Gas – interactive Screen Print

The seed of this piece work was planted at the international printmaking conference Impact in Dundee 2013. After presenting a paper on my work I attended a demonstration on ‘conductive ink’. I had no idea what conductive ink was but was curious to learn more. The demonstration was my first introduction to Bare Conductive a water soluble ink that conducts electricity. In the demo we drew circuits to light a LED:

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Here he is, by connecting a battery between his glasses and smile you complete the circuit and the LED on his nose lights up. It was fun, but what really got me interested was the potential to use the ink as a sensor, by running it through an Arduino.

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now a capacitive sensor the drawing can sense how close or far you are from it and brighten and dim the LED accordingly.

I knew I wanted to produce some work based around this, but the ideas stayed on the shelf until I was asked to take part in a group exhibition. The venue was Aberystwyth’s Oriel Nwy, an old Harley Davidson show room it is a large open space with great big windows and great views from the street. I decided this would make it a good venue to show an interactive print installation based around what I had been doing with Bare Conductive ink.

I wanted to turn the idea of a gallery as a sterile environment in which one may look but at all costs not touch on its head by creating a multi-sensory piece that actively encourages physical interaction.

Gas was the result, a collaboration between myself and another artist showing in the exhibition Kim James-Williams, I felt her beautifully balanced pen and ink drawings would echo the aesthetic of the wires and circuits behind the scenes. The image we chose was a drawing of the gallery itself, I love it, the composition makes the gallery seem impossible light almost like it is about to float off, fitting for something called the ‘Gas’ Gallery.

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I screen printed the image in Bare Conductive ink and attached it to an Arduino, the Arduino would then take the capacitive reading from the ink and create a varying audio output, the idea was for it to sound like a theremin (not sure what one is? Listen to the Star Trek theme tune or The Beach Boys ‘Good Vibrations’, or for a more contemporary example:

I was really happy with the end result, it was great to see people interacting with it at the opening, nervous at first, they became increasingly bold and confident and ended up ‘playing’ some really nice stuff.

Here are some photos of the opening and a video of the finished work in action:

My film piece ‘Flicker’ was also included in the show. I was really thrilled to be asked to take part in Transitions at Oriel Nwy with such a talented group of artists, you can see there work in the Catalogue. We were really grateful that John Harvey agreed to open the exhibition, he gave a really encouraging and inspiring speech at the opening, which you can read on his blog.

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One thought on “Gas – interactive Screen Print

  1. […] In Gas 2013 (above) technology was applied to an image created by hand to make it interactive, I became interested to see how this technology could be incorporated into the making of the image itself. It was about this time that I became interested in the open-source and maker movements, I liked to democratic, collaborative values at their core. I also saw their ‘hacking’ and repurposing as a subversive yet positive way of combatting the incredible wasteful nature of the cycle of upgrading and disposing we seem to be locked into with modern technology. A product of structured obsolesce and our closed-source system I increasingly see the rate of technological progress as being set by market forces as opposed to actual technological discovery. (I recommend Maciej Cegłowski’s piece on the future of the web on the nature of technological progress). […]

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