The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on Resonance104.4fm, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

This week I'm going to be talking with Antony Hall. I interviewed Antony many many years ago and his work is as interesting as ever. Antony creates kinetic artworks; sculptures and installations, often using sonic, mechanical, fluidic, electronic or biological elements. But in the show we will focus on Owl Project, the artist collective that Antony forms together with Simon Blackmore and Steve Symons.


~Flow Documentary (Short Edit)

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Log1k


Owl Project, SoundLathe

Owl Project works with wood and electronics to create musical and sculptural instruments that question human interaction with computer interfaces and our increasing appetite for new and often disposable technologies.

The work of Owl Project goes from simple ironic devices such as the iLog which is a log that thinks it is a music player to large scale installations such as ~Flow, a floating tidal waterwheel powered  electro acoustic musical instrument responding to the river Tyne in Newcastle. Owl Project has also toured festivals and events with their rather ingenious Sound Lathe, a musical instrument based on a traditional green wood turning pole lathe that explores the relationship between the crafting of physical objects and the shaping of sound.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 5 March at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.
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The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

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The Biological Bakery, 2014

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Algae Curtain, 2012

My guests in the studio will be Mathias Gmachl and Rachel Wingfield from Loop.pH. The work of the London-based studio speculates on near and far future scenarios as a way to probe at the social and environmental impact of emerging biological and technological futures. Some of their most renown projects include collaborating with a Nobel prize winner to communicate the functioning of molecular machines, designing a curtain made of algae that produce bio-fuel, setting up an edible DIY bio fab-lab for the video of Aussie band Architecture In Helsinki, creating an immersive sound and light performance that explores the field of neuroscience and investigating the possibilities of living architecture.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 5 February at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.

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Ron Haselden, Fête. Photo Chris Hill

A couple of weeks ago, i was in Derry/Londonderry. It was my first trip to Northern Ireland. Beautiful landscapes as i'm sure everybody knows, super friendly people, vegan-approved yummy food at the Legenderry Warehouse, some stunning socially-engages exhibitions i'll tell you about later and a city-wide event called Lumiere. Lumiere is a festival of 17 projections and installations that lit up as the night came onto the city. It is a crowd-magnet, a place to bring your family and marvel at what artists and designers can do with light. But don't be mistaken: some of the works had depth and bite.

Here's some of my favourite:

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Cleary Connolly, Change Your Stripes. Photo Chris Hill

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Cleary Connolly, Change Your Stripes. Photo Denis Connolly

I don't think i would have been that impressed had i seen Change Your Stripes by Ann Cleary and Denis Connolly inside a gallery. But in the street of Derry, when evening is coming and people are out to walk the dog and stumble upon the installation, it gains a touch of magic. The artwork only comes to life as you walk past.

The huge ondulating black and white stripes are projected on the facade of the Derry Credit Union. They move as people walk by it. Passersby silhouettes are multiplied and distorted in a fluid, dancing stream like in a living version of a fairground Hall of Mirrors.

At this point, i feel like i should add a few words about Derry/Londonderry's political context. First of all because i found the installation to be absolutely brilliant but far less fascinating than the surrounding Bogside murals. And second because it is difficult to avoid mentioning politics when you find yourself in a city which carries political tensions in its very name(s). Please skip the coming paragraph if, unlike me, you are not crassly ignorant about the local history.

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The Free Derry Corner might be a good introduction to the whole Derry or Londonderry issue. It was painted in 1969, shortly after the Battle of the Bogside, one of the first major confrontations of The Troubles, the 30-ish year old conflict about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between the unionists and loyalists (the mostly Protestant community who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK) and the Irish nationalists and republicans (the Catholic community who dreamed of a united Ireland.) If you're a nationalist you'll call the city Derry, and if you're a unionists you'll use the name Londonderry.

Now allow me to open a parenthesis. From now on i will refer to Derry/Londonderry as 'the city'. I'm already tired of typing that double name over and over. End of the parenthesis .

The sum up above is a bit rough but that should provide you with some context. The Bogside is also the area where Bloody Sunday took place in 1972.

