VectorHack 2018 Review

Posted in Documentation on December 25th, 2018 by admin
Robert Henke & Bernhard Rasinger, Zagreb 03.10.18 (photo: Damir Žižić)

My personal and academic research into experimental vector graphics systems culminated in the most significant event of my entire year, the Vector Hack Festival in October 2018. This festival sprung out of discussions Ivan Marušić Klif initiated with me in July 2017, when we both made the first public releases of our Pure Data and Max/MSP code libraries for displaying vector imagery on the oscilloscope using audio signals. Klif and I envisioned the event as a forum where artists creating experimental audio-visual work for oscilloscopes, vector monitors, and laser displays could share ideas, develop their work together, and form an actual community from the disparate artists working in this field, who otherwise only knew each other through the online world. We also curated a public program of open workshops and talks aimed at allowing young artists and a wider audience to learn more both about creating their own vector-based audiovisual works, and about the scientific and artistic history of these techniques from the 1950’s onward, as well as organizing a rich performance program which demonstrated a diverse range of techniques and artistic approaches in action.

Alberto Novello, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)
Jonas Bers, Zagreb 04.10.18 (photo: Vanja Babić)

In total, we gathered a group of twenty-three participants, all working as researchers, teachers, developers, and performers in the field of experimental vector visuals, from across the EU, the USA, and Canada. The program was held between two very different locations in two different cities. The first half of the festival in Zagreb, with talks and performances oriented towards a larger public audience, was held in a large hall of the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum from the 2nd to 4th of October. We found it especially significant that this museum was also the site of the fifth and final New Tendencies/Nova Tendencije exhibition in 1973, which had focused on “Constructive Visual Research, Computer Visual Research, [and] Conceptual Art”. There, the keynote and subsequent presentations were very well attended by audiences of between 30-60 people each evening, while the biggest performance night featuring Robert Henke and Bernhard Rasinger drew approximately 300 people. In Ljubljana, the Osmo/za venue was significantly smaller and therefore the program focused more on discussion between the event participants alongside the evening performances from the 5th to the 7th of October. The event was organized locally by Ivan Marušić Klif, the Radiona.org Zagreb Makerspace, the Ljudmila Art and Science Laboratory, and Zavod Projekt Atol. Curatorial duties were shared between myself and Klif, with assistance kindly given by Chris King of the Video Circuits group.

CHA/V workshop, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)
Vanda Kreutz, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)

One of the highest priorities of the program was given to the sharing of technical know-how with a general audience in both a discursive and a participatory manner. In both cities, Jonas Bers and Philip Baljeu each gave practical electronics workshops focused on building the CHA/V (a “Cheap Hacky Audio/Visual” synthesizer based on the deliberate misuse of a Chinese VGA test pattern generator) and the OGA (“Oscilloscope Graphic Artist”, a circuit developed by technology writer Mitchell Waite and published in Popular Electronics magazine in 1980). Hansi Raber and Jerobeam Fenderson also each gave presentations on different aspects of their OsciStudio software, which may be the most well-known of the ‘oscilloscope music’ platforms, with Raber focusing on the freshly-implemented live coding functions of the application and Fenderson covering its artistic and performative use with a strong nod towards the computer gaming and demo scene.

Derek Holzer, Zagreb 03.10.18 (photo: Damir Žižić)
Keynote audience, Zagreb 03.10.18 (photo: Damir Žižić)

The three other major coding platforms for audiovisual vectors, Pure Data, Max/MSP, and Processing, were demonstrated by my own Vector Synthesis library and Douglas Nunn’s additional Pd research, Ivan Marušić Klif’s REWereHere patch, and Ted DavisXYscope library respectively. Equally important hardware approaches were elaborated by Andrew Duff and Bernhard Rasinger’s discussions of analog modular synthesis for the Vectrex and ILDA laser display, Roland Lioni’s (aka “akirasrebirth”) examples using the Axoloti microcontroller DSP board, Joost Rekveld’s self-built analog computers for the generation of vector-based HD video, and Baljeu and Bers’ presentations of their own oscillographic and scan processing systems inspired by the Rutt-Etra video synthesizer from the 1970’s and Mitchell Waite’s circuits from the 1980’s. Finally, Robert Henke gave an extensive tour through the progressive iterations of his monumental Lumiere performance, along with details of the laser controlling software and hardware necessary to execute them.

