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the third performance using arduino was probably the one where i got closest to my vision of an open work. with the buttons in K.ONTROL and DEMOCRACY it is still a very rigid setting, just allowing a certain option at a certain time but no fluent or organic interactivity.

HA | SHARING BREATH (2011) was an interactive performance installation exploring breath as a core life essence. audience’s heart beats and breath rhythms were monitored and instantly transfered into a a visual breathing of the space and a living sound scape. a dancer improvised to those shared sounds – sharing his breath as well. i see HA | SHARING BREATH as an attempt to make the invisble tangible. (video link)

the performance was created for an intimate audience setting with three audience members being hooked up: two of them had a breath sensor belt around their chest and one an infrared pulse sensor. through an arduino those values were brought into max/msp. at the beginning of the performance these sensors were calibrated and then would trigger and manipulate sounds according to the audience’s breathing patterns and pulse rate. the pulse would always be the beat, a sub-bass, whereas both breathing sensors would trigger different harmonics, evolving over time. the performance itself was ten minutes long, but the installation as a whole could be visited throughout the day. more info on the performance can be found on the HA | SHARING BREATH website.

again amy and craig worked on this one, here mainly on hardware and getting the signal into max/msp. jason, the sound designer, has done the programming in max as well as all the sounds for it. he has got an image of the max patch on his website. thanks guys.

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a second performance i did using arduino was DEMOCRACY in 2011. it had a similar setup tech-wise to K.ONTROL, however the whole thing on a completely different scale. it took place in the new zealand parliament and had a cast of a member of parliament, a political scientist, a political journalist, a child, and (as the only ‘real’ actor) someone playing the cartoon figure ‘orange man’ who wants to encourage people to vote in ads before elections.

30 audience members would sit in a semi-circle in the former upper house of parliament and have a controller each with three push buttons. throughout the show they could vote for what they wanted to see on stage in terms of themes and also voice their opinions in polls. we would skip through different topics and performance sections in this manner, followed by an always lively discussion in the end about the political system. you can find more info about DEMOCRACY on its website.

the hardware setup was pretty similar to the one used in K.ONTROL, however all the thirty controllers were connected to one processor that would pre-calculate it and just sent 1, 2 or 3 (corresponding to the button pressed) for each controller into an arduino mega. coding was done in flash as i can remember, because this allowed better visual effects for the projection. basically there was always a question projected on screen, followed by a certain amount of time to vote, and then the results in bar or pie charts.

i am very grateful that i had such an amazingly skilled team for this. hardware was constructed by neill and michael, and coding done by amy and craig.

unfortunately i cannot post more images than these from rehearsals and construction phase for now as i haven’t secured the rights yet with new zealand parliament.

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time to post something about my performance projects that used physical computing. i aim to create interactive performances that come close to the idea of an open work: meaning an artistic work that is open to be manipulated by the audience receiving it, to be altered, and therefore partly or fully created by the viewer. also i am interested in creating emersive environments, in which form and content go hand in hand. so far i have realised three performance installations that used arduino, but in which i did not do the technical side of it but rather was directing the performance. the first one was back 2009 as my major piece of the first year of studying theatre directing: K.ONTROL.

K.ONTROL was based on franz kafka’s novel the trial and set up as a reactive performance installation. audience members did log into a computer system before entering the performance space and then were randomly chosen by the computer to control the actors. they would go to their control panels in front of the audience where they had a controller with four push buttons. by pushing those they would trigger the actors to perform certain patterns: monologue, movement pattern, scene, chorus. the idea was that the notion of power and control over others, the feeling of not being able to influence anything and enforced conformity – which is constantly present in the novel of kafka – would be expressed through the technical aspect of the performance; the computer instance as a metaphor for the LAW which can never be reached or talked to by the protagonist k., the random selection of people who would willingly support the system. you can find more info about the performance on the K.ONTROL website.

hardware-wise the setup was pretty simple… three controllers with four push buttons, wired to an arduino. coding was done in processing and outputting a video signal to a projector (opening and closing doors according to which button was pressed) as well as sounds (giving commands to the actors). hardware and programming was done in an incredibly short time period by amy and craig.

