Workshop 08: Construction and prototyping


In this workshop, we continue to tinker with some electronics to explore some possibilities these tools may bring to creating media artworks. Our focus remains firmly on our investigation into the ideas of interaction and audience experience. We will also spend some time working on the ideas and concept maps for your Wonderment project.

Research and discussion

How is electronics used in contemporary art?
In a group of 2 to 3, analyse one of the works below and answer the following questions:

1. random international’s Swarm Light

2. Nils Voelker’s One Hundred and Eight

3. Daniel Rozin’s Wooden Mirrors

4. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Tape Recorder

5. Kuuki’s e. Menura supurba


  • Describe the mechanisms of the work.
  • How are the inputs of the system?
  • What are outputs are there? What forms do they take?
  • How are the inputs controlled or translated into outputs?
  • Draw a schematic that outlines how the work is put together.
  • Describe the audience’s experience. What emotions, affect and thoughts may the work induce in the audience
  • What are the main concepts of the work?

Project planning

Idea map is map of the central idea you will explore.
Concept map is a system map of how related ideas, materials, processes are connected to each other

  • Draw one of each of these maps
  • Add the things you will need to your concept map
  • Add the steps you may take (include dates) to your concept map.
  • Add the resources, space, and equipment you will require for the prototype presentation.

Discuss your project with class/ consult with tutor

Tasks: Develop project prototype.

Workshop Week 6

Part 1

In each of the following example:

• Describe the mechanisms of the work.
• What are the inputs of the system?
• What outputs are there? What forms do they take?
• How are the inputs controlled or translated into outputs?
• Draw a schema that outlines how the work is put together.
• Describe the audience’s experience. What emotions, affect and thoughts may the work induce in the audience?
• What are the main concepts of the work?

Research if necessary.

[Hannes Jung, [11].fluid] (

[Vera Hausmann, Till Maria Jürgens and Vitus Schuhwerk, [12]@>< #!!! – The life of an overtaxed surface]

[James Leng, [13]Point Cloud]

Part 2: Arduino Demonstrations: Servo motors

  1. Build an Arduino Circuit to control a Servo Motor. Follow this tutorial:
  2. Replace the knob with one sensor. You might choose:
    1. a light sensor
    2. an optic distance sensor
    3. a piezo sensor (sound sensor)
  3. Draw a schematic of an interactive work that might make use of the circuit you have developed today.

MakeyMakey demonstration (by Glenn)
Using key strokes to control a raft of possibilities.

Part 3: Project Work

Work on Prototype presentation for Week 10.

  1. Go over Assessment 2 requirements
  2. Create an Idea map: a map of the central idea you will explore.
  3. Create a concept map: a system map of how ideas, materials, processes are connected to each other

• Draw one of each of these maps.
• Add the things you will need to your concept map.
• Add the steps you may take (include dates) to your concept map.
• Add the resources, space, and equipment you will require for the prototype presentation.

Discuss your project with class/ consult with tutor

Workshop Week 5: Arduino switches, signals, and control inputs


[Jean Tinguely, Radio WMYR no.15, 1962]

In this workshop, we continue to tinker with electronics to explore the possibilities these tools may bring to creating media artworks. Our focus remains firmly on our investigation into the ideas of interaction and audience experience.

An Embroided Zoetrope: A device of wonder?

Part 1: Review of electronics

Find out the answers to the following and note them down in a post or your notebook.


What are these components used for?
What are their diagram symbols?

  1. Resistors (including variable resistors)
  2. Capacitors
  3. Coils/ Transformers
  4. Diodes
  5. Transistors

Exercise: What does this circuit do?


Discussion: What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with electronic technology?

Part 2: Stuff an Arduino can do

An Arduino is a micro-controller that can interface with both analog and digital worlds. It can read data, and send data. Put another way, it can read sensor information and use that information to control something else.

