The School For Poetic Computation

For the past 2 weeks, I was a student at the School For Poetic Computation. Equal parts artist-organized-school and artist-in-residency, the School was begun as a way for a small group of students and teachers to work together to explore the intersection of contemporary art with code, physical computing, theory and poetics.

Classes were held in New York City in the former offices of Kickstarter. Previously held in the fall of 2013 for 10 weeks, this was a compact super-intensive 2 week session for 15 students and 4 teachers, along with guest lectures by a variety of artists, creative coders, theorists, and social hackers.

School For Poetic Computation - Photo from http://blog.sfpc.io/

School For Poetic Computation – Photo from http://blog.sfpc.io/

Several years ago, I applied to several traditional MFA programs but ultimately chose not to attend graduate school, wanting to avoid both steep debt and the inflexibility of graduate programs that specialized in a specific sub-niche of art. One of the great things about participating in the School For Poetic Computation was stepping into a community of people that shared my interest in studying the intersections of art and technology and actively working together to experiment, to create art, to have fun with art and code, hardware and computing.

Over two weeks we had a huge amount of classes in: OpenFrameworks, building Mesh Networks, Social Automation with APIs, building a 1-bit computer, an intro to Node.js, scraping websites, how to make a living (!), building physical-digital game controllers, a history of poetry and code, a speculative history of alternative computer history, and lots more. I was impressed with my teachers and fellow learners, and got a lot of energy from what everyone was working on. It was an extremely supportive environment, almost a 21st century Black Mountain College-type experience. Many of my fellow students and I stuck around from 10am until 10pm or later every night as we worked together, ate dumplings, coded, debated, watched youtube videos, talked, taught and soldered long into the night.

Students were encouraged to develop questions of interest to explore, and many worked on particular projects for their 2 weeks, alone or in groups. My own coding experience is relatively recent, so I decided to concentrate mostly on working in Processing, the visual artist’s programming language and framework built on Java. I created a program I call the Textual Selfie Station, a program that asks the user to type their name in, searches for information about them on google, and then turns on the camera, creating the image of them out of text found in the google search. Working on this program was a huge challenge for me in a great way, and forced me to explore working with APIs, Bash scripting, delving into javascript, scraping websites, using extended libraries, as well as hours and hours of debugging. Throughout the process, the SFPC teachers and my fellow students became my collaborators, helping me numerous times as I got stuck trying to debug, or suggesting ways to improve or adapt my program. The 2-week program culminated in a big presentation and party Sunday evening as we talked about the school and what we explored and showed some of the projects we built and one of my favorite artist/poet/thinkers, Kenneth Goldsmith, gave a really great talk, a preview of a speech he will be giving at the Frieze Art Fair on Thursday.

Textual Selfie Station - Kenneth Goldsmith

A text selfie of poet Kenneth Goldsmith

In returning to Philadelphia, I’m bringing back lots of ideas from SFPC to support and extend our community at The Hacktory. I’m excited to take the techniques and ideas I’ve learned at SFPC to inform our new fellowship and artist-in-residency as they begin this summer. I’m excited to teach classes and workshops in techniques I learned at SFPC. And I’m excited to connect our communities together. As this nascent field of artist-theory-hacker-maker-learners develop further, we have a huge community worldwide, and it will be nice to grow and interact with our friends both online and IRL. -Lee Tusman

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Great start to tech week with light sabers

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We had a blast over the weekend kicking off Philly Tech Week with tons of light hacking! From kaleidoscopes to a room-size camera obscura, we had lots of activities to explore optics and learn about the tools some artists have been using for centuries to create more realistic images.

LED light saber

A major favorite were the light sabers, which were made with a combination of laser-cut wood (thanks to Mike, Dept. of Making + Doing Program Manager) LED strips and microchips from Adafruit, with the engineering and programming know-how of one of our teachers, Tim Bieniosek.

The light sabers had a great effect for the light painting or laser graffiti we set up, but the regular mini flash light also produced some great results.

You can see all the photos on our flickr page. Thanks again to everyone who made it out!

 

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Giant light squiggle

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Light Hacking workshop this weekend

Light Hacking

Let there be light hacking! In conjunction with Philly Tech Week, Join us for a two-day exploration/build session/make-a-thon that explores optics, light,and interactivity. There will be a variety of projects each day for you to play with, and some for you to build and take home with you.

Day 1 (Saturday): learn how the Old Master painters did their work back in the analog days with the help of prisms, pinholes, and other optical illusions. Play with a large-scale camera obscura, and build your own mini-camera obscura to take home, and try your hand at the NeoLucida, a remix of an old drawing aid that was funded by an amazing kickstarter campaign.

