Final Project : Pot Jockey and Machine Gardens

See also : 500 Word Writeup


My final project consists of two pieces linked by common interests and structures. The wider context is my wish to bring together interactive art with a craft tradition and seeing the programmer-craftist in this context. Both works seek to create (if only in an inauthentic and "artistic" sense) an experience of doing craft. What interests me is a matrix of ideas and values from craft ranging from "material consciousness", a sense of autonomy to design and make for yourself, the engagement with tools, disolving of craftistic activity into life.

Each piece is a "triptych", consisting of three parts :

To clarify, I am making "making systems". This is partly to bring the possibility of being a maker into the mind of the viewer / participant. It is partly to reference the tradition of craft "resistance" to industrialisation, deskilling and environmentally destructive mass-production. It is partly because I personally enjoy the experience of making - the subjective sense of engagement - and want to bring it to others. It's partly because I have been looking for ways to break computer art out of the frame of the computer screen while not turning it into a distant and commercialised spectacle; making physical outputs seems one way to do this. It's partly because I want to play with new making systems and opportunities of digital and abstracted craft.

Finally, it's because for me, as a programmer, there is a strong sense of something magical that my words can become physical things. I have not yet lost my sense of wonder and joy at this.

The pieces are meant to be viable tools in that they are not awkward impediments deliberately obstructing the making experience. But at the same time, the inputs are meant to be quirky and non-obvious. They are "artistic" in the sense of drawing attention to themselves by being unusual. They are not to be simple reimplementations or immitations of existing UI tropes even if such things would be more familiar and accessible to the user.

The domain of models which can be produced is restricted to a particular kind of thing but within that constraint is meant to allow sufficient flexibility for the user to get some sense of self-expression. Flexibility is intended by giving the user not just the ability to chose discrete combinations of predefined things but have some control over continuous / quantitative parameters of the model.

Finally, I would have prefered to use equivalent quirky or non-obvious output of physical objects, but have not currently been able to do this so I am using standard solutions : 3D printing and laser cutting. It also hasn't been possible to put this making capacity into the gallery yet. My current solution is to show an example of made objects and to offer exhibition attendees an opportunity in the form of a competition : they can use the software in the gallery to invent an object, save it and communicate with me. I will then chose and make one of the objects for them.

The Works

Each work has its own page of detailed description with code: