THE BATTERY IS THE MESSAGE: MEDIA ARCHAEOLOGY AS AN ENERGY ART PRACTICE
When media start to explode in your hands, it deserves a description. When it causes airplane evacuations, general panic and hysteria, it warrants an examination. When it quietly dies in your pocket before the end of an eight hour work day just like the other two billion smartphones, it deserves an explanation. It is reasonable to believe that a ‘Thermal Runaway’ event is far more spectacular than a quiet smartphone death. Leakages take place, fire and toxic chemicals are involved, possibly leading to personal bodily injury. It can be traumatic. Thermal Runaway is today one of the prime modes of battery failure. Chemical reactions within raise its internal temperature, and if not dissipated, the temperature keeps rising that will further accelerate the reactions causing even more heat to be produced, eventually resulting in an explosion. Especially a Lithum-ion cell above a certain temperature, its internal chemical reactions out of control, will explode.
NOTE: The thoughts in the following article came about during the Community Power Bank(CPB) workshops at Pixelache Helsinki in 2015–16.The project recycled Lithium 18650 batteries with community participation and re- purposed them to build power banks for handheld media devices. The workshops were conducted at the Museum of Photography and at the OSCE (Open Source Circular Economy) Days in Helsinki, Finland. All acknowledgements are due to the participants and colleagues in this project. For more information see: http://samirbhowmik.cc/2016/06/22/community-power-bank-recycling-lithium-ion-battery-workshops-2016/
The International Journal for Intangible Heritage has published our article: Hot Stones & Cool Digitals: Sustainable Contact Zones for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Finland, in Volume 11, pages 161-172. The article shows that a combination of community participation and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) could be an effective way of promoting communities as on-site contexts for intangible cultural heritage (ICH). James Clifford’s Museums as Contact Zones (1997) serves as a theoretical and practical basis for this approach. Two community-based museum projects are documented here that were conducted in Finland between 2012 and 2014: a community-based digitisation project with the Gallen-Kallela Museum in Espoo, and a museum installation in the Hakaniemi Market Square in Helsinki to which members of the local community were the major contributors. Both projects demonstrated that it is possible for a community to foster ICH through participation, collaboration, borrowing from museum practices and by the application of emerging digital technologies.
International Journal of Intangible Heritage: ijih.org/
In an age of increasing media devices, infrastructure and energy needs, how can we develop community-shared power systems? How could artistic production benefit from energy independence and also address environmental concerns? Our aim is to build a community power bank (electrical energy storage) by recycling fuel cells, building portable battery packs for community and artistic use. The initial workshops are an introduction to our community-participated energy project and includes a hands-on introduction to recycling Lithium-ion 18650 cells from consumer battery packs. Participants are guided to safely dismantle batteries, test, identify and recover functional cells. They learn how to design various cell arrangements to create variable voltage power batteries. Finally, they are assisted to build and maintain recycled USB power banks.
Two workshops have already been held in June 2016:
“Powering the Cooper Hewitt” project will investigate a sustainable framework for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. It will explore a participatory relationship between design collections, color search, user- communities and energy use of the museum. It will examine the links between energy & social metrics of museum’s user communities, analyzes carbon footprints and behavior of accessing digital artifacts by community from the museum’s collections. Finally, it aims to implement a participatory museum installation wherein the museum’s saved energy fosters a collection of its community’s design objects and energy stories matched to the museum’s own cloud collections.
This proposal is for an art installation project to visualize the digital collections of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum New York in context of its energy use, user-community and color search. It is the final exposition of a year-long project: MEMI (Museum Energy Model Interface) that explores a participatory relationship between art collections, color search, user-communities and energy use of the museum. The MEMI project in itself explores a digital search and monitoring methodology that not only strives to be a tool to access collections, but also records and analyses ICT-based processes of the online Collections Wall of the National Design Museum. It explores the links between energy & social metrics of museum’s user communities, analyzes carbon footprints and behavior of accessing digital artifacts by community from the museum’s collections. The “Color is History” Art installation will try to gather and combine the museum’s art collections, its energy use data, its user-community participation analytics, color tagging of individual artifacts and their respective narratives. It will stream continuous displays of color, artifacts, narratives and energy on the Museum floor (see System Diagram). The art installation will be fed content through a public online interface based on a Django web application framework & programmed in Python language. This interface/web application will access the open API (application programming interface) of the Museum’s digital collections. The physical installation itself will constitute of programmed LED displays, Arduino microprocessors and on-site computers. The saved energy use of the museum combined with online participation by its users will be channelled through the local energy provider to power the installation.
When I met Seb Chan, the Director of Digital & Emerging Media of the Smithsonian Cooper- Hewitt Labs, National Design Museum, New York, on the sidelines of MuseumNext Amsterdam in May 2013, we talked about how to make collections more visible to museum visitors and engage the community. How we could transform the digital repository into a tangible being, how to place the museum building on the internet and make it participatory. How to weave issues of energy and sustainability into the daily practices of a museum. After some research and consultation with artist colleagues, curator friends and computer programmers, I started thinking of how one would explore a participatory relationship between online digital collections, color search, user-communities and energy use of the museum. This is a research in process and the outcomes are open ended.
