The Transparency Grenade! A name like that was bound to get my attention.

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It might look like a Soviet F1 Hand Grenade, but what the Transparency Grenade contains is 'just' a tiny computer, a microphone and a powerful wireless antenna. No explosive then! Except maybe the information that the device is capable of blasting to the world. The Transparency Grenade fights against the lack of corporate and governmental transparency. It captures network traffic and audio at the site of closed meetings and anonymously streams the data to a dedicated server where email fragments, HTML pages, images and voice are extracted and displayed on an online map.

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Browser-based map interface to Transparency Detonations

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Browser-based map interface to Transparency Detonations

The device was created by Critical Engineer and artist Julian Oliver, author of works such as a modified analog colour television able to capture and screen images downloaded by people on local wireless hotspots, a wall plug that messes with the news read by other people on wireless hotspots and a software platform for replacing billboard advertisements with art in real-time. Now i'm left wondering why i didn't try and interview him for the blog before...

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Hi Julian! What strikes me with your latest project is the way it looks. It is miles away from the 'bastard in beige' newstweek. Why did you decide to give the work such a threatening design?

I gave the Transparency Grenade this design to signify some of the conversation around cyber warfare, 'information weapons' and the Cyber Soldier divisions marching out from national defense budgets worldwide. It can be considered a functional weapon in a symbolically representative container.

We've seen the transformative power of network-leveraged leaking in the last decade, first with the incumbent Cryptome and then much more recently with Wikileaks. The very idea of an immaterial explosion with the power to shake the walls of institutions, businesses and political cultures - moving matter and people in its wake - is naturally attractive, not only in the conceptual sense.

The volatility of information in networked, digital contexts itself frames a precedent for clamouring (and often unrealistic) attempts to contain it. One could even say it's this desperate fear of the leak that produces images like my grenade, images that will continue to take violent forms in popular culture, journalism and Presidential speeches in time. In fact the metaphor of a Transparency Grenade is itself not new, first used publicly by Mike Taylor in the Observer, a few months after I drew up this project. A timely coincidence.

Most importantly however it is the hyperbole and fear around containing these volatile records, of the cyber burglary, that increasingly yields assumptive logics that ultimately shape how we use networks and think about the right to information. Just as record companies claim billions in losses due to file sharing, the fear of the leak is being actively exploited by law makers to afford organisations greater opacity and thus control.

This anxiety, this 'network insecurity', impacts not just upon the freedom of speech but the felt instinct to speak at all. All of a sudden letting public know what's going on inside a publicly funded organisation is somehow 'wrong' -Bradley Manning a sacrificial lamb to that effect. Meanwhile civil servants and publicly-owned companies continue to make decisions behind guarded doors that impact the lives of many, whether human or other animal.

All we have left from the Bin Laden assassination, for instance, is that photo from The Situation Room, a bunch of contradictory reports of what actually happened and a body being eaten by sea lice somewhere in the Indian Ocean - or was it the Indian Ocean? How much did that assassination cost American tax payers? Of course we wonder what was said in that room! Somehow such a significant event has now been reduced to a little black box and scrapbook..

I believe quality journalism has never been so important as it is today yet at the same it's never been so threatened, both in and out of a democratic context. Given great reductions to the freedom of the press recently it's only natural that we see them adopt guerilla tactics - especially given new discovery vectors opened up by digital communications. It should come as no surprise many of their tactics will be technically illegal or even ethically corrupt!

As we saw with the News of the World scandal, they are competing within an economy where news has capital value, itself a deep and driving flaw. Under such conditions, and baited with possibility, news corporations will increasingly look for points of exploit with exit strategies (and/or apologies) prepared.

With the Transparency Grenade I wanted to capture these important tensions in an iconic, hand-held package.

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Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev, Newstweek, 2011

Has anyone tested it in some corporate or governmental place? Is this something you plan to do one day?

Even if I planned to I certainly wouldn't mention it here!

