0a7goodone494_847c506e31.jpg
Photo Kristof Vrancken

7a6latex4b7c6f8d_z.jpg
The Creative Factory (detail). Photo Kristof Vrancken

0a7seul202_d5a84060dc.jpg
Photo Kristof Vrancken

You might not be aware of it because i try to behave like a lady on my blog but I've spent the past couple of years shouting over the rooftops of the city that nothing bores me more than an exhibition of industrial, product or interaction design. Well, i've shouted too fast and too loud because last Wednesday i saw this brilliant exhibition called The Machine - Designing a New Industrial Revolution and suddenly, design became exciting again for me.

As befits the title, the show takes place on the site of an ex-coal mine in Genk, in the Belgian Limburg mining region. But instead of focusing on the industrial revolution, the exhibition champions the current revolution in digital production

'The Machine' is indeed a metaphor for the machinery deployed by designers who appropriate tools, material and systems and use them to help shape the future of production, consumption and more generally our relation to goods.

This new, and almost domestic machinery is exhibited among the impressive historical machines of the ex-coal mine. The work of the young designers both acknowledges and contrasts with the historical setting. The dark, heavy and now silent machines serve as a dramatic set for the exhibition, with Pantone Process Cyan hanging like the blue 'key' screen used in the cinema industry.

0m-Genk-C-mine.jpg
C-mine. Photo via matandme

7b6visiteur_9edd950de7.jpg
Photo Kristof Vrancken

0bubblea04c6245ec.jpg
Photo Kristof Vrancken

0j7denhaut0_ffcfb2c4ec.jpg
Photo Kristof Vrancken

The industrial revolution was a revolution for engineers. Now designers are at the forefront of a new revolution. They are part of networks that enable them to develop new materials and systems, build their own machines, and seek new tools for production and distribution. These developments offer an alternative to mass production and open paths to a new economy and society.

By making production processes more transparent, designers demonstrate that production doesn't have to be completely disconnected from the consumption.

In an interview for the catalogue of the exhibition (which you can and should download), Jan Boelen, the curator of The Machine as well as the artistic director of Z33 explains: "The physical object is yours, but the information is shared between everybody. Making this exhibition demonstrates the hope that things can really change.That on the ruins here in Genk or even in Detroit, things can change because people take control and start doing things by themselves."

0a7coffee74_f7c415a5ed.jpg
Juan Montero Valdes, Hacking Hope: All I Want to do is Make Some Money, 2012 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0a7aufond2000_58013b384a.jpg
Juan Montero Valdes, Hacking Hope: All I Want to do is Make Some Money, 2012 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

Juan Montero Valdes's All I Want to do is Make Some Money does literally what you're already suspecting: the work replicates, on a domestic scale, the industrial process used to make dollar bills. Following the designer's set of instructions and using only domestic appliances, anyone can print money at home.

All I Want to do is Make Some Money is part of 'Hacking Hope', a wider project that attempts to highlight the possible decentralisation of our current means of production by utilising the untapped potential of the many household appliances and machines we amass at home. From the tv set to the toaster or the printer, most of these devices often has only one function. Montero Valdés's project taps into the mass potential of these machines, forcing them to collaborate with each other or adopt new roles.

l7lasalleb62751f0bd.jpg
Thomas Maincent, SpiderFarm, 2011 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0aaspider0_abcc03f246.jpg
Thomas Maincent, SpiderFarm, 2011 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

a76spider720445ed_z.jpg
Thomas Maincent, SpiderFarm, 2011 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0oroue6_206cb4df34.jpg
Thomas Maincent, SpiderFarm, 2011 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

Thomas Maincent's SpiderFarm is a bio-factory that reconstructs the environmental conditions of a Madagascar silk spiders' natural habitat.

SpiderFarm from Thomas Maincent on Vimeo.

These spiders might produce the most spectacularly golden silk, but they are also territorial and may cannibalize each other if they are kept too close to each other. Maincent's answer to the challenge is to build a high-rise indoor farm that gives spiders enough space to live until they're guided to a "milking" area that coaxes the spiders to produce silk for human use.

0bettertypewriterr.jpg
Jinhee Kwon, Stupid Machine

Stupid Machine0.jpg
Jinhee Kwon, Stupid Machine

Jinhee Kwon's Stupid Machine is a catalogue that charts the history of redundancy of the typewriter in reverse chronological order.