  • Automatic pot plant watering:
    • Sensor: humidity sensor
    • Controller: servo motor on water hose
  • Tweet when cat has left the room
    • Sensor: distance sensor on doorway
    • Controller: trigger software function
  • Gesture based human interface for playing games online
    • Sensor: light sensor
    • Controller: Keystroke emulator (simulates someone hitting a key on a keyboard)

What other devices can you imagine?

Part 3: Make a Theremin

A Theremin is a musical instrument invented by Russian inventor Léon Theremin. It is considered to be the first electronic music instrument to be mass produced, and is still in wide use today.

Build a pseudo-theremin with an Arduino.

  1. Build an Arduino circuit that allows you to control a LED with a knob (a potentiometer). Instructions are here.
  2. Swap the potentiometer for a light sensor (photo sensor) (some instructions here)
  3. Swap the LED with a piezo (some instructions here)

For the ambitious: add a volume control on the Theremin (To do so, you will need this extra code here: You will have to add another analog sensor to measure distance.

Variations on the Theremin

  • Instead of a light sensor use:
    • sonic distance sensor, or an
    • infrared distance sensor
  • Use a multi-colour LED light to display different pitches that correspond to the 7 tones in the major scale.
    • work out the frequency values of the major scale pitches
    • you might need to ‘quantise’ frequencies
  • Make a servo motor dance (well, turn around) in time with the changes in pitch.

Adding digital sensors to the Theremin

  • Use a Mercury tilt switch to
    • change the key of the major scale
  • Standard push buttons
    • to turn the sound on and off
  • Use a magnetic reed switch
    • to add another dimension to your Theremin
  • Infrared motion sensor
    • to add another dimension to your Theremin

Part 4: Control an online game

The Arduino makes it very easy to emulate (pretend) keyboard keystrokes.

  • Find a game on the internet that is controlled by keyboard control
  • Design / invent a physical user interface to control it.

You can use any sensors that you find in the kits.

Part 5: Project planning

Idea map is map of the central idea you will explore.

Concept map is a system map of how related ideas, materials, processes are connected to each other


Workshop 04: Electronics 1/ Introduction

copyright Michael Myers 2009
[Joyce Hinterding, Aura, 2009] In week 4’s workshop, we delve into the world of electronics. Why? You may ask. We find out how electronics have been used as a medium by contemporary artists. We add this tool to your tool box by beginning with the basics into electronics.


Discussion: RGM Post-mortem

Let’s quickly review the RGM class exercise.


  • What works well?
  • Is there anything that surprised you?
  • What require more time/ effort?
  • Can you give an example of the most important thing you learnt about working with materials? What materials did not work as you thought?

Discussion: electronics for artists

[Kim Williams, Account Payable (detail), 1998]

Research: electronics for artists

Research one of the following artworks:

  1. Ken Rinaldo Autopoiesis
  2. Joyce Hinterding Aura
  3. Simon Ingram Painting Assemblages
  4. Kate Turnbull, Modern Vanitas

Present to class and answer these questions:

  1. Describe the work.
  2. How is electronics used/ function in the work? Is it an essential part of the work in terms of its function, concept, or both?
  3. What is the audience’s experience?
  4. What may be the thoughts generated from this interaction?
  5. What is your appraisal of the work?

Part 1: Mechanical flashing bulb

In a group of 2, create a circuit that conducts electricity using the 12B graphite, paper, clips, and LEDs.

Now, make the light bulb flash … using any mechanical mean you can think of. Draw a picture of how you will make the light bulb flash.

More about circuits

Use a multimeter to measure the voltage, current, and resistance in your graphite circuit. Can you vary the resistance?

Ohm’s Law:


Current (I): the flow of electrons, measured in Ampere (A)

Potential or Voltage (E or sometimes V): the electric potential difference between two points, measured in Volts (V)

Resistance (R): force in opposition to the flow of current, measured in Ohms (Ω)

Things to remember:

  • Electrons flow from the negative terminal to the positive terminal.
  • An electric circuit is composed of electronic components connected by conductive wires.
  • A closed circuit allows the current to flow.
  • An open circuit is a broken circuit that interrupts the electric flow.