It is perhaps worth mentioning however that from the software side I haven't implemented anything new. Network packet capture has been around for decades, digital audio streaming for quite some time and TCP stream reconstruction also. Rather, I've wrapped up a variety of command line utilities in scripts that allow for the whole thing to work, both on the device and the server. An upcoming project 'Covert Peripherals' will explore this, as a canvas for productive paranoia. You'll never trust your mouse again..

Because of the simplicity of the design it is relatively trivial for me to port the Transparency Grenade back-end to the Android platform, something I'm working on currently thanks to a generous hardware donation from Australian based developer Scott Robinson. This will allow activists (or those simply sick of the relative opacity of their organisation) to deploy Transparency Grenade like functionality on their rooted Android phone and send the data over an encrypted channel via their GSM provider to a publicly available map, displaying the detonation as data from that site.

I will not offer the public map interface and data mining parts as a service (that'd be illegal, wouldn't it!). I will however provide code for people to install on their servers and or study.

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Who'd be your dream 'target'? Who do you think has secrets worth unveiling?

Governments aside I certainly think we need a great deal more transparency in the Agricultural sector. A lot of effort is being exerted, including laws written, to ensure we don't know where our food comes from, alongside the impact of that food on the environment and our bodies. A year ago Senator Jim Norman of Florida proposed a blanket ban on video or photography of farms, even from the road! We have to wonder why. The meat industry is especially aggressive in this regard, their lobbies very powerful.

The arms industry, the rampant privatisation of publicly owned infrastructure, pharmaceutical industries, are also increasingly opaque in their business dealings. Why are cures, for instance, such highly guarded secrets? Symptom relief is often vastly more profitable.

What has been the reaction to the Transparency Grenade so far? Newstweek garnered much media attention and i suspect the TG, because of its functions but again also because of the way it looks, might distress and worry some people.

I've heard words like 'gorgeous' often enough for fearful responses to not dominate, thankfully! We had around 2000 people to the exhibition opening of our show and I listened in on a lot of responses. Many were a fortunately complex mix of fear and attraction..

I wanted it to look elegant, a bottle of high-class perfume, as much as a weapon. Thanks to Berlin-based Susanne Stauch, who modeled the metal components in high-grade sterling silver, that aesthetic carries across I think, at least when you see it in the flesh.

I'd like to add that my conversations with writer and journalist Marta Peirano greatly nourished my thinking around this project, this interview alongside.

Thank you Julian!

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View of Weise7: the incompatible laboratorium

The Transparency Grenade was created for the Weise7 Studio exhibition, curated by Transmediale 2012 Director, Kristoffer Gansing.. You can visit it at Labor Berlin, Haus Der Kulturen der Welt, until Feb 20, 2012.

Sponsored by:





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A couple of years ago, Nils Völker cooperated with one of wmmna's favourite designers, Christien Meindertsma, to create a robot that replicates the way we look. In one space, an eye-tracker records the movement of your eyes while you are looking at images of various objects. Further away, a robot, built mainly out of Lego parts and hanging on top of a pile of paper, makes one dot for every point you have just been looking at. The resulting large scale images demonstrate how differently the same objects have been perceived.

The robot was the one work that attracted me to Nils Völker's portfolio but it's his creative path that started with communication design and moved to the use of physical computing in contexts as different as advertising and art exhibitions that made me realize the designer and artist was the perfect material for a quick chat.

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Variations on Pi

You trained as a communication designer so how did you end up working with robotics?

At some point I discovered this Lego set which turned out to be way more than just a simple toy. In the first place I wanted to build a pen plotter, just to create some illustrations. But I realised that constructing and building the whole thing was much more fun than making the illustrations afterwards. So I've started to spend more and more time on building new machines. After a while the ideas became rather complex and Lego just reached its limits. Now I'm constantly dealing with pretty weird electric or programming issues I wouldn't have been even dreaming of about a year ago. But it's somehow great to deal with these purely logical and abstract things to end up with something that isn't logic at all.

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I'd like to come back to Makers and Spectators that you developed two years ago together with Christien Meindertsma for an exhibition at MU in Eindhoven. It is made mainly out of Lego parts and that's part of its charm. Why did you chose to use these children toys? Was it mostly to give the machine a playful appearance or is there any other reason for the choice?