Each page describes one step in the rise and fall of the typewriter. It provides hand drawn illustrations of each specific model of typewriter and describes its peculiarities and also the reason for its demise. The catalogue ends in April 2011 with the closing of the last manual typewriter factory in Mumbai, India. The catalogue is typeset using a typewriter and a specially designed typewriter generated display font.

0 - cup with hair.jpg
Thomas Vailly, The Metabolic Factory, 2011 - Present

0ailly - drawing blank.jpg
Thomas Vailly, The Metabolic Factory, 2011 - Present

Thomas Vailly used human hair as the main material for a set of cups. The hair melts into a type of bioplastic resembling leather when mixed with glycerine and sodium sulphite. The designer sees this new polymer as a 'vanitas still life' that might revolt us but also invites us to consider the natural process of deterioration as well as the realistic options for the creation of new materials.

0o7spinneursb638556d_z.jpg
Mischer'Traxler, The Idea of a Tree, 2008 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0o7toutbleu6_ae6127f82c.jpg
Mischer'Traxler, The Idea of a Tree, 2008 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler from Studio Mischer'Traxler

The Idea of a Tree explores the relationship between machines and the natural environment. The installation constructs an object that documents its own production by expressing the amount of solar energy harnessed during a 24-hour period. When activated the machine uses threads to construct an object, with the colour depicting the intensity of sunlight.

0soleil02_3d39e1e5b3.jpg
Mischer'Traxler, Collective Works. Photo Kristof Vrancken

The duo is also exhibiting Collective Works, a device that works on a similar principle. The machine manufactures a basket, but only if it is being observed. Production is activated by the physical presence of a viewing audience, with the colour of the wooden veneer-strip getting darker as more people gather around the device. Each basket bears the unique traces of the interest in its own fabrication.

According to Studio Mischer'Traxler, Collective Works attempts to question the relationships between man and machine, with the spectators transformed into 'workers' - observation becomes labour.

0faceb0_7e63e34aec.jpg
Tal Erez, (Waiting for) the People, 2012 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

76verso36_7f72950e69.jpg
Tal Erez, (Waiting for) the People, 2012 - ongoing. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0andofretail3e06c9da9.jpg
Tal Erez, (Waiting for) the People (The End of Retail), 2012 - ongoing. Image Tal Erez

For Tal Erez, new production methods construct new socio-political systems. From the development of guilds in the Middle Age's to the labour unions of the 20th century, workers have always influenced political power. Erez's project questions the demise of the workers voice and proposes ways to reinstate it within our post-Fordist society. '(Waiting for) the People' is a set of 14 protest signs that call for change. The recto of each sign bears an image that hints at a possible future, where the home has become the site of production thanks to a wider availability of 3D printers. The verso shows a documentary image that depicts a workers' protest from the industrial era - proposing a link between production methods and socio-political change.

Each project in the exhibition deserves a post of its own or at least a mention in this one but you can read about the other works exhibited in the catalogue. It is available for download from the press area.

More images from the show:

0a7alcove13ba153_z.jpg
Photo Kristof Vrancken

0a7disque812_d6e56b5142.jpg
Photo Kristof Vrancken

0aa7artisan6_4cede8b9c3.jpg
Unfold, L'Artisan Electronique. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0a7ouvriers9190f1.jpg
Historical photos. Credit: Hasselt city archive - LRM

0o7historical883b9a658.jpg
Historical photos. Credit: Hasselt city archive - LRM

0o7historical_845b735d94.jpg
Historical photos. Credit: Hasselt city archive - LRM

amperes567.jpg

pouiliesetmachines.jpg

0o7rapidprot_36e1b8f6b6.jpg
Maya Ben David and Jon Stam, Save as Mine. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0o7tablerose603c35aa10.jpg
Christian Fiebig, Flatform. Photo Kristof Vrancken

0o7toolz43412ef65a.jpg
Christian Fiebig, Flatform. Photo Kristof Vrancken

7a6shoezd8c30ff0b.jpg
Eugenia Morpurgo, Repair It Yourself. Photo Kristof Vrancken

leseiegetoutbleu.jpg

Photos i've taken in the exhibition.