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The Petrol Bomber (Battle of the Bogside), painted in 1994. Image by Keith Ruffles

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Bloody Sunday Mural. Photo by Keith Ruffles

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Operation Motorman, The Summer Invasion. Image by Keith Ruffles

But let's get back to Lumiere.

Some artists openly engaged with the local context, others didn't. As was to be expected, Krzysztof Wodiczko created a sharp, deeply moving work about local people's perception and memories of the past conflicts and their hopes for the future of the city.

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Krzysztof Wodiczko, Public Projection Derry-Londonderry, at Lumiere Derry 2013. Photo Chris Hill


Krzysztof Wodiczko, Projection at Lumiere Festival Derry Londonderry Ireland. Video by Maria Niro

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Krzysztof Wodiczko, Public Projection Derry-Londonderry. Photo Maria Niro

Public Projection for Derry~Londonderry was a series of extracts from interviews the artist had conducted with local people. Their words were screened from an ambulance (a fairly ubiquitous vehicle during The Troubles) onto several facades throughout the city .

Wodiczko talked to a cross-section of people, from ex-police officers to victims of the Troubles, from young people growing up in the aftermath of the conflict to people who had got into troubles for being on the 'wrong' side of the political divide at a certain time.

I saw people with tears in their eyes in the crowd....

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A Stitch in Time, Tim Etchells, 2013, Photo Chris Hill

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Tim Etchells piece being lifted into place on the roof of Rosemount Shirt Factory. Instagram by Artichoke

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Tim Etchells, A Stitch In Time. Picture Martin McKeown

Tim Etchells installed a few words that paid homage to Derry-Londonderry's shirt-making industrial past on top of the old Rosemount Shirt Factory.

The work was 23 metre long and 2-metre high making it visible from afar.

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Deepa Mann-Kler">Deepa Mann-Kler, Teenage Kicks. Photo via saatchi online

And so was Teenage Kicks. By this time, you've figured how much i (and the Lumiere festival) like to see big letters invading a city.

The 30m-long neon sign reading "A teenage dream's so hard to beat" sat on top of the city's BT building. It was inspired by the 1978 pop song of the same name, the greatest hit of Derry band, The Undertones.

"My impetus for this artwork is to celebrate a key moment from the history and culture of Derry," explained Deepa Mann-Kler. "I am an Indian woman who grew up in England, but came to live in Northern Ireland in March 1996. One of my abiding memories while growing up in Leicester, were of Northern Ireland during The Troubles, the TV footage of the army, rioting, and then the music of The Undertones."

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photograph by Chris Hill

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photo Martin McKeown

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photo Martin McKeown


Fire Garden. Video by Derry~Londonderry 2013

Fire Garden by Compagnie Carabosse lit up the whole St. Columb's Park and made you feel like you had just stepped into the set of one of those lavish BBC period drama.

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Holywell Trust and the Nerve Centre, The Empty Plinth. Photograph by Chris Hill

The empty plinth was originally topped by a statue of Governor Walker, until it was bombed (twice) by the IRA in 1973/4. It has remained unadorned since then.

Nerve Centre and Holywell Trust gave it a new life with a simple column of white light, as a symbol of togetherness and tolerance of a protestant and catholic cultural identity.

These sound like suitable words to close the post.

A few more images though...
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Daan Roosegaarde, Marbles. Picture Martin McKeown

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RMS Design, Grove of Oaks. Picture Martin McKeown

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The Lumiere public. Via Telegraph Belfast

Lumiere was produced by Artichoke for Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013.

Related: Krzysztof Wodiczko: The Abolition of War.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

I've finally gone through all the images and texts i made and received from the GAMERZ festival in Aix-en-Provence. There's a ridiculously high amount of new artists and works i'd like to blog about but let's start with what i think were the smartest and most elegant works in the festival. Both play with perception, both are by Luce Moreau, a member of the collective Otto-prod.

