to move parts of their bodies they wouldn't perhaps otherwise move in a typical gallery setting. Because of alcohol.

Artist Bio: Jesse Mejia is a Composer and Engineer from Portland, Oregon. He uses copper wires to connect people with spaces, and to push speakers in corresponding patterns. Mejia graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002 with degree in Music, and from the University of Wales, Bangor in 2005 with an MA in Music Composition. He works in a variety of mediums ranging from traditional composition, to sound installation, modern dance, and Acid House.


Augmented Reality Booth

Libbey White

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Description: This work is an interactive kiosk which projects a unique 3D image for every code the visitor holds up to a camera. The image appears suspended over the code, and shows an organic structure or form that speaks to our connection with the natural world.

Augmented reality is blossoming in many forms and has a rich range of potential uses. I first saw it demonstrated in Chicago, by a developer from the Exploratorium. The demo was simply a globe I appeared to hold in my hand, but it was magical, and called to mind science fiction scenes by William Gibson. Part of the fun is the mystery of what each marker encodes-- you don't know until you hold it up to the camera!

Technical Description: This system is running on a MacBook with a low-end USB webcam and a pico projector. I'm using the NyARToolkit adapted for Processing to run the interactive, and the ARToolkit to generate markers. I opted not to go with the more widely known and documented FLARToolkit for Flash mainly because I am a big fan of Processing and like to use it when I can, but also because of a glitch in the Flash version that prevented me from selecting the external webcam over built-in iSight.

Artist Bio: Libbey White is a software developer at OMSI, working mostly with new exhibits. Some of her previous jobs have involved leashing geckos, analyzing brainwaves, shelving books, shooting science documentaries, animating beetles and maps, and making software for neuroscientists. She is most fond of Ruby, Processing and generative art.

Fatal Machine

Jason Plumb

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Description: This work is a reflective examination of clinical depression, morbidity, and the act of violent suicide in a hyperconnected age. It is a reduction of the thoughtful suicide process -- a chain of desperate communications (cries for help), an ominous environment of facilitation, expressions of intent, and ultimately, a violent death.

It is a one-time electromechanical performance piece that will be performed during the gallery opening. The resulting (static) carnage will be displayed for the duration of the group show.

Technical Description: A prepared Pentium laptop runs a custom Python program that allows it to send emotional, self-deprecating updates to the Twitter social network (@fatalmachine). When the suicidal machine is no longer capable of managing its own existence, it sends a signal to the circuit on its serial port, which triggers the release of a 17lb San Angelo bar suspended from the ceiling above it, facilitating its own demise.

Artist Bio: Jason Plumb is a technology enthusiast, hacker, programmer, and artist working in Portland, OR. He is attracted to hardware hacking, repurposing technology, computer interfaces, subversive software, circuit bending, sound art, and uncomfortable aesthetics.


Uno the Integer

Ward Cunningham

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Description: "Uno the Integer" is algorithmic art minimally realized as two electronic components: a small computer and an led matrix. The work explores the human tendency to see life where it does not exist and to attribute to that life the will of an individual even when that is clearly not the case. Uno's name and the accompanying material goes on to suggest that the mathematical concept of integer might be similarly misinformed. The work is to be suspended from a high shelf to appear at eye level. A second computer, a mac mini or plug computer at shelf level, provides power and data to the work over a single usb cable.

Artist Bio: Ward Cunningham is well known as a relentless simplifier.


Conversation Piece

Cameron Adamez

Description: Two tin cans are placed on opposing sides of a room, both hanging from the ceiling from a cord. Both are equipped with sensors that turn the can into a speaker or microphone depending on how the can is positioned. The cans are always set to either transmit or receive, with the reception end having priority of signal. The cans should be positioned so they are far enough away so you can see the person at the other end, but not hear them. If the cans are left unattended, they will transmit the ambient sounds from one can to the other.

Dimensions: Two 400g tin cans (4in x 2.5in diameter), two cables approximately 5ft long.

Artist Bio: Cameron Adamez likes to make things.


Donald Delmar Davis

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Description: A Braitenberg inspired neural network in the form of a wall of disassociated eyes that follow objects in the room.

Technical Description: A series of photo-resistors mounted on gimbaled ping pong balls is connected to a neural networked to do object tracking. While a single cds cell is not capable of providing meaningful image data, a sufficiently large network of cells should be able to make distinctions. Especially if combined with motion.

Artist Bio: tbd


E-Textile Projects

Cat Poole


Wearable Illuminated Bike Glove Turn Signal


Description: The Wearable Illuminated Bike Glove Turn Signal combines an old bike glove with eTextile technology, allowing the user to have more visible turn signals with the push of a switch.

Technical Description: The bike glove uses a Sparkle board from Aniomagic to control the light pattern, and a pressure switch to complete the circuit to turn the lights on.


Sound and Tilt Responsive Sleeve


Description: While not crafted with function in mind, but rather for a local musician's stage performances, the Sound and Tilt Responsive Sleeve provides a light show for his audience when LEDs respond to his movement and music.

Technical Description: The sleeve's lights turn on when the wearer or his environment triggers the sensors. The sensitivity of the sound sensor and the pattern of the lights responding to the sound are programmed via Aniomagic's optical programming board. A tilt sensor turns lights on and off as the wearer moves his arm.



Both projects repurpose already owned clothing items through the use of conductive thread and LEDs specifically designed for eTextiles.

Artist Bio: Cacophonous Creations is a one woman instigator of perception bending mayhem. Through Find Your Inner Super Hero workshops and Upcycled Electronics, Cacophonous Creations encourages all to defy their programming and void all warranties.

New to the black magic side of things, and only a vague personal history with the hardware side, she leans heavily on opensource references and crowdsourcing. For the most part, she provides project and design ideas, pokes at things for a while, asks a million questions using jargon that probably only makes sense to her before she busily finds new ways to b0rk things. Blue smoke fills the room and happiness is discovered as she discovers breaking things just right makes them actually work!


Calling Response

Michael Bunsen

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Description: A negotiation between an audio sampler and a fax machine. Visitors are asked to initiate a conversation with the facsimile using pre-recorded audio. If they listen well and speak convincingly they will take home a piece of visual art generated in real-time.

Technical Description: The audio-out of an MPC-1000 is connected directly to the phone line of a thermal fax machine. 2 audio samples must be played to negotiate the fax handshake. After the handshake, binary data can be sent to the fax as audio in the voice-frequency range, modulated with phase-shift keying. When an audio sample of data is played from the MPC, the fax immediately prints the black pixel values it receives. No error correction is used. The fax will continue to print until an end-of-page or end-of-transmission sample is received. There are interesting relationships between musical audio synthesis and the feat of sending binary data over a phone line.

Artist Bio: Michael Bunsen studied linguistics and German language at Portland State University. He enjoys programming software to explore human communication, music, and the environment.



Mark Medonis


Description: A robot head and torso, suspended from the ceiling or sitting on a shelf, watching the crowd. If he detects a face looking at him, he will voice some comment to the onlooker, to mind their business, or to remind them that he is always watching.

Technical Description: Maxwell is an animatronic robot head, with moving eyes, head, and mouth, and he is battery powered, so he can hang from the ceiling and look down or sit on a shelf. He is 22" high and 18" wide and 14" deep.

Artist Bio: Mark Medonis has been obsessed with the development of Maxwell for 14 years.


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