Haloo Akseli a public domain Open Access digital archive was launched for Gallen-Kallela Museum on February 9 2014. The archive is based on national Finnish Artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s 1920s Phonebook. The Phonebook contains his artist friends such as Albert Edelfelt, Ida Aalberg and a network of colleagues from Maxim Gorky to Karl Fazer. Here his acquaintances and their works, their art as related to Gallen-Kallela himself are to be collected, and displayed. The archive is licensed under Creative Commons.
Ida Aalberg, Albert Edelfelt, Karl Fazer – Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s phone book from the 1920s is full of familiar names. See who’s in it, and join in the making of Gallen-Kallela’s Virtual Phone Book on the Theme Day February 9th at Gallen-Kallela Museum!
Aalto University’s Media Lab in collaboration with Gallen-Kallela Museum are building an open access digital archive based on Gallen-Kallela’s contacts in his original phone book. The archive will hold information in the form of micro-histories, connected to Gallen-Kallela and his network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. This includes photos, texts and quotes from the museum’s archives – as well as pictures, postcards, memories and stories that the visitors of the Theme Day are invited to bring in.
Light is History is now tentatively scheduled for 2016 in Amsterdam in cooperation with a local Museum, Power company and a local public school. The project will be designed and formatted during 2014 -15 in consultation with local partners.
The Digital Heritage Congress was hosted in the spectacular Museum complex between Villa Mediterranee and MuCEM between October 28 – November 1 near the old Marseille Waterfront. As a venue it does not get any better.
Among the first things that I came across at the Congress was a Portable low-cost open source 3d Scanner built by researchers in the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) that one can easily assemble and is quite accurate. This was for me one of the few highlights of the Congress. A true ground-up project made with little resources and made for community.….where one could 3d scan artifacts on the move. Among the others attended, there was more of the in-house institutional development of technologies that had little to do with the outside and museum world.
I attended a workshop about building Heritage Competence Centres, where Halina Gotlieb showed how Swedish Interactive Institute was built and is operated. V-Must also showed how it is structured and operated. Another was Impact from Spain(digitisation.eu). I continued on to another session to design an Innovation Model for a Digital Heritage Centre, where we played around with Value, partnerships, budgets, outreach etc. It has helped me understand how to deploy a model in the context of Finland.
A visit to the MMSH Aix-en-Provence: The Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme
General presentation of the structure: Brigitte MARIN, director of the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme (Unité Mixte de Recherche Temps, Espaces, Langage, Europe Méridionale-Méditerranée, Laboratoire d’excellence- Méditerranée) http://www.mmsh.univ-aix.fr
The Mediterranean Audiovisual Memories, a huge corpus of archives easily accessible to all: http://www.medmem.eu/
Attended a Tutorial and workshop by Katherine Biggs of the British Museum (Samsung Digital Discovery Centre). Learnt about how BA builds digital learning lessons using their collections for young audiences. We designed a workshop based on the available resources, tech. equipment, and presented it to the participants. It was interesting to see a partnership between a private tech. company and a museum for learning.
Attended a talk on “Comparing 3D digitizing technologies” by Agora3D Project by 4 Belgian Museums. learnt about various options in terms of cost, resolution, output etc.
Overall, the conference was filled with technology demonstrations (especially 3d) and archaeology, but lacked in other humanities, communities and design. Also, there was not much topics on Sustainability and Energy. There was little representation from the Museums themselves, and hardly any curators. But I would highly recommend this Conference for Technology updates in the Digital Heritage Sector.
Assorted Tweets and Images on Storify: http://storify.com/Samir_Bhowmik/digital-heritage-congress-2013-marseille
The World Wide Web has become the de-facto platform for a variety of cultural heritage resources in recent years. A powerful democratic tool, it allows us to access digital heritage from Museums and heritage institutions around the world. Here, collections can be displayed without the limitations of physical space and location. On the Web, there are no small Museums or large Museums. Its a level playing field where beautiful interface design, creative showcasing of Museum collections, access and participation by community can propel former insignificant and buried collections into the midst of contemporary culture and into conversation about in town.
The energy artifacts from the Light is History 2012 Installation has been collected and displayed online: http://lightishistory.tumblr.com . This is a preliminary attempt at creating an online repository of objects related to energy and contemporary nordic material culture. All the artefacts displayed here with their narratives were donated by the 16 participating families from Kallio neighbourhood of Helsinki, during the “Light is History” installation, November 24th – December 1st. 2012.
The “Light is History” project in November 2012 involved a participatory Museum installation that served as a research object in a public square in the Nordic city of Helsinki. It investigated community participation, energy use, and new media approaches in the public display of energy artifacts from contemporary Nordic material culture. Participating families were requested to inform of their energy consumption and publish their daily energy use for one week onto the project web portal. This data was used to determine the brightness of the individual therapy lamps and to light the artifact displays of the installation for over one week. This research exercise demonstrated that community members were willing to anonymously display information of their personal artifacts and its use in the public place and share their energy use information for the common wellbeing. New media technologies and participatory action was able to bridge the private to the public spaces, the individual to the collective, and exhibit the community’s material culture and energy patterns. The project also established that a shared and collaborative installation space that mimics a museum can be created outside the museum walls that is open-sourced, sustainable, and participatory. The project received funding from Aalto Media Factory at Aalto University and was co-organized in the context of Pixelache / Pixelversity’s Talking (Trash) Lab Lecture Series.