Joost Rekveld, Zagreb 04.10.18 (photo: Vanja Babić)
Jerobeam Fenderson & Hansi Raber, Zagreb 02.10.18 (photo: Vanja Babić)

The event also strived to provide a historical context for the contemporary activities it showcased, as well as cities in which we had chosen to work. We were very fortunate to welcome artist-researcher Darko Fritz, who provided a survey of vector-related works from the New Tendencies art movement, which was born in Zagreb and saw its most important exhibitions and publications come together there. And in Ljubljana, the artist and curator Ida Hiršenfelder presented a wonderful overview of Slovene computer art during the Yugoslav era, extending from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Each of these talks was intended to provide a local artistic frame of reference for the visiting foreign participants, however much of the material was also new to many – in particularly the younger generation of – local audience members as well.

Bernhard Rasinger & Robert Henke, Zagreb 03.10.18 (photo: Damir Žižić)
CHA/V workshop, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)

From there, other keynote presentations dug into various particular technologies and their historical applications both in and outside of the art world. Rekveld set out an impressive display of early mechanical and electronic devices used to create physical analogies of real-world phenomena to provide real-time simulation and interaction for scientific and industrial engineering applications, while I gave a window into my own research on the military development of computers as a means of simulating, predicting, controlling, and eventually annihilating unknown ‘others’, and where the legacy of these origins might be found in contemporary computer graphics. Researcher Stefanie Bräuer focused on a very specific historical setting, namely the use of technologies such as oscilloscopic and stereoscopic imagery in the 1950’s films of Mary Ellen Bute, Hy Hirsh, and Norman McLaren which she described as marking a change in focus from mechanical to electronic means of image production in experimental cinema, while Chris King sought to bring together the developments of mechanical drawing machines with concurrent and subsequent experiments in video synthesis and vector graphics.

Andrew Duff, Ljubljana 06.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)
Philip Baljeu, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)

The majority of participants who gave workshops or talks, as well as laser artist Alberto Novello who could only join us for the last evening, also made performances demonstrating their self-made systems for a public audience. However, for me the most exciting moments lay in the new configurations and collaborations which sprang up during the festival. The first of these collaborations was a sublime conversation between the ethereal sounds of Hrvoslava Brkušić and the geometric vectors of Douglas Nunn in Zagreb. This was closely followed by a completely spontaneous shared set by laserists Rasinger and Henke which illuminated the architecture of the Technical Museum hall with such power that I felt I could still see afterimages in the room the following day. Of note was the contrast between Henke’s usual precision-high-tech approach, which he discussed just that afternoon as originating from the need to be taken seriously within the world of large-scale audiovisual installation and performance, and the relaxed, ‘dirty techno’ improvisational style he easily returned to for his duo with Rasinger in the evening of the same day.

Vanda Kreutz, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)
Kikimore, Ljubljana 06.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)

Later on, in the more intimate settings of Osmo/za in Ljubljana, we focused on what we had been calling ‘workgroups’ throughout the festival. These workgroups were envisioned as a way of inviting young, local artists to interface with vector and video synthesis techniques for the first time and explore them towards the goal of an informal performance at the end of the festival. We took the extra step of inviting only women to these groups as a way of counterbalancing what I saw as a serious deficiency in female performers in our festival lineup, and of nurturing them into the larger scene of audiovisual vector artists from which we drew our international participants. Croatians Brkušić, who shared the stage with Nunn in Zagreb, and Vanda Kreutz, who presented an inspired solo improvisation arising from her meeting with the LZX Vidiot synthesizer, were joined in the workgroups by members of the Slovene noise collective Kikimore, which was founded in 2016 in Ljubljana out of an initiative focusing on the activities of women in the area of science, technology, and media art. I had given them a basic demo of the Vector Synthesis patches during a residency in Ljubljana in July 2017, and their enthusiastic response guarenteed that I would remember them when we began considering who we might invite. From their collective, Staša Guček took a masterclass in the art of audio-reactive video mixer feedback from Bers, and the trio of Sara Mlakar, Nina Orlić, and Barbara Poček ran the chaotic, noisy signals from their lovingly-handmade electronic sound devices into the laser system of Rasinger, laughing the entire time.