The first one is Constance, an installation set on the roof of one of the buildings of the School of Fine Arts in Aix-en-Provence and visible at night from a distance of several kilometers. Constance's 3 powerful laser axis were shining orthogonally from a box attached to a motorized equatorial frame (motorization by Patrick Reybaud). An equatorial frame is an instrument that astronomers attach to telescopes and cameras so that they can stay fixed on any object in the sky. The equatorial mount moves imperceptibly but steadily, thus canceling its own driving force by earth movement. The origin of the three axes remains with it in one point in space, as if in weightlesness.


Luce Moreau, Pulsar, 2012

The second work she was showing is Pulsar which also makes use of the equatorial mount. This time the artist filmed a perfectly immobile sun. She used an old camera which -see explanations below- is protecting itself from the powerful light of the sun by opening and closing its diaphragm.

Luce has otherwise a pretty spectacular portfolio. Have a look at Landmarks. She interrupted otherwise mundane landscapes with a system of mirrors that reflect sun rays in the direction of the camera lens.

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Jazbine, from the series Landmarks, 2010

But back to Constance and Pulsar. I asked Luce if she could give us more details about the works. The Q&A is below and if you scroll down you can also read her answers in french. Here we go...

Hi Luce! The lasers of Constance are visible from afar. How far away exactly? Why is it important that the rays can be seen from such a distance?

This is the first version of the Constance installation, it's a beta version for which I worked with a Slovakian workshop which specializes in renting lasers. We worked on making this special box containing three lasers oriented orthogonally to each other. We opted for the most powerful model they had (10 to 12 W), so that the lasers can reach as far as possible. Currently the laser rays can be seen from a distance of a few kilometers, but I can not measure exactly the distance at which we "lose sight" of them. The installation aims to disrupt our daily and familiar landscapes, punctuate our environment with this colorful landmark so that we start considering our relationship to time and space. It acts as a kind of clock at the scale of the landscape, it's a mechanism that we must decipher.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

And how do people who know nothing about this art installation interpret them when they see them in the sky?

I think that it depends on the context. During GAMERZ, Constance was central, located in the heart of the festival, in the city center. In this case, the global three rays were only visible from the outside of the city, and from a certain height. Festival goers and residents of the city center might have been intrigued and even perhaps attracted by these strings of light which 'hung' above their heads and led to the festival. It became more interesting when the public was in close proximity of work (less than 10 m.) The curious could walk around the installation and see the rays at their maximum strength. The proximity doesn't really allow you to understand the lasers movement, on the other hand, it offers an excellent visibility of the 3D effect.

When Constance is presented in Pau (13, 15 and 16 November at the festival Accès-s Cultures Électroniques), it will be in a completely different context. Installed on top of a hill outside the city, the work should offer the residents of Pau and its environs a more mysterious, distant vision. The imperceptible movement of lasers will be more apprehensible for visitors and locals. They see more clearly the path traveled over a few hours, but it will be less easy for them to observe the work from up close.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

Can exhibition visitors ever perceive what is happening?

I think visitors are first impressed by the power and finesse of the rays, the colors vibrate in a very particular way, and represent many threads stretched between them and the universe. Then they understand the immobility of the green ray, and see that its extremity points to a star, Polaris. From that moment, and with the help of some explanations if needed, everything falls into place and the installation awakens what lies dormant in a corner of the brain: our understanding of the world, our planet in its system, its infinity, and all the vertigo that it implies! Two visitors gave me their diametrically opposed impressions. The first experienced a sense of vertiginous emptiness, the installation embodying the oblique axis of our position on earth. The second person talked about being reassured by having a beacon, a landmark in this enormous universe.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Installation of Constance for the GAMERZ festival. Photo by Luce Moreau

The installation uses a motorized equatorial mount. Could you explain how it works and where/how you discovered about it?

I've discovered this system while I was working at the Observatory of Provence (OHP-CNRS) in the Summer of 2011.

