Robot Language Music Video-by Albert and Mary (Dezmediah)

with help from Maggie Kane, Tasneem Khan, Mark Lifana, and Andy Quitmeyer

Make a kickass music video, with only the tools at hand; this was the challenge Mary and Albert set for themselves while on Koh Lon at Dinacon.

Spouses Mary and Albert came to Dinacon as their last stop on a seven-month long traveling stint, mostly in Southeast Asia. They knew they wanted to make something great at Dinacon, but also knew they wouldn’t be able to bring many supplies, as they’d have to carry it on their backs for months.

Mary is a musician, and while the thought of being apart from a guitar or piano for seven months made her jittery, she also relished the idea of being forced to learn the ins and outs of the iPad GarageBand app. So, she got her fingers used to the tiny keys of the on-screen keyboards, spent hours combing the built-in samples, and recorded vocals in bathrooms, on quiet beaches, and in backyards and forests in Croatia, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. In May, she finished her EP, entitled Beep Boop. Pretty soon she and Albert realized that Robot Language, the first track on the album, could make a pretty fun music video.

Albert has a filmmaking background, having graduated from NYU Film School in 2005. In addition to filmmaking, Albert is a visual artist and had recently begun exploring making video art using one of the portable, affordable, pico projectors that have come on the market in the last few years. It was in Croatia that Albert first showed Mary his technique. He created a feedback loop between the projector and the camera, which resulted in interesting color distortions and multiplication and tilting of image elements.What was captured on the camera was fed into the projector, which projected onto a surface, which the camera filmed, which was fed into the projector, etc. The result was a fun, trippy “reality distortion” beam, which Mary thought would be perfect for a music video.

They knew what the story of the video would be, and had an idea of how they would film it. Once they got to Dinacon, the challenge was how to make a robot costume using only the tools at hand. Thankfully, they met Maggie Kane (Streetcat), a genius inventor, hacker, and cosplay costume designer. Maggie worked with Mary for several days to make the costume from primarily trash and duct tape.

Albert and Mary also enlisted the help of Mark, a great videographer who could film the scenes where Albert would need to be in costume as the robot. Andy and Tas, being the amazing people they are, offered to stick around for the filming, and brought down to the beach an assortment of bright lights, which they kindly held during filmmaking. They also gave valuable input on shots and angles.

The result is “Robot Language,” the music video. The video can be watched at https://tinyurl.com/dezmediahrobotlanguage

Tree Area Network (TAN) – a private Network for trees and humans

A TAN is a Network using plant-infrastructure to transmit data over trees.
(Ingo Randolf)

Introduction – Personal Area Network (PAN)

In his book “When things start to think” (Owl Books – 1999) Neil Gershenfeld writes about how they found a Private Area Network using the body as data-channel: When trying to find a “bug” measuring the hand-position of violinist Ani Kavafian he and Thomas Zimmerman found that human bodies can be used as a data channel using capacitive coupling.

“… the source of our problem was immediately clear: part of Ani’s body was in the [electric-] field and part was out; … Tom [Zimmerman] then realized that we should be able to detect the part of the field that was passing through her body. This creates a tiny current. … In other words, we could transmit data through a body. The bug could become quite a feature.”

There are Wide Area Networks (WANs) to link up cities, and Local Area Networks (LANs) to link up buildings. They have created a Personal Area Network (PAN) to connect parts of a body.

Thomas Guthrie Zimmerman wrote his master thesis (1995) with the title “Personal Area Networks (PAN): Near-Field Intra-Body Communication”: http://www.cba.mit.edu/docs/theses/95.09.zimmerman.pdf

Research in the last years was conducted to use electrostatic communication and waveguides (galvanic coupling) to transmit data through or from within a human body. This research mostly was done in the medical field for applications to monitor the body and send data from internal sensor-data to a base-station outside the body, where data then can be analyzed. This also is called the wet-net or internal-net.
The focus in this research varies from the physical layer to the communication layer, an international standard (IEEE 802.15.6) was developed to standardize the way of communication.

Around 2005 Japanese company NTT developed a product named “RedTacton”, but it is removed from their webpage and it is unclear what happened to it. When looking for consumer or pro-sumer devices in 2017 i could find none. The only way to experiment with humans as data-channel was to build a sender and receiver from scratch.

PAN @ Dinacon: TAN (Tree Area Network)

At dinacon i was interested in experimenting with this devices in the wild to send data over a tree, or in the best case to send data from one tree to another. Is it possible to send data from one side of the jungle to the other? The jungle as a network. I wanted to tackle this questions by starting out using the device on a single tree to see if it is possible at all.

In theory it should be possible to use capacitive coupling on plants. Like a human biological conductor also a plant consists of an internal wet system and an isolating layer on its outside, the bark. The internal system (phloem) is used to transport nutrients and food to and from the roots and consists mainly of water. The phloem also acts as a communication system within the plant; see: “Electrical signals and their physiological significance in plants”, Jörg Fromm & Silke Lautner – Plant, Cell and Environment (2007)

Experiments

The used devices are the same as in the human coupling experiments documented here:
https://ingorandolf.info/building-a-near-field-intra-body-communication-device/

The first experiments were to try if it is possible to detect a simple pattern. The pattern used was a carrier-wave of ~333kHz turned on and off in short pulses of ~200us. This is also the preamble used to establish communication before sending data

Materials used:
– electrodes (sender and receiver): copper plated ripstop – woven textile – Statex, Shieldex® Nora
– sender / receiver: see link above
– amplifier op-amp: from MCP629x family

First experiment:

Setup:
– unmodified PAN sender and receiver on different trees and plants
– 3.4V input to resonant tank, resulting in ~30V peak-to-peak on the transmitter electrode.
– electrodes: sender: 45 x 52 mm, receiver:

Result:
It was possible to pick up the signal a couple of centimeters (~10 cm) away from the transmitter. Different plants worked different well.
On one plant it was only possible to receive the signal on a branch of the same sub-branch, but not on the upper-branch.
Using a steel-needle penetrating the bark as the transmitter electrode, improved transmission. The needles was in the bark for ~1.5 cm. While this showed better results we distanced from such practice as we did not wanted to violate the bark of the tree.

Second experiment:

Setup:
– modified transmitter to send with higher voltages
(12 .. 24 V input, ~80 .. 180 V pp on output)
– modified receiver with a third amplification step (MCP6292)
– same electrode configuration as in the first experiment

Results:
As expected the signal could be picked up better with the stronger signal and the more sensitive receiver. It was possible to receive the signal from ~1m away from the sender on the same branch. The signal did not travel across branches.

Third experiment:

Setup:
– sender with higher voltage: approx. 17V input and ~100 V pp output
– using circular electrodes around the branches for transmitter and receiver electrode.

Result:
Using electrodes around the branched we could picked up the signal unexpectedly well. It seems that encircling the branches with the electrodes perturbs the phloem well enough to send the signal over branching from the top of a tree to it’s stem close to the ground.
Different input voltage ranging from 12 V .. 24 V with a resulting output voltage of ~80 to bigger than ~120V peak-to-peak on the sender resulted in different signals-strength picked up by the receiver. All input-voltage configurations could be picked up.

