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{Machines of becoming} Mechatronic installation art and performances

June 2, 2018 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm PDT

Join us for {Machines of becoming} – 2 days of mechatronic installation, performance, and interventions. Free!

Sat June 2, 5:00p – 10:00p – opening and performances
Sun June 3, 2:00p – 6:00p – performances and artist talks
Specific performance and talk times TBA.

At The Grocery Studios
3001 21st Ave S, Seattle 98144
10 minute walk from Beacon Hill light rail station

Participating artists: Spencer Bowen, Chanhee Choi, Brenna Gera, Kathrine Boone Hardman, Stevie Koepp, William Perry, Maxx Yamasaki

Organized by Afroditi Psarra & Cameron Fraser
Supported by the Center for Digital Arts & Experimental Media (DXARTS, UW)

{Machines of becoming} is a collective exhibition showcasing the works of seven emerging young artists that are currently enrolled in the DXARTS 472: Mechatronic Art, Design and Fabrication II course at the University of Washington. The students are presenting their ideas on art and technology through interactive installations, performances and public interventions. Their works explore the idea of becoming through engagement with the machine, each one of them interpreting this transformation through different attributes of physical interfaces. As their backgrounds range from art and design to urban planning, architecture and mechanical engineering, so do their approaches. In Surface Stories, Spencer Bowen creates narratives and networks through electronic tattoos, in Getting Together, Kat Hardman explores a mechatronic sculpture that reacts to the public’s biosignals by playing with the idea of intimacy, and in COMe FOR whaT, William Perry fabricates a soft wearable musical interface. These works examine different ways of creating affective technologies, but also our understanding of skin and touch. In The Untitled Dress for the Video Game Fly High, Chanhee Choi constructs a wearable video game installation and performance platform that merges the physical with the virtual world, in Imperfections, Brenna Gera forges a machine whose aim is to disrupt traditional representation in the arts, and in Lost Machine, Maxx Yamasaki builds a mechatronic sculpture that plays on the idea of nostalgia of having found something lost – expressing the playful aspect of engaging with handmade artifacts. Lastly, in Growing Home, Stevie Koepp engages with the idea of artificial nature in the urban environment by examining soil, and invites the public to explore the speculative aspects of growing and harvesting.


–About the works–

Spencer Bowen {Surface Stories}
Intervention, installation

Surface Stories is an exploration of community-driven databases and our experience of information in the age of the internet. Wearable tech applied to the skin takes inspiration from traditional tattoos. Each patron contributes their assigned word, but the evolution of the narrative occurs when patrons interact. The time and effort required to read the text exceeds the standard scroll and skim culture of the internet, reminding us that the allure of multi-tasking and instant gratification results in a shallow, less intimate relationship with language. The sources Google provides us in our research, and the re-phrasing and reconciliation involved in compiling information, are not exempt from human error.

Bio: Spencer Bowen is an undergraduate student at the University of Washington studying Interdisciplinary Visual Arts and Digital Experimental Arts. Spencer’s future plans include working with local storefronts and start-ups on marketing, branding, and packaging, and providing charitable and non-profit organizations with the means to extend their reach through design. At the intersection of tech and art, she is fascinated with speculative objects, innovations in materials and material-use, and the functions of makerspace (and DIY) communities. Outside of her own field, Spencer finds inspiration in linguistics and communications i.e. the juxtaposition of word and image, translation and interpretation, the graphic novel as a format, and the relationship of diaristic tendencies to forming and maintaining memories.

Chanhee Choi {The Untitled Dress for the Video Game Fly High}
Interactive installation and performance, wearable controllers, video game

The structure of this performance (installation with an interactive video game) is based around the playing of a video game which is projected with monitor on the walls of a space. An audience volunteer will be dressed in a flamboyant costume which also serves as the controller. The untitled dresses are covered in elastic spheres, speakers, led lights, vibration motors, and accelerometer sensors so their movement can be reflected in the game while they jump, and the game play becomes a flashing gymnastic dance as the participant navigates the virtual world. This world is also peopled by other creatures, who come out of virtual space as costumed performers, wandering and dancing with the audience, in response to both choreography and cues from the game-play. Documentation from previous performances is available.