Demonstration: How to use a multimeter

  • How to use a multimeter?
  • When to use a multimeter?
  • Why would need to use a multimeter?

Research and present:

  • What are the following circuits?
  • What do they do?
  • What are they used for?
  • What do they look like?
  1. Circuit in series
  2. Circuits in parallel
  3. Series-parallel circuit

Part 2: Electronic flashing bulb

Electricity is a flow of electric charge (electrons). Electricity in nature: static electricity, lightning, electric pulses in the body etc.

[Russian scientist Georg Richmann was killed by the electric charge of lightning while repeating Benjamin Franklin’s experiment]

Electricity can kill! NEVER TINKER WITH 240V!! Follow Safety protocols! For this subject, do not hack into devices that use 240V electricity. If you incorporate a 240V device in your project work, this device must be tagged by UOW. (We will organise a tagging session for any of these devices).

Build a simple circuit: flashing light bulb using electronic comonents

In a group of 2, building the following circuit. First, you may need to research which component is signified by which graphic.


Research and present: Components

What are these components used for? What are their diagram symbols?

  • Resistors (including variable resistors)
  • Capacitors
  • Coils/ Transformers
  • Diodes
  • Transistors

Research and present:

What do the following terms mean?

  • Direct Current (DC)
  • Alternating Current (AC)
  • Conductors
  • Semi-conductors
  • Superconductors
  • Insulators

Part 3: Digital flashing bulb

Using an Arduino, create a flashing bulb that is identical to your analog flashing bulb, but control it digitally.

What are the differences between a mechanically flashing bulb, an electronically flashing bulb, and a digitally flashing bulb?


Project work: Ideas mapping and Concept mapping

  1. Begin to think  about ideas for project work in this subject. Will you be able to use electronics in your project?
  2. Draw an idea map of your project (map of the central idea you will explore).
  3. Draw a conceptual map of your project (a system map of how related ideas, materials, processes are connected to each other).
  4. Discuss your project proposal with you tutor.


The basics:

Series and parallel:


How to use a multi-meter:




Workshop 2: Rube Goldberg Machine 2/ Materials

Ian Burns, The Epic Tour (detail), 2005
[Ian Burns, The Epic Tour (detail), 2005]

In week 2’s workshop, we focus on materials and constructions.

  • What are some of materials you are using to build your Rube Goldberg Machine component?
  • What do you need them to do?
  • What is the most effective way of working with these materials?

Discussion: the role of materials/ materialism

[Frei Otto, architecture maquettes]

Theorist Manuel De Landa talks about how artists/ designers/ architects can work in partnership with materials. That is to understand the physicality of the materials you are working with (weight, size, mass, characteristics etc.)

He states that there are two approaches:

  • shape materials in accordance with their concepts
  • or, acknowledge materials’ innate qualities and harness these in creating work

He uses architect Frei Otto as an example. Before the days of accessible computer modelling, Otto used soap bubbles as a way to visualise/ actualise his idea of incorporating  parabolic curves into built structures.

[Frei Otto, Munich Olympic Stadium, 1968-1972]

In this subject, we are concerned with two things:

  • Mechanics – the properties of materials, and how they function
  • Aesthetics – what the materials are saying

Materials and construction:

Here are some common materials you may use in constructing a work:


  • Pure or alloys
  • Conductor (heat and electricity)
  • Strong by also malleable
  • Common e.g. Steel, aluminium, copper, silver, brass


  • Hard but brittle
  • Insulator (heat and electricity)
  • Common e.g. Clay, glass, gemstones

Polymers/ Plastics

  • Light, low density
  • Some can be moulded with heat
  • Common e.g. Acrylic, Nylon, PVC, styrene, rubber, foam


  • Mixtures of materials
  • Wood — mixture of cellulose fibres held together by lignin
  • Natural wood: balsa
  • Composite wood: plywood, MDF, masonite, bamboo ply, chipboard
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Foam core

Methods of joining:

Here are some constructions from previous year’s week 1 workshop. What materials are used in these simple machines? What is joining the parts together (or helping them stay in place)? Is there a more effective way of joining these materials?