To be honest at that time there wasn't much of a choice, whether I use Lego or not. Back then I didn't knew anything about electronics or even had my hands on a soldering iron. But you're right, I also like this playful appearance as the good thing about Lego is that probably everybody has once been playing with it. So people are less restrained to such kind of a machine and they approach in a much more direct, almost childlike, way. These machines just look like something simple that every child could built but when you look at the details they reveal some nice complexity.

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Now how about the eye-tracking technology? It seems quite sophisticated compared to the Lego blocks. Was it a technology you were familiar with? Did you have to tweak it to make it fit your purpose?

To be honest, I wasn't familiar with it at all and there wasn't much time to change that as there were only about five weeks to build the robot. So when I was developing it I was just assuming that there should be very likely a way to retrieve a text-file containing x- and y-coordinates which then could be interpreted by my machine. And when we were finally building up the exhibition we were lucky to have some help from a programmer who took care of most of the eye-tracking part.

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I just saw images of one of your most recent installations Captured - A Homage to Light and Air and it does look like it was a spectacular work. Could you explain us what the work was about? Did MADE give you carte blanche or did the installation respond to a precise brief they gave you? How did you come to work with inflatable bags made from space blankets? Why did you chose a material that seems to be quite unusual (to me)?

It's a project I realised together with my brother Sven who's a graphic designer. We both decided to come up with something based on these immaterial things like light and air; basically things you can't capture. During almost three months of work we've created a huge installation which covered almost the whole room. Sven designed four large graphic walls reflecting the four different aspects of the intangible idea framing my installation which consists out of 252 inflatable cushions made from these space blankets. And finally both parts were interacting in a twelve minute performance synchronized to sound and light.

One thing I've definitively learned about space blankets is that they aren't made to be heat-sealed at all. It took ages to make enough bags that didn't instantly pop when inflated. But this foil is simply great because it sizzles so much louder than any other foil I know. And in the end the noise inside the room was just incredible. And finally its silver side does perfectly reflect the coloured light coming from the ceiling which was a connecting element for Sven's and my work.

MADE, the place where all this happened, is surely the most extraordinary workspace I've ever been working at. It's situated in the ninth floor right at the Alexanderplatz overlooking the city and in addition to that it's equipped with this pretty sophisticated light system consisting out of 225 lamps and you can let glow any single one in any colour you can imagine.

The ambition of the team running the space is to bring people together who are working in rather different creative fields to end up with something completely new. This time it was my Brother and me combining graphic design and physical computing. And although we have been discussing all of our ideas with the MADE team, in the end we could basically do whatever we wanted to, which is quite extraordinary.

Your "About" page says that you're working on an installation using actuators coming from cars wing mirrors. Could you already reveal us something about it?

I'm always in search for ready made components that could be recombined into something new. A while ago I could get my hands on a few of these wonderful little mirror-motors. I was still experimenting with them, when all of a sudden the "Captured" project began an I just restarted working with them lately. So I'm not yet totally sure where it will end up but very likely I'll use them combined with larger mirrors to create moving and constantly reshaping light reflections on the opposite wall.

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Thanks Nils!

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Back to Berlin where a few weeks ago i was visiting the DMY design festival. As i explained the other day, the most exciting part of the exhibition was the MakerLab where visitors could discover, discuss and handle new technologies, materials, tools, open-source ideas and concepts. In the middle of this happy creative feast, a group of smiling girls were introducing visitors to the joys of mushroom cultivation. All 'in the comfort of their own home.'

Titled fungutopia, their work is an installation, a workshop, a prototype and a community-project.

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

In installation mode, Fungutopia demonstrates that mushrooms can be used as open source medicine, food, fertilizer and soil-recovery-method. Fungutopia is also a series of hands-on workshops that teach participants how to easily cultivate mushrooms in cities, even indoor.

The project is also accompanied by the DIY MUSHroom grow kit that combines Open Source Electronics with Biology to grow even more rare medicinal species year round indoor.