Bio: A native of South Korea, Chanee Choi (Chanhee Choi) currently resides and works in Seattle and New York. Choi earned her BFA degree from Dongduk Women’s University in 2013 and MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016. In the fall of 2017, Choi started a Ph.D. in Art and Technology at DXARTS at the University of Washington in Seattle. Choi enjoys contemplating in ceramics and embroidery, which often results in perpetual experiment. Her interests also include performance involving video games and neon art sculptures.

Brenna Gera {Imperfections}
Mechatronic installation

I have been thinking about how imperfections are authentic and without them, something that is overly perfect seems (and is) artificial. Through my own personal experiences, I believe it is my brokenness and mistakes that make me stronger and make me more human. It’s being vulnerable and open about these imperfections that make me authentic. This installation, Imperfections would be a very large canvas that I had painted a neat/realistic image onto that on its own could be admired. The mechatronic part of it would be a machine using servos that dips a paintbrush into different colors on paint and flings them onto the painting. Over time this would cause the image to be disrupted and become something new.

Bio: Brenna Gera is a freshman currently working on her DXARTS minor and pursuing Architectural Design as a major. She graduated Pierce Community College in 2017 with an Associate’s of Arts. Her projects take a scientific approach to artistic and musical designs. She is currently exploring the idea of combining the body with musical instruments through her music glove project that examine the concept of a person using their hands as an instrument, rather than playing an instrument. This allows for an natural playing experience inspired by tapping your fingers along with a song. One of her other projects will examine the intersection of paint, abstract design and mechatronics to represent human nature and imperfections.

Kathrine Boone Hardman {Getting Together}
Mechatronic sculpture, wearable interfaces

Consenting audience members are given interfaces to strap to their wrists, with attached vibrators they are instructed to tape on their body wherever they wish, and a finger strap. They are now connected to a skin-textured, vine-like sculpture hanging in space, with information about their heart rate and blood pressure controlling the motion of the sculpture, causing the vines to curl up and tense. These members, and these members alone are told of this relationship The entire audience, whether wearing an interface or not, is told they are allowed to touch the sculpture however they wish. Negotiation between the bodies of those wearing interfaces, the sculpture, and the audience at large begins. Subtle strokes illicit gentle vibrations from the interfaces, while strong touches (slaps, deep rubs, scratches) tighten the straps of the interface and buzz the vibrators shockingly. The bodies of the interface wearers, reacting to the stimulation (both of the interface, and the experience as a whole) trigger motion in the sculpture, forming a feedback loop, allowing a networked touch. The audience may tell each other of these sensations, or keep them to themselves, work together, or go against the grain. The name of the piece refers both to the communal aspect of getting together to experience the work as a group, but also to the act of getting as a verb in the piece. Getting touched, digitally, through the work, and getting feedback from your touch, all together, in public. Getting an emotional connection to the work, by being connected to its sensations, positive or negative. Getting uncomfortable at your experience with the work, or getting pleasure from it alongside everyone else.

Bio: Kathrine Hardman is a current student in the University of Washington Interdisciplinary Visual Arts program, interested in the underexplored world of human sensuality in artistic media. She has investigated this through devices that alter media and interactions to be perceived both haptically and sexually, subverting the western cultural avoidance of such styles of perception. She was born in Boulder, Colorado.

Stevie Koepp {Growing Home}
Audiovisual installation

The deindustrialization of cities has left cities with degraded, contaminated soils due to anthropogenic activities. The productive capacities of these soils and their related ecosystem services can and must be restored. Investigative approaches to the management of complex, artificial environments is required. Speculative design can foster new typologies for agricultural practice through proposals for productive, artificial nature.

