Golan Levin: Hello. And wel­come to Art && Code: Homemade. My name is Golan Levin, pro­fes­sor of elec­tron­ic art at Carnegie Mellon University, and direc­to­ry of the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, our lab­o­ra­to­ry for atyp­i­cal, antidis­ci­pli­nary, and inter-institutional research and pro­grams at the inter­sec­tion of the arts, sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, and culture. 

I’m thrilled to wel­come you today to the fifth edi­tion of our spo­radic Art && Code fes­ti­val, which is con­cerned with democ­ra­tiz­ing the cul­tur­al and cre­ative poten­tials of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies. Our fes­ti­val runs now through Saturday evening, and you can find more infor­ma­tion about our fes­ti­val includ­ing a com­plete sched­ule of pre­sen­ta­tions at artand​code​.com/​h​o​m​e​m​ade. We have also a Discord serv­er to sup­port com­mu­ni­ty con­ver­sa­tions. And if you are inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing in those chats, we ask you to please reg­is­ter at artand​code​.com to receive the link.

These are dark and iso­lat­ing times. It’s January in the Northern Hemisphere, and the days are short and cold. Civic life has frac­tured, author­i­tar­i­an­ism is on the rise, and it feels like the twi­light of American and rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy. We’ve spent more than 300 days indoors, with no clear end in sight. And quar­an­tined due to COVID-19, we long to see our fam­i­ly, friends, col­lab­o­ra­tors, and peers. The joke goes that we are not work­ing from home but rather liv­ing at work. Yet as artists and design­ers, many of us have been sep­a­rat­ed from the tools of our trade—our stu­dios, mak­er­spaces, and lab­o­ra­to­ries are closed, so that we are lim­it­ed to what we can make in our own homes. And more than ever, we feel alien­at­ed by the mass-produced nature of our mate­r­i­al cul­ture. How can we stay vital­ly cre­ative and con­nect­ed at this moment?

In this con­text, we are thrilled to present Art && Code: Homemade, a free online fes­ti­val fea­tur­ing inspi­ra­tional talks by cre­ators we admire who work with dig­i­tal tools and crafty approach­es to make things that pre­serve the mag­ic of some­thing home­made. Our fes­ti­val fea­tures a wide range of prac­ti­tion­ers who are explor­ing poignant and per­son­al new approach­es to com­bin­ing every­day mate­ri­als, craft lan­guages, and cutting-edge com­pu­ta­tion­al tech­niques, gift cul­tures, card­board and clay, and pock­et super­com­put­ing, towards the neo-homemade. Our fes­ti­val offers an extend­ed con­ver­sa­tion between cre­ators work­ing with dig­i­tal tools, crafty mate­ri­als, and tight con­straints to make things that don’t scale. Homemade is resource­ful, per­son­al, and community-driven. It’s acces­si­ble and grass­roots. Homemade means made with care.

Art && Code: Homemade, our fes­ti­val, has been made pos­si­ble by an award from the Media Arts pro­gram of the National Endowment for the Arts, by the Sylvia and David Steiner Speaker Series at Carnegie Mellon University, and by sup­port from gen­er­ous dona­tions to the Director’s Fund at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.

Finally, the Art && Code con­fer­ence series is a project of Carnegie Mellon University. Located in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we acknowl­edge that we oper­ate on land that has been con­tin­u­ous­ly inhab­it­ed for over 16,000 years, the tra­di­tion­al land of the Monongahela and Haudenosaunee peo­ples past and present, and we hon­or with grat­i­tude the land itself and the peo­ple who have stew­ard­ed it through­out the gen­er­a­tions. This calls us to com­mit to con­tin­u­ing to learn how to be bet­ter stew­ards of the land we inhab­it as well.

Our first speak­er tonight is Claire Hentschker, a Brooklyn-based artist and design­er explor­ing media arts and crafts. Claire is in many ways the orig­i­na­tion point for the Art && Code: Homemade fes­ti­val, which arose out of her grad­u­ate work here at Carnegie Mellon. And in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lea Albaugh and Madeline Gannon, Claire is also a mem­ber of the three-person cura­to­r­i­al advis­ing team for Art && Code: Homemade.