Some non-permanent fastening methods:

  • Screws
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Nails
  • Staples
  • Pins
  • Rubber bands

Some permanent fastening methods:

  • Glues (wood glues, epoxies, plastic glues, super glue, hot glue, tape)
  • Welding and soldering
  • Needles and thread

Demonstration: fastening and joining:

  1. Making a pivot/ lever
  2. Making a pulley system
  3. Making a t-joint using dissimilar materials


In building your machine component, you will use a variety of materials and different joining and fastening methods.

  • What are the characteristics of your materials?
  • What methods can you use to join the materials together?
  • Join your pieces together and test the effectiveness of your joint.
  • Take photos.

Work on component of RGM in DMC Gallery

Post photos of your class’s exercises and findings onto your personal blog, and post a link to them on this blog.

Workshop Week 1: Rube Goldberg Machine 1/ Mechanic

TheWayThingsGo_Carousel-780x439 Week 1’s workshop introduces what we will be exploring, how, and why. We look at the role of objects and interaction in contemporary media artworks. We also begin work on the Rube Goldberg Machine by learning something about machines and mechanics.

Discussion: subject/ workshop introduction

What are the issues that concern us?

  • conceptual issues of system, play and interaction
  • aesthetics of interaction
  • technical literacy
  • objects and materials
  • how we create experiences

Why do they concern us?

  • these issues are relevant in all creative fields whether you produce art, design, music, performances, screenworks etc.
  • Because your create experiences

How do we tackle/ explore these issues?

  • conceptually through examining existing works
  • Looking at history and contemporary practices
  • hands-on exploration of object, materials, and how to manipulate them
  • to test ideas and create experiences/ experiences

Questions we will be asking:

  • What is the common understanding of interaction/ interactivity?
  • What constitute interactivity in an everyday context?
  • What are the historical definitions and circumstances?
  • What may be the criticism of these approaches? (e.g. Stimulus response, active/ passive)
  • What constitute participation?
  • What constitute engagement?

Consider these passages:

Walter Benjamin writes in ‘Authors as Producers’ that art as an apparatus should:

‘bring [consumers] into contact with the production process’ turning ‘readers or spectators […] into collaborators’.


Claire Bishop writes in ‘Viewers as Producers’, Participation:

‘In calling for spectators who are active as interpreters, [Jacques] Rancière implies that the politics of participation might best lie, not in anti-spectacular stagings of community or in the claim that mere physical activity would correspond to emancipation, but in putting to work the idea that we are all equally capable of inventing our own translations. Unattached to a privileged artistic medium, this principle would not divide audiences into active and passive, capable and incapable, but instead would invite us all to appropriate works for ourselves and make use of these in ways that their authors might never have dreamed possible.’

  • What do they mean?
  • What is your own experience of art?

Exercise: Research artworks

In a group of 3-4, research one of the following artworks and present your findings to class:

Yuri Suzuki’s Breakfast Machine

Joseph L. Griffiths’s Drawing Machine no. 1 (to Your Heart’s Content)



Mischer’Traxler’s Till You Stop


Peter Flemming’s Instrumentation


Jim Campbell’s Scattered Lights

Present your research that answers the following questions:

  • Describe the artwork.
  • Imagine and describe the experience of the artwork (including how it works).
  • What are the physical objects used in the artwork?
  • Describe the interaction that takes place in the artwork.
  • Does the audience participate? If so, how?
  • Does the artwork embody what Benjamin or Bishop is talking about?


Exercise: The Rube-Goldberg Machine exercise

MEDA202 class will consist of 8 groups of 3 students, each create a component of the machine (in a chain reaction). The first group  will determine how the machine gets started. The last group will decide the function of machine.

Machines and Mechanics:

1. What is a machine?

A machine does work (or helps you do work).

Examples: a hammer, a skateboard, a ramp, a pair of chopsticks etc.


Machines employ power to achieve desired forces and movement.’ (wikipedia)

Machines increase the usefulness of forces e.g. transmit or magnify the force.

