The Project

The Project The goal was to create a multi-interactive, mechanical, musical garden of flexible size, to be able to set up exhibitions in diverse types of showrooms and spaces. The Garden consists of a root system that can stretch out to where there is opportunity, mechanisms that function plants and flowers in a variety of form, colour and sound character and a selection of interactive units made available to influence The Garden to move and play in several ways. The Garden is never finished, it will continue to evolve, change and extend. New species will be added, and so will means of visitor interactivity.

Bilderna är tagna av fotograf Jesper Blomqvist.

The Craftsmanship

The Garden consists of plants with steel stems and different flowering and materials, composed rhythms and interactive units, thus requiring both electro-mechanical, composing and programming skills, apart from the artistic craftsmanship. The plants have steel as one of its main ingredient, brazed into varying form. I like the rough to stand against the delicate, and wanted the craftsmanship to show and the pieces to keep their edges, so they are seldom ground, nor polished. The flowers and plants are basically rounded in their form and brazed together, using silver rod. The shapes emerge within the working process with the different materials, improvised in each step, but always considered for its unique sound, form and shape.

The Shapes

The shapes of the 3D printed flowers are created in my own program, written in C++, where I’ve defined calculations and algorithms to generate a range of shapes and sizes. They are then printed on the 3D printer, using thread from a thread colour blending machine I built myself, The Shrimp Master, and then mounted on a formation of steel rods acting as stems and branches. Some of the papier mâché forms are made using styrofoam covered in papier mâché and glue. The styrofoam is then removed, creating a hollow and a stiff sounding form with a slight echo. Others are created when paper is glued on steel stems to create leafy rich plants, and then mounted together to shape different forms and sounds. Natures organic forms has inspired every shape.

The 3D Prints and The Shrimp Master

On a recent assignment for Chalmers University of Technology I experimented with printing flower shapes in transparent white plastic, using a 3D printer. I liked the shaping possibilities and the sound added diversity to the orchestra, so I diverged myself into learning more. I tried out different open source programs to create and print the shapes I wanted. However, I found the limitation in colour very frustrating. There were few monochrome colours to choose from, and the final outcome had a plastic look and feel to it. I wanted the nuance of real flowers and plants. I proceeded to build a machine, an invention of sort, to produce the colouring and texture of the printing thread (filament) I needed. I call it The Shrimp Master, inspired by the colourful Mantis shrimp, who carry up to twelve different colour receptive cones, where man only possess three. There are several examples of home built machines to produce printing filament (thread) by melting plastic and extruding it through a motorized screw and heated nozzle. Just google it. However, still only the monochrome colour. I reused what I learned, but added the functionality to blend colour by cutting small pieces of coloured print filament, melting them together and extruding them through the nozzle as a more nuanced filament, going from one colour to another. I also wrote a program to control the length to extrude and how to nuance the filament. The construction of The Shrimp Master was more difficult and took longer time than I expected. For example, there was the consistent temperature problem. Or how to produce the even and perfect thickness of the filament. Or how to cool and receive the filament properly. However difficult it was, I persisted, struggled and finally succeeded. This venture means I can create and print flowers and shapes in whichever colour or nuance I want. I have not seen any other means to this end in market or communities today.

The Colours

When I had several different coloured flowers, printed in 3D, it became natural to continue with a wider selection of colour for the plants made by papier mâché. I have, in my earlier work, held a more restrictive approach to decorations in my mechanical orchestras. But in earlier work, I included a lot of multicoloured, anodized aluminium in sculptures and jewellery. A garden consists of so many flowers and forms with endless possibilities of combinations, colour being an important ingredient. I consider colour composition for each plant in detail, but also for the whole, like how a florist or gardener compose their bouquets or flowerbeds.

The Parts

Usually I construct the hundreds of mechanisms, that are needed to function the orchestra, myself. For this project I sub-contracted the work to Boll Smedja, a forge I know well in Gothenburg. The mechanisms that power the plants consists of a spring driven arm that creates a vibration with a link exchange that is powered by an electro-mechanical coil. A linchpin that reoccurs in my mechanical instruments and sculptures is a type of electromagnetic coil. I use 0.3 millimetre copper thread wired around, to create enough power. When the electricity is on, the coil will pull a metal rod in the middle of it, thus creating a mechanical movement that can be exactly controlled through electronics and the steering program. The root system consists of ten millimetre thick steel modules, punched out in varying form and size. They can be set together, much like Meccano pieces, to a system of growing roots from which mechanisms and plants sprout. The pieces are patinated by slight grinding and heating. The electronic system consists of Raspberry Pi’s, i.e. one card computers, that use Linux as their operating system and connect via local wifi-network. In the centre, like a spider in its web, sits the main Raspberry Pi, the Maestro, to direct the interactive inputs to the play engines. The card for the play engines are especially made with transistors to connect with each plant mechanism. The cards are construed by Tomas Nilsson, from Torptronics.