With this setup it was possible to send sensor-data measured at the top of the tree to the stem close to ground. When the receiving electrode was too close to ground it was not possible to receive the signal anymore. (as deflected to ground?)
The signal passed 5 branchings and covered a distance of around 5,40 meters.

Costuming TAN

Mika Satomi built an interface for TAN enabled tree. This tree-hugging garment is used to receive data from the tree:
https://www.dinacon.org/2018/09/30/costuming-tan/

That Strange Sensation by Dezmediah

My main project at Dinacon was to write a short story inspired by one or more things I saw there. What came out was a story about a marine biologist who finds herself on a tropical island (Dinasaurs will guess it’s Koh Lon) in an unspecified future (Dinasaurs will guess it’s 2561) with a bunch of other scientists and artists. Nobody knows why they’re there and so, in addition to surviving, etc., they’re going to try to figure that out. At Dinacon I wrote about 4,000 words and I realized that I wasn’t nearly finished yet. So, since the thing had a sort of pulpy, classic science-fiction feel to it, I thought I’d serialize it.

Following is Part One. New parts get released on the first of every month and can be read at thatstrangesensation.com. The project will (hopefully) continue until late spring.

Part One

Lately, every time L ascended, she felt on the verge of passing out. About two meters from the surface, she’d find herself needing to grasp onto the inflater nozzle of her BCD in order to remind her body of the task at hand. The water would squeeze her, the churning, womb-like sounds surrounding her and disorienting her. The sun, filtered by the water into individual rays, would hit her like a spotlight, causing her to shield her eyes even as she felt herself hungrily drawing toward it.

And now, once again, she finds herself on the surface, back in her right mind, back on solid ground, which is in fact the choppy surface of the water. The sun steady, the physics standard. Escaped. Just a weird sensation was all.

Ever since she was a beginner diver, she’d felt a whiff of this sensation, but in the past few weeks it’s become stronger every dive. Glancing around to check that the interns she’s been diving with are well, she actually wonders—if she were to let herself go on autopilot during ascension, allow her mind wander even just a bit, would she make it? Or would she pass out, sink to the bottom, die immediately?

What an unscientific thought. Likely she was becoming dizzy as a result of a slight physiological malfunction. An inner ear issue. Or maybe it was simply that this feeling mimicked that of not wanting to wake up from a good dream—it was so peaceful under there after all, so cozy, meditative. Your mind couldn’t be scattered. The water directed your focus, plied your attention toward what it wanted to show you.

“My god, I know how you feel,” her colleague, E, tells her as they unsuit back on the boat. E grunts as her tank clinks into its holder. “Sometimes I just don’t want to leave that world.”

“Maybe that’s all it is,” L replies, but still she can’t explain why the sensation is getting stronger, or—could she say—worse?

**

Two hours later she is entering the day’s data into the Thai governmental database. On that morning’s dive, she and her team of interns completed a fish survey and noted this bounty: forty-five butterfly fish, nine bream, five parrot fish, three angel fish, twenty-five wrasse, forty-five cardinal fish, and one soap fish. Still much fewer snapper than she’d like to be seeing, but the other fishes were doing well.

E types away beside her, probably messaging with a prospective intern: an eager undergraduate or beleaguered graduate student, looking for a suitable research site to host them as well as an exciting Southeast Asian experience. A storm has rolled in. L’s nostrils are alerted to a metallic smell as large raindrops begin to fire away on the roof like they mean to put a hole in it. She feels as if the space has become smaller, as if the world would be happy to do them in.

L leans her forehead on her hand, rubs her temples. “I’ve got a bit of a headache now,” she says. E turns toward her and frowns.

“Take a paracetemol,” E says and, sighing, turns back to her computer. Then she groans. “This student wants to bring his girlfriend. But she’s not going to do any research. She just wants to hang out. ‘She won’t take up another bed,’ he says. ‘I don’t see why she has to pay.’” She rolls her eyes.

L gets up and heads to the kitchen to get a drink of water. On her fourth step, a curtain comes over her vision and all she can see is black. “I’m going blind,” she says as she collapses to the floor.

When she wakes up, E is standing over her. Her face looks old, and the geometry of it evokes an ancient math. L is sure, then, that there have been hundreds of people throughout human history that looked exactly like E.

And then she feels her heart beating faster than it should be beating. Her breath is deep and rapid at the same time, as if she can’t get enough air. But her breath moves in and out, her heart beats, and she can see.

“I’m okay,” she says.

“My god, what is wrong with you?” E yells, her Russian accent really coming out now. “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

“No, no,” L says. “I just stood up too fast I think. Something a little off with my circulation lately, maybe my blood pressure.”

Maybe I’m fucking pregnant. Fucking pregnant, that’s a funny phrase.

“My god, go home,” E says. “Take the day off.”

“But new students are coming, I have to orient them.”

“Honey, you need to take some time off.”

**

A couple hours later L is in her house, in her bed, inside the mosquito net. Her headache has faded and she feels fine. The storm has passed away, leaving behind thin, shifting, planes of air. She’s reading a dense, poetic book about water and how to interpret it. She’s enjoying the language, but can’t process much meaning from it. She puts the book down and looks at her nightstand. Two pregnancy tests rest there, staring up at her with two blank eyes. No results.

How is this possible?

Pregnancy was unlikely, as she and her various partners on the island always used condoms, but you never knew. So she could understand a positive result and she could understand a negative result but a non-result was perplexing to say the least.

Just a little low on iron from my last period. Something, something like that.

It is barely five o clock. A breeze blows in and a rodent scampers across her roof. The cicadas are quieting down to a low, tired, scratching, only needing to cool themselves down a little in this breezy landscape.

“We will look at water as the subject. Mammals and insects are interesting, but they will only earn their place in this book to the extent that they can explain the behavior, the signs and symbols of water.”

She puts the book down and falls asleep. She sleeps 12 hours. At 5 am a gecko lands on the wall of her bungalow just outside her head and calls out, loud and clear, “unh unh, unh unh, unh unh,” and she jolts awake, thinking the gecko is in her bed, that someone put it in her bed to wake her up, but there’s no one in her house, not even a gecko.

She can’t believe she slept 12 hours.

Maybe I am fucking pregnant.

Suddenly she feels tough and lichenous, tucked away inside herself from whatever might be happening outside.

**

On her motorbike drive to work, a rabid dog lunges at her, causing her to swerve sharply. After driving off a safe distance, she stops and looks back at it. It lies in the middle of the road, sunning.

She gets to the lab before E and spends a quiet morning drinking coffee and looking over the data. The coral bleaching is getting worse and what to do, what to do about that. 50% bleached already and it’s only the beginning of the hot season. At some point in her meager little life, she’d decided that the best thing she could do was have this field station and report the data. Tell the authorities. Alert people in power. Bolster the science, strengthen the argument. Not shut up. Perhaps she should do more.

E enters the room with a clanging of bags and various attachments. Her motorbike helmet falls off her arm and rolls toward L. E’s eyes go wide and she feigns anger. “My god, what are you doing here?”

“What do you mean?” L says.

“I thought you’d take the day off.”

“Oh I’m fine. Got a good night’s sleep.”