Simple machines

Simple machines:

  • Levers
  • Wheels and axle
  • Pulleys
  • Inclined planes/ wedge/ screw

‘A simple machine is a mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force. In general, a simple machine can be defined as one of the simplest mechanisms that provide mechanical advantage (also called leverage)’

‘A simple machine is an elementary device that has a specific movement (often called a mechanism), which can be combined with other devices and movements to form a machine. Thus simple machines are considered to be the “building blocks” of more complicated machines.’

From wikipedia:

Watch: The Way Things Go by David Fischli and Peter Wiess

See whether you can name the machines and mechanisms used.

2. What laws of Physics concern us? (You don’t need to do the maths, you just need to be aware of them.)


  • Extra energy is needed to overcome friction.
  • Friction transforms kinetic energy into heat and sound.
  • Friction can be used to stop a moving object.

e.g. A rolling marble won’t roll for every, it will stop eventually because of friction with the surface it is rolling on.

Inertia (Newton’s First Law)

  • the tendency of an object to remain stationary, or a moving object to move in a straight line at constant speed.
  • Extra energy is needed to overcome inertia to move a stationary object, or change the direction and/ or speed of a moving object.

e.g. A marble rolls down a slope hitting a stationary marble causing it to move a short distance.


  • Types of energy: kinetic, potential, light, heat, sound, chemical etc.
  • Kinetic energy: energy of a moving object. A moving object has maximum kinetic energy at greatest speed.
  • Potential energy: energy of a raised weight. A stationary object has maximum potential energy at maximum height.

e.g. A marble is on top of ramp. The higher the ramp, the greater the potential energy of the marble. The greater the kinetic energy when the marble rolls down the ramp.


Work = Force x Distance/ W = Fd

e.g. Going up the steps: you are doing work is calculated by your weight (in Newton) multiplied by the distance of the stairs. You do the same work walking up a ramp and a flight of stairs to reach the same place.


Force = Mass x Acceleration/ F = Ma (Newton’s second law)

The greater mass of the object, the greater the force is needed to accelerate the movement of the object.


The Law of Conservation of Energy: energy cannot be destroyed or created. It transforms.

e.g. A speeding marble hits a stationary marble. Some kinetic energy is transferred to the stationary marble causing it to move, some energy is transformed into heat (friction) and sound (what we here when the marbles collide).



Law of Conservation of momentum: when objects collide, their total momentum is unchanged (provided there are no acting other forces e.g. friction).

Collision between moving objects (or a moving object and stationary objects) transfer energy. Momentum has size and direction. Linear momentum increases with speed and mass.

e.g. When a snooker ball (a bigger mass) collides with a marble (smaller mass), the marble will move away at greater speed.


Angular momentum describe forces in circular motion/rotation. It also increases with speed and mass. It also depends on the shape of the object.

The greater the diameter of the object, the greater the angular momentum.

When the rotating object changes in shape (e.g. diameter), it changes in speed.

e.g. The spinning balloon (in The Ways Things Go) spins in decreasing orbits and speed as the balloon looses air.


3. Open and closed systems

Power (in) = Power (out)?

There is no free lunch.

Are the inputs/ outputs within the system? 

Conservation of energy: in reality total energy is seldom conserved because of friction.

e.g. In your chain reaction, energy will be ‘lost’ (transformed into heat and sound). Will your system need an energy boost? What form can this energy boost take?

Watch: Student’s RGM from 2011


  • Divide into groups of 3 (tell your tutor who you are and your group will be given a number and a space).
  • Each member contribute to their part by building 1 simple machine (i.e. have at least three simple machines in your RGM component).
  • move to the gallery to experiment with materials
  • begin to build your component.
  • remember to discuss with the group preceding and/or succeeding your component how you would connect your parts together.


  • Begin sketching out machine components for RGM.
  • Begin building and testing.
  • Discuss with your preceding and succeeding groups.
  • Post class exercises and findings onto subject’s blog (only one person in the group needs to do this, but remember to put all your names a the end of the post).