I had the idea of ​​photographing or filming a landscape, freed from the movement of the Earth and I was curious to see how that would turn up. So I started thinking about a traveling rail system, calculating the speed of the rotation of the earth, obsessing over many practical details... Then one day while chatting with an amateur astronomer (Olivier Labrevoir), I found out about the equatorial mount, a very simple tool that sky watchers have used for decades to follow sidereal objects (stars, planets, etc. ) and that would allow me to get the effect i was looking for. The principle of this tripod is to rotate the visualization object (telescope, or photo and video cameras in my case) around a central axis, the axis being parallel to the axis of rotation of the Earth. To do this, the axis must point to the Pole Star, which happens to be very close to the geographic north of our planet and is therefore the only one that stand still when the earth rotates on its axis. This movement is motorized, the motors follow the exact same speed as the earth, but in the opposite direction. The camera is thus 'immobile'. It floats in weightlessness! And so is our point of view...

You used the equatorial mount in several of your work. Why do you find this point of view on our surrounding so fascinating?

I find this tool fascinating as for me, it represents a shift in meaning, the power to be in a state of weightlessness without leaving the ground ... a unique perspective that I had never experienced before, which is one of perfectly precise static condition. In order to explain the process, I often compare it to a jump that stays frozen in the air and that allows you to observe the planet that continues revolving. But without us. This is a levitation, a slow and gradual flying process, an experience and perspective I wanted to share.

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Pulsar, 2012 (view at the GAMERZ festival 2013)

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Pulsar, 2012 (view at the GAMERZ festival 2013)

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Shooting Pulsar

Do you have drawings or other image that would show visually the process used to make Pulsar? (mostly because i cannot understand very well how it was made)

Unfortunately I don't :) but i can explain:

Pulsar is filmed using the same tripod but this time the sole purpose is to focus on the sun and keep it stationary in the frame. The camera is an old, obsolete and fragile camera which "prints" momentarily the bright lights onto its sensor. In an effort to draw an analogy between the human eye and the camera sensor, I wanted to take advantage of this flaw and obtain a set of persistence of vision. The intermittent closure of the diaphragm is an automatic protection of the camera, which closes its "lid" when it feels assaulted by too much light. If you were standing next to the camera, you would see the diaphragm ring oscillating from 16 (minimum aperture) to C (total closure.) The camera is protecting itself from the offensive and destructive sun.

Merci Luce!

Constance is a co-production M2FCréations, Accès-s Cultures Électroniques and Otto-Prod. Check out Luce's work at the Soleils Numériques festival ACCES(S), from 10 to 23 November in Pau and around, France.

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And now for the version in french:

The lasers of Constance are visible from afar. How far away exactly? Why is it important that the rays can be seen from such a distance?

L'installation Constance en est à sa première version, une version bêta pour laquelle j'ai travaillé avec un atelier slovaque de location lasers. On a collaboré sur la fabrication de ce boîtier spécial renfermant trois lasers orientés de façon orthogonale les uns par rapport aux autres ; nous avons choisi ce qu'ils avaient de plus puissants (de 10 à 12 W), afin que les lasers se voient du plus loin possible. Actuellement nous pouvons voir les rayons lasers jusqu'à quelques kilomètres, mais je ne peux pas savoir exactement à quelle distance nous les "perdons de vue". L'installation a pour but de perturber nos paysages familiers et quotidiens, d'annoter notre environnement de ce repère coloré afin d'être amené à considérer notre rapport au temps et à l'espace. Une sorte d'horloge à l'échelle du paysage, un mécanisme qu'il nous faut déchiffrer.

And how do people who know nothing about this art installation interpret them when they see them in the sky?

Je pense que cela dépend du contexte ; lors du Fetsival GAMERZ, Constance était centrale, installée au coeur du festival, dans le centre ville. Dans ce cas précis, les trois rayons n'étaient visibles ensemble que de l'extérieur de la ville, d'un point de vue en hauteur ; les festivaliers et habitants du centre ont pu être ntrigués, peut-être attirés par ces fils de lumière au-dessus de leurs têtes, qui menaient au festival. L'intérêt que j'y ai trouvé était la proximité du public face à l'oeuvre : les plus curieux pouvaient graviter autour de l'installation à moins de 20 mètres et voir les faisceux dans leur puissance maximum. La proximité permet moins de comprendre le mouvement iopéré par les lasers, mais offre une visibilité privilégiée de l'effet de 3D.