Finally, fungutopia is a community-project that attempts to bring together people for urban fungiculture and share knowledge and experience.

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

Laura Popplow, the creator of Fungutopia, was kind enough to answer my questions:

How did you get interested in fungi and rare medicinal species of fungi?

Fungutopia is my master thesis at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne (in the department of hybrid space) but already started more than a year ago and will hopefully go on. I started being interested in mushrooms in general and some medical mushrooms especially because i was searching for some natural method to remediate soil of old industrial areas and because my father, who is working with cancer-patients told me about some special fungi that were very promising in cancer therapy some years ago. This came first together in the work FUNGIFICTION with Tine Tillmann.

I collaborate on the topics of medical fungis with Tine Tillmann since 2010 when we worked together on an installation about fungi as remediators of contaminated soil in the ruhr area for the ISEA2010 in Dortmund. Our collaboration there was named FUNGIFICTION and consisted of a video and a kind of science/shop/showroom installation that told the story of the RUHR REISHI, a fungus, that was left on the grounds of an old coal plant in Dortmund that was deconstructed for two years by Chinese workers. These workers left spores of the reishi, one of the most powerful medical mushrooms known especially in the Chinese traditional medicine. These reishi mushrooms not only remediated the contaminated coke plant soil, but also developed some extra-powers on this special soils. That's why a new mushroom research center was founded on the grounds of the old coke plant area by our collaborators from the Mushroom Research Center Austria to research and find out about this surprising phenomena, that was the start of a mushroom revolution in the Ruhr area, that changed not only the quality of the soils in the old heavy industry area but also was the starting point of a social change, bringing new medical, ecological and economical wealth to the people. The biggest part of this story is actually true, it's just some facts that we enhanced and dreamed a little further.

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Fungutopia at Pixelache 2001

The collaboration with Tine Tillmann grew further when we exhibited a new work-in-progress of the idea of FUNGIFICTION at the Pixelache Festival in Helsinki this March. There, we developed the idea of creating mushroom cultivation methods on old military grounds like Soumenlinna island, where the exhibition took place. in Pixelache I also exhibited a first type of modell of a MUSHroom, a growing habitat for medical mushrooms. from the starting point of a mixture of fiction and reality i took more the direction of realising the utopia (at least in small parts) whereas Tine is working even more in the direction of (science-)fiction and utopia. Both approaches are working together on the idea how mushrooms can possibly save the world.

The fungutopia station is my practical approach to get people involved in mushroom cultivation and their abilities to recycle, clean, heal and even grow material. The installation for DMY was developed together with Kyra Porada, an exhibition designer and good friend of mine. Fungutopia is part of her master thesis at the FH Düsseldorf in exhibition design.

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

When i saw the fungutopia station at DMY Berlin, i was particularly surprised by the type of mushrooms you were cultivating. They are most unusual to me. Could you explain me which kind of mushrooms you cultivate and why?

The mushroom you mention is most likely known as reishi, lingh zhi or in latin ganoderma lucidum. It's the holy mushroom in Asia, where its medical powers are known already for thousands of years. it is used in the traditional Chinese medicine against a wide range of health problems and serious diseases: its powers especially in cancer therapy have been proofed also by Western medical studies. Apart from being the most potent medical fungus, it can develop an extraordinary shape, material and colour. That was what attracted me in the first place. When i first saw some rheishi mushrooms grown in shapes you would never expect to be a mushroom I thought this is what you can really call a kind of "natural art". Visitors tend to think it's an artificially made sculpture.

Plus: you can influence the fungus in its shape with the amount of CO2 during its growth. The more people around the room where it grows, the more coral-like it gets.

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

The text describing Fungutopia presents "mushroom culivation as a way to make the world a better place." That's ambitious. How can home mushroom cultivation achieve that?