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door welcome music

finished the ‘door welcome music’ project and it’s working pretty nicely: when the door to our flat is opened a random mp3 will play and welcome the guest or say good bye. a panic button can be pushed to switch off the music immediately when needed. (video link)


a magnet is attached to the door and when it passes the hall sensor on the frame it will trigger a mp3 file. see the fritzing image for further reference about wiring the hall sensor and the push button. i am using the sparkfun mp3 player shield, as well as the proto screw board on top of it. also a cat-5 (normal ethernet cable) is utilized to connect sensor and arduino which makes it way less messy.

door welcome music - complete system

door welcome music - hall sensor and door

door welcome music - arduino setup in boxdoor welcome music - arduino setup in boxdoor welcome music - panic buttondoor welcome music - breadboard setup


thanks to the awesome work of bill porter and bill greimann I can use their smooth libraries for this project: sparkfun mp3 player shield library and sdfat library. apart from that, the coding is pretty straight forward. whenever the magnet is sensed start to play the track, play it for a minute. if the button is pressed before that, stop the music. then pause for 30 seconds to avoid continous triggering. you can download the complete source code for this project here.

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arduino – the documentary

a great documentary about arduino, its makers and its future. the idea of open source hardware is just amazingly mindblowing… over and over again. (video link)

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lcd display shield

lcd display shieldinspired by the workshop in paper pcbs i built a shield for my lcd display. it was always confusing to me which of the 12 cables go where, so this shield makes it as easy as plug’n’play to work with arduino. it has got a resistor at the right value added instead of a potentiometer, so that the display has got the correct contrast.


lcd display shieldlcd display shield

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paperduino uno

paperduinopaperduinopaperduinoi had a great workshop at the transmediale berlin about building your own paper pcb. it was held by wolfgang spahn and we basically printed out a scheme which we then glued on a copper plate. from there it’s just soldering in all the parts… and we had build our very own custom made arduino UNO clone. full cost of this arduino is only 13€ and besides you can adjust it however you like, so it’s great for bigger stand-alone projects. with some practical experience it should not take you more than an hour to build your own arduino or other boards.

i highly recommend spahn’s paper pcb website, where you can download his designs and use them for your projects. for example there is a midi in/out board I would like to try out and other stuff.

a similar project is guilherme martin’s PAPERduino. here they put everything into card board, so they do not use a cooper plate. this results in more jumpers and slightly more messyness, however, still cool and open source as well.

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thought i just share the soundmachines by the product. i like. great execution! (video link)

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next project

a suggestion of my flat mate antje… a machine that plays entrance music when someone comes inside. got to be a stand alone project, so i need arduino to be able to actually play music without a computer attached.

and still got to think of a way to make it slightly more clever than that. hm. suggestions?

twittering the lights

twitter newsfeed

arduino works as a stand alone computer here, sitting in our corridor and watching the lights. when ever the lights are turned on or off, arduino will twitter accordingly. it will try to be a bit funny in its comments and also count the number of times lights have been switched on or off. clearly, a machine that nobody needs, but still fun and a good way to bring the physical world into the internet digital world.

<– click here to view the twitter news feed of the test run during 16 hours.

below a photo of the hardware and how it actually looked like in our corridor.


twitter the light

twitter the light


the arduino ethernet shield sits on top of the arduino. then the basic setup is quite straight forward: a light sensor is plugged into 5v on one side. the other side is connected to a 10k resistor, as well as an anologue pin. from the resistor a third cable goes into ground (see fritzing image). this is done to split the voltage.

here you can find my coding for the project. i used the arduino twitter library by neo cat to make twittering easy and comfortable. it works pretty well and is easy to setup. a slight problem is that twitter tends to forbid the same posting twice or several times in a row. so you have to make every tweet unique.

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