ReFunct 09 Symposium

@ IMOCA Dublin

This symposium, organised by the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art in collaboration with the Data Group, is curated by Ivan Twohig and Benjamin Gaulon for ISEA09. This event will combine workshops, discussions, performances and an exhibition of some of the main international actors of the field of circuit bending and hardware hacking/recycling.

Exhibition: ReFunct 09 Invited Artists

Karl Klomp (NL) / Dave Lawrence (UK) / Gijs Gieskes (NL) / Jonah Brucker-Cohen (US) / Katherine Moriwaki (US) / Loud Objects: Tristan Perich (USA), Kunal Gupta (USA), Katie Shima (USA) / Patrick Wagner (DE) / Heiko Wommelsdorf (DE) / Joan Healy (IE) / Mattias Arvastsson (SE)

Data Workshop 4.0:
Scrapyard Challenge meets E-Waste Workshops – August 22

Lead by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (USA), Katherine Moriwaki (USA) and Benjamin Gaulon (France/Ireland) for the Data Group part of ISEA09.

Workshop Description:

Participants will build simple electronic projects (both digital and analog inputs) out of found or discarded “junk” (old electronics, clothing, furniture, outdated computer equipment, appliances, turntables, monitors, gadgets, etc..) in order to create audio/visual outputs. At the end of the day, the workshop participants will demonstrate and present their creations in a performance / presentation open to the public: Data Workshop 4.0 »

Event: Live Performance by Gijs Gieskes – August 22

Jonah Brucker-Cohen (USA), Katherine Moriwaki (USA) and Gijs Gieskes (NL), followed by a live performance by Gijs Gieskes.

Gijs is an industrial designer from the netherlands, mostly building experimental electronic and/or mechanical devices that do things. for a impression see:

Event details:

Free Entrance, from 6 to 10.30pm at Imoca. Data Event 36.0 / Get Directions »


Data Workshop 5.0: “Sound Dig” Workshop – August 30

Lead by Dave Lawrence (Dr Dave, aka Sponde) (UK) for the Data Group part of ISEA09.

Workshop Description:

If you are interested in sound itself and the prospect of prospecting for sound amongst relics of technology and in the physical structures that carry technology, then this workshop might be for you. Its going to be like an archaeological dig – but it’s a delicate search through the architecture and workings of whatever items of technology we can find – almost new, retro, and totally archaic – a search for sound.

To take part in the workshop, you don’t need to be a skilled musician or technician, or experienced in making music in any way (but its fine if you are!) – but you definitely do need to like sound itself… and have some time on Sun 30th August 2009… and be in Dublin.

Event: Symposium Opening – August 30

This event is a unique opportunity in Ireland to discover and experience current artistic and technological development in this fascinating field of artist research. And to engage with the contextualization of this new art practice.

Data Workshop 6.0: “Power Hacking” Workshop – September 5

Lead by Ivan Twohig (IE) and Bear Koss (USA/IE) and Luke Brennan (IE) for the Data Group part of ISEA09.

Workshop Description:

The Power Hacking workshop will challenge participants to Hack power tools and to interface them for internet remote control. The outcome of the workshop will be an installation in the exhibition space and available as a net based interactive installation. Workshop open to ALL. No technical skills required


Data Workshop 7.0: “Hack-duino” Workshop – September 12

Lead by Brian Solon (IE) and Emma Wade (IE) for the Data Group part of ISEA09.

Workshop Description:

Make floating light sculptures that react to sound. An introduction to Arduino and Processing with some good old-fashioned hack-and-do fun.

Participants will add LEDs to helium balloons and learn how to control them using the Arduino platform together with the Processing programming environment to create an interactive light sculpture that responds to sound and music.

Partly inspired by Electric Moons and LED Throwies.

No electronics or programming skills required. Participants should however bring their own laptops (Windows, Mac OS X or Linux). The Hack-duino workshop will invite participants to discover Arduino. Workshop open to ALL. No technical skills required.

Event: Data Event 37.0 + DeFunct Party – September 12

Nora O’Murchu / Emma Wade / Brian Solon / TOG Dublin Hackerspace followed by DeFunct (ReFunct 09 closing Party!).