The Machine - Designing a New Industrial Revolution remains open at C-mine Designcentrum, in Genk, Belgium until 07.10.2012.

Sponsored by:





As i mentioned a few days ago, the Barltett's student show is one of my favourite events of the Summer in London. It is however so overwhelming and turbulent that you need dedication and pure chance to spot the works that might interest you the most.

I'm glad my Bartlett expedition led me to The Theatre of Synthetic Realities.

0U23_2011-12_Kidao_016_o.jpg

The project, authored by architectural designer Madhav Kidao, is miles away from what you'd expect from an architecture work. No model, no plan. In fact, it rather looks like an essay made of photos, short videos and texts. Together, they reflect on immoral architecture, unsympathetic machines, reality filtered by artificiality and more generally, our symbiotic relationship to technology. In fact, Kidao likens his project to "an exaggerated caricature of our present and near future relationships to technology as is stands."

What made the project remarkable is its focus on how new technologies prompt new behaviour and new ethical questions and decisions. I realize i might be accused of heresy and crucified in front of the populace for writing this but ethics and social concerns are usually not the nerve centers of architectural exhibitions.

Allow me to do a bit of copy/pasting and let's see each other right after that for an interview with Madhav Kidao.

The Theatre, as illustrated in the film Making Friends and Other Functions, is a vehicle in which to explore the relationship that exists between the designer/creator and his or her repertoire of increasingly intelligent collaborative tools, be these tools to create or tools to think. The machines, under the selective guidance of the designer, construct their own reality based upon the information they extract from their environment and its unwilling occupants. This is ultimately a task with no beginning or end, and fundamentally questionable ethical integrity. As result we are left to question the role of the Architect, both in regard to creative authorship and ethical responsibility.

Making Friends and Other Functions v.2 from Madhav Kidao on Vimeo.

Hi Madhav! What are the 'Unsecure Webcams' that are mentioned in ACT I - The Observer? What makes them unsecured?

As I'm sure you are aware most live feed web and surveillance cameras can be accessed remotely through the internet. It is possibly one of the Internet's worst kept secrets that by simply googling specific codes for particular camera models, for example "intitle:liveapplet inurl:LvAppl" a list of all the live webcams of that particular make and model is given. Often, however, the owners of the cameras, usually domestic or small businesses, fail to password protect them, this is what makes them unsecured. Therefore in theory anybody is able to view the camera's live stream and with many cameras actually control the pan and tilt of the camera. As long as you have not cracked any passwords, this is entirely legal.

Whilst the feeds are usually pretty innocent, and frankly often mundane, every now and then you come across something that you no doubt shouldn't have done, an insight into a private world completely unconnected to our own other than through technology. It's quite a peculiar relationship that exists between the remote observer and the realities of an unknown space that is unfolding before them. Time is of particular importance as you are viewing in real time a world in which you have no knowledge of its past beyond the moment you logged in, yet our extended embodiment into the animate camera somehow immediately embeds us into this unfamiliar space.

This is not too dissimilar to the tele-assistance relationship between a drone pilot and the drone. Initially we are completely ignorant of where and what it is we are looking at other than what can been interpreted from the point of view of the camera. It's in our nature to be inquisitive, to people watch, and there is some perverse pleasure in trying to comprehend the events unfolding before us. However due to the lack of context more often than not this is simply educated speculation. The more I explored this strange paradigm the more I found myself just making up wholly fictitious scenarios in my head based upon the slightest clues garnered purely from body language, perceived interactions and the environment. The epistemologically variety of this action means that truth soon begins to seem irrelevant compared to the desire to fabricate an alternative reality.

0automtionofpercptnPortrait03.jpg
Machine Vision Portrait - Gesture Recognition

0skeletontrakPortrait02.jpg
Machine Vision Portrait - Skeleton Tracking

The name of the project, The Theatre of Synthetic Realities, places your work in the realm of fiction. Yet, it was inspired by elements of reality. Could you tell us about the trends, behaviors and technologies that have inspired the project?