Lorsque que Constance sera présentée à Pau (les 13, 15 et 16 novembre au festival Accès-s Cultures Électroniques), ce sera dans un tout autre contexte ; installée sur les hauteurs d'une colline, à l'extérieur de la ville, elle devrait offrir aux habitants de Pau et de ses environs une vision plus mystérieuse, lointaine. Le mouvement imperceptible des lasers sera ainsi plus compréhensible par les visiteurs et les habitants. Ils verront mieux la trajectoire opérée en quelques heures, mais pourront moins facilement l'observer de près.

How about the exhibition visitors. Can they ever perceive what is happening?

Les visiteurs sont je pense tout d'abord impressionnés par la puissance et la finesse des rayons, dont les couleurs vibrent de façon très particulière, et qui représentent autant de fils tendu entre eux et l'univers. Puis ils comprennent l'immobilité du rayon vert, et voient que son extrémité pointe une étoile, la Polaris ; à partir de ce moment-là; et avec l'aide de quelques explications si besoin, tout se met en place et cette installation excite ce qui vit dans un coin de chaque cerveau : notre appréhension du monde, de notre planète dans son système, son infinité, et tout le vertige que ça sous-entend! Deux visiteurs m'ont ainsi donné leurs impressions contraires : la première avait un sentiment de vide vertigineux, l'installation matérialisant l'oblique de notre position sur terre, quant à la seconde elle était rassurée par le fait d'avoir une balise, un repère dans cet ensemble démesuré.

The installation uses a motorized equatorial mount. Could you explain how it works and where/how you discovered about it?

I've discovered this system while I was working at the Observatory of Provence (OHP-CNRS) in summer 2011. J'avais eu l'idée de photographier, ou filmer un paysage, affranchi du mouvement de la Terre ; j'étais curieuse de voir ce que ça pouvait donner. J'ai donc commencé à réfléchir à un système de rail de travelling, calculer la vitesse de rotation de la terre, me prendre la tête sur beaucoup de points pratiques... Quand au cours d'une conversation avec un astronaume amateur (Olivier Labrevoir) j'appris l'existence de la monture équatoriale, outil très simple dont les observateurs du ciel se servent depuis plusieurs dizaines d'années pour suivre des objets sidéraux (étoiles, planètes, etc) et qui me permettrait d'obtenir le résultat recherché. Le principe de ce trépied est de faire pivoter l'objet de captation (téléscope, ou appareil photo et caméra dans mon cas) autour d'un axe central, cet axe étant parallèle à l'axe de rotation de la Terre. Pour ce faire, l'axe doit pointer l'étoile polaire, qui se trouve être très proche du Nord Géographique de notre planète ; elle est donc la seule à rester immobile lorsque la terre tourne sur son axe. Ce mouvement est motorisé, les moteurs pas à pas vont à l'exacte vitesse de rotation de la terre, en sens inverse ; la caméra fait ainsi du "surplace". Elle est en apesanteur! Et notre point de vue avec elle...

You used the equatorial mount in several of your work. Why do you find this point of view on our surrounding so fascinating?

Je trouve cet outil fascinant car il représente pour moi, par glissement de sens, le pouvoir d'être en état d'apesanteur sans quitter le sol...un point de vue inédit, que je n'avais jamais pu observer auparavant, qui est celui du statisme le plus exact ; souvent pour expliquer le procédé, je parle d'un saut surplace, mais durant lequel on reste figé dans les airs, et durant lequel on peut observer notre planète continuer à tourner, sans nous. C'est une lévitation, un procédé d'envol lent et progressif, et dont je voulais partager le témoignage et le point de vue.