E tuts and shakes her head reprovingly.

**

Two hours later they’re diving again. It’s been determined L will be divemaster for two of the more experienced students and E will take the newbies. That way, the experienced students can cover some of the more routine data gathering and L can be free to focus on her pet research project, which tests whether smaller solitary corals are less resistant to bleaching than larger solitary corals.

E’s group lays out the transects while L and her interns hang back and look at coral. She breathes out and sinks closer in to some branching coral, the home of twenty or so baby, white and yellow butterfly fish, who dart in and out like bees. She wishes she were doing a fish survey so that these lovely, tiny fish could be counted. If only their presence could be felt, could matter in the world. But probably they don’t care either way, probably that doesn’t matter to them.

Now it’s time to go and she motions the students to go ahead of her. With the lab’s underwater camera they take a picture of the transect measuring tape every 50 cm. Back at the lab they will need to go through every one of these 300 pictures and identify the coral just to the left of the transect. She removes her underwater slate from her BCD pocket and begins counting. Everything is slow, deliberate, meditative. She breathes slowly. It’s arduous counting all the solitary corals—there are so many. The students’ frog kicks are too frequent, they are going too fast—almost out of her sight now. No matter, they are safe and experienced. She finishes her survey and meets them at the end of the third transect at 50 minutes into their dive. Together they reel up the transects, spiders assuming the thread of their web back into their abdomens. She directs one of the students to take the transect bag and hook it to her kit. The three of them look at each other in the eyes and L makes the hand signal for “let’s ascend”—a thumbs up.

She doesn’t think about that strange sensation. She’s thinking about the data she gathered and about what conclusions she might begin to draw. Slowly, slowly, she swims up, not even needing to think about moving her feet, just willing herself up. And then, at three meters from the surface, once again, it hits.

**

The pressure is more intense this time, the movements of the water like a thousand little flies distracting her attention. The light hits and she feels the heat of the sunrays on her body. The rays form a cone, which twists around her, and she is an unwilling dancer, moving her limbs oddly, floating six inches above an empty stage.

And then she is elsewhere. Her face is naked—no regulator. She feels sand in her nose and on her lips. She sputters, rubs her nose with her index and thumb, sticks out her tongue. Opens her eyes. She’s on the beach. Or a beach, rather. She doesn’t recognize the topography of this beach, with its thick forest, its meters of white sand. All the beaches on her island are short, with sparse, low vegetation and pieces of trash strewn about. This beach is pristine. A breeze tumbles down the white sand, unobstructed by a single other person. She is alone.

Excerpts from Dinacon

I came to Dinacon with the intention of writing and reading for TIGER, the next performance in my life-long project, The Unreliable Bestiary – a performance for each letter of the alphabet, each letter represented by an endangered animal or habitat.  So far my collaborators and I have made MONKEY, ELEPHANT, WOLF, and BEAR.  I’m aiming to have TIGER ready by Fall 2019.  Here are some raw excerpts from what I was writing. 

 

June 5 2018 Tuesday

Flying to Hong Kong. 12 hour layover before flying to Phuket. Then a 2 hour taxi to Chalong Pier. And then I wait for a boat. And then I take a boat. Out to an island.  Koh Lon. That’s the island. To the Baan Maai cottages. I hope this is how it all works out. We flew past Churchill Manitoba and Hudson Bay. I have a card of a polar bear cub with me. We flew next to Lake Michigan and over Lake Superior. Now we must be somewhere… Northwest Territories? Siberia? Well. We’ve only been flying for 3 1/2 hours. It’s going to be a total of 14 hours and 50 minutes. We pulled away from the gate around 3:35 PM Central Time. We taxied for a long time.  Finally took off at 4:10 PM. So we should be flying until 7 AM Chicago time, or 8 PM Hong Kong time. I’m glad to be sitting next to the window.  Wait… Is my seatmate going to pee? No. He’s gone back down into his seat. Seems that he’s jacking into a movie. He doesn’t speak English. The pilot or copilot sounds Aussie.  The stewards and stewardesses speak English and Chinese, Maybe other languages. The man next to me was reading a Chinese newspaper and the stewardess would switch to speaking in Chinese when talking to him.

 

Yesterday was very full. And so was this morning. Everything gets scaled to the expectations of the journey. If you expect a 16 hour flight, the 2 Hour drive up to Chicago isn’t a big deal. The hour-long wait in the security line isn’t either, just glad that I gave a three hour cushion. After the long bus ride to the terminal and the security line – I only had 45 minutes until boarding.  But here I am with 275 passengers and I don’t know how many crew.  Boeing 777. 

 

June 8 2018 Friday 

T-shirts worn by Chinese tourists; CREATE ACTICITY enjoy leisure (no typos there – that’s what it said). A small child with a black T-shirt wandering on the beach. In white block lettering the shirt says I am drunk.  But I look again and the shirt says SLAM DUNK.

 

Numbers. 900 languages in India. How many in North America?  300 before European invasion – according to Robin Kimmerer.  Tigers can do it – sexual relations – 50 times in one day? Two days? How does it work? Need to look this up. 

 

“She announces her fertility by repeatedly scent-marking the borders of her territory with a pungent, thick, musky fluid and roaring lustily until one or more males respond.  The embodiment of liberated lascivious female desire, she allows them to fight without quarter for the privilege of enjoying moonlit nights and torrid days of violent unremitting passion, in which the victor may mount her as many as 50 times.  Even today, Rajasthani men boasting of their masculine potency refer to themselves as ‘two-legged tigers.’”  p. 36 Tiger by Susie Green (Reaktion Books)

 

A tiger population can bounce back pretty quickly if there’s enough food. And for there to be enough food, they need to have solid habitat. (There is a cat lying on my feet right now. I like it. He’s cleaning himself.   His name is Turtle.) I’m sitting on the porch of my cabin. I’m on Koh Lon. Which I think translates to Lone Island. My cabin is surrounded by palm trees, myna birds, and at 6 AM this morning, a huge amazing chorus of cicadas. Totally amazing.  A slow, very slow crescendo. Five black heron-ish birds on the beach. There was a lot of wind. The tiniest bit of rain. Threats. Here at the beginning of the monsoon season. 

 

Yesterday, in the Hong Kong airport, there was heavy rain. We had to be bussed out to the airplane. While standing in line, the stewardesses would check your boarding pass and hand you a small plastic bag which was filled, packed, with the flimsiest of throwaway ponchos. They packed us on two buses. When we were coming up to the checkpoint, I could see the rain coming down in buckets. Like a fire hose. The flimsy ponchos– they really felt like slightly, barely organized saran wrap–as if you were a bowl of cold tuna salad and the purpose of the poncho wasn’t really to keep off the rain (or torrential downpour depending on the moment) that was actually intended to simply prevent the other food in the fridge from becoming infected with your fishy onion stench. They packed us onto the buses. The buses were under an overhanging roof – so no threat of the rain here. But standing there on the bus looking at the rain absolutely DRIVING DOWN out of the sky – well, I put on my saran wrap. Most other people did too. But then, as we stood there, on the bus, more and more people packing on, the rain let up. And then the rain stopped. Finally the bus drove out to the plane. Right up to the canopy stairway that led up to the airplane door, so when it came down to it, there was about… 6 feet that was unroofed, uncovered, unprotected from the sky. 6 feet and hundreds of bags of organized saran wrap, liberated, free and wild and open and loose–this saran wrap could go back to its natural habitat: the Pacific ocean Northern Gyre. Great garbage patch of the north. Does the Indian Ocean have a gyre? Are the waters in Hong Kong the China Sea? How does this work?  I can talk to Mr. Google I guess.