It was from this point that the concept of a Theatre of Synthetic Realities emerged, a kind of reinterpretation of Hitchcock's Rear Window for the 21st Century, in which the binoculars are replaced by the the vast interconnected complexity of our computing networks; with each input - be it a camera, a sensor or even another person - acting as a portal into a parallel environment. In much the same way as the binoculars are a prosthesis to extend our vision, the global technological systems that we symbiotically rely upon extend our powers of perception and influence around the world. In Rear Window the architecture of community and society defines the story. I was keen to explore how technology facilitates new forms of social interaction and redefined concepts of neighbourhood and community, and how this in turn redefines our concepts of architecture.

0rear-window-original.jpg
James Stewart in Hitchcock's Rear Window, 1954

The impact technology has had upon our social systems, access to knowledge and global influence is nothing particularly new, Marshall McLuhan famously introduced the concept of a Global Village and Global Theatre almost 50 years ago. For me what is more interesting is how this has evolved into the relatively more recent concept of the Internet of Things. The trend I believe that we we will see with the Internet of Things is that it is not just objects that can be tagged and categorised but also the spaces they inhabit and the actions and events that they are associated with. In this way spaces, buildings and environments are becoming encompassed in the Internet of Things. This is not limited to architecture though, the social activities, and routines that are contained within that architecture add to the data history of a place, a form of artificial psychogeography. What this means is that in much the same way as we exist in a duality between physical and digital social circles, the spaces that we occupy do too. What we begin to see is a physical environment and the live updating digital representation of that environment. This is facilitated by new advances in sensory and scanning technologies, computer vision and biometric analysis.

I, like many others, was investigating the potential of the XBox Kinect as means of capturing complex real time data. Its capabilities have been widely publicised but in simple the idea that a machine can see in three dimensions and then also recognise human gesture is incredible. It allows any machine created using such technology to become actually embodied in a physical world. It begins to transcend the border between the physical and the digital which is a very powerful concept when thinking about intelligent environments. And as we increase our dependence upon the internet as our primary source of knowledge and interaction, our interpretation of truth becomes more reliant upon the technology that we assign to gather and interpret the real world. So fundamentally we start to view the physical world through the filter and perception of machines, in effect, a synthetic reality.

0visionmachineMG_1676_2.jpg
ACT III - The Vision Machine

Could you describe the Vision Machine, the way humans would 'interact' with it and its ultimate purpose?

The idea of the Vision Machine originated from Paul Virilio's book The Vision Machine. In it he discusses the concept of the "automation of perception", predicting a machine that sees for itself not for the benefit of man. This concept coupled with an interest in how artificial intelligence feeds into responsive/adaptive environments intrigued me. The capabilities that a computer has to extract a significant amount of information from a physical location combined with its ability to comparatively analyse that data with the vast amounts of data stored online through a neural network is almost enough to simulate perception. The resources that a computer has immediate accesses to - such as The Internet of Things - and its methods of analysis are completely alien to our own, therefore it could be predicted that its interpretations of the physical world would be alien too. Building upon the idea of how a human would perceive a space as viewed remotely through a webcam, I wanted to create a sensationalised demonstration of how the camera itself could possibly perceive the space it inhabits in relation to its learned perceptual world.

In regard to the Theatre of Synthetic Realities, the Vision Machine is in essence a robotic actor, cameraman and director in one. Whereas in the initial webcam scenario I was in complete control of the camera and was free to make my own conclusions of what I saw, with the Vision Machine at the other end I am relegated to a more collaborative role in which the machine dictates what it is I view however provides information that I would never have ordinarily been able to extract. Working from this principal we could then predict that the collaborative relationship between myself and the semi-autonomous machine could lead to an emergent performance unique to the relationship. The next stage in the Vision Machine was to then suggest that, much like I had done, it too begins to fabricate elements of reality and as such distort the reinterpretation of the digital model of that environment as well as what the viewer believes to be true.

The project has never really been a serious proposition for a machine to be developed. In fact it was supposed to be an exaggerated caricature of our present and near future relationships to technology as is stands. The machine is portrayed as more of a mild irritation that we just coexist with rather than any kind of interactive companion. Its ultimate purpose is as an analogical device to critique and explore our concept of what digital fabrication is or could be. In this project we are fabricating reality and the representation of reality as part of the Internet of Things. It is very much an attempt to question the relationship we have to tools and technology in a world in which we continue to transfer not just physical but increasingly cognitive faculties over to those tools. The is not seen to be necessarily a negative thing but rather an interrogation of the possibilities this presents, especially in regard to new forms of collaboration.