Robert Henke & Bernhard Rasinger, Zagreb 03.10.18 (photo: Damir Žižić)
Alberto Novello, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)

Moments such as these workgroup performances went a long way towards fulfilling the community-building goal Klif and I set out during our first conversations, as well as towards that of bringing new artists into this community with an enthusiastic welcome and a wealth of new inspiration. After reading a draft of this post, Jonas Bers pointed out to me how all the participants very quickly got involved in the aspects of community building ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak, by debugging each others’ code; adding features to their own systems by request; loaning, teaching, troubleshooting, repairing, and modifying hardware; donating printed circuit boards; coordinating workshops; creating content for one another; and actively maintaining contact after the event ended. Once the video documentation of the talks and performances are online, we hope that the discussion they stimulate will grow even larger and more inclusive of radically different approaches to the medium. Our next ambition is to organize a followup to this event, perhaps in 2020, which I would like to see go further in directions we only touched on in this edition, i.e. more female participants, more participants from outside Europe, more participatory and entry-level workshop situations for local and visiting artists, a deeper look into different approaches to the laser display from both the established professional and experimental artistic sides, a focus on the currently burgeoning field of digital plotters and mechanical drawing devices, and a new round of media archaeological excavations into the hidden histories of vector technologies and the arts created by them.

–Derek Holzer, Helsinki, 25 DEC 2018

Your hosts Chris King, Ivan Marušić Klif & Derek Holzer, Ljubljana 07.10.18 (photo: Katja Goljat)
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SKETCHES for VECTOR SYNTHESIS

Posted in Documentation on February 7th, 2017 by admin

SKETCHES for VECTOR SYNTHESIS [2017][HD720] from macumbista

The VECTOR SYNTHESIS project is an audiovisual, computational art project using entirely analog synthesis and vector graphics display techniques to investigate the direct relationship between sound+image. Driven by the waveforms of an analog synthesizer, the vertical and horizontal movements of a single beam of light trace shapes, points and curves with infinite resolution, opening a hypnotic window into the process by which the performed sound is created.

This project is available as a live performance, a video installation or soon as a standalone audiovisual object crafted from handmade circuits and analog CRT tubes.

Informed by the discourse of media archaeology, my own personal interest in analog vector graphics isn’t merely retro-for-retro’s-sake. Rather, it is an exploration of a once-current and now discarded technology linked with specific utopias and dystopias from another time.

Essay “The Vectorian Era” here: http://macumbista.net/?p=4715

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Sirene by Phillip Sollmann

Posted in Documentation on December 8th, 2016 by admin

sirene

In 2015 I had the pleasure of working with Phillip Sollmann on his performance/installation Sirene. For the project, I researched how to control two very precise, high-tech Faulhaber motors with Pure Data over a serial connection. Originally designed for aerospace use, the Faulhaber motors became the engines for Sollmann’s air-powered, microtonal sirens which were presented at Oststation, Vienna in the spring of that year. The physical structure of the sirens was designed and executed by Paper/Christoph Blattmacher in Berlin.

SIRENE Dokumentation from pa bla on Vimeo.

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XR-VCOs Custom Synthesizer

Posted in Documentation on July 12th, 2016 by admin

trk-02

Another vehicle for interdimensional travel completed! This one features seven identical Thomas Henry XR-VCOs with three different timbre modulation options (hard sync, “skew” waveshaping and a J3RK/Stroh Modular crossfader between triangle/sine and square), all with voltage control, plus voltage-controlled frequency modulation, a summing mono output and even a headphone amp.

When I think about the human-hours that went into this instrument, I start going a little bit insane. Completing this would not have been possible without the assistance of Lars Ennsen and Damian Jaroszonek. Thanks düdes!

Videos someday….

trk-01

trk-03

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VIDEO: SoundBoxes Workshop + Performance Berlin JUL 2015

Posted in Documentation on November 11th, 2015 by admin

SoundBoxes Workshop + Performance Berlin JUL 2015 from macumbista on Vimeo.

SoundBoxes are small, primitive electro-acoustic instruments built from a wooden box, a speaker, a small audio amplifier and a contact microphone. During the first of two workshop days, participants learned about electricity, how it becomes sound and then how to build their own personalized SoundBoxes.

On the second day, they explored the possibilities of the SoundBoxes through a series of listening and improv exercises, with the goal of collaboratively creating the score for an immersive, surround-sound performance inspired by the works of Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, John Grzinich, David Tudor, Gordon Monahan and others, performed in a darkened room for an eyes-closed audience.