The Programming

In the nineties I wrote programs to control mechanical sculptures. The first mechanical orchestra I built, the Rytmobile, was controlled by a PC486. I then switched to micro electronics and teamed up with Tomas Nilsson, and he has ever since then developed and evolved all electronic cards I use. In the early days I mainly used the programming language Pascal in a Windows environment, but coded the electronics in Assembler, a language chosen for its very close translation to machine code. The processors were mainly within the PIC family, before I transferred to Parallax Propeller. In The Garden I use Raspberry Pi’s to build up the system, and they function like small PCs, using Linux as an operative system. Most of my programs are written in C++, some in Java, with the occasional use of Python.

The System

A dozen “slave” computers, with transistor electronic cards, are connected, where each computer slave has ten channels to hook up flowers and plants to, and a play engine to receive and execute the rhythm patterns from the main computer, called the Maestro. The Maestro, is a Raspberry Pi that contains a router with the local wifi-network “GARDEN”, and a master program to keep track of information from all interactive units in the system. The interactive units send information that translate into musical patterns, which are then forwarded to the slave computers, also Raspberry Pi’s, to play. The interactive units are, for example, cameras and skywriters that sense movement, touch screens to directly create rhythm patterns, controls to alter patterns, and an android app to make your own musical pattern that will then be played by The Garden. The units communicate via wi-fi in The Gardens ecosystem. The system is flexible and interactive units and plants may be added or removed at will. The Maestro knows the different units and will connect them appropriately. The mobile phones will connect and disconnect as visitors are present and active. The interactive units are prioritized differently depending on type of input, where cameras get a lower priority due to them operating more in the background, and the mobile phones get the highest due to their direct connection to the visitor.

A basic rule of thumb to creating the plants in The Garden is that each and every one is unique and should only exist in its own glory. Of course there are groups, or families, where flowers and plants share similarities, but no one will be like another in its colour, form or sound. Like a Noah’s Arc of vegetation.

The Interactivity

An important part of the project is to offer several ways to play The Garden. At an exhibition, people are differently inclined to participate, due to interest or shyness. Just wandering around in The Garden will generate beats and music based on rhythm patterns from the cameras. The skywriters create musical patterns in a more randomized manner. The highest level of interaction, and fun, is when the visitor downloads the app and composes music. Each mobile phone will get ten instruments to play by themselves. When several interactive units disclose musical information, the lowest prioritized will be more ignored than the others. I hope to see the different visitors play, and play together. Like a jam session, if you will. The Rhythm Patterns The interactive units receive input, compute the information and then send different rhythm patterns to different parts of The Garden to execute and play. A rhythm pattern is 33 bytes large, and consists of beats. An example of a sixteen note rhythm pattern using sixteen beats is shown below. 16 3 0 0 0 9 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 A pattern may take between 1.5 to 10 seconds to play. The first number in the series tells the number of notes in the pattern, the following numbers constitute beats and pauses. Any note pattern can be used, triplets, thirty-second notes, etc. The numbers will tell you which beat type to use, where 0 means pause, number 1 means short, 3 means long. 4 to 9 are different types of vibration.

The Sound

The specific sound created from each plant is unique. The sound is derived from the shape of the plant, together with the choice of materials. The plant will generate its sound by vibrations initiated by the movement of the mechanism. Materials generate individual sounds. The 3D printed flowers are made of PLA plastic and will have a clickety or froufrouy voice. The tube formed shapes of papier mâché will give a darker tone. Leaf formed paper plants generate a clattering or rustling sound and the metal plants will give a more metallic clang. The plants in The Garden are created to flourish with an abundance of textures and shapes, as well as bringing a diverse sound image to the table.

Ladda ner Android app, ett sätt att interagera på utställningen

En liten film från ateljen i Malmö

Saxophones: Jan Cardell and Daniel Hanson Cederskär, Bas: Dan Shyman