Do you have drawings or other image that would show visually the process used to make Pulsar? (mostly because i cannot understand very well how it was made)

Unfortunately I don't :) mais je peux expliquer :
Pulsar est filmée depuis ce même trépied qui est ici utilisé dans le seul but de centrer le soleil et de le garder immobile dans le cadre. La caméra est une vieille caméra, obsolète et fragile, qui "imprime" momentanément les fortes lumières sur son capteur. Dans une volonté d'analogie entre l'oeil humain et le capteur de la caméra, j'ai voulu profiter de cette lacune et obtenir un jeu de persistance "rétinienne" ; la fermeture intermittente du diaphragme est une protection automatique de la caméra, qui ferme sa "paupière" lorsqu'elle se sent agressée par trop de lumière. Si tu étais surplace aux côtés de la caméra, tu verrais osciller la bague du diaphragme de 16 (ouverture minimum) à C (fermeture totale) ; la caméra se protège de ce soleil offensif et destructeur.

Merci Luce!

Constance est une co-production M2FCréations, Accès-s Cultures Électroniques et Otto-Prod. Le travail de Luce sera au festival Soleils Numériques - ACCES(S), du 10 au 23 Novembre, Pau et agglo, France.

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Shichong Li and The Candy Cloud Cyclone Chamber

Inspired by the environmental work of Diller & Scofidio, the performative and multi-sensory work of Bompas and Parr, and the nostalgia of 1960s event architecture, Shichong Li's project utilises sugar as a base element and 'centrifugal random fibre extrusion' fabrication (candyfloss) to build cloud structures.

Unsatisfied with the scale of the miniature clouds he thus produced, the artist and designer decided to build a candy floss cloud on an architectural scale, with sugar as an ideal base material for a floating semi- rigid architecture. Indeed, sugar can form structured space to be inhabited and engaged with in ways water cannot. These cloud formations create a medium between architecture and inhabitants which aims to stimulate communication and interaction.

Shichong Li's quest to build the ultimate and most efficient candy cloud-making machine is still ongoing. He has spent the past year making prototype after prototype. Often failing but always learning and fine-tuning his creations.

I discovered the Candy Cloud Machine at the graduation show of the Interactive Architecture Studio - Research Cluster 3 at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL. The unit, headed by Ruairi Glynn and Ollie Palmer, focuses on kinetic and interactive design looking at the latest robotics, material and responsive systems while at the same time borrowing from a long history of performative machines and performing arts.

I already mentioned one of the works developed over this one-year postgraduate course: William Bondin's research into self autonomous creature-like structures which take their cue on slime mold and very slowly navigate public parks. The other stand-out work for me was Chong's poetical, elusive and absurd Candy Cloud Machine. I contacted him to ask if he had time to tell us more about his candy cloud adventures.

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Candy floss maker low temperature test -25C

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Sugar feeding test

Hi Chong! What are the physical and technological challenges of creating clouds using sugar rather than water?

Whether they're conscious of it or not, I believe Architects dream of building clouds. Not in the narrow sense of a cloud, but rather architecture which is "cloud like", soft, , ephemeral, responsive, light etc. Water doesn't have to be the base component and so I explored sugar for its inherent properties.

The cloud-like architecture is candy floss. There are many challenges in making clouds using candy floss. These challenges can be summed up into two parts. The first one is the process of creating the clouds, the second one is to keep them floating in the air. During the process of creating candy floss, the tricky parts are the control of the heating temperature and the proper moment of sugar feeding. The heating temperature have to be controlled and stabilized between 186℃ to 200℃ and a proper amount sugar has to be fed continually. After the candy floss has been created, and because it is heavier than the air, it has to be blow up by in the air so that it creates a cloud. That requires me to design a system to control everything at the same time, which is complex but also interesting to design.

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The first candy floss making experiment

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Candy Cloud Cyclone Chamber test

Could you describe some of the prototypes you developed in your quest to make a candy cloud machine? Why do you think the experiments failed?

Sure! The first and second prototypes were built following a study of the mechanical principles to make a candy floss maker. The heating and rotating systems have to be tested properly and they will be the base of the next step studies. These experiments were successful in a way. But as the research moves along, the air control and generating system have became the biggest challenges.