ReFunct 09: Abstract by Ivan Twohig and Benjamin Gaulon

Hardware hacking (or to use a concept of Guy Debord: Hardware “détournement”) as an art practice has emerged very recently, notably in the field of electronic music as the technique of “circuit bending” where cheap music toys and instruments are modified to create new and unique music instruments. While less prevalent for visual artists, perhaps because it requires more specific skills and knowledge, it is a practice, which has seen a growth in popularity.

While it is a new practice, it’s art historical precedents can be traced back to the cybernetic art movement of the 1960s best known through the Jasia Reichardt curated “Cybernetic Serendipity” exhibition in the ICA in 1968. Key influences would include the installation work of Nam June Paik, the machines of Jean Tinguely and the lesser-known work of French cybernetic artist Nicolas Schöffer.

Hardware hacking, programming and physical computing are becoming part of artistic scope. There is a growing interest among artists and designers to know more about these domains of creation.

New technological developments such as the Arduino micro controller board and the sharing of techniques and information via the internet have made hardware hacking easier. As a result hardware hacking is starting to become one of the many artistic techniques in making work.

So far hardware hacking has mainly been driven by a DIY aesthetic and sometimes by a critical approach to technology. But it can also be seen as a mix between a critical response to: consumerism, the culture of planned obsolescence and a form of technological nostalgia.

This event is a unique opportunity in Ireland to discover and experience current artistic and technological development in this fascinating field of artist research. And to engage with the contextualization of this new art practice.

ReFunct 09: CIRCUIT BENDING, repurposing the past (by Alessandro Ludovico)

If there’s any proper “music hacker” he also has to be a “circuit bender”. But what really is “circuit bending”? To put it simply it is the process of creating sounds out of toys by making new connections in their electronic circuits. Creating new sounds out of almost nothing is compelling and all the initiates are always busy in experimenting with their cheap and crackling machines.

Who started everything.

The recognized (grand)father of the circuit bending movement is the american Reed Ghazala. His bendings are not only made by plastic toys from the eighties (as it is for most of the people), but also from stuff that’s even two decades older. In fact he started in the late sixties after observing a shorted out amplifier emitting sort of “synth” sounds. He asked himself a key question: “if this can happen by accident what can happen by purpose?.” So he began to carefully join different internal components of electronic stuff, then adding control through switches and buttons. He dedicated huge amount of time in this practices, reflecting also on the theoretical implication of such a practice. His long experience was explained in a series of articles for the Experimental Musical Instruments quarterly from 1993 to 1999. He had the chance of trying toys from different periods, with different results, and as he noted, circuit bending is more difficult on the most recent sound toys because of the circuit’s scale of integration: now most of the time all the sound processing is contained in a single chip.

Repurposing the toys.

Circuit Bending has definitely nothing to do with nostalgia. It’s a not a question of reviving forgotten stuff with old-style melodies and then sinking in an ocean of memories. It’s much more close to the opposite. It’s about cannibalizing this old stuff, building new, funny and bizarre freak toys that sounds like an alien electronic orchestra. It’s “hacking” in the most proper meaning, so it is also reusing and, more importantly, repurposing that little machines. Everytime a piece of wire, soldered at either end, a new logic relationship is established in the machine’s structure, and the electric-induced soundwaves start to speak a new language. This language is suddenly and randomly invented and so often it’s out of the owner’s control. Even if sometimes the toys simply blow up after a wrong connection, the process is almost addictive, the benders say. Furthermore every toy is made on its own electronic scheme and there are no common guidelines for them, so every bending has good chances to be unique. After a bend the ‘heart’ of these diverted toys starts to beat in a different way, liberating an hidden potential. It’s a game in which the players are busy with obscure circuits’ connections, making alive sounds that are not supposed to be there. It’s cheap and it brings the thrill of an exploration and the excitement of a discovery in a new soundscape, with an immediate feedback (“what will happen if I do this?”) and a promised uniqueness as a reward. Not bad for just playing around with old toys and a solderer. The generated sounds and noises have a new role, from being an entertainment for kids to being “music”. If the shiny handmade analog devices has become the luxury of digital age, circuit bending is the geek’s revenge, where the dusty machines resurrect and are put under the limelights. In the annual “Bent – Circuit Bending Music and Art Festival”, in New York, the crowd of enthusiast benders gather in the same style of their hacker colleagues. They have pure fun (concerts, performances) but also many technical workshops, for sharing precious knowledge, learned through personal experience, and for thinking at new strategies. Their creations will take part of further experiments, composing studio sessions and future live gig until armies of semi-autonomous Speak and Spell, Furbys and Barbies will take over the stage.