Bio: Stevie Koepp seeks to connect the digital, biological, and architectural qualities of space to communicate common landscapes. She is a concurrent MARCH/MLA degree student in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington with a focus on materials and fabrication. Her thesis work engages media art and greenhouse structures to imagine expressive, responsive and counter-hegemonic food systems. Can technology help us perceive and respond to the ecological rift between city and cultivation? An interest in systems thinking, creative electronics and speculative design techniques led her to involvement in DXarts. Stevie enjoys experimenting with new mediums as an interdisciplinary artist and draws from past experience in textiles, wood, glass and metal.

William Perry {COMe FOR whaT}
Wearable musical instruments, installation & performance

This piece simulates the feeling of losing connection with something you once were comfortable with. The soft structure is shaped like a lyre, with pressure sensors as the cords. The user will squeeze and pull the cords to altering the reverb of a soothing tone. The harp will then stop responding for one minute then, when a cord is pulled, the sound will be a sharp computer generated sounds. This pattern will continue on a loop in timed intervals.

Bio: William Perry is a designer from St. Louis, Missouri who is focusing on Urban Planning at the University of Washington – Seattle. Inspired by the connection humans form with inanimate objects, he looks to capture the different feelings derived by the human to object relationship. With an interest centered around electric vehicles, William strives to rethink the way we use control systems to form deeper rooted experiences. In order to facilitate organic interactions, William dives into the emotional cues derived from the way objects look and behave.

Maxx Yamasaki {Lost Machine}
Mechatronic sculpture

Lost Machine acts as an artifact from outside of time. It’s large box covered in switches, displays and interface. It bears evidence of what is once did and as you navigate and negotiate its sliders and buttons it reveals small hints of its original task. One of my main goals is to capture an emotion more often used in literature and video games, the sense of nostalgia for something that you didn’t experience or haven’t lost. Like visiting the ruins of a castle you never saw whole or seeing fallen pieces of our current world in post-apocalyptic fiction. One of my favorite story beats is having something large or powerful that the reader only experiences the smallest glimpse of. I tried to have that in the machine by taking aspects of real world devices that aren’t self contained. I took design elements from telephone switch boards and radios but swapping materials and functions to keep the familiar at bay.

Bio: Maxx Yamasaki is an artist/engineer currently studying at the University of Washington. They create assistive devices that try to alter the range of human senses and ability. Maxx also creates wind-up toys and speculative puzzle games. On the engineering side they’re currently working in insect-inspired robotics and assistive devices.

About the course instructors:
Afroditi Psarra is assistant professor in DXARTS and interdisciplinary artist working in the intersection of electronic textiles and physical computing with sound art. Her research focuses on the merge of science fiction ideas with poetic representations and performative practices, traditional crafting methodologies with engineering and electronics, the art and science interaction with a critical discourse in the creation of technological artifacts. Her work has been presented in seminal media arts festivals such as Ars Electronica, Transmediale, Eyeo and published in Siggraph, ISWC (International Symposium on Wearable Computers) and EVA (Electronic Visualization and the Arts) between others. She has worked at the Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing group in Disney Research Zurich and has instructed workshops in numerous prestigious institutions around the globe. She is the founder of the DXARTS Softlab, a space dedicated to the research and development of artistic projects using soft-circuits and wearable technology. She is currently working on the creation of wearable fractal antennas, by exploring algorithmic design and fabrication methods as ways of tapping into the invisible electromagnetic landscape that surrounds our bodies and our senses, and by democratizing open-source technologies as a means of resistance.

Cameron Perry Fraser is a composer and sound artist from Chesapeake, VA. He is a current Graduate Student in the University of Washington’s DXARTS program. He received an MFA from Columbia University’s Sound Arts program where he worked and played in Columbia’s famed Computer Music Center. Cameron composes music for his unique acoustic/electric hybrid instruments, sculptures and instillations. His work often employs ecoacoustic strategies, indeterminate methods and feedback systems. His instruments echo the Aeolian harp, band organ, calliope and player piano. In his work microcontrollers take the place of the piano roll and solar panels replace steam players.


June 2, 2018
10:00 am - 3:00 pm PDT

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