Please wel­come Claire Hentschker.

Claire Hentschker: Hi, every­body. Thank you so much for hav­ing me. And I’m gonna share my screen now.

So, as Golan men­tioned I’ve been increas­ing­ly inter­est­ed in this idea of media arts and crafts, and think­ing about…honestly what that means. And so I actu­al­ly self­ish­ly have a ques­tion for every­body. And if you’re in the Discord serv­er, feel free to answer this here, or like send me an email. Or some­thing to think about. And it’s like a ques­tion and also a hypoth­e­sis. I’ll tell you the hypoth­e­sis after. But, the ques­tion is, did you have a book when you were younger that was some­how like a DIY, or arts and crafts, or some sort of instruc­tion­al mak­ing guide for kids that had a last­ing impact on you?

And I ask this because it was a point of my research a cou­ple years ago and it start­ed to get real­ly inter­est­ing when every­one who I admired in the field of media and tech and art start­ed to like imme­di­ate­ly have an answer which was like yes, of course. It was the how to make paper air­planes book. Or obvi­ous­ly it was the origa­mi book. Or one of my favorites ones was how to make a flip­per? I had­n’t heard of that but it was an excel­lent intro­duc­tion that I believe it came through Everest Pipkin.

So, tell me if you have one of these, because I’ve been col­lect­ing them for a while because I think the tone of these books is what’s real­ly drawn me to the term arts and crafts” and home­made as a real­ly pos­i­tive, love-filled, process-based, high­ly respectable genre of mak­ing. And I’m always inter­est­ed in hear­ing more about what oth­er peo­ple’s con­nec­tions are to this idea.

Golan actu­al­ly intro­duced me to this book which is called Good Times. And I think it’s so love­ly because here is a page from the book, and it’s four ideas how to spruce up your bicy­cle. And the whole thing is hand-done and hand-illustrated. And it’s all about essen­tial­ly why you have no excuse ever to be bored. Why you can con­stant­ly throw your­self into the process of mak­ing some­thing with your hands, at home, dur­ing a rainy day, with your friends. And the empha­sis is on sort of relay­ing this infor­ma­tion to you non-judgmentally and under the guise of fun, not as some sort of skill for a future job. This is sort of the craft angle that I’m inter­est­ed in. 

So then the next word in media arts and crafts is art.” And there’s a total­ly sim­i­lar style of book too that I find equal­ly inter­est­ing. It orig­i­nat­ed maybe in the Dada move­ment but then was seen again in Fluxus with Yoko Ono who cre­at­ed this Grapefruit book, and it was a set of instruc­tion­al draw­ings and per­for­mance pieces that were in the form of ver­bal instructions.

So this one is a favorite of mine. It’s called Snow Piece.

Take a tape of the sound of the snow falling.
This is should be done in the evening.
Do not lis­ten to the tape.
Cut it and use it as strings to tie gifts with.
Make a gift wrap­per, if you wish, using the same process with a phonosheet. 

And I think the is same sort of atti­tude towards mak­ing and shar­ing the sort of instruc­tions behind how to make some­thing is also vis­i­ble in the his­to­ry of tech. And one of my favorite exam­ples of this is Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib/Dream Machines, which is like a total­ly insane book that reads two dif­fer­ent ways. Like you can read it from one side this way and then read it from this side the oth­er way. And half of it is him sort of break­ing down to a novice why a com­put­er could be a tool that they could inter­act with. Then the oth­er side is this sort of wild spec­u­la­tive future of his where he talks about what he thinks the future of com­put­ing as a sort of…I want to say a craft-based medi­um looks like. And one of my favorite exam­ples is he calls atten­tion to the Telau— I just real­ized I’ve nev­er said this out loud until right now. The Telautograph?

