Diego and Angelo led a workshop as part of the KIBLIX Festival
and the International Computer Arts Festival
in Maribor, Slovenia, from November 18th to the 28th, 2010. The workshop resulted in an installation piece which will be exhibited at KIBLA until mid-December.
What we did
Over the course of ten days, we disassembled
old computers, tested computer components, installed Ubuntu (or in the
case of some really old motherboards, Xubuntu) on them, designed and
built different structures that incorporated plants and computers
together, troubleshot algae, and met up and had long discussions with
other new media
artists articipating in the festival.
Here are a few highlights from the resulting installation:
algae-cooled motherboard, just like in previous Biomodd mods. Unlike
previous mods, however, the cooling tubes were suspended above the
ground and extended for several meters, encroaching into a gallery
space just next to the workshop space.
tall tower of computer cases stacked in a spiral, with components
mounted on the exterior, turning the interior into the exterior (which
reminds me of the shower rack modds some of us did in Los Banos). All
in all, we managed to get 7 computers running. Three were over ten
years old but we managed to get Xubuntu running on them (which maybe we
should have done in [LBA2]!).|
satellite installation near a window that was composed of two
computers, two webcams, a monitor, and a very large, old TV. One webcam
captured video of the workshop space and sent it to the monitor, which
was on the window and was facing the street. The other webcam scanned
the window ledge in a sweeping motion, monitoring the plants and the
computer components on the ledge, and sent the video to the TV, which
was facing the workshop space. We also fed the sound of the aerating algae into the TV, giving Biomodd for the first time a sound.|
system for watering plants at the top of the tower using syringes and
IV drips. Very simple, but effective. Angelo remarked on how these implements
that normally give life to humans instead gave life to plants.|
bulletin board for keeping track of what we've done and what we needed
to do. We had a huge expanse of space to do this, which probably
encouraged our use of it. (The woman in this picture is Špela, one of the workshop participants.)|
|The game Liquid War (which was first used in a Biomodd context in the Sint-Niklaas workshop) was installed on all the computers integrated in the tower.|
||One last (and humorous) detail: a resurrected Windows 3.11
machine connected to a keyboard with seedlings growing on it. The
screensaver reads, "I am so old, I am overrun by plants."|
Who was involved
Angelo traveled from Belgium with artist/rigger Nic Geeraert, who became the
backbone of much of the larger-scale construction and rigging. We started off
with two regular workshop participants from the art pedagogy program at
the university in Maribor, Monika
Pocrnjić and Maruša Novak; we ended with two more regular student
participants, Simon Repnik and Špela Kobal. The work they put in was
simply fantastic. They also helped us get the 3rd and 4th year students
(led by their professor Dušan Zidar) of their program to contribute
some of their time to the workshop, too. Simon Sedmak was KIBLA's
technical person and helped sort out many of the kinks that we had with
hardware. Miha Horvat of Fundacija Sonda coordinated a lot of the logistics
that made the workshop run.
Finally, the workshop would not have been
possible at all without the support of Aleksandra Kostic and Dejan
Our thanks also go to all the other staff of KIBLA, who did fabulous work in supporting our many needs (some of which included eating, drinking, and kicking back).
There are so many nice things and new experiences which have been learned in the last Biomodd Workshop in Maribor, Slovenia. Nicely connected technology and nature left a big impression, at least for me :) It was really an intensive 10 days workshop, and I felt really bad for those days which I could not participate. In the beginning I had NO idea about software and hardware. Nothing! But on the first day, we made a lot of computers working, installed Ubuntu and learned how to interact technology and nature. And in following days it was like everything was going so fast and we were productive. At the end, I am (still) very happy for the things we did. Also because it was an nice exchange of... everything! And before I forget - I think we were a great working group, I learned a loooooot from you, guys! And everything went really dynamic also because of that. Now, I am environmentally aware as never ever before. And this is a good thing, I suppose.
Impression of Biomodd is still alive in Maribor. When I return to Kibla (our workshop place) I am always happy when I see some plants and computer components lying somewhere... I know that they are still breathing.
It was great to work with Angelo, Diego, Nic and the rest of the beloving team; Monika, Spela and Simon.
participating @ the biomodd workshop in kibla has been one of my most intense short term learning processes ever.
to start from scratch in terms of hardware and software and to actualy build working computers ( without any prior knowledge in this field),
computers which take on a kind of personality ( they have to be protected since they lost their hard outer shell).
and then to push the interaction with the environment to a higher level.
Warmth being a prime resource computers generate in abundance this is the most easily transferred resource to be used by the floral kingdom.