There are several ways mushrooms are already helping to keep the world balanced. Mushrooms are basically the recycling system of nature. As they are an own species, they are able to "digest" which means that they transform and split up molecules. That's how they remediate soil or can also help to filter water. The mycelium, the essential part of the mushroom, mostly hidden in the ground is a rhizomatic network that mostly lives in symbiosis with plants. Some mushrooms such as the mycorrhizia mushrooms don't even form fruiting bodies but are working as natural fertilizers that enlarge with their rhizomatic structure the roots of the plants to get water and nutrients for them from the ground. 80-90% of all plants are living from this symbiosis. Paul Stamets, a famous mushroom cultivator describes different methods how mushrooms can save the world: as medicine, water filters, soil-remediators and even natural pesticides.

In my opinion mushrooms should be cultivated more widely in cities, because they have two characteristics that make them an ideal partner of urban agriculture: they don't need much space and ground and they don't need much light. Plus, they could help to clean city-soil and work as natural fertilizers for plants grown in urban agriculture.

Last but nor least: the mycelium can even produce material that could be used as isolating material in buildings. That's what ecovative design is already doing on an industrial scale. You can grow your own forms from mushrooms- amazing isn't it?

i believe that mushrooms could be able to help us in much more problems, we just don't know enough about them - and we are too afraid of them. To some people they are like aliens.

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MUSHroom

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MUSHroom

Could you describe me the prototype MUSHroom? What is it made of? How big is it? Are you supposed to leave it on a balcony or inside the house?

The prototype of MUSHroom is a small greenhouse with the possibility to control temperature and humidity through an arduino controller, which makes it possible to grow different mushrooms indoor. It is about 50cm X 50cm X 50cm made out of triangles and squares that form an cuboctahedron, one of the archimedean forms that were considered by Buckminster Fuller as a form of vector equilibrum. I hope to build it in the near future from plates made from bio-plastics. But so far it is made from glass or plexiglass. It's still in its first stage of development. The idea is to develop it further as a kind of open source project with the help of the mushroomcultivator community that is also quite active online and to develop some kind of modular kit. A role model for this is the windowfarms project and its distribution model.

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

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Picture by Martin Schlecht

How much time/commitment/care does it involve to cultivate these fairly rare mushrooms?

You don't need so much time, when you just start with a prepared substrate that you can order online in sealed plastic bags with an air filter. You will just need to take care when the fruiting bodies appear and you cut the bag to make them grow better. Then they need humidity and some of them need higher temperatures, but that depends on the species. Some of them also grow in our Western Europe climate conditions.

if you want to start your own mushroom cultivation from spores or mycelium, then you will need time to experiment and build some kind of mini laboratory with clean working conditions. But it's still possible - lots of people are developing methods to cultivate mushrooms at home in small scale solutions as a kind of hobby. They are also the people I want to get together with the online platform grow.fungutopia.org to work on further solutions for mushrooms cultivation in cities as a kind of community project like guerrilla gardening. People should get together to build small mushrooms laboratories to deliver substrates that enable people to easily grow fresh mushrooms in their neighbour community.

Thanks Laura!

Previously: Temporary photoElectric Digestopians (Fusing Cooking and Solar Tech with Design).

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Worklab 'Temporary photoElectric Digestopians' [TpED #6] At DMY Design Festival Berlin Berlin [Ger], part of 'MakerLab Finland' (Pixelache), June 2,3; 2011

As i mentioned the other day, the most exciting part of DMY, the International Design Festival Berlin was the MakeLabs, an arena for experimenting with new technologies, materials, communication tools, open-source ideas and for exchanging concepts.

That's where i met Bartaku aka Bart Vandeput from FoAM, a Brussels-based research group and laboratory for speculative culture. Bart was leading the Temporary photoElectric Digestopians (Fusing Cooking and Solar Tech with Design) lab which invited participants to discover the relation between light, food, body and electric energy and then work with edible materials to create 'e-tapas' that were to be ta(e)sted on the heliotropic tongue.

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Preparation of the workshop at DMY

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Preparation of the workshop at DMY

The TpED worklab series is a node of Bart's ongoing research "PhoEf: The Undisclosed Poésis of the Photovoltaic Effect." The project fuses arts, science and technology and looks into the micro and macro realms of Photovoltaics: the conversion of light energy into electrical energy.