In the piece, a swarm of individual, simple sound sources such as tones and textures are modulated and moved through the space physically by the performers to create a complex sonic environment. Delicate and intimate sounds pass closely near the bodies and ears of the audience, while stronger, more extreme sounds occur at the edges of the space to give a sense of the architecture of the room and the objects in it.

More info: macumbista.net/?page_id=1897

SOUNDBOX ORCHESTRA PERFORMERS

Mert Aslantürk
Itai Bauman
Nicola Gomiero
Claire Guerin
Bethan Lloyd
Zeno Mainardi
Manami N
Rory O’Brien
Javier Salthú
Max Virnich
Ben White
Chris Zahn
Lea Zamiecka

Video by Montse Torredà Martí

18-19 July 2015, Atelier Macumba Berlin

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Signal Culture Residency

Posted in Announcement, Documentation on October 3rd, 2015 by admin

Broken Rope [Benjolin Vector Graphics test 3] from macumbista on Vimeo.

From 5-15 OCT 2015, I will be Toolmaker in Residence at Signal Culture in Owego New York.

While there, I intend develop a PCB which can be used for producing vector graphics, viewable via Vectrex, Wobbulator/hacked TV, laser display or other analog systems, which takes one or two audio inputs as well as control voltage. This board should include function generators, quadrature oscillators, phase shifters and multipliers, and could produce either traditional Lissajous figures using the analog multipliers or raster-type effects using synced function generators. The ultimate aim of the board is not only the development of artistic works, but also it’s use as the core of a future analog vector graphics workshop where participants both build and experiment with the circuit.

The lo-res sketches included here were created in September 2015 in Berlin using a vector monitor [V INPUT, H INPUT, Z-AXIS INPUT, PULSE MARKER INPUT] + Dual “Butterfly” Benjolin.

Benjolin Vector Graphics [test 1] from macumbista on Vimeo.

Event Horizon [Benjolin Vector Graphics test 2] from macumbista on Vimeo.

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Miasmachine for Erik Skodvin

Posted in Documentation on April 25th, 2015 by admin

skodvin-01

The “Miasmachine” is a custom re-design of the Benjolin as a guitar-processing synthesizer for Norwegian musician Erik Skodvin (aka Svarte Greiner, half of Deaf Center and owner of the Miasmah record label). In this adaptation, the input signal is first run through a ring modulation circuit (with one selected raw oscillator waveform–TRI, PULSE or PWM–of the Benjolin being the modulator signal), then the ring-modulated signal is inserted in the Benjolin’s Voltage Controlled Low Pass Filter to control the higher harmonics.

This instrument was a custom commission, however if you are interested in a similar instrument, please contact me at macumbista AT THE DOMAIN gmail DOT com, or via the CONTACT page of this website.

I am still in the process of editing video for this machine, so this will be posted at a later date.

skodvin-box-block-diagram

skodvin-02

skodvin-03

skodvin-04

skodvin-05

skodvin-06skodvin-box-complete

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NEANDERTHAL ELECTRONICS ORCHESTRA (RITS Winterschool)

Posted in Documentation on January 28th, 2015 by admin

Together with Jeroen Vandesande, I gave my Neanderthal Electronics instrument-building workshop to a group of students of the RITS Winterschool (Erasmushogeschool RITS, Brussels) from 12-23 JAN 2015. Over these ten days, the participants with backgrounds in acting, writing, theater tech and radio production designed, constructed, learned to play and created a composition using their own self-built DIY electronic instruments. A variety of circuits–including CMOS logic chips, amplifiers, portable loudspeakers, contact microphones and opto-electronics–ensured that each instrument gave a unique voice to each player in the piece.

The resulting 16 minute composition (inspired by the works of Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, John Grzinich, David Tudor and others) was an immersive, surround-sound experience, performed in a darkened room for an eyes-closed audience of 25 people at a time. In the piece, a swarm of individual, simple sound sources such as tones and textures are modulated and moved through the space physically by the performers to create a complex sonic environment. Delicate and intimate sounds pass closely near the bodies and ears of the audience, while stronger, more extreme sounds occur at the edges of the space to give a sense of the architecture of the room and the objects in it.