 

I drove up to O’Hare on Tuesday morning. Left at 10:15, got there by 12:15, driving 80 most of the way. (Oh – the cicadas have started again– it’s very subtle– who starts it? Why does it start? What is the initiating factor? Barbara Ehrenreich quote “an emergent quality.” That’s what was happening at 6 AM. I don’t often find myself paying attention to a sunrise. Actually there was no sun this morning. Just a brightening of the clouds and the ocean. Chalong Bay. Cicadas. Ocean. Herons. Wind. Palms in the wind. Myna birds. Cats. Bugs are holding still in the wind.) It took a little longer than usual to park. The train–shuttle to the terminals is on the fritz, so, buses to the terminal. The international terminal was last. Cathay Pacific. Hardly any line. Checked my bag all the way to Phuket. Makes me a little nervous. 12 hour layover in Hong Kong– will the bag make a dash for freedom during its 12 hours in non-transit? But I go with it. I have prepared for this journey. A 14 hour and a 50 minute flight from Chicago O’Hare International to Hong Kong… whatever that airport is called. I have a seat next to a window: 69K.  When I check in to claim my seat, the chart doesn’t have many openings. There is an open row at the back, in front of a row of seats that are all marked “U”. I look at the keys. What does “U” mean? “U” stands for unaccompanied minors. Ah. A row of lost children. This, clearly, was a wildcard. Which way could it go? Terrified, silent, wide eyed children? (Possibly the best kind of children on long plane trips.) Loud belligerent tweens, nonstop computer games, kicking the seats in front of them. Or babies that scream. For 14 hours straight, with the 50 other minutes spent drinking water because they are so parched from the screaming. Well, as it turns out, the row designated reserve for unaccompanied minors is actually just old folks on their way to Kolkota. They are quiet. They are sleeping. They’re watching action movies with headphones. There is a Chinese man that sits down next to me. A large round Indian woman sits next to him on the aisle. Across the way is her husband. He is also large and round and has dark circles under his eyes. The man next to me has unruly gray eyebrows. Lots of personality. He has gray hair. Not quite a flat top but close. He’s pretty low to the ground. A collared sort of striped golf shirt. He does not speak English. I do not speak Mandarin or Cantonese or whatever they mean when you say “I don’t speak Chinese.” He reads his Chinese newspaper.  I give him my chocolate bar.  He gives me some peanuts.

 

There are moments in the itinerary that I’m anxious about. These are moments that I might label “unknown.” Or, “things I’ve rarely done.” Like Getting a Taxi. Or Getting  A Boat That Will Essentially Be A Taxi.  Or Going Through Immigration and Customs In a Foreign Land.  Or Finding the Hotel That is Supposed To Be In the Airport, And it Pretty Much Is In The Airport, But You Still Have To Go Through Immigration To Get To The Airport Hotel.  That was brilliant.  A 12 hour layover.  Five hours of solid melatonin induced sleep and then waking up at 2:30 AM, because it’s really 1:30 PM… and why, for God’s sake, are you asleep? Wake up. There are some flashes in the dark, and I think to myself, “Lightning?” And I’m surprised. Because it all feels so hermetically sealed. So canned and bottled and completely free of the uncontrolled. It is 70°. Probably 68. So everyone has to wear a light sweater. There is a low hum. A fan. A motor. A mechanical drone to bring us back to the swoosh and slosh of the womb. Ebbing tides. In the morning. At 5:30, I head back to the terminal. It’s pretty quiet. The only time I’ve really had to wait was the security line in O’Hare. But it worked out. Otherwise – everything’s been fast and smooth. I have not had to take off a single shoe. I have not had to take off a belt or unpack a bag. I did have to remove one laptop. So everything is quiet. Everything is white and metallic and bright. Everything is both in English And Chinese. There are beautiful blond families and advertising.  There are beautiful square jawed Chinese men and women.  There is the dream of luxury and leisure. And there are expensive watches.  Images of expensive watches that are – what – 4 feet across? So there’s the picture of the Bulgari watch. On a bright white background. All glowing, lightbox. Lit from within. And under the watch is a sign that says TYPHOON ADVISORY, FORCE 1.  A hurricane bearing down on the Hong Kong International Airport?Should I be worried? Should I figure out how I can elevate my lifestyle so I can achieve this magnificent timepiece – a mark of excellence, a mark of the very best. A watch that is powerful.  A watch that is a force of nature.

 

June 9 2018 Saturday

What does typhoon mean? What does Force 1 mean?  Is it related to hurricane categories? Will they eventually give us Category 6 with Category 5 becoming ordinary? Will the coming years bear Category 7 or 8 what would a Category 8 hurricane be? 360 mile/hour winds? Raining knives. Tsunamis as a matter of course? Who will be our heroes? Who will save us? The last hope. Will Turtle or his father, Colonel Turtle lead us? Will the Pacific Reef herons lead us? The mynabirds. The hornbills. The palm trees. The coconuts. Pythons and pit vipers and hermit crabs. The wind. The rain. The sky.  The ocean. The Buddha on the mountain. The bros that just arrived for their weekend with their dance music.

There are bros everywhere. All around the globe there are bros. And some of them are here. I have a cat in my lap. Named Turtle. I love this wind. It’s low tide right now. So what about heroes? Based in stories. We tell ourselves what we can do and what we can’t do. And this limits us. Heroes (are stories about) throwing out the limits– stepping outside the boundaries, outside the box. Beyond our mortal selves. Hanuman – bigger than a mountain. Smaller than a mouse. Saving the world. The lynx water-god. The amphibious Tiger God. They are not friendly. They are not happy. They have enormous power and that power can go in every direction. When you are sitting in a fantasy… well, no, not the fantasy, sitting in the real world but surrounded by all the elements of what people fantasize about: beach, palm trees, ocean, mountains in the distance, birds calling, Last night I saw my first flying fox. A bat as big as a red tailed hawk.  Fuck.  Amazing. Also: hermit crabs with their vast array of varying show houses. And then two very big crabs that scuttled into big sand holes. Where am I?

 

The mornings have been so nice. When the sun actually crested the mountain today– just for a little while– there was a time when all the color came into the world. Pinks and teals and tangerines and aqua greens/blues… I had looked down to read for a little bit, and when I looked up– the world had gone from the latent quiet potential of grays and blacks and silhouettes and shadows to full kinetic color. Like someone had flipped a switch. The cicadas. A Hornbill in a tree 15 feet above me. The cats returning to hunt and mew and jump into my lap.  