Exchange of living quarters, physical manipulation ( simple use of the wind generated by the fans which is a kind of physiotherapy for plants living indoor ), and the hint of computer aided plant growth ( sensorial analysis of light, moisture, minerals etc...) are topics still to be researched in depth.
the esthetics of the growth/construction/experiment evolve from a few basic principles shared by all members of the team.
the group dynamics experienced during the workshop gives one a good example of cross cultural potentialities.
In the end everybody has learned something from everybody and that is a fantastic experience.
a happy nic @ kibla @ Maribor @ slovenia / 28 november 2010
Today Nic and Monica have begun the construction of a large tower built out of the metal cases of the computers that were disassembled during the first few days of the workshop. The goal is to create a 4m tall structure that hovers over the entire installation. Each case is positioned on the underlying case in 30 degree angle resulting in a spiraling vertical structure. The tower will house reconfigured computers and plant life, and will serve as a supporting structure for an algae circulation system. This circulation system is planned to run through a large part of the space. The algae that are currently being cultured in Kibla have been in use for a diversity of international art projects since 2002, and are essentially a mix of Belgian, American, Filipino and Slovenian variants of the ubiquitous Chlorella species. They are silent witnesses and represent the accumulation of past experiences with different communities throughout the world.
The tower has now been placed in its final position. The next steps are determining where and how to include computer units, and how to integrate plant life, algae, and case modding lighting.
It's almost hard to believe that we've only been 2 days into the 10-day workshop and we've accomplished so much, and with so few people!
- 7 computers have been successfully put together. About 5 of them are running Ubuntu and about 2 need something a bit less resource-intensive, so we're going to install Xubuntu tomorrow.
- We've pretty much bought all the materials we need for the next few days, including a water pump for the algae, 24 meters of tubing,
Tomorrow, this is what we have to do:
- Install Ubuntu on any remaining Ubuntu-friendly machines
- Finish the diagram that Marusa made of computer specs
- Burn Xubuntu installation disk
- Install Xxubuntu
- Tell Miha to contact the students for things to bring on Monday
As usual, we did a lot of troubleshooting. I'll try to post a list of problems we encountered and solutions we came up with. Little important things keep cropping up, like the fact that copper can kill algae. (There was a metal connector that Nic was going to use for the tubing, but it had a copper covering.)
We've run into a problem with a particular motherboard (Figure 1; click the images to enlarge). We can't figure out how to power it on because the pins aren't labeled. It's a Fujitsu motherboard, and we found two numbers etched onto the board, w26361 w57 x 03
and w57 z2 04 36.
A Google search yielded little to nothing.
Figure 1. Motherboard overview
We think maybe the power pins are on this set of pins labeled FRONT (Figure 2) but we tried every pair combination and the computer still refused to start.
Figure 2. Power pins?
Update: Problem solved. We were completely wrong about the pins. They were located on a completely different part of the motherboard, though it took a few heads put together to piece the puzzle together!
The workshop starts today! So we'll probably start off introducing ourselves briefly and our interests in the workshop. I'll talk about the workshop and its overall goals, which are to design biological and digital systems systems that communicate or share resources with each other. I'll introduce Angelo, who'll talk about computer components and a bit about modding. Then we'll do a tour of the workshop space. Then we'll start disassembling parts. Then if we have time before lunch, we'll start designing.
Angelo, Nic Geeraert, and I all arrived in KIBLA yesterday. They drove from Belgium; I took a train from Vienna.
Today was our first day, and things moved very quickly. We turned a series of platforms into work tables and laid out all our equipment (Nic brought what seems like an unending number of tools, including a drill and a voltimeter (yes!)), computer parts (many brought by Angelo from the St-Niklaas workshop), and a few plant-related stuff, including the Belgian-American-Filipino algae mix. Nic suspended a series of metal rods above the main workshop space; the rods ― as well as part of the work tables ― extend into the adjacent exhibition space, bridging the two. It's looking really good.
Well, "Team Canada/Philippines" is all of one person, but I certainly wish there was more of me to go around, with the amount of work and preparation that I need to do before my flight leaves on Wednesday! I managed to get a hold of two workshop-compatible computers (one running on an Athlon 3000+ and an Intel Celeron 1.80 GHz) courtesy of my roommate, but this means that I have to back up many gigabytes of data before I can start dismantling them and packing up the motherboard and the memory cards. I also need to pick up some infrared LEDs and some conductive thread before I leave. I'm bringing a small toolkit of hardware (a couple of Arduino boards, resistors, capacitors, wires, soldering equipment, ....)
The trip is going to be exhausting. Over the next 2.5 weeks, this is what I'll be doing:
- Vancouver-Seattle by bus
- Seattle-Geneva (meet up with friends and visit the large hadron collider at CERN)
Totally excited to see and work with Angelo again, and in such a different context from [LBA2]