But essen­tial­ly it was one of the first writ­ing tablets that used a spe­cial sort of pen to trans­mit hand­writ­ing over sig­nals. And he calls this out as an inter­est­ing piece of tech­nol­o­gy, and why has no one used this in com­put­ing before? Which of course now if you look at any­thing from the the like fax machine to the iPad it’s of course com­plete­ly used. So I just thought it was an inter­est­ing way that his sort of spec­u­la­tion his look­ing at tools and mak­ing start­ed to dic­tate what actu­al­ly hap­pened in the future. 

So then if you fast for­ward, I think there is like this unbe­liev­ably inter­est­ing thing hap­pen­ing all over HCI, com­pu­ta­tion, and art. And I was exposed to it through the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, which is Golan’s lab. But this idea of sort of crafty approach­es to tech­ni­cal prob­lems. And I don’t know, I think because I had been think­ing so much about these sorts of arts and crafts books, I think about— Every time I come across an exam­ple of these that I love, I think about it as like what it would be as a rainy day activ­i­ty for the future. 

So of course this comes out of the Future Interfaces Group at CMU. And it’s using two reflec­tive spheres attached to the Google Cardboard and com­put­er vision to track your skele­ton from inside of those spheres. So it’s like a total­ly low-cost way to do full-body track­ing for VR

But every time I see this I just think of the sort of do-it-yourself hand-drawn book page that could say like Track your own skele­ton using two sides of a reflec­tive sphere.” And I think that sort of spir­it is some­thing is that I’ve noticed I enjoy in every project like this I come across. 

Doodle Lens App by Aidan Wolf

Doodle Lens, which is an app by Aidan Wolf is some­thing I’ve been super excit­ed by too, because it uses hand draw­ings and aug­ment­ed real­i­ty to bring alive your cre­ations. And so again, yes of course it’s that tech­ni­cal term. Or it’s ani­mate your own draw­ings in aug­ment­ed real­i­ty,” right, like see some­one skateboard.

This is so great. This is some­thing who cre­at­ed an expe­ri­ence for their daugh­ter where they could ride their toy cat by putting a 360 cam­era on a stuffed ani­mal and has a sim­i­lar spirit. 

There’s great exam­ples of data visu­al­iza­tion in mate­ri­als like scarves. This per­son I think used a dif­fer­ent col­or string depend­ing on the tem­per­a­ture and then at the end of the year had this data visu­al­iza­tion map of what it was like that year in the weather. 

This is one of my all-time favorite projects: make a rac­ing game out of a sewing machine. Okay, so these peo­ple essen­tial­ly cre­at­ed these tracks for their sewing machine. And they have a cam­era that has an AI that’s essen­tial­ly chart­ing whether or not you go out of the lane.” So it’s like a car rac­ing sewing machine game, and I think this is such an excel­lent exam­ple of the kind of crafti­ness that I’m real­ly excit­ed about. 

And so okay, now I’m total­ly hav­ing my cake and eat­ing it too because in school I was involved in the cura­to­r­i­al side of this con­fer­ence but I also want­ed to share some projects that I’ve been work­ing on with a sim­i­lar sort of mind­set of like, for exam­ple how to turn your­self into a paper doll, using not only arts and crafts but also using this ele­ment of tech­nol­o­gy now. 

And I want­ed to say a big thank you to Roxy, who I think was 8 at the time when we did this? And she helped me demon­strate some of these concepts. 

So step one would be to draw some dress­es, some jew­el­ry, some hats, some shoes. And then you take a pic­ture of your­self, and you print it out and you cut it out. The you use the Puppet Warp in some­thing like Photoshop to realign all of the cloth­ing to the orig­i­nal form. Then you put lit­tle paper tabs then cut out each of the clothes. 

And then you can start to build your own paper dolls of your­self with your draw­ings and have a lit­tle fash­ion show like we had here. And you can see she can switch out the ear­rings and the hats. 

You could make a draw­ing instru­ment, for exam­ple. You can turn your scrib­ble into a musi­cal instru­ment and we used a capac­i­tive touch inter­face. So I feel like Ted Nelson would be hap­py about that.