Just got back from a tidal walk with Andy, scouting for a drone shot with mangroves. The tide was coming in, but still low enough to walk out along the rocks and sand, out past the Muslim Village, around the bend. The ocean side of this island was pounded.  Devastated by the 2004 Christmas Tsunami, this side was flooded.  LOTS of garbage and debris left over. Today, less, but still plenty of garbage. Here are some of the things I saw:  a flip-flop (left foot) covered with barnacles. A fan, somehow all the parts within a couple of yards from each other. Big woven plastic sacks for grain. A motorcycle helmet. A dead puffer fish as big as a motorcycle helmet. A big chunk of thick green rope. Plastic bags. Plastic water bottles. Beer cans. Beer bottles.  Broken glass.  Netting.  A dead ray with it’s wings cut off.

Maybe today I will write about Monster, Kris Schwartz and the night of 1000 orgasms? Ha ha. 4. Tigers. 50. What? How? Why? When does it flip into pure mechanics? Maybe it’s always mechanics? Pure electrochemical biology.  She worked at the Lifetime Channel as an editor. Her soft stomach was crisscrossed with scars. Lots of long scars, making a kind of raised skin network. I asked her about them. She didn’t want to talk about it. Her fallback, resting state was dour and depressed. She didn’t seem to stand out in any way. She had dirty blonde hair. Her shoulders hunched. She could be coaxed into a kind of braying, chatty humor –– and she assumed, well, of course if we’re having this frank talk– we are talking honestly here, right? Well, if speaking frankly– of course you’re going to agree with her. And that whine, that… whine, with its assumed,”We’re all friends here” talking about the agreed-upon ways of the world– this whine was soaking in the assumption that the world was fucked.  That – yes, we can make jokes about it, you know, to lighten the load– but through and through, deep down, at the core of all humanity–everybody everything is darkness.  Everything was fucked. And there was nothing they could change that fact. And apparently, she wanted to go out with me. She didn’t tell me directly. She told me through a friend. I’d never met her. I knew nothing about her. But somebody wanted me. Sadly, that’s all I need.

 

We went to a bar.  We drank beer.  She talked about her favorite bands.  She said she wanted to sleep with me.  We went to her apartment.  She had a cat named Monster. He was a pretty nice cat. At first. And then he was less than nice. He was big. Maybe he was gray. Whatever color he was, he weighed over 30 pounds. Kris’s apartment had a small entryway, a small kitchen. Small bathroom. And a bed. Kris lived in this small place with her big cat. They had figured out how to live together. But if you brought in anyone else– the balance was off. I think Monster slept on the bed with Kris. So when I slept over– Monster was shoved aside. Onto the floor and the barely used cat bed. Monster did not like this.  So the first night we went to bed– to her bed, to Monster’s bed, Monster the mid size predator, not a 500 pound tiger, Monster the 30 pound house cat who had been displaced from his bed.  Kris did not want to sleep.  Kris wanted to have sex.  Kris wanted to come.  Over and over.  And she wanted me to come.  Over and over. Maybe there are people out there who know what normal is.  I have no idea. Is it normal to have sex and fall asleep?  Let’s say you’re with someone for the first time. It could be kind of great. It could be exciting and new and thrilling. I’ve heard stories of famous athletes sleeping with literally thousands of women. So, okay, so that’s one kind of normal. I guess. You’ve got Tom Brady and Gisele. First night. How many times? Now for these two, I’m not sure if they’ve even actually had sex– like I bet they bought those kids online. I can’t imagine them spending any time not looking at themselves in the mirror. Or working on his website – how to live forever and for a small monthly fee, he’ll tell you how you can live forever too! How about Wilt Chamberlain– a legendary lover. Or Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan. I am not Wilt the Stilt or Ghenghis or Tom or a two-legged tiger.

 

Ok.  So it’s somewhere in the middle of the sex and the not sleeping and the bleariness.  I get up to pee.  Standing in the doorway between the bed and the toilet is Monster the 30 pound predator.  I have to step over this enormous cat.  He is clearly not having it.  He is a step away from bristling and hissing.  I am naked.  I have to make a decision about my dangly cat-toy-ish bits which may or may not entice Monster the 30 pound predator and his claws.  I survive the passage.  I come back to bed.  There is Kris. Mousy. Trying to smile.  Trying to get over her shyness. Trying to put on a show, get out past her usual desolation … or at least put on a funny front where we can join, meet each other in mutual darkness.

 

Just got back from a 5 1/2 hour interruption. Just in time for the family down the beach that likes having babies, playing shitty music, and grilling. Grilling. A verb. At 12:30 Andy got his drone going and we shot some mangrove stuff.  The roots that come up, out of the sand or the mud. Like a small field of them. Oh God… the wind has started. It’s so good. It feels so good.

 

The first morning when I woke up early here, I lay out on the porch, in the dark, 5 AM. And the wind was up. And it’s warm. It’s not hot outside at night, but it’s not cool. But the breeze comes in. And it’s all over your body, very gentle. And for a little while, with the cicadas, very slow dawn, the herons walking on the beach in silhouette –an emergent quality–the breeze, the perfect wind on me–the world as a lover. Yes yes yes–it can smack you down too. So can a lover. But this felt so nice. So soothing and perfect. It was a very hot day with sun – so even hotter. So the wind, now, quiet, on the porch with Turtle the forgiving kitten– Ah. So nice.

 

Deke Weaver

[email protected]

unreliablebestiary.org

Hacking a camera to hack the jungle

This is a simple camera hack that can be done just about anywhere. We modified a Canon point-and-shoot camera on at Dinacon to be a camera trap using CHDK and a quick USB cable modification. The only required materials are a canon point-and-shoot camera, a USB cable, an SD card, and way to connect the SD card to your computer such as an USB SD Card reader.

Introduction

Most point-and-shoot Canon cameras have a fairly limited number of features directly accessible through the buttons and on-screen menus. There are a wealth of features that are hidden or directly in-accessible to ensure ease-of-use for the general consumer. A group of hobbists developed a method that allows you to access these features using what is called CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit).

Among the many features that this enables are remote triggering, motion detection, and time-lapse. The one that we am most interested in is remote triggering. This will allow us to trigger the shutter using two external wires that we can connect directly to a micro-controller or sensor directly.

Installing / Setting-up CHDK

To add CHDK, you go to the CHDK wiki page http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK. Click on CHDK Downloads

Main CHDK Wiki Page Downloads Page

From here, you scroll down to the bottom and click on the latest Stable Builds which will direct you do a list of different files for different camera options. Search down the list to find the one matching your camera.

Click on the latest stable builds Search for the file that matches your camera

Installation

The installation is simple.

  1. Insert the SD card from your camera into your computer. You may need a USB adapter for this.
  2. Download the .ZIP file for the camera that matches your model. Unzip (open / un-compress) the file and move the contents to the SD card for your camera.
  3. Re-insert the SD card back into your camera.

The CHDK firmware will be invisible to normal use. To activate the CHDK features, go through the following steps:

  1. Press the Play button [▶️] to turn on the camera (not the power button).
  2. Press Menu ▶Firmware Update… ▶OK

From here, you can poke around and play with the new features CHDK enables on your camera. Some of the interesting ones that you might want to play with are:

  • Professional control – saving RAW files as well as the JPG, braketing, full manual control over exposure, zebra mode, live histogram, grids…
  • Motion detection – triggering the exposure in response to motion in the frame.
  • Scripting – control the camera using a simple scripting programming language to do time lapse, motion detection, and other pretty cool things.