Extract from a brief conversation with Bart follows...

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Worklab 'Temporary photoElectric Digestopians' [TpED #6] At DMY Design Festival Berlin, part of 'MakerLab Finland' (Pixelache)

Hi Bart! You recently lead a workshop called "Temporary photoElectric Digestopians (Fusing Cooking and Solar Tech with Design)" at DMY, the International Design Festival in Berlin. You invited participants to experiment with photovoltaics and food and cook 'e-tapas'. Can you explain us how the workshop unfolds? What are you and the participants doing and what is the outcome of the workshop?

The name of these series is TpED Worklabs. I prefer lab since this word expresses -more than workshop- the focus on experimentation, 'guided improvisation', the close link with old and new science, the use of less known materials and the way they are used, like f.i agar agar, an algae based gelatine that is used as a transparent top layer for a TpED.

The TpED Worklabs follow a fixed pattern, starting off with a short auto-presentation of the temporary collaborators, the explanation of the lab content, context and proceedings.
Then, matter, tools and method are introduced after which -in group or individually- recipes are composed, reflecting consideration of taste, aesthetics (form, pattern, color, texture), smell and functionality (photoelectrochemical principles). Then, the experimenting starts, leading towards the creation of a TpED. It is then tested on the tongue, in a heliotropic movement, seeking the point with the highest concentration of light: hence pointing the tongue towards the sun or a classic light bulb. The red and black leads of the multimeter are held -by another temp. collaborator- against the edible silver cathode and anode, checking for electrical energy flow. Pictures are taken, and the taste and test-person is asked what he/she observes, something like 'a tickle on the tongue'.

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CSM Future Textiles_TpED. Detail of connecting one Temporary photoElectric Digestopian to the gold-circuitry of the TpED-panel

In case the lab runs more than a day, more elaborate and complex iterations emerge. F.i. at the TpED Worklab #3 at Textile Futures Deptmnt. of Central Saint Martins College for Art & Design in London, 90 TpED's were laid out on marzipan, interconnected with gold leaf, based on the design of a classic crystalline silicon solar panel.

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Co-creation Worklab_2 "Temporary photoElectric Digestopians" at Burning Ice, Changing Tents, Brussels, Jan. 22, 2011

What does solar technology brings to the cooking and tasting experience?

It makes it possible to express/comment on the connection between light energy, food energy (power plants) and body energy; the relation between kJoules and Watts.

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TpED_2_e-sushi. Produced by participant of PhoEf's WorkLab at the Tactile Research Lab, ArtScience Interfaculty, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague

The workshop is part of a broader research called "PhoEf: The Undisclosed Poésis of the Photovoltaic Effect." How did you get interested in studying and experimenting with the Photovoltaic Effect?

I used to start a PhoEf-talk by saying that 'two observations presumably lead to PhoEF:
the first one in 2006 in Kinshasa (DRCongo) where people were electrocuted whilst wading home in the flooded city during downpours. In an attempt to have access to electricity people connect wires to the main grid, that are pending on the ground, hence creating electrocution fields during floodings... An image that brings back 'Edison's Topsy' the elephant.

The second one was at a Solar Fair in Germany, where -amongst the sun tanned promo-boys'n girls in big shiny stands, I came accross a Chinese vendor of solar cell water pumps. There I saw how shade can be a controller of aesthetics, patterns, rather then being an enemy (as it is for users of solar sys).'

It is more thoroughly explained here: PDF.

Where does that research extends beyond culinary experiments? Your bio refers to "micro-interventions." Can you explain us what these micro-interventions involve?

Maybe an example is at place here. In 2009/10 I was invited by artist collective Desire Machine Collective to do a residency 'on' the Periferry, on the Brahmaputra river in Guwahati, North-East India. This icon of the petrol society floating on the mighty and powerful Brahmaputra seemed for me the perfect context, offering huge contrast with the micro-energies I am mostly dealing with.

