An Electromechanical Mandala

KlangKunstBühne 2005 Workshop

(See the results of this workshop here.)

Workshop Description

In this workshop participants will collaborate on the creation of a large electromechanical sculpture made from discarded office equipment, old electronic devices, and other abandoned, but still useful, technological debris. Each participant will create a section of the sculpture, and all sections ultimately will be interconnected to form a large, circular, mandala-like object. Participants can focus on any subject that interests them when creating their section of the work; musical devices, kinetic sculpture, and drawing machines are just a few examples of possible projects.

Participants will help find and gather old equipment from around Berlin. We will then spend several days investigating what we have found, taking things apart, and learning about the reuse of parts from discarded equipment. We will also cover the design and implementation of simple electrical and mechanical systems. The remaining days of the course will be spent constructing our sculpture. Participants will be encouraged to work together and to take into consideration the sculpture as a whole as they construct their individual sections. We will find ways to connect each section of the sculpture to the adjoining sections, passing electrical and mechanical energy between the parts. Ultimately we will end up with one large, interconnected work with many separate, but related, sections. At the end of the workshop we will dismantle the sculpture and recycle the parts.

This course is open to all artists, sculptors, musicians, designers, performers, etc., who are interested in integrating electronic and mechanical elements into their work. No previous experience is necessary, although please be aware that this will be a very hand-on course and you will need to develop some skill with basic tools like soldering irons, drills, saws, etc.


Much of the content of this workshop will determined by the interests of the students and the materials we gather to work with. So this is just a rough outline of some of the things I'd like to cover. Most of the time in the workshop will be spent actually building our Electromechanical Mandala.

Saturday 24 3pm-4pm:Introduction
Sunday 25 10am-6pm: A bit about my work. Super basic electronics. Taking things apart. Identifying useful components.
Monday 26 10am-6pm:Field trip to electronics store. Super basic mechanical systems. More taking things apart.
Monday 26 8pm: pizza party!
Tuesday 27 10am-6pm: "Off the Screen" talk. Hands-on with motors, actuators, switches, and sensors. Review of ArtBots participants.
Tuesday 27 8pm: Douglas's lecture at Museum für Kommunikation
Wednesday 28 10am-6pm:Putting things together: start building pieces
Thursday 29 10am-6pm:Continue building pieces.
Friday 30 10am-6pm:More building pieces!
Saturday 1 10am-6pm:Finish pieces, connect them all together...
Saturday 1 8pm: our presentation!

Some good books:

Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers by Dan O'Sullivan, Tom Igoe
507 Mechanical Movements: Mechanisms and Devices by Henry T. Brown (German price seems incorrect, it's only $7.95 in the USA!)
The Robot Builder's Bonanza by Gordon McComb
Art of Electronics by Paul Horowitz, Winfield Hill (Expensive, but terrific if you get serious about electronics!)

Some useful links:

Tom Igoe's Physical Computing pages
Chip Directory (look up mystery ICs)
Find a Sensor (just what it says!)
How Stuff Works
All About Circuits (free electronics book)
The Hardware Book (many connector specifications)
Virtual Machine Shop (lessons on various machine shop tools)
Kinematic Models for Design digital Library (beautiful movies of mechanical systems)
All About Electronic Circuits for Kids (thanks to Nicole from the New Hampshire STEM Club for Girls for the link!)