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Laminar air flow generator (LAFG)

The third and fourth prototypes, for example, are wind tunnel systems, they were designed following the study of air driving system. The third one is called Laminar air flow generator (LAFG). Laminar air is a type of flow where the motion of the particles of fluid occurs in orderly straight movement. Compressed air is blown into a perforated wind box. The wind box has the shape of a circular ring surrounding the candy floss maker, which blows the candy floss up smoothly. I was thinking of using laminar air which is stable enough to hold candy floss. However, the results of the LAFG experiment show that the airflow looses a large amount of energy in the box and at the edges of holes. The outward-streaming airflow is too weak to drive the candy floss upwards.

The second air control system tested was a multi-fan system. In order to solve the problem of insufficient air flow in the LAFG, this design comprised eight powerful axial fans to blow air into the chamber directly.

Because the design used axial fans as driving forces, the airflow is no longer not laminar. A new problem was the vortex flow in the chamber. The vortex flow led to circulating air in the cylinder; air did not go straight up and candyfloss was sucked into the gap between the candyfloss maker and the fans, making all the candyfloss stick to the edge.

Despite the fact that the attempts of the Candy Cloud Machine air control system failed, these first experiences are worth studying. Firstly, the candyfloss itself is light, but the air power needed to drive it upwards cannot be low. Because the candyfloss structure doesn't have a surface which can hold airflow, the air can permeate the gaps between the candyfloss fibres. Secondly, small-scale installations are inappropriate to test aerodynamics. According to knowledge gained in the multi-fan system test, the circulating air has a strong influence on the vortex, as the air in the chamber is highly limited. The circulating air and the vortex interact with each other and destroy the air system. These experiences and lessons are an important basis for the development of the project.

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The shed in exhibition

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The shed in exhibition

The final project on view at the show right now is a cabin. Could you explain what the cabin is about? Why did you decide to show a wooden cabin rather than a modified candy floss machine?

The final fabrication machine- the Candy Cloud Cyclone Chamber, is too big to be exhibited so, inspired by the nostalgia of British Garden Shed Inventors, I've presented the project as an inhabitable portfolio. Visitors could search through the drawings, tastes and sugars, and examine the prototypes.

Now that your thesis is done and you graduated, are you planning to push the cloud machine further? To try and develop it until you reach the kind of candy cloud machine you were dreaming of?

Yes, the research of the cloud dream is still ongoing, and I am still trying to further develop the candy cloud machines. The fascination held by clouds offers designers a multitude of ways of thinking about space and designing in architectural practice. This story of clouds is a framework for future studies and design works. The role of designers and architects with an understanding of 'cloud theory' must be to use their knowledge to embark upon a 'higher' architectural approach.

Thanks Chong!

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Drawing of candy cloud machine central control panel

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Elevation of the final candy floss maker

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Section of the final candy floss maker

Also from RC3: Morphs, the architectural creatures that behave like slime mould.
Check also Pixelache's Cotton Candy experiments.

Last week, i mentioned my quick trip to Leiden to see the winning projects of the third edition of the Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award, an international competition that gives artists and designers the opportunity to collaborate with life science institutions carrying out research into the genetic makeup of people, animals, plants and microorganisms.

One of the winning works is The Living Mirror, a 'bio-installation' that combines magnetic bacteria with electronics and photo manipulation to create liquid, 3D portraits. The piece was developed by Laura Cinti & Howard Boland from the art-science collective C-Lab in partnership with AMOLF, a research institute focusing on nanophotonics and physics of biomolecular systems

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Image C-Lab

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Image C-Lab

Living Mirror involves cultivating magnetotactic bacteria, a group of bacteria able to orient along the magnetic field lines of Earth's magnetic field. The artists collected the bacteria and used an array of tiny electromagnetic coils to shift the magnetic field, causing the bacteria rapidly reorient their body that changes how light is scattered. The resultant effect can be seen as a light pulse or a shimmer. Taking pixel values from darker and lighter areas in captured images, [C-Lab] programmatically harmonise hundreds of light pulses to re-represent the image inside a liquid culture.

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Image C-Lab

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Image C-Lab

I had a quick Q&A with the artists:

Hi Laura and Howard! The Living Mirror, to me at least, almost belongs to the world of magic.It uses software, hardware and wetware. It is a particularly complex project. How did you know it would work out in the end? And what were the biggest challenges you encountered during its development?

Indeed, as a work it has been a very ambitious undertaking that integrates quite complex processes of wetware, software and hardware. We had to work very closely with various types of engineering disciplines and work as engineers ourselves. Over the past few months we built several prototypes to help us understand how a magnetic culture of bacteria might work. In the beginning when we worked on pulling biomass our biggest challenge was to generate enough bacteria and have a system that could produce a significant magnetic pulling force.

The interactive art installation was aimed at producing real-time images using living bacteria - but pulling biomass was slow. When we discovered that these bacteria produced a shimmering effect in real-time we were intrigued and felt that this was a better phenomenon to pursue and also allowed us to work with much lower magnetic forces. By changing the magnetic field we were seeing bacteria rapidly switching direction in a synchronic rotation causing light to scatter and producing a visible shimmer. So the major challenges we have encountered so far has been cultivating these bacteria and producing the electronic boards needed for approximately 250 individual magnetic coils.

There are many unknowns in the project which is what makes it quite exciting for us - having living bacteria respond in real-time is not something we experience on a visual scale we are accustomed to and finding out whether this system will be able to produce shimmering pixels that can form a portrait image is to be seen in the weeks to come.

To see the shimmering effect we observe, please see these videos below:


Bacteria scattering light at different magnetic speed


M. gryphiswaldense on magnetic stirrer

In LIVING MIRROR, multiple pulsating waves of bacteria are made to form a pixelated image using electromagnetic coils that shift magnetic fields across surface areas. By taking pixel values from darker and lighter areas in captured images, LIVING MIRROR programmatically attempts to harmonise hundreds of light pulses to re-represent the image inside a liquid culture.

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Image C-Lab

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Image C-Lab

In the proposal you wrote for the competition, you say that "Recent years have seen the human body reconfigured as an ecosystem of mostly non-human bacterial cells. Together with fungi and human cells, these form our complex 'superorganism', an image the work seeks to renegotiate by literally reflecting and fleshing out these ideas." Could you elaborate what you mean by that?

Until recently, our understanding of human 'self' was, at least biologically speaking, thought to be 'human' cells. This perspective is now understood to include microbial communities and interestingly, these microbial cells not only outnumber our own 'human' cells but our bodies contain significantly more of microbial DNA than our own genome. (Our bodies contain a mere 10 per cent of human cells and 90 per cent microbial cells). In this sense our bodies can be seen as a 'superorganisms' - working collectively as a unified organism or an ecosystem.

As a liquid biological mirror, LIVING MIRROR draws on the idea of water as our first interface predating today's screen-based digital technologies. It points to the myth of Narcissus who fell in love with his own image by believing it was someone else in the water reflection. Drawn into the image, he tragically drowned - a reminder of how we continue to immerse ourselves in similar mirrors as we extend our identity into the virtual. Simultaneously, the work highlights how contemporary science has shattered the idea of our own body by recognising that we are mostly made up of non-human bacterial cells. These ideas have shaped digital and biological understandings of our human self and are technically and conceptually reflected in LIVING MIRROR.

A living mirror is a very seducing idea. Do you see possible applications for it? Or was it just an artistic experiment?

Throughout the project we have been in communication with many leading researchers and there are certainly some specific technological overlaps (i.e. possible use of shimmer as a magnetic measurement or methods for orienting or guiding cells). As a display what can be seen is certainly different to existing technologies and LIVING MIRROR remains a research-based artwork.

Thanks Laura and Howard!

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Image C-Lab

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Image C-Lab

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Image C-Lab

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Image C-Lab


Video of Prototype #2 with Magnetotactic Bacteria in Continuous Vessel (9 coils)

Flickr set + videos

The Living Mirror and the other winning projects of DA4GA are on view until 15 December at Raamsteeg2 in Leiden, in The Netherlands.
Previously: Ergo Sum - The creation of a second self using stem cell technology and The Fish Bone Chapel.

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