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Roman Random

Reflexions About My First Interactive Installation

Category : Uncategorized Aug 8th, 2014

More or less one year ago I sent a parcel to Japan with my first interactive installation inside. Toshiro Yamaguchi invited me to participate in the Koufukuji International Contemporary Art Show, an exhibition held at a temple in Nagasaki. Having participated in previous expositions and festivals with videos and music, I decided to do something different for the occasion.Koufukuji Flyer The idea of making an interactive installation had been lurking in my head since I started using Processing and Arduino. And since for some time I had been thinking about what to do with my growing collection of photos (apart from uploading them to Flickr) and being a bike lover, I came up with a combination of both and some generative sound and interaction.

The objective was to do it low-cost and so I recycled a few wooden blocks and contrived a way of making a traction sensor with a few resistors and many rubber bands.


All the system had to be detachable in order to be able to send it comfortably to the far east. Takashi Hasegawa kindly offered his laptop, which I had the luck of being able to test with my software on a visit he paid me.

After sending the parcel, I crossed my fingers hoping that it would arrive without any problem and everything would work as in the tests.

Well, it seems that I didn’t cross them enough, because the installation didn’t work: the brakes didn’t brake and I wasn’t there to fix it.

Toshiro and Takashi kindly did everything they could to solve it, especially Takashi, who spent the night before the opening trying in vain to find a bug in my code. Finally, Takashi offered me to make a video with my photos and ambient music. The hack helped me stay in the exhibition, but obviously left everyone with a bad aftertaste, especially me: my Brakes didn’t have brakes…

Kofukuji Without BrakesWhen the parcel was sent back to me. I didn’t even want to open it. But curiosity became stronger than my resentment and finally I looked for the source of the failure, which ended up being a damaged cable.

After fixing it, I met Josu Goiri, who invited me to participate at a collective exposition at Astra Gernika. So I decided to give my invention another opportunity to and it went much better: my artwork had quite a lot of acceptance!  However, not everything went smoothly, since all the devices of my installation could be unplugged by anyone, something that innocently happened a few times.

This time, my proximity to the location of the exhibition was essential in order to be able to solve this unforeseen problems and manage to make my brakes functional and enjoyable by the majority of the visitors.Brakes

With these experiences I have learnt various things, which I’d like to share:

  • Never send an interactive installation to an exposition to which you can’t go. You end up compromising people that maybe have no idea about electronics or programming or even computers. Your artwork can end up being another thing or even stop participating.
  • Build everything with enough robustness so it can take falls and hits. And use wire with an appropriate gauge for the task!
  • Don’t include your source code. The system has to be sufficiently tested so that neither you nor anybody else has to modify it. The program has to be robust and flexible so that adjustments can be done through an interface (For the exposition in Gernika, I prepared various keyboard shortcuts in order to control different parameters that I considered could be useful to have).
  • Try to be close to the exposition while it’s taking place. You are the one that best knows how your invention works and the one responsible for it’s functioning. Technology sometimes has it’s own life and there is always the possibility that it could rebel against you (even some big installations from known artists sometimes fail). In this video, you can see my computer spontaneously becoming an artist:: 
  • Try recording enough audiovisual material of the exposition in order to be able to make a more decent video than mine.
  • Find collaborators with expertise in the fields that are needed for your installation. Even if it’s just so that they give you their approval.
  • Don’t let a bad experience discourage you!

I hope that my article will spare someone interested in this kind of art some time. And if you want to share some advice, please, do so in the comments.

¡And thank you again, Toshiro and Takashi! ありがとうございました!

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