Tag Archive for 'harvard'

01NovMaking Things Talk

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I cannot wait to read Making Things Talk, Tom Igoe’s new book on Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects. It seems a lovely source of cute projects with ready-to-use technical resources. NearField opened a few pages of the book for us.

After taking classes in sensors and electronics at MIT, this semester I take Physics 123 at Harvard University. I recommend this class for any mechanical/electrical/software engineer, designer and researcher who wants to get a deeper understanding of physics related to electronics and to develop an intuitive relationship to electronics. It is the equivalent of 3 full time classes, because two days of the week and the week end are devoted to the class laboratories and assignments. Intensive but productive! This is one of the most valuable class I took in a long time. I hope after that class that all my things will talk!

“A lab-intensive introduction to electronic circuit design. Develops circuit intuition and debugging skills through daily hands-on lab exercises, each preceded by class discussion, with minimal use of mathematics and physics. Moves quickly from passive circuits, to discrete transistors, then concentrates on operational amplifiers, used to make a variety of circuits including integrators, oscillators, regulators, and filters. The digital half of the course treats analog-digital interfacing, emphasizes the use of microcontrollers and programmable logic devices (PLDs).”


[The other’s eyes] turn to me a liquid pool waiting for unforseeable disturbances. They are more naked than the flesh without pelt or hide, without clothing. … They are more naked than things can be, than walls bared of their adornments and revolvers stripped of their camouflage; they bare a substance susceptible and vulnerable. Their nudity exposes them to whatever message I may want to impose, whatever offense I can contrive - Alphonso Lingis, Foreign Bodies, p171.

In shell, I tailored a plastic envelop of a human body, envelop that is then discarded. The plastic fabric is carved with textural information. Its transparence resembles a ghost, its undefined junctions and closed top suggest a metamorphosis rather than a piece of clothing. It is an object that has been depersonalized by being discarded in public.

Attached to a long stick, it floats in the wind, linking the experience of the playground (yard), the uncomfortable cocoon (the shell) and academic knowledge (the Widener library at Harvard University).

05AprRichard Nonas

55 meter long double-line of double-bolders cutting diagonally trough a formal grid of trees - Permanent work
Image from Galleri Andersson Sandstrom

Not the forest, or even the North, but simple places barren, and hard when you touch them - places that are clear about excess… 1997

Invited by Helen Mirra, Richard Nonas came to lecture in our sculpture class. He discussed his view on art, art trying to confuse the categories in a way the culture hesitates to or is not meant to do. He raised the question of the difference between entertainment and art. He compared to a meal “this is the difference between a meal that makes you feel well fed and a meal that you remember twenty years later.” An artist is someone who devotes his life to the cause of what he is trying to achieve. It is not per se a profession. An artist looks at everything and question everything.

He explained that he became an artist by coincidence, being an anthropologist at first. He started building sculptures of objects that were powerful for him, such as two pieces of wood. He watches and observes people in their environment before creating anything. Richard Nonas invests in space and place. In the notion of space the world is untouched and undefined by human counsciousness, rather in place there is a direct interaction between the physical world and the human mind. It contains an emotional content of that of an hybrid between the physical world and the human being.
He builds sculptures as place and unsettled, for him the tension is the power. The notion of fragment is key because it is in the middle of something.

He is interested in the strong power of an object into a space. For instance, a dog shit on the ground and everybody walks around. The dog shit recreates the space. He is working on that type of power of an object that transforms a place within his work. He thinks that most outside sculptures are confusing: are they about entertaining? are they a logo? …
Some outdoor sculptures that were powerful and moving to him, such as the ones of Richard Serra, have been removed and this argumented with practical reasons: terrorism, people using the sculpture as a toilet, …

The confusion that Richard Nonas creates, is an opening, a discovery, it is not a closing. He does not try to annoy people. He mentions that it is very hard to draw this line. He needs to seat on a bench and watch people to understand their habits and not distub them with his sculptures. He wants to create a shift, a move, so that, for a piece of time, one cannot see the world the same way. This is important because we live in a wolrd of compromises and we makes choices that are important. We need to filter, and certain things are ambiguous while others are not. He finds this type of shift exciting, energizing, and also it is about wander. That way the world changes. He compared this shift with drugs, and he says “with drugs it is always the same thing” with art it is always different. Unfortunately with time everything becomes a cliche, for the artists of his generation, it is hard to see something new. He says he has this responsibility as an artist to keep this dialogue, and create this shift happening.

What an inspiring person! My PhD work is very different and extremelly practical. Yet I always integrated this shift component as a principle in my work. I try to empower people by letting different kind of complexity emerged and this by reducing the technical complexity of expressive tools. I also always worked on what can be seen as two contradictory elements: designing tools for people to create their personal content to be driven into someone else’s perspective.

With the class and Richard Nonas, we will all go out for a drink later tonight, I cannot wait to continue this discussion!

27FebCharles Goldman

Sculptor Charles Goldman says : TIME + DISTANCE = EXPERIENCE.
So I look at his on work on his web site work and find …

Spruce / Spree (2005) A grass-dressed shopping cart that was apparently chained up at various locations throughout a developing neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY …

Finally, the chain was clipped and the shopping cart was confiscated

Elsewhere (2000) and in particular Infinity Walk, wood, 32′ x 16′ x 8′. It is an iconic infinity sign.
“In elevation, the walkway rises, falls and turns underneath itself, providing a never-ending pathway that the visitor may follow.”

The work dealt with the repetative nature of time and experience.

Scrapwood (1998) made of 6,144 cubic feet of scrapwood and cardboard.
“About two years worth — 18 boxes — of wood scraps are assembled site-specifically, according to whim and using only gravity. ”


Charles Goldman’s web site


In this project, sensor modules are hidden within snow elements such as rocks, pavements, icy beach. Each sensor module contains pre-recorded chirping birds. Each module is composed of a set of wireless speakers and plays a pre-recorded cardinal bird - Many thanks to Cornell lab of Ornithology for their great collection of free bird sounds.

When a passerby travels through her environment, she observes her surroundings. Hearing birds coming from the snow she declares: “this is lovely”. She does not yet connect the meaning of the two. She is projected within her idealistic view of her environment, snow and birds symbolizing magic.
She tries to obtain her curious information: “I know the sound comes from the ground, but where?” In a few minutes she notices that the sounds come from the snow, and realizes the fact: this is unusual and disorienting.

This project exemplifies the disconnection between natural elements of the outside; the birds symbolizing the spring, the snow symbolizing the winter. The two are reunited in a dramatic way. I shift the location of the birds from the trees to the ground. I shift the seasonal sounds from winter to spring. In this piece I selected a large landscape, nude from anything else than a winter tree, with no leaves, just branches. I bury the sounds into the ground, in the snow.

I find that we are disconnected from reality. Aesthetic endeavors create magic, but magic that distances us from facts. I use this magic in nature, elements that are natural but yet inspire us: snow, sounds of birds. I put them together to create this aestheticised tragedy.

Project I made for the sculpture studio : outside



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