ImakingfrdsMG_1297b.jpg
ACT IV - Making Friends and Other Functions

ImakingfriendsMG_1270.jpg
ACT IV - Making Friends and Other Functions

I found 'ACT IV - Making Friends and Other Functions' a bit daunting: here is a machine that observes human beings constantly and then assesses them and assigns them a character. Do you see current technology going in that direction? And what would be the benefit of having such machines around?

In Making Friends and Other Functions everything is real and works to some degree. Somethings I have exaggerated or simulated to communicate the ideas more coherently, however they are all based upon pre-existing technology, most of which is already incorporated into our smartphones. So rather than technology heading in that direction it is in fact already there. In fact casinos have been using some of the most advanced computer vision systems for sometime to catch out those attempting to cheat as well as identifying individuals who have been banned. But what I am more interested in is the relationships between the designer, society and emerging technology rather than necessarily a specific technology and its implications.

One of my aims for the project was to see how technologically advanced I could make it for the least amount of money; so begging, borrowing and hacking spaces, hardware, open source software and code. Then was an attempt to demonstrate how the role of the designer is changing, particularly in the world of open source projects. Practically any designer can now create they're own tools and machines for any job-specific purpose with a relatively low budget, the RepRap being the archetype. As complex and powerful technologies become cheaper and easier to hack, like the Kinect, the designer is gifted with power and responsibility that is free from supervision.

That sense of malaise you have from the idea of camera watching and judging you is in large part due to your loss of control and empathy due to the unpredictable nature of a non-human agent. I think this is an issue that as designers, and particularly architects, we will have to address. As architecture reacts to shifts in social habits I think we will see a lot of unforeseen challenges in regard to what technologies we use and the manner in which we do so.

Fundamentally my project is an immoral one and I think the concept of an immoral architecture is something that will become increasingly prevalent in the future.

ImakgfriendMG_1396b.jpg
ACT IV - Making Friends and Other Functions

The text of your project says that "The Theatre (...) is a vehicle in which to explore the relationship that exists between the designer/creator and his or her repertoire of increasingly intelligent collaborative tools, be these tools to create or tools to think. The machines, under the selective guidance of the designer, construct their own reality based upon the information they extract from their environment and its unwilling occupants. This is ultimately a task with no beginning or end, and fundamentally questionable ethical integrity. As result we are left to question the role of the Architect, both in regard to creative authorship and ethical responsibility." Is ethical responsibility already an issue architects and designers encounter nowadays when working with new technological tools?

Ethical responsibility has always had some part to play in the design process but I think that is slowly coming to the forefront. The explosion of open source has really brought ethics into the design process as it not only transfers power from the institution to the individual but it also provides new forms and channels to disseminate information, this recent article actually being a perfect example.

For me, consciousness and intent are just as important as categorical right and wrong. For exploring emergent technology is just that, emergent, it is unknown. While a particular technology may have positive society changing impact it may well have dire consequences too. I'm not one for speculations upon utopian ideals and believe that we will have to tread and adjust the boundary of what is acceptable to progress civilisation, however whilst the unquestioning embrace and exploration of new technology is exciting we often fail to question its merit beyond novelty. As Joseph Weizenbaum suggested, just because we can do something doesn't mean we ought to. I think we have to take a utilitarian stance and ask ourselves is doing something in a new way beneficial to design and society? And if so is it not to the detriment of others?

Admittedly I think architecture is a bit slow off the mark when it comes to these kinds of issues. This is understandable when you consider the timescale architecture operates on compared to other design fields. However Architects have always been eager to incorporate new design methodologies and the ethics of the technology used will undoubtedly become an issue.

In terms of the Bartlett show, I'm guessing there is a particular reason you have asked this question so I would ask the same of you. The show is always a dazzling array of phenomenal work and the mastery of a variety of mediums used is breathtaking. I do feel the density and complexity of the show does however sometimes make it overwhelming and distracting from the work. Of course as with any degree show the work on display can only ever be a vast reduction of the full scope of the project and as such the viewer is never going to get a comprehensive understanding of that project.

Thanks Madhav!

All images Madhav Kidao.