CHDK Remote Triggering

The feature I’m interested in is the remote triggering. This is one of the many features that you can enable in the CHDK menu. To enable this, first enable CHDK on the camera:

  • Press the Play button [▶️] to turn on the camera (not the power button).
  • Press Menu ▶Firmware Update… ▶OK

Now, enable the Remote trigger:

  • Press Play ▶Menu ▶CHDK Settings ▶Remote Param. ▶Enable

Preparing the cable

Now, we need to modify a USB cable to use for triggering. Most Canon point-and-shoot cameras have a mini-B USB port for transferring data (pictures) back to the computer. The mini-B USB connector has five connectors, but generally most cables only have four wires. The fourth pin is only used on some devices for special signals. Pins 1 and 5 are typically used for power and ground for charging devices. With CHDK on the Canon camera, these two pins can be used for remote triggering. You can trigger the shutter when you apply a 5V signal between the red wire and black wire. Here is how to prepare your cable:

  1. `Take a standard USB mini-B cable.
  2. Cut the cable in half or to the length that you need for your remote trigger.
  3. Strip away the insulation to expose the wires inside the cable.
  4. Cut back all of the cables except for the red and black wires. These should correspond to pins 1 & 5. 
  5. Expose the conductor on the red and black wires to use for your trigger cable.

There are a number of techniques to trigger your camera. The easiest one is connect a battery and a switch. We used a 4xAA battery pack and a simple momentary push button switch. 4xAA batteries provides ~6V. which is in the same range as the 5V required signal to trigger the camera.

Now, how can we trigger this with a sensor? There are several options to do this. You could connect these connections directly to a microcontroller like an Arduino or Micro:bit, but we wanted a setup that didn’t require additional hardware.

Sound Detection

SparkFun has this simple to use integrated sound detector board (SEN-12642). The connections on the board are simple. Once you connect power and ground to the sensor, there are three sensor pins that you can use:

  • Audio – raw audio input scaled between 0 and 5V.
  • Envelope – the amplitude of the audio signal, only.
  • Gate – a binary (on / off) signal indicating when a sound is detected.

To use the sound detector board with the CHDK remote trigger on a Canon camera, connect 5V (or the positive side of the battery pack) to VCC, connect GND (or the negative side of the battery pack) to GND, and finally connect the GATE pin to pin 1 on the custom USB trigger cable.

Here is a quick mock-up of what we put together using a breadboard to connect the wires to the sound detector board. A soft clap is enough to trigger the sound detector and the camera. There is an extra resistor that can be modified on the board to increase the sensitivity, but we were afraid that it might still not be sensitive enough to detect small animals.

Detecting Motion

Another common sensor used in many projects is the PIR (Passive Infrared) motion sensor. You can find this sensor in many places including commercial security monitors and motion activated lights.

PIR Motion Detector – photo credit: SparkFun Electronics

This sensor has only three pins: power, sensor signal, and ground. The sensor signal is an ‘ACTIVE-LOW’ signal which means that when a motion is detected, the signal will go from 5V to 0V. This is the opposite of how the sound detector board worked. To use this sensor, we have to flip the wiring a bit. Here is our wiring sketch:

Again, no need for a microconotroller with this setup. One thing to note here is that the PIR sensor that I have uses a slightly unconventional color scheme. Red – 5V, White – GND, and Black – Signal.

This setup differs slightly from using the sound detector board. Rather than connecting the signal wire to pin 1 (red wire) on the USB cable, here we are connecting the signal wire to pin 5 (black wire).  When a motion is detected, the pin goes LOW and the camera is triggered.

Here, we have wired up a quick prototype of this setup. The Redboard Arduino in this photo is only used for power.

Test Results

The results are a little mixed, but here are a few random pictures that our camera trap picked up. We didn’t pick up any ‘natural’ wildlife in our testing, but we did get a few interesting candid photos:

Going Further

CHDK is an amazing tool to customize and control your point-and-shoot Canon camera. The CHDK community has a lot of great resources and tutorials around scripting and accessing the other features of your camera.

The one drawback we found was maintaining power to the camera during long periods of time. On the bottom of the battery compartment is usually a small rubber gasket. This is to be used with a direct AC adapters to allow you to connect the camera to external power. These look like a empty plastic battery housing with a cable or connector.

Using something like this could allow you to setup a camera trap to last indefinitely.

 

We hope this inspires you to dust off your old Canon point-and-shoot camera or pick up an older model at the local thrift store.  Happy hacking.

Costuming TAN

by Mika Satomi

Costuming TAN is a wearable antenna for Tree Area Network Project by Ingo Randolf. It is an attempt to also think about how we understand ourselves, nature and technology beside making a fancy probe for a technological instrument.

This is a Ritual for Tree Huggers.

Some say hugging trees gives them ennergy, or recharge their lost power, luck and wisdom. One may believe that one can communicate with trees when synchronizing with them.

In each households, a spirit lives.


One can find a small house like shaped statue somewhere in a household. This is made specially for spirits to reside. Residents place food in front of these houses so the spirits can eat. In return the spirits protect the house from thief and bad lucks. These spirits are not almighty. Sometimes they get into bad moods and make a little mischief or get lazy and result in harm to the house owners.


I felt like they are a bit like the cats in this island. They protect houses and inhabitants from the snakes, cockroaches and rats. They eat random food we give. Sometimes they are not in a mood and puke on our backpacks and pee on our laptop power chargers.

Do Thai people really believe in the spirits?

During my stay in Koh Lon, I was reading a book by Robert Pfaller called “On the Pleasure Principle in Culture”. In this book, he introduces the concept of Croyance (believe/superstition) and Foi (Faith) from Octave Mannoni. Pfaller points out that our “civilized” culture is a culture of Faith. We draw self-esteem from the illusion. In Mannoni’s theory, Mechanism of Croyance operates within the illusion of others. For example, “I know wearing a mask will not let the spirit possess me, but our ancestors believed in it. So I wear the mask and act as if I am possessed” He points out that the owner of the illusion (who believes in it) is often at somewhere else in the case of Croyance. Another example: when we talk about bad luck happened to your friend, and say “oh, I am lucky that I am fine” and you would knock a wood to prevent the very bad luck does not happen to you. In this case, you are very much aware that “knocking wood” does no relation to keep you healthy. Nonetheless, if you did not knock a wood and something bad happens to you, you will feel bad. So “just in case” you would knock a wood as a believer. This is what Pfaller calls as “illusion of the others”.

The project is a reflection of my thought around this topic. When we have faith in religion, political system, or science, it is us who believe in it. We become the subject of the illusion. There are no distance between the illusion and ourselves.

The costume for TAN is for Tree Huggers (or any of us who feels a faith in Nature) to step back and see their belief as an illusion of someone else, to give a space to observe their faith in Nature and/or Science from outside perspective.


The costume is made with Batic Fabric. Batic is a technique to dye fabric with wax resist that is widely practiced in the South East Asia (and many other region in the world) in traditional clothing. I have purchased this fabric in Phuket stating “made in Malaysia”, so technically it is not a local fabric, but you can observe a lot of locals wear them as sarung. The costume consists of a lot of long pockets to hold plant’s stems like flower bases.