So the first step was to draw a scrib­ble and then to col­or in each inter­sec­tion of the scrib­ble in a dif­fer­ent col­or, and that was Roxy’s idea. And then think of a sound that should play when you inter­act with each sec­tion of the scrib­ble. And then write that down on the scribble. 

And then we were using the Sensel Morph but I think this would work with any sort of touch capac­i­tor that you have under­neath the draw­ing. But you basi­cal­ly put the touch capac­i­tor under the draw­ing, and then you record your sounds. And then you make an inter­face for play­back. We used Processing here. Then when you put it all togeth­er, you get this excel­lent kind of musi­cal instrument.

And then the last exam­ple I want­ed to talk about was some­thing I worked on two sum­mers ago. And it was a one-day work­shop for kids. And the kids in the work­shop were ages 8 to 11, I believe. And we made branch­ing nar­ra­tive phone app games in a day. So this is how to do that.

Okay, the first step was actu­al­ly to play Zork. I don’t know how many of you— I wish I was on Discord right now. Write in the chat if you’ve ever played Zork. But it’s essen­tial­ly a text-based nar­ra­tive game that gives you a prompt and then you can use text to turn left, or go under. And it was one of the ear­li­est com­put­er games, but I think because kids today are so used to insane 3D graph­ics, the idea of a mag­i­cal page that talks back to you when you talk to it was some­how a mil­lion times more excit­ing than a 3D game. 

And so we played some Zork, they got their minds blown. And then we looked at branch­ing nar­ra­tive struc­tures and essen­tial­ly how dif­fer­ent nodes in dif­fer­ent sto­ries can lead back to the same point. And you can start to orga­nize a sto­ry and orga­nize an adven­ture and give a play­er dif­fer­ent routes.

And then the next step was they made their own flow charts for the sto­ries of the games that they want­ed to play. So for exam­ple this one, you start in the kitchen and you can either go to the fridge and pick poi­son. But then if you pick poi­son it looks like you die. Naturally. 

And so they made these awe­some flow­charts. And then once each node was estab­lished, they drew sep­a­rate inter­faces for each of those nodes, a visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of each ele­ment of the sto­ry that you could select on. 

And then we used a rapid pro­to­typ­ing app called Marvel, but I think there’s lots of dif­fer­ent free pro­to­typ­ing apps for like wire­fram­ing.” And essen­tial­ly what you can do is you can pho­to­graph each ele­ment of the sto­ry, you can cre­ate hyper­links on the images and you can link it all togeth­er. And all the kids did this themselves. 

And then you can make these iPhone games. So I want to show you some of my favorite ones. And then I’ll also put in the Discord the links to these. You can do this your­self. There’s some real­ly excel­lent ones. 

This is the one we saw the orig­i­nal flow­chart for. So you click on the tree. You can go up or down. Let’s go up. 

Okay. You go back down. Those are your feet. 

Oh I feel like I spoiled this game now. So if you click on the fridge and you click the poison…

Oh good, I clicked it for you. So I also died. 

And then the oth­er game that I want­ed to show you that made me so hap­py was Sky Diving. 

So, the pilot tells you to jump. Do you wait to jump or do you jump now? Let’s wait to jump. 

You final­ly jumped after mul­ti­ple min­utes. Let’s wait to pull the rip­cord. We fell to the ground uncon­scious. A cow lifts us and takes us to an evil cult where they want to burn us at the stake. We meet a woman. What do we do? We run away to the trees. And we live hap­pi­ly ever after.

So there’s lots of dif­fer­ent ways these sto­ries go and if you play them you can find out for yourself. 

And enough about me and my work. I just want­ed to give a lit­tle a lit­tle bit of insight to the cura­to­r­i­al process, and Lea I hope this is okay. We were orig­i­nal­ly sort of tak­ing notes and out­lin­ing why the word home­made” and craft” and mate­ri­als” meant a lot to us and how to sort of frame it. And Lea gave an unbe­liev­ably inter­pre­ta­tion of David Pye’s The Nature and Art of Workmanship.” And so this is my inter­pre­ta­tion of her interpretation. 