This one might be the last project i'll blog from the Design Interactions graduation show.

0a7all8_a18a6475b9_z.jpg

Diego Trujillo had two interesting projects in the exhibition. The main one was The Generated Man, a software work that flips around the way Google usually creates a digital persona of web users based on their previous behaviour.

For some abstruse reason, i decided that i'd focus on his other project: the 300 Years Time Bomb. There's something both disquieting and strangely appealing about a bomb engineered to explode in exactly 300 years time. Even if none of us will be there to experience it.

The bomb's timer displays the years in seconds making us question what meaning such a large number holds and changing our dramatic relationship with countdown timers.

The explosive is found 100 years after countdown is initiated, by this time it has acquired historical importance and is put on display in a blast proof building. Several generations await for the moment when it finally goes off in this controlled and safe environment. Time and efficient electronics make the nature of the explosive change from an immediate threat to a spectacular display.

0a7oled56_97d304eacf.jpg

Extracts of a Q&A with Diego Trujillo:

300 Years Time Bomb sounds like an action movie to me. Not just the title but also the drama, the fact that it is found 100 years after countdown has started. hence two questions:
One: Was cinema an influence at any point in this project?

The project is in fact very influenced by film, specially the design of the bomb as an object. I realized that the image of a bomb most of us have comes from action film. Real explosives are reserved to such a small portion of the population that most of us don't know what they might look like. Hence, common concepts of a bomb rely on fiction.

After I choose a time bomb as an illustration to talk about time, my research focused on the many ways bombs and countdowns are shown on films. This research is broad enough to write a book on. Some of my favourite explosion countdown scenes are from Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage, the card countdown from Last Action Hero and the spherical bomb rolling down the stairs in The Shadow. However I decided for a more standard Die Hard style or 007 explosive, as they tend to be easier to read objects in which the detonation mechanism can be read on the design.

0a74simple605cfb.jpg

And Two: The project comes thus with the skeleton of a scenario. Do you want us to fill in the gaps and think about who created this bomb, to what purpose and why wait 300 years? Or did you elaborate a longer scenario?

There was originally a longer scenario. I consciously cut the maker and the purpose of the bomb out of the project as I felt it was getting too political. The same happened when I thought who would make a building to display it. The risk with a detailed scenario was that the focus could shift to a broader debate on terrorism, warfare, politics and economics rather then time. I feel there are many interesting implications that the existence of such an object would have, but I felt it was more interesting for an audience to imagine them under their own ideological standing rather then run the risk of going off topic.

Why wait 300 years was a question I answered quite thoroughly, but again it added many layers which were hard to fit in a gallery based installation. Several ideological and political stands are represented in architectural structures that do last hundreds of years. To a radical mind, many of these buildings would represent a threat to future generations. Another scenario would be manufacturing a perfect crime, if the explosive goes off after the maker has died and has been forgotten then there isn't even a suspect. Once more I felt that these two scenarios could be projects on their own and that there were enough elements for people to make up their own stories.

0a7schema8b0f5f9_z.jpg

Sorry for the silly questions but is this a working prototype?

As much as humans enjoy seeing things blow up, this is not a working prototype. I don't have the knowledge or materials required to make a real explosive. I do like that it is convincing enough for this question to get asked though.


What will happen to the time bomb after the show, are you planning to keep it at your house? put it in a super safe place in case an accident happens? (i guess this question makes sense only if you answer 'yes' to the previous question.)

I will keep it in my house. Since it is not a working bomb I am not worried about accidents. However, the home I will store it in is in Mexico City meaning that getting it on an air plane could get a bit tricky, I still have to figure that out.

0a7partae75136984.jpg

I suspect that as an interactions designer you're quite comfortable with working with electronics. But with this time bomb, you had to think extra long term. Pieces of electronics are usually not meant to last more than a few years or decades in some cases. So did you change anything in the way you worked, the materials you used, knowing it would have to last 300 years?

This was the thing I spent the most time with. I had to make electronics that would at least be perceived to last 300 years. The first thing I thought about was the battery (represented by a glass cylinder filled with black liquid). I found an experimental battery being developed at MIT called Cambridge Crude which is supposed to be efficient at storing and delivering electricity.