I have added crochet behind the collar so one can tie lace to fasten the garment. Shoulder pad is curved like the traditional Thai Opera costumes.


The inner side of the collar is embroidered with conductive thread creating an electrical connection to the wearer’s skin. The end of the embroidery is made into small crochet loop on the outer side of the collar that connects with a crocodile clip cable to the measurement tool.


Testing with plants.


Monica was nice to be a model to test how it looks on a person. The costume is designed to fit various body size person.



The final experiment is documented with Ingo wearing the costume and acting as a prove/antenna for the Tree Area Network. We could reliably receive data from the environmental sensor (humidity/ temperature) placed on the tree 3m above us.

But why one should make such a big effort to create a costume and wear a complicated plant garment to become a simple probe for an instrument?
Rituals existed in many cultures, and western or modernized country is not an exception. We just have forgotten about it. We instead practice faith (Foi) and have very little tolerance with people who do not share the same faith. Costuming this otherwise very technical device is an attempt to take ourselves “un-serious”.

Originally I planned to make fabric antennas to replace the current PAN/TAN antenna. I started with experimenting with smocking, which is an old textile technique. I have started with pattern experiment and then added conductive thread on the base fabric. But the result was not very interesting.



Another attempt was to make a crochet antenna with a combination of silver coated copper thread and linen thread. At the end we did not use this antenna for TAN experiment due to time constrain, but it has a nice aesthetic potential.

After the documentation of the project, the costume became a dress for Pom. At the end this fabric and the design suits her the best!

Erik Zepka

For the conference I did a series of projects, exploring different media and formats. I did a series of interviews with other artists/scientists at the event (Sebastian, Pom, Saad, Paivi) and took the footage for what will likely be a couple of short films – neither of these are completed at the moment. I’ve included photos of the installation I did over the 10 days I was there – it’s a Waste Calculator (Foamhenge) – where past land formations and sculptures have measured the sky over time, mine measures the accumulation of junk. In addition, I wrote the text immediately following the images.

Technical Environments

Digital Naturalism Conference 2018

Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu, after fighting their way to friendship, set out to the Cedar Forest on what will become their first heroic adventure. They seek out the monster that guards this forest, Humbaba. When they find him, Gilgamesh offers up Humbaba his sisters as companions for Humbaba and when during the discussion the monster’s guard is down, hits and contains him. Humbaba pleads for clemency, but little heed is given and when he tries to escape Enkidu decapitates him. Victorious, the heroes bring the head Enlil gets pissed, reminds the pair of everything Humbaba protected – Humbaba should have “eaten the bread that you eat, and should have drunk the water that you drink! He should have been honored.” This episode illustrates at least a couple relationships with the forest – Enlil’s and the one shared by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The conversation about it comes about with action by the characters: the protective sphere of the forest becomes an epistemological explanation in the wake of anthropic interaction. We might ask how to think about the forest for the trees, how the story’s interesting take on a narrative trope gives us purchase to reflect on the roles such entities might play in a relationship, whether we lived through it or imagined it. We might use this as a jumping off to be thinking the conjunction of human manipulation and the space in which our niches work. Tauber (2008) moves the question of immunology and cognition into an environmental and inhuman space. Here there is no “nature” preserved and purely isolated from human contamination, there is instead a move to comparative systems that extends the human situation and reflects on its analogues. Our immunocognitive paradigm is one that cannot denaturalize a human material underpinning, but that seriously benefits from a perspective that admits that the entirety of material being is one within an ecology. What it does, how it does it, what the genesis of those mechanisms are, is all deeply tied to a context that both gives place to physiologies and then later reflects them. Atlan and Cohen (1998) focus on how this physiology manifests cognition. A cybernetic model is explored that posits a self-organizing logic over the organismal structure creating meaning. The body’s spatial relationship is a priori imbued with a technical rationality in terms of situated being. Hayles (2008) might term this a mode of posthuman embodiment. That both the technical implies the biological and realization of our physical vehicle does nothing to eliminate the fabricated world around us. This picture is then grounded in Goodley, Lawthorn and Cole (2014) as one where the marginality of that body gets to the core of what a posthuman planet is – nature beyond humans, nature after humans, in every case the stakes of that connection is born out. Ecological problems are not so for the many species far more resilient than us, far less for the planet – they are a problem for us, our own cultures, our survival, the place that may or may not be for ourselves. Geopolitics in the simplest sense is a

question of how well we allow ourselves to exist on the planet – what organizations are at play and where are they failing in terms of what social existences can do. One way to read the Gilgamesh/Enkidu/Humbaba/Enlil episode is as an inversion of the classic hero vs monster scenario – the monster also has a subjectivity, the hero may be the real monster, good and bad isn’t as simply as you think, maybe don’t go killing people in the forest you don’t really know, etc. But further than this we can think about the characters as icons for thinking technical environments – that is, what are some dramatizations of possible linkages between humans and the plant world. In Humbaba and Enlil’s world, a role of protection is explored, life balance is one facilitated by anthropic preservational tactics. In that of Gilgamesh/Enkidu, it is a trailblazing and upsetting of realms unknown, a dethroning of a human and a setting into the chaos of spaces where humans are few and plants many. In either case, the natural perspective is in complex dialogue with the picturer and intervener – the story agent that holds the techne for invention of natural concepts. Also at the core of this is the question and choice of what perspective we are to have in this space. We might think through an Aristotelian mode, or that of Wang Chong, that could couple robust knowledge collection with an encyclopedic framework. For Otto Neurath, the encyclopedic mode is tied to socialist revolution grounded by a reassertion of scientific ways of thought. Here we are arguably rehashing the dynamics of European concerns for renovated epistemologies as evidenced earlier in the thought of Margaret Cavendish and Voltaire. For Cavendish a scientifically reoriented perspective allows for poetic and cultural modes informed by questions of physics and materialism. For Voltaire, insular empiricism and science fiction allow for societal critique in the name of knowledge revolution. In each case we can speak of moves related to an enlightenment cause that sees social issues rooted in rethinking what our best knowledge is, and creatively advocating for that. In each case, inventive assertion towards the world, thinking about how well we know it, how we can know it better, and what principles can be drawn from such an investigation. Knowing our contextual space, is not a matter of isolationg or withdrawl, but one of engagement, taking positions and seeking out the dialogue for a sustainability within presence and intervention. Ultimately we can argue that this begs for a kind of socially-minded knowledge revolution (Chattopadhyaya 1985) or a rupture in the episteme that has come to occupy our rational complacency (Bachelard 2002). Regardless what everyone in the Gilgamesh tale was confronted with was the deep question of how our pretended knowledge leads to interaction. What do we think we know about the world, and how do we as a consequence act in it? The story’s author arguably uses that episode to provide some accountability to the dark sides of human narrativity – that is to say they strive to think about what is beyond and after humans. Whatever the answer it seems this committed engagement is an indelible component of not retreating from the inquiry, and that a multiple language of art can contribute to a robustness in its analyses – richer hypothetical pictures giving place to more proximate questioning.