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A Slow Flow, North view

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A Slow Flow. The precise cutting of the bamboo by craftsmen of the "cane and bamboo technology center" in Guwahati

The process emerged into a work that tried to comment on the relation between the city and its energy flows, interweaving past, present and possible futures. Therefore the work - made with the help of Kiran Ganghadaran- consisted of a perfect mathematical bamboo spiral -designed to host power plants (suitable for solar cells) and to filter water, sun/shade controlled audio, a short video showing of a heliotropic ear cleaning session- and copper pots that bring the purified water back to the Brahmaputra. The spiral is mounted on top of the captain's hut, the tiniest available surface but also the most visible one, that is moving according to the dry and wet season towards (above) and away from the river boulevard...
Some photos.

Thanks Bart!

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PhoEf's T(emporary)p(hoto)E(lectric)D(igestopian)-WorkLab at the Tactile Research Lab, ArtScience Interfaculty, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague

All images courtesy of Bartaku.

Previously: DMY - International Design Festival Berlin.

Back to the DMY International Design Festival Berlin which kicked off on Wednesday evening in Berlin and closed on Sunday. Starting with the absolute star of the festival: Tempelhof Airport. I'll never get tired of saying how much i loved this airport. The architectural masterpiece retired from its function of iconic pre-World-War-II airport three years ago and has since been hosting a number of fairs and cultural events.

Planes used to land and park here:

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Now it's currywurst paradise:

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Couple of inside views.

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Isn't this a beauty?
But to get in, you had to queue under the sun:

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Once inside, the first designers that visitors noticed were Dirk vander Kooij and his yellow robot, both busy making a model of the 'Endless' chair. The machine is a reengineered old Fanuc robot that draws and shapes furniture, layer after layer, out of one endlessly long plastic string.

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Dirk van der Kooij, Endless

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Dirk van der Kooij, Endless

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Dirk van der Kooij, Endless

Marre Moerel was showing a collection of ceramic tableware and lamps cast directly from pig intestines, sheep brains, cow hearts, bull testicles. I had the feeling i'd seen that sort of gutsy objects before but the pieces were nevertheless elegantly crafted.

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Marre Moerel, Food on the Table

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Marre Moerel, Food on the Table

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Marre Moerel, Food on the Table

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Marre Moerel, Food on the Table

There was some curious action going on in the RCA corner but by the time i arrived there, my brained was completely knocked out by the lamp galore, the vaguely quirky armchairs and the furniture made from recycled materials that should have been left in peace. My attention nevertheless got caught by:

1. An ingenious photobooth that involved no technology but a lot of intimacy between two people. I thought that the project (as well as The Scanner and the others in the Human Error series) was a great example of the many 'high-tech gets back to no-tech' / 'digital gets back to analog' projects i've seen around.


Household, HUMAN ERROR, The Photobooth

2. A Sausage Machine that extrudes fake meat into sausage casings and functions as a tool to create a new world made out of meat.
Meat-phobic little me remains speechless.

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Marjan van Aubel, Ola Mirecka and Hilda Hellström, The Sausage Machine

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Marjan van Aubel, Ola Mirecka and Hilda Hellström, The Sausage Machine

Inspiration for Alexey Petrov and Alexandra Goloborodko's Baba Valja is the traditional Russian felt boot. Like the boots, the lamps is made by hand from natural sheep's wool.

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Alexey Petrov and Alexandra Goloborodko, The Light Object Baba Valja

Mark Braun collaborated with Austrian company J. & L. Lobmeyr on the installation FORTUNE, 21 glass carafes engraved in traditional techniques by Lobmeyr with the outlines of existing lakes, rivers and glaciers.

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Mark Braun + J. & L. Lobmeyr, Fortune: 21 carafes showing international waters

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Mark Braun + J. & L. Lobmeyr, Fortune: 21 carafes showing international waters

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Mark Braun + J. & L. Lobmeyr, Fortune: 21 carafes showing international waters

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One of David Hanauer's Worldwide Carpets

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Helga Schmid and Kika Espejo, Whimsical Cloud

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That's it for today, i'll get back to you with a story or two about DMY's MakerLab workshops which were by far the most interesting part of the festival.

