Monster Slayer Radio

The Director of a local film that will be called Monster Slayer called the other day and hired me to build a prop for his film. The prop needed to be a portable radio that looked home-made/modified. Here’s the photo of it after return from the first location shoot.

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It was a fun challenge to work on this. I started with a vintage rf generator I had in my supplies. The prop need to be opened up for a shot showing its innards being worked on and it needed an antenna and lots of knobs. I added the ceramic insulators, antenna, switch, and working indicator light on top and speaker grill on the front. It had to fit into a backpack so it couldn’t be to large or unwieldy. To give it an extra “homemade” look I suggested the battery be strapped to the exterior. On the other side is a hand crank like old military field radios used to have. The film is in first stages of production and you can find out more about it and support the project at http://monsterslayerproject.com

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Sketchbook KARF Station 1

This is a sketchbook drawing from 2010 of one concept for Station 1 of the KARF installation. I look back at old sketchbooks and notes to refresh my ideas and sometimes solve problems I am up against. I like the spindly look of this station-how it has a slight unsteady cant. Nearly all of my sculpture has some part that juts out or leans away from the base. In the real world as I built this I had to center more of the weight over the casters on the bottom. It was that or actually having to deal with it falling over. I found a way to compensate for the teetering feeling I was after by crowding elements onto the upper section of the station, mounting them at slightly cockeyed angles, to get that feeling of precariousness I wanted.

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Air Pumping Unit

The actual air pump is small, plastic, not very romantic or iconic so I carved up a hunk of cottonwood to make a stout nodule shaped housing for it. Here are a few photos of the process.

Raw Cottonwood

Raw Cottonwood

To start there was a good heft to the log with a limb jutting from it.

I kinda melt and flow when I’m carving cottonwood.

Initial shaping and some sanding

Initial shaping and some sanding

Veering and swaying, I grind, floating around the grain. I left the frayed, velvety surface not sanded fine. It came to resemble something; a body organ, a heart, but it will need extra valve structures, fins, ports and jets radiating hoses coated in gelatin waxes. In my mind I often see things that are organ shaped objects or shapes that conjure up lumps of muscular knotted vine, root twists, orb clots packed with goo, fungus heads that protrude like swelled bones under meat.

More shaping and sanding

More shaping and sanding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel soothed when an angular form rests near a rounded shape, flowing tubing encircling all around. So I mounted the pump housing on a rectangular plate of wood.

Mounting pump housing to board

Mounting pump housing to board

The pump housing later became depended from a cast aluminum part of a helicopter engine. I can run hoses and tubing between pump housing and engine part to plenum the air to different places.

Mounting pump to board-left side

Mounting pump to board-left side

Eventually the air will bubble through some liquids that will be in vials and bottles in various places on the station. Having left the wood surface crude I like how it contrasts with the precision machined objects I mounted to it later. It’s not quite finished. Once I have the basic elements added I’ll mount it to the station. From then on I’ll integrate other systems of tubing, controls, to it.

Hidden Drawings

Hidden drawings

Throughout the KARF installation there are hundreds of drawings that are hidden. Some drawings cover pages and pages of the binders and books that sit on the shelves of each workstation but don’t get opened. Some are added to small scrolls that get coiled up and put into odd shaped wooden boxes or metal canisters.  Some scribbles and symbols are marked onto bits of paper that, later are covered up by labels or additional papers with more drawings and writings on them. I can only feel the authenticity of this particular artwork by doing this hiding of things. It fits in with the real world around me. There are hidden things. Each hidden thing has its own presence. I think the presence it has somehow influences me even though I can’t experience it directly. It’s like life drawing. One must understand all the elements under the skin-muscles, bones, arteries and such in order to draw the human form properly. Even though these things are hidden they have presence. So, I feel I have to make the presence of the hidden things so the person who views this installation will possibly feel the presence of the hidden things too.

Page from binder detail, code page with decoder window.