Composed and performed by Bram Verrecas, Amber Meulenijzer, Jana Rymen, Kimberly Struyf, Francesca Van Daele, Anna Van Hoof, Max Adams, Zoë Bossuyt, Iben Stalpaert, Milan Van Doren, Nils Melckenbeeck, Emma Schiettecatte, and Michèle Even at Kunstencentrum NONA, Mechelen, Belgium on 23 JAN 2015.

Much gratitude to Dieter van Dam for the invitation!

Workshop info here: http://macumbista.net/?page_id=497

PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS CLIP WITH HEADPHONES

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Apokalypsegerät 2013

Posted in Documentation on October 16th, 2014 by admin

I just realized that, although it was built more than one year ago, I still have not documented the Apokalypsegerät machine I created for Andreas Catjar and Markus Öhrn‘s theater productions, and which I play in Bis Zum Tod. I was probably waiting to edit some videos for it, but my video backlog is twenty miles long at this point. So here we go….. Please note there are some slight differences in panel layouts (and a couple extra functions added) between the proposal images and the finished system.

FEATURES

* Analog Modular Synthesizer with four Voltage Controlled Oscillators, four switchable Voltage Controlled Filters/Amplifiers, four Output channels and onstage lighting
* Optimized for the creation of apocalyptic doom drones

DUAL XR-2206 VCO

* Rough and Fine manual Tuning Controls
* Manual- and Voltage-Controlled Skew adjusts shape of the waveform
* Linear, Exponential and 1 Volt/Octave Frequency Modulation
* Sync input resets waveform
* Square Wave output
* Switchable Sine or Triangle Wave output
* Low Frequency or High Frequency Oscillator modes
* Circuit design by Thomas Henry, circuit layout by Bugbrand
* Two Dual XR-2206 VCO modules present in system

QUAD LOW PASS GATE 292

* Each of the four independent gates is switchable between Voltage Controlled Low Pass Filter, Voltage Controlled Amplifier or “Both” mode
* Used for Manual- or Voltage-Control over both amplitude and spectrum of audio signal
* High resonance allows generation of percussive sounds as well
* Circuit design by Don Buchla, circuit layout by Thomas White
* One Quad Resonant Low Pass Gate 292 module present in system

QUAD OUTPUT MODULE

* Each of the four outputs converts unshielded banana-jack to shielded 6,3mm audio jack
* Attenuators used to reduce modular synthesizer voltage level (10 Volts peak-to-peak) to line-level audio (3,5 Volts peak-to-peak)
* Female XLR connection provided for gooseneck LED lamp
* One Quad Output module present in system

I would love to do more custom systems like this, please contact me via the CONTACT link or at the email address MACUMBISTA at-the-domain GMAIL dot COM for more information.

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Macumbista FuzzTone SoundBox

Posted in Announcement, Documentation on May 6th, 2014 by admin

A new generation of the SoundBoxes is born, combining the touchable body contacts and high-gain portable amplifier from the original design with a nasty distortion with enough controls to keep your fingers busy wiggling for a long while.

OVERVIEW

* Large, high-efficiency (read: LOUD!) 12cm speaker
* High-gain input, suitable for contact microphone, electric guitar, etc. (Line level signals can be attenuated if clipping is not intended.)
* Line output
* Neutrik 6.3mm (1/4 inch) jacks on both input and output
* Four-control, switchable, extreme[!], vintage hand-selected Germanium transistor distortion
* Six “circuit-bending” touchpoints
* 9V battery operation
* Includes a resonant spring contact microphone.

This SoundBox could easily be used as a portable guitar amplifier with built-in distortion, for example, or can be used as an instrument in it’s own right to create a wide range of electronic sounds and textures.

The sound of this instrument is quite similar to what can be heard in the following video (however the video was done with the SoundBox and FuzzTone distortion pedal as separate units). Through the creative use of feedback, as well as the CHP and SQZ settings on the pedal, generative tones and chaotic patterns can emerge:

nonlinearity I from macumbista on Vimeo.

The price is EUR 225 (incl. 19% EU VAT) / EUR 190 (shipped outside the EU) plus shipping. Each instrument is made to order with an approximately one month waiting time. A 50% deposit on the price is required to begin work.

Please contact me using the CONTACT page here, or through MACUMBISTA at-the-domain GMAIL dot COM. Thank you for your kind attention.

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