Day 2 (Sunday): Come explore the code and equipment artists use to make amazing, immersive digital installations that respond to your movement. Build your own POV kit that has a secret message that can only be seen when it moves, or a light saber! We’ll take some long-exposure camera photos once it’s dark enough and play light pictionary and make some light graffiti. (Please note there will be an additional material cost of $10-$20 for these specific items).

All ages are welcome, under 13 must be accompanied by an adult. Photo credit: Pascal Maramis.

Tickets are $10 per person or $20 for a family.

More info and ticket purchasing here.

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Call for Applications

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We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for our Unknown Territory Residency and Fellowship! We won a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of it’s Knight Arts Challenge to make this project happen, and with the help of 262 kickstarter backers, we were able to get it moving. The project consists of two parts, a residency and fellowship. The residency is an extended 6-month opportunity for Philadelphia-based emerging and established artists with a visual art, music or performance practice but little or no new media, programming or technology experience. It is aimed at artists who want to transform their current practice by exploring what is possible with new technologies. This residency consists of training on software, hardware and other materials, mentorship from fellows and others in The Hacktory’s community, and culminates in a group exhibition of all residents’ work. The fellowship is for established artists working with software and electronics worldwide. Selected fellows focus on a specific project or avenue to explore in their work during a period of 2-4 weeks of continuous onsite activity in Philadelphia, and make use of the resources and knowledge base at The Hacktory. In addition to working on a specific project, fellows teach workshops and lead programs about their work. Read more and see FAQs on our residency page. Applications for both programs are due at midnight May 1, EST. We’re so excited to finally be able to provide this opportunity to Philadelphia, so please help us spread the word!

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Backing up your Raspberry Pi boot images on your Macintosh

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You’ve got your Raspberry Pi computer running smoothly. It does exactly what you want it to do with timed cron jobs and crafty python code. You’ve installed countless new apps via apt-get, and now you’re admiring your work as it hums along using a mere trickle of power compared to your aging desktop.

You think that SD card is gonna survive a million reboots? Even pulling the power plug once is enough to mess up your image with poorly stored processes.

It’s time to make a backup of your SD card, so you can reboot in an instant with a backup!

Read More »

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Rescheduled Intro to Circuits

We’ve recently re-jiggered our Intro to Circuits class, and rescheduled it for March 15. We’ll be doing it old-school style, making some lemon-cell batteries, learning how to use breadboards and multimeters, and how we interact with the basic forces of electricity every day. For those of you who were the artsy types in school and avoided as much science as you could, this course was designed with you in mind. At the end of the class, our goal is to get you feeling like this…

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Circuit Bending Music Hack Workshop

bent-pointSaturday March 1, 1-3 pm

Circuit bending is an experimental and creative way to modify audio electronics and discover unique and unusual sounds and functions within the original piece of equipment.

In this workshop, you’ll be introduced to the basic techniques of circuit bending using an Atari Punk Console noise maker that has already been assembled. Some experience working with electronics will help you in this workshop, but is not necessary.

GB_DTThe workshop, instructed by local experimental musician/artist David Talento, will include a background of Circuit Bending and Theory, live demonstrations (including using a modular synthesizer to make – and break – connections), instruction, and time to create your own circuit bent Atari Punk Console noise maker!

Check out a cool demo from our instructor’s YouTube channel here!

Circuit Bending Class Syllabus

Tickets ($50)

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No Project Night Tonight

In case you wondered, we won’t be having project night tonight. Our book swap with Girl Develop It and Code for Philly meetup are both postponed, so stay home and keep warm.

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Intro to Circuits, Feb. 15, 1-4 pm

Circuit_unreasonedDreamsHave you been tantalized by cool costumes & projects using LEDs, Arduinos, or EL-wire? Ever wondered what’s going on inside your computer, television, or vacuum cleaner?

Electricity permeates our modern existence, and learning your way around circuits is the first step in demystifying it. In this class, we’ll start with the very basics, teaching you how to identify common circuit components, use tools like multimeters and breadboards, read schematics and datasheets, and describe what’s going on with a few equations. You’ll build some simple circuits and go home with a mini-breadboard so you can tackle your own projects!

This class is suitable for ages 13+.

Tickets ($35)

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Focus Group Today Canceled

Due to bad weather and road conditions, we’re canceling our focus group scheduled for 2 pm today (unfortunately). Thank you to everyone who signed up, and we hope you can make it to one of the other sessions scheduled, which are this Tuesday the 28th at 6:30 pm, or next Saturday the 1st at 11 am. Stay warm everyone!

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