F.A.T. GOLD Europe - Five Years of Free Art & Technology

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Bring me home, please

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F.A.T. GOLD Europe by F.A.T. Lab. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

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F.A.T. GOLD Europe - Five Years of Free Art & Technology is the European streak of the GOLD exhibition that opened at Eyebeam in New York last Spring. F.A.T. Lab was born in 2007 but 5 years sounds better in a title than 'almost 7 years' (the show was originally scheduled for November 2012 but got postponed because of Hurricane Sandy, hence the "5 years".) In any case, I'm grateful to MU for having brought the show so much closer from home.

I'm sure most of you know F.A.T. Lab, the international group of 25 artists, hackers, engineers, lawyers, musicians, and graffiti writers who collaborate on projects that look at technologies and media in a critical but also entertaining way. F.A.T. Lab is committed to supporting open values and the public domain through the use of emerging open licenses, support for open entrepreneurship and the admonishment of secrecy, copyright monopolies and patents.

The exhibition allowed me to catch up with works from F.A.T.'s early days and discover new pieces they launched on the opening night. I'm sure curator Lindsay Howard had a ridiculous amount of fun looking into the dozens of projects that F.A.T. has been churning out over its (so far) brief existence. I wish i could mention them all and even add a couple more but i'll keep it short and fast by highlighting only a couple of exhibited works that are particularly representative of the ethics and ethos of the group.

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Golan Levin and Shawn Sims, Free Universal Construction Kit. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

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Golan Levin and Shawn Sims, Free Universal Construction Kit. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

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Golan Levin and Shawn Sims, Free Universal Construction Kit

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Golan Levin and Shawn Sims, Free Universal Construction Kit

The gloriously acronymed Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of adapters that enable children to connect and lock together blocks from ten construction toys made by different companies. Lego®, Duplo®, Fischertechnik®, Gears! Gears! Gears!®, K'Nex®, etc. The complete interoperability between otherwise closed systems allows for designs that had so far been restricted to children's imagination.

Adapters can be downloaded from Thingiverse and other sharing sites as a set of 3D models and then fabricated using personal 3D printers.

The Free Universal Construction Kit isn't just about playing and building though, the project is also an invitation to look at the complex issues of copyright-protected artefacts that accompany the future of 3D printing. "This isn't a product. It's a provocation," explained Levin. "We should be free to invent without having to worry about infringement, royalties, going to jail or being sued and bullied by large industries. We don't want to see what happened in music and film play out in the area of shapes."

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Greg Leuch, Shaved Bieber. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

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Greg Leuch, Shaved Bieber

But some F.A.T.'s works are just what they seem to be. Absurd and provoking. Only that quite often they lead to surprising repercussions. Greg Leuch spent a few hours making an extension that would hide all mentions of Justin Bieber on the webpages you visit. He posted it on the F.A.T.'s blog and got on with his life but the extension garnered far more attention than expected. The press loved it. Bieber's fans not so much and the artist was soon inundated with messages from indignant teenagers and grateful parents.

@gleuch i freaking hate u... go somewhere and never come out. u old molester creep fag. BIEBER fans are about to pee in ur face for this.

Mum just showed me that she did block justin bieber on the computer. So ive locked myself in the bathroom and im crying.

In fact, Leuch received so many emails and tweets about the project that he's now sharing the most amusing of them on tumblr.

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Evan Roth, Ideas Worth Spreading (TED Talks). Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

I'm obviously a big fan of Ideas Worth Spreading, as i am of any project, article or thought that challenges the TED cult. Just go to the MU gallery with your own Power Point presentation and deliver a talk that will stun/delight/horrify the audience using the fake TED stage complete with headset, camera, gigantic red letters, screen, spotlight, etc. After that go home and edit and upload your own pirate TED talk.

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Theo Watson and F.A.T. Lab, 40,000 GML Tags. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

GML, or Graffiti Markup Language, is an open file format designed to store graffiti motion data.

Currently, there are over 40,000 tags in the #000000book database. The projection screens tags in chronological order, from the very first ones drawn by Tempt1, to the most recent captured by a variety of GML-powered apps.

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Geraldine Juarez, F.A.T Nika Award. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

Each year, Ars Electronica's Golden Nica awards give rise to intense debates, frustrations, satisfactions, anger and congratulations in the art and tech world so I love the super simple idea behind the F.A.T NIKA award. The 3D modelled replica of Ars Electronica's statuette is copied from a wikipedia photograph. Geraldine Juarez prints one each time she wants to award a prize to an artist whose work she admires. You're very welcome to head to the project page and do the same.

A few more photos from the show:

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Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

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F.A.T. GOLD Europe by F.A.T. Lab. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

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F.A.T. GOLD Europe by F.A.T. Lab. Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013


F.A.T. GOLD Europe - Five Years of Free Art & Technology, a video by stichting MU

If you can't make it to Eindhoven to see the show this month, then do check out The F.A.T. Manual, edited by Geraldine Juarez in collaboration with Domenico Quaranta and Published by Link Editions.

You can either get it print on demand (this way, please) or download it for free as a PDF. Alternatively, you're very welcome to ruin yourself on amazon UK.

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Photo by Boudewijn Bollmann for MU Eindhoven, 2013

F.A.T. Lab members are Mike Baca, Aram Bartholl, Magnus Eriksson, Michael Frumin, Geraldine Juárez, KATSU, Tobias Leingruber, Greg Leuch, Golan Levin, Zach Lieberman, LM4K, Kyle McDonald, Jonah Peretti, Christopher "moot" Poole, James Powderly, Evan Roth, Borna Sammak, Randy Sarafan, Becky Stern, Chris Sugrue, Addie Wagenknecht, Theo Watson, Jamie Wilkinson, Bennett Williamson, and Hennessy Youngman.

F.A.T. GOLD Europe - Five Years of Free Art & Technology is open until January 26 at MU in Eindhoven.

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