But she was talk­ing about how what dis­tin­guish­es workmanship—or craft or mak­ing, in a sense—from indus­try is the ele­ment of uncer­tain­ty. That there’s a risk in the process that resolves itself via the mak­er’s dis­cern­ment. So their per­son­al taste, their sub­jec­tive goals, their knowl­edge, their past out­comes. As well as their dex­ter­i­ty, so their skills. But also the tools and the tech­niques that they have sort of already learned. 

And she is specif­i­cal­ly rebut­ting the William Morris school of thought that says hand­craft” is about the dig­ni­ty of the hand or some sort of aes­thet­ic rejec­tion of machines. But instead it’s about the process of using your per­son­al dis­cern­ment and dex­ter­i­ty in con­ver­sa­tion with the mate­r­i­al as the out­come becomes more and more certain. 

And I’m so grate­ful to kick off Art && Code. And I’m so excit­ed about all the speak­ers we have because I think every­one’s per­son­al taste and skill set is so unique and lets them make things that are both uncer­tain and beau­ti­ful and in a sense home­made. So thank you so much for hav­ing me. And I’m look­ing for­ward to the rest of the con­fer­ence. Bye!

Golan Levin: I’m no longer mut­ed. Thank you, Claire. You are the one speak­er that we don’t have ques­tions pre­pared for because you are the per­son who was help­ing me come up with ques­tions. But how has being alone in your iso­la­tion of quar­an­tine of COVID changed your think­ing about home­made and craft and cre­at­ing things? And were you already there or has 2020 changed your thinking?

Hentschker: No, you know what, actu­al­ly I appre­ci­ate the ques­tion. Because I think… I think I’ve always thought about home­made as this sort of act of love, this gen­er­ous sort of thing you can do for some­one else. This unnec­es­sary but great grat­i­tude from the oth­er per­son­’s style thing you can do. And I had­n’t con­sid­ered how much home­made is also some­times done out of neces­si­ty. So like whether you’re in a com­mu­ni­ty that isn’t able to get some­thing you need so you need to make it your­self. Or if you’re locked in your stu­dio apart­ment in Brooklyn [laughs] and you need to make things because oth­er­wise you’re going to lose your mind. That there’s sort of an urgency and a neces­si­ty to mak­ing things at home, too, which…I now can say that I’ve experienced.

Levin: I think a large part of what we’re going to see at the Art && Code con­fer­ence is peo­ple who’re mak­ing things for dif­fer­ent kinds of economies or non-economies. And by that I mean peo­ple who are mak­ing things for them­selves, for their fam­i­ly, for their friends, for their com­mu­ni­ties, for their ances­tors. You know, con­nect­ing with craft lan­guages that might be thou­sands of years old, or which are being made as true gifts for others—as true gifts—which you know, could only come from me that could only go to you and which are not offered in exchange for any­thing but which are true gifts. 

But also espe­cial­ly when peo­ple make things pure­ly for them­selves, not even real­ly con­fect­ing it but just like mak­ing a tool for one­self, these kinds of zero-scale pro­to­types that are one-offs, I think all of that is with­in play I think in this festival. 

Hentschker: Plus the fes­ti­val itself is home­made. I think that was anoth­er ele­ment in it. Like we all put this togeth­er from our homes. 

Levin: We’re going to be see­ing a lot of peo­ple’s homes, and of course we’ve been liv­ing in this rec­tan­gle for some time. [ges­tures to indi­cate the frame of the video around his sec­tion of the livestream] And in many of the pre­sen­ta­tions we’re going to see peo­ple’s rooms, their stu­dios, and get kind of a feel­ing for how they’re work­ing now. 

Well, we will break here. Thank you so much, Claire. Next up will be Irene Alvarado at six o’clock. And so we’ll see you soon.

Thanks, every­one.

Further Reference

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