Neural #23

ReFunct 09: Associated Blogs / Websites

The ReFunct 09 Symposium is pleased to be associated with some of the main blogs / websites in the field of circuit bending and hardware hacking. We’ve invited each guest blog to present themselves and give their views on the subject. Note: This section is still under-construction.

ReFunct 09: Beep Glitch

In BeepGlitch blog we are trying to focus on new ways to approach music and the aesthetic of sound. Circuit bending its a big part of this exciting new world, because the creating methods are totally and in many cases aleatory, this brings into music concept, bright ideas and newer approaches.

I have many friends and colleagues asking me “-So what is circuit bending?”, well here goes the answer : have you ever heard of the Savant syndrome ? a person who as Savant Syndrome have the ability of mixing emotions, like seeing numbers in a wide variety of colours or the alphabet in shapes and forms, the cause of this, its simply the brain and some short fuses in some areas, and this its exactly what Circuit bending is.

This reflects what i think about circuit bending and the marvellous world of electronic and music.


ReFunct 09: Superuse

In the context of superuse, the concept of waste has no limitations in scale. Not only discarded building parts, end of lifecyle objects like cars and washingmachines, packaging materials like containers and cable reels but also buildings and non-used urban space remains are therefore also considered as waste, and hence,as potential rebuilding material.


ReFunct 09: Hacked Gadgets

Hardware Hacking is a growing phenomenon where you take an existing piece of technology and hack it so that it operates in a new and interesting way. The hack can simply add functionality or change the purpose of the device completely. The beauty about hardware hacking is that it allows many of the disposable devices that we see in growing numbers to be re-purposed instead of being tossed in the trash. The best way of describing this topic further is to provide a few examples.

Hard Drive Hacking

A laser was mounted to the hard drive body, the laser output bounces off a mirror that is mounted at the edge of the hard drive body. The first mirror is top hinged and has a wire connecting it to the read/write arm of the hard drive. Now when the read/write arm moves the vertical deflection of the laser beam is changed.

The first mirror points its laser output to a second mirror is mounted to the center of the hard drive platter. Initially the second mirror was intended to be spun using the hard drive motor however the hard drive motor spins too fast. Instead the platter is moved by hand allowing fine control of the horizontal laser position.

We have all seen an oscilloscope hooked up to a speaker output to allow us to ‘watch’ the music. Well now you can see a standard oscilloscope and a Hard Drive Oscilloscope side by side!

Atari 2600 TV Remote Hack

I wanted a simple remote that could be used to easily control the volume and mute the TV when the phone rings. I have replaced all of my remotes with a single Harmony 880 control which works great, but I wanted something a bit more cool to compliment it. Building the retro remote was fun and simple since the mini remote that I used was very easy to hack.

Hacked Gadgets

ReFunct 09: Remix Theory

One might wonder what is the concrete definition of “circuit bending.” In a way, the name does not completely connect with the actual activity of appropriating sound from pre-existing sources, ranging from electronic toys to hacked radios, or even half-broken generators. When I first heard the term, I thought it referred to strict manipulation of electronic signals. This possible definition hints at a certain purity in sound with specific electronic technology; yet, in 2009 circuit bending is quite the opposite, even if in the beginning it may have had a leaning towards hacking electronic gadgets of all types. At the moment, it is a hybrid practice that appropriates any type of sound, freshly recorded or pre-recorded; re-recorded or significantly manipulated; even erased or retraced–or captured live from the environment in which a performance is taking place to be bent immediately, on the fly. Read the full text on Remix Theory.