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Previously: Open Design Now - book launch at the Berlin Design Festival.

First report from my short trip to DMY International Design Festival Berlin: the international launch of the book Open Design Now: Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive.

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The book launch was only one of the many satellite events of the festival, it took place at Planet Modulor, a creative hub so new i'm not sure it's officially open yet and was organized by a bunch of Amsterdam people who doubted they had enough connections in town to attract the crowd. Design is, after all, one of the last creative disciplines to embrace open movements.

Unsurprisingly however, dozens of people turned up. Proof enough that 'open design', in spite of its lack of a clear definition or recognized bankability, can generate much interest in a design festival. Even if it is not yet acknowledged by the creators and buyers who gather in Milan each Spring for the Salone del Mobile, open design has the potential to change design as we know it.

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The theme of the book was discussed over two panels moderated by Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of Dezeen.com and author of the books 21st Century Design and Green Design.

First, three of the main authors and editors of the book, Bas van Abel (Creative Director of Waag Society), Roel Klaassen ( Programme Manager at Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion), Lucas Evers (Head of Programme Culture at Waag Society and member of Creative Commons Netherlands) took the stage.

The three of them had very different but convergent interests in Open Design. van Abel's background is design so, he explained, "i was thinking first about myself when i started looking into open design". He is also the cofounder of the Waag Society's Fablab, a fabrication laboratory which offers digital fabrication and operates on the principles of open source and open content (Creative Commons). FabLabs, he pointed out, give back the transparency that industrialization had taken away.

The slowness of design to embrace the open movement might be explained by the fact that when you exchange a video, a song or a photo through a computer, you have the finished product in front of you. Physicality has obviously a much stronger importance in product design. Besides, design is often a collaborative process and many steps can be seen as content, even the sketch on a napkin.

None of the panelists could (or rather would) answer Marcus Fair's request to give a clear-cut definition of open design. The practice, said Evers, is not fixed, it is in constant flux. Open design is more about a mentality than a strict definition. The book is the first survey of open design and its aim is to explore what open design can be and what you can do with it, it is only the starting point of a discussion.

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Self-proclaimed 'open designer' Ronen Kadushin, Waag Society founder Marleen Stikker, and Tommi Laitio, a researcher for Finland's only independent think-tank, Demos Helsinki then came on stage for the second panel.

Stikker talked about the possibility to develop new business models with open design, Laitio brought a politico-social take on open design while Kadushin chose to highlight one of his open design products, the iPhonekiller.

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iPhonekiller (prototype)

The most interesting part of their discussion was about how designers nowadays struggle with the mainstream production model. It simply doesn't work for them anymore. A graphic included in the book shows that "Under the current system, a designer takes his or her design to a manufacturer, who makes it and then takes it to a shop that sells it. If he is lucky, the designer gets 3% ex factory. The brands adds 300% and the shop doubles that again." The old production model cannot be applied to contemporary designs. Nowadays production run is much shorter, many of the works designed are produced as speculative materials, for show or marketing purposes, etc. We need to find a new position for the maker and the crafter as well.

The Open Design Now authors had chosen Berlin as the first place to launch their book because that's where they had the idea to write it one year ago, when they were participating to one of the Maker Labs organized by DMY.

Open Design Now was designed by Hendrik-Jan Grievink, it is published by BIS publishers. Content will gradually be made available on the book's website. I obviously managed to nick a copy of the book and it looks really good. Proper review will follow shortly but there's no reason not to go ahead and order your copy on amazon USA or UK right now!

Open Desing Now: Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive will be presented to the Dutch creative community at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam, on the 8th of June. Journalist & writer Tracy Metz will lead the discussion on the implications of open design first with the authors & editors of the book and then with Jurgen Bey (Studio Makkink & Bey), Michelle Thorne (Mozilla), Brian Garret (Freedom of Creation) and Massimo Menchinelli (openp2pdesign.org /Aalto University)

Image on the homepage: Repairing the Waag in Amsterdam with LEGO during a workshop with Jan Vormann, photography Johannes Abeling.

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