Atlan, H., & Cohen, I. R. (1998). Immune information, self-organization and meaning. International immunology, 10(6), 711-717. Bachelard, G. (2002). The Formation of the Scientific Mind a Contribution to a Psychoanalysis of Objective Knowledge. Chattopadhyaya, D. (1985). Knowledge and Intervention: a Study in Society & Consciousness. Goodley, D., Lawthom, R., & Cole, K. R. (2014). Posthuman disability studies. Subjectivity, 7(4), 342-361. Hayles, N. K. (2008). How we became posthuman: Virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. University of Chicago Press. Tauber, A. I. (2008). The immune system and its ecology. Philosophy of Science, 75(2), 224-245

Translating Nature into Art

As an artist, I see myself less so as creator and more so as a translator. I take my direction from the biggest source of  inspiration there is, nature, and try to turn what I see into images that can foster in others just a little bit awe for the natural world. Generally, I work at translating natural design into tattoo design. I am interested in how one can simplify the complexities of natural elements into simple lines, forms, and patterns.  

Before I arrived at Dinacon, I was inspired by photos being posted on the Dinacon social media platforms. I saw photos of plankton collected on the Divamarine lab and I was moved to start translating translucent microscopic creatures into black and white 2-D designs– to make visible the invisible. Once on the island, it was the specimens I encountered there (sometimes literally at my door step) that I drew from. Since Dinacon, I have continued creating designs based on the local flora and fauna of Thailand that touch me with their beauty. 

Below are some tattoo designs (plus one pen and ink sketch and one watercolor drawing) that were motivated by projects of other Dinacon participants as well as the unique outdoor experience of the convention.

-Mari Crook

View of Koh Lon from the Diva marine learning lab
starfish larva
crab larva
jellyfish larva
crab larva
ink and watercolor drawing of specimen found at Dinacon
drawn from a common tree frog found on the walls of the Dinacon lab and maker space
drawn from a common tree frog found on the walls of the Dinacon lab and maker space
baby king cobra
hibiscus
frangipani

Dinaclock: A time-correct view of Chalong Bay

Josh Michaels – http://joshjet.net

I spent my time on the island filming time-lapse photos of Chalong Bay. In total I filmed 6 days of photos. From that I took the best sequences to create “Dinaclock” – a simple web page showing an image from Chalong Bay that matches the current time where you are. Simply open the web page and you’ll get a refresher on the experience.

You can visit Dinaclock here:
http://bit.ly/dinaclock

You can leave the web page open and over time it will continue to match the time where you are. You can set it as the default home page/new tab in Safari so you experience it every time you open your web browser. I’m working on a Chrome plug-in.

The Challenges of Filming on Koh Lon

Aside from completing the time-lapse sequence, my secondary goal was testing my hardware for survival under the sometimes intense weather conditions that can be found on the island. I definitely got my fill of challenging weather and will be more prepared for future endeavors .

As one of the first storms I experienced ramped up I decided the camera would need reinforcements. In the time it took to go into my hut and come back the winds had greatly picked up, and by the time I got to the camera it was in the air on the way to a relatively soft landing on its top.

Among other lessons, the key one I learned here was that any filming done in areas with wind this strong requires the camera to be physically tied or clamped to a structure. Weight bags just aren’t enough when winds can get up to 60-70mph.

Ants Fabric

Margaret Minsky June to Sept 2018

Anticipation was a great aspect of Dinacon. I had stated, and thought, that my main project would have a large component of wearability and perhaps eTextile construction. (For those who wonder, it didn’t, although I sewed some wearable wrist holders for bbc:microbits which I decided not to use.) The anticipated wearable aspect of my project was so open-ended that selecting and packing a stash of fabrics and sewing supplies to bring was fun. I also did not know how much of a textile corner/workspace would be set up (it was amazing, folks!) though I knew that I was arriving in the same week as several of my heroes in the wearables and E-Textiles communities.

 

While assembling fabrics and supplies, I had one of those lightning realizations that Dinacon would be a great forcing function for me to learn a paper-based fabric print repeat technique that I had been meaning to practice. I was inspired by this block print of an ant, created by my son Miles Steele a long time ago in 7th grade:

and the Spoonflower tutorial for creating a repeating print design:

Spoonflower Fabric Repeat from Drawing

I used colored pencils and a favorite printer paper as art materials. After some web research on ant species in Thailand I reinterpreted my son’s design concept to match three species, the Ghost Ant, the Carpenter Ant, and a leafcutter which I fortunately colored bright orange, so that I can now claim I knew about the famous Weaver ants of Koh Lon. I also decided that for Dinacon, the artistic interpretation of an ant needed a distinct gastor. The web research did not get me to the point of narrowing down to species that might be likely in Southern Thailand particularly; I figured I’d learn that when I arrived and the next design can incorporate local ants only.

I followed the instructions, cleaned up the paper joints and a few stray pencil outlines in Photoshop, before uploading to Spoonflower. I was so busy collecting more general-purpose fabrics that I hadn’t yet thought of printing and bringing it. A couple of weeks before Dinacon, I realized that the printing process would deliver fabric to me just before our departure date for Thailand, so I went ahead and ordered enough Sport Lycra (Spandex) knit to enjoy bringing to Dinacon with a vague idea that it might be useful somehow in the maker supplies, and also made a tentative plan to sew a rashguard at Dinacon. The tactile qualities of a real textile are so much nicer to experience than a picture of the print design, and I wanted to bring this fabric as a tangible object.

The rashguard project became one of my two side projects, as well as a way to enjoy sewing and sharing sewing knowledge back and forth with others. It would have been great to finish the garment there…with no guarantee of time and facilities for that, I brought my regular rashguard for snorkeling. Good thing I did, because I copied it to make the pattern pieces on the pattern paper I brought. It was much more complicated that I had thought, it has nine pieces! At Dinacon I cut all the pieces, sewed about half the seams, and then packed it up to finish back home. The pattern paper, still pinned to the pieces had gone from crisp to the texture of a thin damp washing cloth, in the Koh Lon humidity, so it was very supple and easy to pack.

Thank you and admiration to the many folks who had already hauled supplies for the textiles station, and thank you for intriguing thinking about found and re-use textile crafts supplies as seen in projects from Tribenet, Pom, Dennis, Kitty, Plusea, Mika, and Dani.

Textile stuff I brought (not knowing what would be there.)

• Fabrics: basic purchased black and tan spandex and powermesh that I thought would be foundational for wearables/E-Textile projects, large pieces of quality bed sheets that I found at the thrift, weird and wonderful green jungle-spangly fabric bought on impluse at Joanne’s, some denim from wrecked jeans, Ants Fabric, and assorted scraps.

• Elastics: soft elastic black and white, cord elastic, thin bungee in a couple of colors

• Supplies: about 5 yds 60″ pattern paper (from the commercial roll that I found in a dumpster in 1978, the single greatest dumpster find of my life), sharp scissors, sharp seam ripper, good pins, felting needles/roving/foam block, hand needles both specialty and sharps, Schmetz machine needle library of sizes, miniature crochet hook, Gutermann thread several colors, 6″ sliding ruler.