Then I thought about the display. This is where most of the attention would be as this is where the concept of the project is represented. I had to redesign the standard 7-segment display in a way that it would be read as energy efficient for my scenario to be plausible. I started designing a typeface based on it being energy efficient rather than readable or elegant.

When I started looking for materials to manufacture this, I came across organic LEDs (OLEDs) which are very energy efficient and can be printed in any shape. They are however still very experimental technology. By chance, I met with people from Polyphotonix, a U.K. based OLED company that sponsored and manufactured the display. They made all the individual panels for it by printing the OLED compounds onto conductive glass, this was particularly hard to connect as glass cannot be soldered and I had to come up with a mechanical way of getting electricity to the glass.

The nice thing about using custom made OLEDs is that they are very different from any existing display. Not being a standard part, no one really knows how long they'll last so the scenario becomes plausible as a result of looking at a new technology that people aren't used to seeing.

0lum5362_7429c54194.jpg

Your text says "The bomb's timer displays the years in seconds making us question what meaning such a large number holds and changing our dramatic relationship with countdown timers." could you explain in more details what you mean by that?

Being heavily influenced by action films, I realized that any countdown timer has a dramatic element to it. That was the first thing I explored when I thought of the bomb, how will the suspense hold for so long? That would be the first effect very long lasting electronics would have on this system. I made a short animated video early in the project to explore how that 5-4-3-2-1 moment would collapse when the countdown has a massive number on display.

Thanks Diego!
All images courtesy DIego Trujillo.

Question of the month: How often has that ugly toaster appeared on my homepage?

This is already the 8th episode of the art and science show i've been recording for ResonanceFM.

This week i'm talking to speculative designer Thomas Thwaites. We will discuss that toaster of course but we also look at some of his other projects. In particular, Unlikely Objects: Products of a Counterfactual History of Science, a work that explore what our scientific knowledge would have been like had the Darwinian revolution never happened.

0bouuuu8ok1.jpg

The radio show is broadcast today Monday 9nd July at 16.30 (GMT.) There will be a repeat on Thursday at 22.30. You can catch it online if you don't live in London. And of course we have podcasts (i just need to find a good place for them on the blog.)

I hope you like it!

7th episode of the art and science show i've been recording for ResonanceFM.

Just like last week, i went to Battersea to interview some of the new graduates of the Design Interactions department at RCA.

0battersea_5c0d8cf19d.jpg

0w-cloud-bot-1.jpg
Nimbus MkIII - a 'pareidolic robot' that identifies forms and faces in clouds

In order of appearance: Joseph Popper proposes to send one person on a journey into deep space from where they will never return, Neil Usher designed a robot that finds human faces in the clouds, Shing Tat Chung looks at what would happen if traders and estate agents gave free reign to superstition and Tobias Revell talks about the timeline that charts the history of power up to the early 22nd century and how that 24/7 banking ship fits into the picture.

The radio show is broadcast tomorrow Monday 2nd July at 16.30 (GMT.) There will be a repeat on Thursday at 22.30. You can catch it online if you don't live in London. And of course we have podcasts (i just need to find a good place for them on the blog.)

I hope you like it!

koby_07.jpg
Elvis's mouse model. 2 clones

One of the most curious, amusing and thought-provoking projects of the Design Interactions graduation show this year asks questions that range from 'What is more important in making us who we are: our genes or the experiences we go through in life?' to Can a mouse be Elvis? and Does buying a pre-owned item gives one the legal right to another individual's genetic data?

The project is called All That I Am and with it, Koby Barhad suggests that we could create an Elvis mouse using a specially-designed set of training cages and 3 online services.

koby_02.jpg
Installation view

The first online stop is Ebay where the designer bought a hair from Elvis Presley for $22. He sent it to a gene sequencing lab that advertise its services online. The scientists working at the lab are able to identify different behavioural traits (such as sociability, athletic performance, obesity or addiction) from one speck of hair. Koby then sent the data collected about the genes to another lab which is able to produce transgenic mice clones with parallel traits. The result is a mouse that is a genetically cloned model of Elvis.

In parallel to the works performed by these laboratories, Koby has been studying the scientific mouse model environments that have been used on lab mice over the past 100 years. The cages have been designed to study and manipulate psychological aspects of mice.