The installation was on view at Hakaniementori from 25.1 to 1.12, from 17 to 19 daily.
Kuusitoista Kalliolaista perhettä on julkistanut päivittäisen energiakulutuksensa nettiportaalissa Light is History-installaatiota varten. Päivittäisen energiankulutuksen erot määrittävät installaatiossa olevien valojen kirkkautta. Kirkkaat valot toimivat kuten kirkasvalolamput, joten ne piristävät ohikulkijoita pimeänä vuodenaikana. Valot on tehty kierrätetyistä, uusiin vaihdetuista sähkömittareista. Osana installaatiota toimii kuvasarja, joka kuvaa teoksen osallistujien päivittäin käyttämiään sähkölaitteita. Yhteisöllinen energiateos Hakaniementorilla visualisoi energian kulutusta avoimessa tilassa. Se elää kaupunkilaisten arjen mukana, jonka olennainen osa energian käyttö on.
Our Energy Art Community Installation ” Light is History” was on demo exhibition at the Helsinki’s first ever D.I.Y. festival: Wärkfest 2012, 20 – 21.10 in Cable Factory Helsinki. The first modular unit, consisting of a therapy lamp and a display case (recycled out of trash electrical meters discarded by the metering company Mitox) was installed on a mannequin borrowed from the Fashion Department for a temporary installation in the exhibition hall. There were a considerable amount of visitors and people from the DIY community visiting our temporary installation and provided us a lot of interesting feedback. Information about the installation, participation forms and recycled electrical meters were on display at our desk. Kids were especially interested in all the inside workings and parts of the electrical meters, one even(pictured above) took home a few pieces, and came back next morning to show his own gadget that he had created overnight. We were also able to sign up participants and distribute information to prospective communities. Most people that signed up were interested in the participatory aspect of donating energy for light therapy in public and also about the community interaction it could generate at the site of the installation. Among others were also visitors who cared about saving energy and reducing their carbon footprint. I also presented the project on the main stage of the festival on Saturday 17.45 using slides of our presentation and the demo modular unit. Now, we have almost reached the upper limit of participants, however still looking for a few more dedicated participants from the Kallio area. We had applied earlier for an art installation permit in Hakaniemi Square (Hakaniementori) which is a central public and community location in Kallio, and today 22.10 we have received permission to put up the installation there! We have also already agreed with Helsingin Energia to provide us with support with this project. The tentative dates of the installation are: 24.11 – 01.12.2012 Hakaniementori, Helsinki.
A GPS based video animation installation that charts the tram movements of Helsinki in real time and generates color patterns using heat signatures in the surrounding air, a process similar to the aurora borealis seen in the north of Finland.
As vintage cars from the early 20th century kept rolling into the Market Square of Helsinki yesterday’s summer evening, I had this eerie feeling of being present in a special moment of recreating history. The automobiles that were stacked like in an exhibition display on the square and the dressed up audience together created an experience that could have existed a few decades ago. The scene was from an american mid-west town and not some northern scandinavian market square! The fact that these automobile hot-rods of the yesteryears were only for the show and the supporting cast of humans attired in the rockabilly style made the whole event a sort of a performance for me. I am sure, the community of the hot-rod owners and supporting cast did not think the same. For them, it was the coming together of friends and families who shared or continue sharing a past that is no longer viable.
So what made this community gathering of antique car owners and enthusiasts a museum?
First of all, the cars on display themselves were antiques, artifacts from a distant oil age, when the automobile reigned supreme. Secondly, the supporting cast of the antique car owners and their associates were dressed in spirit of their times, thus creating a surreal atmosphere that rarely exists normally on market square. A time frozen fashion along with a festive spirit with performance music made it all the more an appealing outdoor museum. The ambience was that of a long lost community making themselves seen and heard in our modern times. Thirdly, there were lessons to be learnt, aesthetics to be discussed, mechanics to be examined for the visitors and tourists, who in this case were the museum visitors. The artifacts were not enclosed in vitrine making them more accessible to the visitors. There was no curator as such, but more like a community participated curation. This community of antique car owners were themselves the organizers, the jurists and the learners. I noticed that they helped each other with lessons in automobile mechanics, informed the local citizens about the cars and hung out with each other in good cheer. So the question that arose in mind, was how can such a community be relevant to society, to our current energy crisis and how could it raise questions of sustainability? Should this instant community museum have a pedagogical effect on the visitors and tourists? We obviously can see how this gas-guzzling automobiles are no longer relevant in today’s society. It is almost criminal to drive daily to work on one of those beasts! Can we learn something from this? Will we also be strutting around our high energy intensive appliances on this market square a century from now?