Page from binder detail, code page with decoder window.

small note pad with drawngs

small note pad with drawngs

small note pad detail

small note pad detail

Document Scroller and Optical Reader

Document Scroller

document scroller 72dpiKinetic forms have long been a staple of my sculpture. The stations in the KARF installation each will need a number of kinetic devices that indicate information in action like a computer screen munching data. I have built a box for Station 2 that has a motor driven loop of canvas with small documents stapled to it. When the motor runs it slowly drives the loop and draws the documents past an opening that is framed with an antique bronze frame. I made the documents from scraps of junk mail, old tax forms, defunct carbon copy receipts, all that I drew on with my crabby symbols, scratches of figures, smudged glyphs. Matching up distressed materials and quirky technology like this brings up this mood in me that I think other artists and inventors may have experienced. It’s a feeling of jubilation at overcoming crude materials to succeed at a sculpture that previously had only seeped around in my mind.  Here it is mounted to Station 2. Wiring still to be connected that will run the motor and a small light that illuminates the document inside the opening.

Optical Reader

The optical reader is a component of the document scroller that is added to the front.  I wanted a slightly random device that would mechanically move a small lens back and forth, at varying intervals in front of the document scroller window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently got to working with servo motors-the kind that hobbyists use to operate parts of remote controlled toys- and developed a circuit that would make the servomotor move the way I wanted. I like most of the motorized devices I make for my sculptures to have a bit of their own personality. Certain kinds of motors, like servomotors or gear motors and the custom driver circuitry I develop for them gives them the personality I’m after.  It can be a consuming challenge involving lots of tests and adjustments to make the motor move in a special way.

The main challenges are the mechanisms that the motors move and the timing of the motor’s operation. I start with some mechanical elements that I hope will give me the movement I want such as a linear slide, in the case of the optical reader. I long ago found some really nicely OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAengineered slide parts in old computer disk drives.I scavenged one from a disk drive I’d stuffed away in a box, welded the chrome shaft to a small mounting plate, screwed that to a chunk of wood and mounted the servomotor to the opposite side. Then I joined a bit of stiff wire between the motor’s rotation linkage and the carriage that slides along the chrome shaft. Three circuit boards provide timings to the servomotor telling it to go left or right at various times and durations. Testing with various values of electronic resistors, knowing a basic range of what would give me the movements I wanted quickly gave me the results I wanted.

Optical Reader in left position

Optical Reader in left position

Optical Reader in right position

Optical Reader in right position

 

The carriage holds the antique lens and a little sculpture I named the ‘optical reader node’. Here’s a sketch I made as I was playing with the parts I thought might work on it.

sketch of opto reader node

sketch of opto reader node

You can see how the actual optical reader node evolved from the sketch.

Optical Reader Node

Optical Reader Node

Specimen case finished

Specimen Case finished

I finished the specimen case. In the two photos you can see the left and right sides and front with the lighting activated. The main addition was the little grouping of wires and components on the right front corner. When I looked at it more recently the details on the left of the glass vacuum chamber and other coils seemed to heavy. I played with some old capacitors and coils around the right lower corner but they were too big and demanding visually. I found the green resistor that seemed to balance my attention more, but not quite enough. Scouting around the pile of scrap electronics on the bench revealed the small gold colored lump shaped capacitor. That had the right scale and color to add with the green resistor. Together with the extra wires and a custom bracket to hold the resistor made a neat little nest that balances the left side components.  Sometimes balance can be gotten from unexpected combinations of color, form and intricacy-not necessarily matching volumes. This specimen case unit will get mounted somewhere on Station 2… I think.

Specimen Case right side

Specimen Case right sideSpecimen Case left sideSpecimen Case left side

Specimen case

Among the clutter of my electronics bench today I have this specimen box taking shape. Specimens, especially ones that look organic, alive, pulsating, wet, get under my skin and grab my need to explore them at the same time. I must still have the little kid in me who needs to poke at worms and dig up gooey stuff from under the sopping ground. My girlfriend Erika showed me how to make play putty out of Borax, glue and food coloring. The resulting blob dried over weeks to be the blue specimen in the box at the bottom. I thought the box needed some layers of ramshackle circuitry over the top, and some vintage components on the side to give it a more invented look. A thank you goes out to Richard at Leeds Radio in Brooklyn who still sells old radio era parts. Those lovely, cast metal feet are from a little shop in Williamsburg Brooklyn. I think this object is nearly finished. It has a light just under the lower circuit board to illuminate the specimen that I will show in a later post.

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