Tutorial Transcript

Hi Kiers
Kiers 11:00
I have a 120 mph wind blowing here which is making the internet less than perfect
hopefully it wont disrupt us too much..!
Ah. I hope you’re inside
Kiers 11:01
Ha yep certainly am
The dogs dont want to go out!
I have a chicken pox infested 1 year old, but he seems quite happy right now
Kiers 11:02
better early than late!
Yep. Moving on, I wonder how you’re getting on with your extrusion machine idea, and whether this has evolved at all. I have a few ideas…
Kiers 11:03
It has evolved considerably
Should I pass you a link or have you read the blog?
I was looking at the blog earlier – are you still thinking of going down the route of the archimedes screw-type arrangement?
Kiers 11:06
the substrate is too viscous for that to work. It will require mechanical pressure.
its basically like wet sand or wet compost, but its a bit sticky from the starch.
when 100% dry its as hard as stone.
I had several ideas. The really expensive juicing machines that can churn up nuts, make nut butter, wheatgrass juice etc, have a screw type mechanism that tapers. The waste (or butter) emerges from the end as a long snake-like cylinder. This sort of thing could be created by regular 3D printing methods, and driven by a geared servo controlled by an Arduino board
I think you have to look towards food processing technology for your mechanical inspiration
Kiers 11:10
Not sure. The problem is that the sand is an essential component.
Its not just fibre.
The first material experiments were 100% organic materials.
But recently I’ve been adding sands and even small pebbles.
And the mix that works the best is a mixture of the two.
Well, you can pump sand as part of a substrate. That’s how shotcrete works.
And the stone spray project: http://www.stonespray.com/
Kiers 11:11
I’ve been making seed-starch-flour shapes too because the result is almost white and means I can tint it more easily. But its a terrible material to work with. Very sticky and takes ages to dry.
Dont forget the project needs to be 100% biodegradable. So no chemicals!
I think the material experiments are more or less behind me now. I’m very happy with that part of the project. The results I have are really great. They meet all requirements.
The issue now is mechanical..!!
OK. The reason for my enquiry was to do with the mechanical, and technology requirements of the project. This is clearly going to be vital for your project to work
Kiers 11:16
I just read your comment about pumping sand – yep I know this and this is how I’m now looking to move the material. I think the main issue is wide tubes and high pressure.
Ah. Good
I just wanted to make sure that yo have a handle on this aspect of the project. I’m sure you do, but I’ve seen many projects fail through lack of practical knowledge
Kiers 11:18
Two experiments planned this weekend.
1 – to manually build a tower as high as it will go.
2 – to manually pump up the gel substrate through tubes – but by using a pump system that can be mechanised by simply adding a motor.
This thing is going to be autonomous, right?
Kiers 11:20
I do have practical knowledge. I’ve been tinkering for years. But I wont say its easy. It is a blockage at the moment. But I’ve drawn a line with the materials. Very happy with the results there. And the concept for the project has changed considerably in the last 6 weeks. I feel as though the main issue now is to get results to these two experiments, and then automate the tower-tube building process as quickly as possible.
Yeh – the idea is that at the start of the exhibition the machine is turned on and let free. All I have done for it is to create the material substrate. At the end of the fortnight the machine will have created several towers which by that point will have burst into green sprouts.
Is there still an AI aspect to the project?
Kiers 11:22
Depends on how geeky you want to get with the definitition of an AI.
There is still a programmed aspect with the outcome determined by changing variables.
The height of the tower, and the colour of the substrate used for each layer will be determined by response to a data feed from the exhibition space.
Ah. What kind of data? I suppose there could be atmospheric variables (temperature, humidity, ambient light) that relate to the organic nature of the project
Kiers 11:24
I would like it to be social data.
But honestly, this is the part of the project I have thought about the least. Programming is my strongest skill related to this project, so I am leaving that bit till last.
I figure it just depends on what sensors I use and how I use the data. Its not a huge part of the project in terms of work. The material and the machine are the supporting pillars of the piece I think.
That’s true, and to a large extent it will be determined by the space itself. My only worry is the rather loose coupling between what sensors can typically “sense” and what constitutes “social” in this context
Kiers 11:28
I understand.
Well, probably things like noise and movement will be key.
I think it might be wise to give this a little thought – perhaps a video / facial recognition system would be more appropriate
Noise is of course easy to sense
in a very crude way
Kiers 11:29
I am sort of thinking about this machine as an organic entity that responds to activity around it.
So, either it likes or dislikes the people being around it.
With a direct effect on how the towers are made and coloured.
Well.. ‘direct’
One thing I want to avoid is turning the piece into a visualisation of the sensor data.
If its predictable that a loud environment results in a tall tower or a red ring inside a tower then I will feel as though the project has failed.
That’s tricky
Kiers 11:31
Unpredictability is important.
It needs to be able to change its mind about how it feels
Kiers 11:31
Well, it means a slightly more complicated relationship between the variables.
Markov models
Just an idea
They are good because they are probabilistic, and also because they can be made to flip into a new set of probabilistic determinants
Kiers 11:32
Could be interesting.
And also very easy to set up in code
Kiers 11:32
But for the immediate future its machines!
I have a question.
Sure. That’s clearly the most challenging part
Kiers 11:34
This course is a digital arts course. How does my piece connect to that? Sometimes I feel as though the rest of the group see the little turd shaped experiments alongside their digital screen-based things and find it hard to see past the turd shape…!
Ha! That’s a shame, if that really is what they think. This course is very broadly about digital arts, but also art about the implications of the digital culture we inhabit. Your piece is very much about the friction between the machine and the organic, and in my purview fits perfectly into the philosophy of the course. If they cannot see past a crass visual association then that is a shame, but I think you will have the last laugh when your piece begins to sprout!
Also, remember the course is first about art, then digital, then digital art
Kiers 11:39
Well, possibly when the piece becomes more developed it will be easier for them to understand it. There is still alot of speculation about the exact nature of the piece which I think makes it hard to follow sometimes.
I wonder if you can suggest any practitioners who’s work I can look at – people who are also looking at the friction between organic and technology.
I’m aware thats potentially a very niche area and you might not have anything to hand to mention.
Yes, which is why I had so many questions. I have something of a picture in my head now. I think the less-than obvious association between “digital art” and a strength of this piece rather than a weakness
Er…yes it is a bit of a new area to me
Kiers 11:42
I havent found very much on it. Which to me is very interesting. There is a friction but people arent responding to it.
Through art.
There is more technology than art going on in 3D printing of various materials, but I haven’t seen much relating to organic processes. Lots of innovations in Garden design going on too (living walls etc) which I suppose could be deemed “art” in some way.
Kiers 11:46
Yep, alot of vertical gardens featured in my blog at the beginning. The National Gallery recreated a Van Gogh using plants which was quite interesting.
OK, I’m going to have to wrap it up here as Ben is online. I’ll keep it in mind and feed anything I find your way. It’s great that you’re doing something that seems very original, but the problem of that is of course that there is little work you can examine or reference.
Kiers 11:47
Its made life a bit tricky. Thanks alot for your input. Its been extremely positive and useful.

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