Sunday, 27 December 2015

Student Print Exchange Exhibition: Concept

I have been invited to contribute to an international student exchange exhibition between the University of the West England, Bristol UK and Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore USA. The exchange exhibition has been developed alongside a larger exhibition entitled Just Press Print curated by UWE Lecturer / Researcher Paul Laidler. More on that exhibition.

The student exchange brief will adopt the printed artefact approach from the Just Press Print exhibition, and borrow from one of its underlying themes. Participants will therefore be asked to explore the development of today’s technologically informed scene as a maker of physical artworks, and respond to one of the following quotes / ruminations (that are central to all the artists works in the Just Press Print exhibition) by the American author and futurist Bruce Sterling.

‘Looking through the eyes of machines as humans’. 
‘Eruptions of the digital into the physical’. 

The visual responses to one of the above quotes will be produced as a printed edition of 6 in any 2D print process.

Concept and limitations
I'm keen for my contribution to tie in with my current pinball related project and explorations into the presence of digital objects in the real world, as well as push my work forward and of course, answer the brief.

I've been contemplating how to embed something digital into the prints - my initial reaction would be to embed a tiny screen into the print, or project onto the print. There's obvious technical barriers, it's to be an edition of 6, it's overseas and will be setup by exhibition staff at the location.

However keeping with screens, there's some relatively cheap and smallish screens for microcontrollers. Basically all it will be doing is playing a video file on loop using a Raspberry Pi. When powered on, the Pi would automatically load up the video so no user setup is required. I think it is achievable but it would mean the prints would need a built up area on the reverse or could be cleverly disguised in a frame. They would need to be powered, ideally from mains.

Cost is going to be an issue I think, and it may be the one thing that stops me being able to go ahead with this. On one hand I want to do this as an investment into my own work, but on the other hand there is no funding or budget for this exhibition, so I will be spending lots of money on electronic parts which I am effectively giving away, from what it seems work is likely not to be returned.

Screens I've found lowest of around £10, Raspberry Pi's around £25, plus some other parts, building a custom case, producing the print... and... and... an edition of 6. Quick maths... £40 x 6 = £240.

Anyway, I'll at least be making one and will devise a plan B.

Using a spare proof from my Mini Print, I put together a quick mock up to show the idea, just using my computer monitor. The final will use a small screen concealed behind the print.

Quite simply there is a section cut from the screenprint to reveal the screen below, that section is replaced with a video of a pinball playfield being played, the video is warped to fit the section.

The playfield video is taken from a YouTube video. It's a little observation into people that are posting gameplay videos on YouTube and live streaming on Twitch of themselves playing games (including pinball). People are watching them rather than playing themselves. It's kinda weird when you think about it too much.

Housing design
The Raspberry Pi and screen need to be housed within an extruded section to the rear of the print. Luckily microcontrollers are really small and are getting even smaller and cheaper - have you seen the Raspberry Pi Zero.

Overall it will be 1" deep. The initial plan is to make a laser cut plywood mount which conceals the Raspberry Pi behind and gives a flat surface to adhere the screenprint to on the front, including the window to show the screen below.

Below is a quick 3D sketch/mockup of a possible and simple case design. The Rapberry Pi and screen is represented by the green box and the plywood is the beige colour material.

That's all for now, over the coming weeks I will be putting together a more refined prototype, working out a final budget and possibly working on plan B!