Koby then made his own cages. But his were intended to reconstruct some of the most influential moments in the life of Elvis. Each of these cages offers a specific environment that is designed to influence the psychology of the mouse and make it closer to Elvis'.

Some of the main themes that the designer identified as being influential in making Elvis are: his close relationship with his mother (and so the mouse is given a mouse companion), being the victim of bullying when he was a child (in this cage, the mouse is submitted to external stimuli that frightens it), the discovery of his talents, becoming a star (features a distorted mirror that makes the mouse appear bigger), the Graceland period (in every place the mouse pokes nose, it gets a positive reaction in the shape of food or toys and keeps filling the cage to the point making it anxious), the army, the death of mum, the divorce from Priscilla are events that are represented by a cage that functions as an isolation chamber. The last cage embodies the last three years of the life of Elvis, when he worked himself to death, that period is represented by a little treadmill at the top of the cages. The mouse would run, run, run and eventually fall down.

koby_04.jpg
Cage 01- Childhood

koby_05.jpg
Cage 4 - Commodity (Graceland)

koby_03.jpg
Cage 06 - Escape (end)

Koby didn't push the project to the point of having a genetically engineered mouse go though all these cages, that would have been far too cruel for the animal but his project do make us wonder if one day it will be possible to enter a new kind of pet shop and ask for a dog, a fish or a cat that no only has the same genetic traits as a pop icon or a historical figure but also behaves like them.

I had many questions for Koby when i met him at the show, here are the two that i later submitted him via email:

Hi Koby! Did you think of the ethical aspects of manipulating a mouse through this series of experiences that reflect the life of a celebrity? Or more generally of having one day the possibility of 'creating' a dog through a series of experiences so that it will behave like Madonna or Lady Di?

I think that the distance between producing purebred animals like dogs and cats and a "Elvis mouse" is unfortunately not to far. In approximately 70 years of experiment - Dmitry K. Belyaev showed how we, by selection, made a domestic dog out of an aggressive wild fox. I think that the only different with making genetically modified pets to fill some human needs (loneliness, compassion, social class etc. or pure entertainment ) is the time it takes.

Of course to my perception both are distorted and equally unethical, but what is more interesting to me is that by creating something like a "Madonna dog" we might develop bigger problems. In a society that imitate it's celebrity models, having your own living model of Madonna might start blur the borders between the two. Madonna as a model vs. Madonna's model. And this is, for me, the most important ethical question that seats in the heart of this project: Do we become our models or do we make them to become ourselves?.

koby_06.jpg

To develop your project, you contacted several scientific advisers. How did they react to your idea of making an Elvis mouse through genetic manipulation and a series of experiences that mirror the most significant moments of the life of Elvis?
And did they have their own answers to the questions your work raises? Do they feel for example, that genes are far more crucial than the experiences we go through in life to making us who we are?

All the scientists I was in touch with made a clear distinction between the scientific aspects of the project and the philosophical and entertaining qualities of it. For scientists, making an Elvis Presley mouse model is just a way to play or communicate some possibilities or processes but it has nothing to do with fixing a "serious" human problem. Some looked at the Elvis model and were amazed to see models that they have been working with, making them re-think and wonder for a short second...

The project takes advantage of different uncertainties to produce what seem to be a "fact", so all the answers were left open. In terms of the legal aspect of owning a DNA they didn't want to take any chance - In a lab you cannot use human DNA without his agreement. But as a lawful owner of one of Elvis Presley's hairs I would argue that I should make this decision. As for the Nature Nurture issue, It is an endless loop of debates that no one can give a clear and satisfying answer. For example, one of the scientists I worked with told me of a talk she had with a tennis instructor after our experiment showed that "Patient X" didn't have the ability to be an athlete (ACTN3 gene). The Tennis instructor insisted that anyone can be a great athlete if they'll make the effort, and she, looking at the molecular side of it said that he can try but the physiology would allow it. The work is a reflection of this never ending battle between genetic, epigenetic, psychology and circumstances.

Thanks Koby!

And because i believe that no one will ever be as cool as Elvis...

All images courtesy Koby Barhad.
The works of Design Interactions graduates remain on view at the The RCA show at the Battersea location (see map) until 1 July (closed 29 June.)

 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10 
sponsored by: