Fabrication Challenge — Faceted Forms

The fabrication challenge for some of my new sculptures is to devise a way to transform models in 3D screen-space into faceted painted wood forms. The faceted look is something I first experimented using papercraft sculptures in the No Matter (2008) project, a collaboration with Victoria Scott.


I later expanded upon this idea with the 2049 Series sculptures such as the Universal Mailbox and the 2049 Hotline. I constructed these sculptures from found wood at the dump while an artist-in-residence at Recology SF.

The problem I had getting the weird angles to be exact. I don’t have strong woodworking skills and ended up spending a lot of time with bondo fixing my mistakes. I’d like to be able to make these on the laser-cutter…no saws and no sanding and have them look perfect. Stay tuned.

malbox phonebooth


The Art of 3D Printing

My new work on “Data Crystals” is featured in a new episode of Science in the City, produced by the Exploratorium. You can watch it here.

The behind-the-scenes production involved many emails and then a quick video shoot. Phoebe (the videographer) interviewed me in the conference room at Autodesk. We had about 25 minutes to shoot the interview portion of the video. She filled me in on her intentions for the piece and asked me to talk about a few general topics related to 3D printing.


Fortunately, over the years, I’ve become very comfortable with my voice and image. She also did a great job of making me look smart. I explained my new “Data Crystals” project, which is in the research phase. I am looking at open data sets provided by San Francisco Open Data Portal and mapping them as 3D sculptural objects. You can see me holding some of the 3D prints on the video.




Lasercut Measuring Tool

I like helping people and making simple tools to share. This measures plywood sheets, fits in your pocket and can be laser-cut in 3 minutes. The Instructable is here (Illustrator file included).


Laserkerf and Mathophilia

Every cutting tool has a kerf — the amount of material that the tool itself removes in the cutting process. With a table saw, it tends to be large, like 1/8″. The laser-cutter has a small — but significant kerf.

I cut a 1/4″ notch and then used the calipers to determine that I have a 2/100″ kerf when cutting 3/8″ material at 8/100/500 (speed/power/frequency).

I then cut a 1/4″ groove and several notched cutouts, increasing the amount of material by incremental values. At 4/100″, (double the .02 measurement), the fit is perfect. 3/100″ is a little loose and 5/100″ won’t fit.

I’m glad I was a high-school mathlete.


Bling on the Water Jet

I just got trained on how to use the water jet tool at Autodesk and made this piece of bling as my sample project. The design came from my Grantbot project.

Anyone have some gold spray paint?


Photography Imitates New Media

Usually “new media” pulls from other art disciplines: video, sculpture, photography and many more.

This morning, I saw this photographer’s (Alex John Beck) work on facial symmetry portraits on one of my art news feeds. He shoots a subject then mirrors their faces so that they have two symmetrical portraits, one from their left side and another from the right.


Wait a minute. I’m very familiar with this piece. There’s an exhibit at The Exploratorium (where I worked as a New Media Exhibit Developer from 2011-12) called “Two-Faced”, which does exactly that. It was created by my colleague, Bill Meyer.

YouTube videos are below (they have audio, beware), which show the piece in action.

No accusations of cribbing here, but the “new media version” provides a rich and interactive experience to thousands of visitors each year.


@mkgandhibot — the last of the quotebots

@mkgandhibot is up and running and quoting away. This is the last of my straight-up quotebots and the 6th in the series.

Why did I choose Gandhi? Simple: he is one of the most quotable and compassionate leaders ever.

There were others such as Martin Luther King Jr., but MLK tended to have longer quotes, > 140 characters.


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

3D printing: before and after

This is hot off the 3D printing press. Last night, I sent out one of my “data crystals” to the 3D printer and in the morning, I got this beautiful print.

data_crystals_beforeAfter about an hour of cleaning off the support material with dental tools and a high-pressure water jet, I got something below. It looks great for an early experiment! I feel like a modern-day Data Miner.


@maewestbot goes online

I recently activated the latest Twitterbot (5th in the quotebot series), running off the Raspberry Pi in my closet. Say hello to @maewestbot.

She’s only got 4 followers, so far and 1 of them is me, but every rising star has to start somewhere,

Her zingers such as “Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?” have mutated in various forms (banana, cellphone, harmonica, dropper post, etc).

Here’s a great mini-compilation of Mae West quotes


First 3D Print, 15 hours later

This is my first-ever 3D print, still in it’s embryonic state. About 70% of this is support material, which I will have to painstakingly scrape away.

However, I love the way it looks now, like architecture of an imaginary city.

IMG_0857 IMG_0860 IMG_0861

Shane Hope’s Dissident Future

I caught the last day of the Dissident Futures show at YBCA this Sunday. One of my favorite works was the mixed media works by Shane Hope, whose work I became familiar with while living in New York in 2008-9.

His approach to future-thinking influenced my own 2049 project, which unambiguously embraces the future by traveling into it rather than positing or technophilic or phobic scenarios.

His mixed-media works take advantage of materiality of 3D printing with Makerbot schmutz all over the work. The future is messy, cheap and abundant.

(photos courtesy of Brett Bowman)
Shane Hope (Winkleman Gallery) at YBCA Shane Hope (Winkleman Gallery) at YBCA Shane Hope (Winkleman Gallery) at YBCA



@helenkellerbot and @abelincolnbot go live

I just activated two more of my Quotebots — Twitterbots that produce daily quotes on the hour + minute of their progenitor’s death —@helenkellerbot and @abelincolnbot.

These are both new members of my Bot Collective project, which is a series of algorithms that post on Twitter (or potentially other places), joining @marktwainbot and @suntzubot.



@helenkellerbot’s first twitter quote summarizes the mission of the Bot Collective: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Video of Talk at DXArts

The video of my talk at DXARTS 450 at the University of Washington is now online (thanks Ed Shanken for inviting me!). It’s a real treat to have an editor put something together, where they cut between my slides and me talking.

I’ve long ago become comfortable with how I look on video and sound on audio. In the last several years, I’ve become 100% comfortable with public speaking — and I love doing it. (I still indulge in too many ‘ums’…this will take some practice).

Plus I got a chance to talk a little bit about my work at The Exploratorium, tying it back to my art practice.

Here are some recommended sections, since the whole video runs for about 50+ minutes.

Intro + No Matter: 00:00 – 8:31
Wikipedia Art: 21:10 – 26:45
Exploratorium: 43:00 – 50:35

Also, this is the Vimeo video of Grand Theft Avatar, so you can watch one of the Second Front performances in better quality.

Cracking the Code

After some several days of brainstorming on generating 3D models using simple coding tools, I started diving into Processing* using Marius Watz’s Modelbuilder Library (which is incredible). This is what I have going so far. Super-excited about the possibilities!algo_3d

Version 2 with “clustering” algorithm

* Technically speaking, I’m  using the Processing libs with Eclipse, which makes development far easier. This Instructable that I wrote shows you how to migrate your Processing projects to Eclipse.


Introducing @suntzubot

@suntzubot is the newest member of the Bot Collective. This is another quotebot (there will be several more) before I create a second generation of Twitterbots .


Why did I pick Sun Tzu as an emissary from the past? Because his writings in Art of War influence still military leaders. Here are some quotable gems:

The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

While we still have nations and boundaries, this seems true. Only when boundaries are fluid is an end to the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality at all possible.

There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.

Doesn’t this sound like the War on Terror or a the state of “Perpetual War” as described in Orwell’s 1984?

…My next quotebot will be a woman, I promise.

@marktwainbot + Bot Cache

Lately I’ve been obsessed with Twitterbots and just a few days ago, I wrote my first one: @marktwainbot — a simple quotebot, which sends a tweet every day at the exact hour and minute of Mark Twain’s death. The quotebot isn’t super-exciting, but I wanted something that was easy to make and was a proof of concept for future Twitterbots.


I used a Raspberry Pi to make this happen and wrote the code in Python, using Twython. For the gathering quotes, I tried the the crowdsourced-labor site: TaskRabbit, which made me feel like I was exploiting a 20-something woman in New York, until it became clear she was doing this during her own work time and so was being double-paid. Full steps for the project will soon be available as an Instructable.

My friend Ben Valentine recently e-troduced me to An Xiao Mina, artist, research and journalist, who is collaborating with folks on Bot Cache, a compendium of Twitterbots, currently in alpha development.

Here’s a short video of her talking about Twitterbots — compelling stuff!


Where is the Art?


Yes, to your left.

Babula Rasa with Second Front

Second Front performed Babula Rasa as part of “The Artist is Elsewhere” — a one-night performance event hosted by ZERO1 and curated by Sean Fletcher and Isabel Reichert. These are some stills from the event.

My idea was to use Google Docs, specifically its spreadsheet as a virtual Tabula Rasa — a blank slate for performance. I had imagined word-play, formulas, formatting changes and text-upon-text revisions and edits. I’ve often found Mail Art to be a source of inspiration, where artists re-purposed communication networks for art discourse. I was hoping for a similar effect with Google Docs, a space normally reserved for business documents or household expense sheets.

However, my Second Front compatriots always surprise me and they quickly begain inserting images into Google Docs. Who knew? Apparently everyone else but me.

Projected live for 2 hours during “The Artist is Elsewhere” event, this quickly became a group collage. In the first 30 minutes what appeared was the “I Say” Shark, various blue women appeared, Patrick Lichty’s birthday cake, and lots and lots of cats.

Images from various Second Front performances popped up: Last Supper and Wrath of Kong. And lots of memes from popular culture, reminding me of How Conceptual Art Influenced the World Wide Web.

We could overhear the other performances live on a UStream channel. At one point, one of the performances seemed to be carrying on for a long time and someone (maybe me) uploaded Chuck Barris from the Gong Show.

At the 1-hour mark, the Shark is still there but now with the Shaggy D.A., the Tweets in Space logo, Dr. McCoy, an evil bunny and more.

Does this embrace, reject or dry-hump the New Aesthetic? That’s for you to decide.

And like all Second Front performances, we had to bomb the virtual venue when we were done…only this time with cats.

Participating Second Front members: Yael Gilks, Bibbe Hansen, Doug Jarvis, Scott Kildall, Patrick Lichty, Liz Solo with stealth guest appearance by Victoria Scott.

Imagine 2049 Time Capsule

As part of the “2049” project for the Regeneration show at the New York Hall of Science, I will be burying a time capsule called “Imagine 2049” on the grounds of the NYSCI.

I will be asking visitors both locally and remotely to submit inventions that might help people in the year 2049 such as medical devices, personal technologies and ways to sustain the planet. The letters and notes will be buried and opened 36 years from now in the year 2049.

It turns out that the old World’s Fair site will be harboring other time capsules as well. In the two World’s Fairs in Queens in 1939 and 1964, The Westinghouse Company buried two time capsules, called the Westinghouse Time Capsules.

Fortunately for me, both are scheduled to be opened 5000 years in the future, well after the Imagine 2049 Time Capsule.

Lunar Independence Flag

For the upcoming show, Moon Lust, this is one of serveral augments that I am making (in collaboration with Mark Skwarek) for Moon v Earth, which portrays a fictitious struggle of moon colonists for independence from Earth.

Augmented Reality workshop reportback

On the weekend of March 31st-April 1st, Upgrade! SF (I am one of the co-founders) produced its first ever workshop. The theme was Augmented Reality and the guest instructor from Boston was artist John Craig Freeman.

The full reportback is here on the Upgrade SF! site

Augmented Reality Workshop with John Craig Freeman


Learn how to use Augmented Reality with media artist and activist John Craig Freeman!

Upgrade! San Francisco is proud to present a weekend workshop called “Making Art with Augmented Reality”, hosted by SOMArts in San Francisco.

Register here: http://bit.ly/yj0lKo

Your artwork will be included in the “I Am Crime” show, along with a 17 x 22 print!

When: Weekend of March 31st-April 1st, 2012
Where: SOMArts, 834 Brannan St., San Francisco
Also: There will be an artist talk by Freeman on March 29th, 7pm as part of the ongoing Upgrade! SF conversations and events.

About the Instructor: John Craig Freeman is a public artist with over twenty years of experience using emergent technologies to produce large-scale public works at sites where the forces of globalization are impacting the lives of individuals in local communities. He has produced work and exhibited around the world including in Xi’an, Belfast, Los Angeles, Beijing, Zurich, New York City, Taipei, São Paulo, Warsaw, Kaliningrad, Miami, Bilbao, Havana, Atlanta, Calgary, Buffalo, Boston, Mexico City, London and San Francisco. Freeman received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1990. He is currently an Associate Professor of New Media, at Emerson College (Boston) in the Department of Visual and Media Arts and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts, at UC San Diego.

Support for this workshop is provided by Southern Exposure’s Alternative Exposure Grant Program.

Pictured above: Border Memorial Frontera de los Muertos by John Craig Freeman


Sperm Bank – a popup show

This weekend in San Francisco, I will be presenting a popup show in conjunction with Wire + Nail Gallery called Sperm Bank.

Working with playful interpretations of the masculine seed, I will be selling various goods for the holidays. You can purchase plexiglass multiples for your wall, soap and vinyl cutouts with special versions for your laptop or bicycle.

Times: Saturday night, 6:30-9:30 and Sunday afternoon 12pm-4pm.
Where: Wire + Nail Gallery, 3150 18th Street, 104, San Francisco

I will also be displaying a spreadsheet reflecting the cost-of-goods and how much the pop-op shops makes as an experiment in open accounting.

Finally, we will have this animation on display (as a formally-editioned artist work):

Upgrade! San Francisco at the Exploratorium

Last Thursday, Upgrade! San Francisco met at the Exploratorium — an art & science institution founded in 1969. Hosted by the New Media Studio, whose mandate is a hands-on educational experience, we got a tour from staff & Upgraders: Eric Socolofsky, Lotte Meijer and Chris Cerrito. In the after hours, we learned about three of NM Studio’s projects and the behind-the-scenes techniques to make a rich viewer-based experience.

The first installation we saw was Elastrotron — an interactive installation, which acts as neo-funhouse mirror, warping our reality. In front of the screen, visitors quickly loose their inhibitions, performing with their bodies and creating interactions with strangers.

We then played with Where do you belong? in which you can take a picture of yourself, inserting your image in between two other people you select. The buttons to take your picture are at the edges of the frame, creating an effect so that you appear to be holding hands with your two neighbors. The challenges here were less conceptual — as the idea was straightforward — but instead of user-interface. The solution was to make two large buttons that you have to hit with both hands at the same time and also a countdown timer so that that you don’t repeatedly hit the ‘take picture’ button (a common result, especially with younger kids).

This bubble floor, called Social Projections impressed me by its non-interactive nature. At first, it looks like it responds to movement, reminding me of Scott Snibbe’s Boundary Functions — but instead, there is no camera vision. People quickly make up their own rules. Different shapes appear and move through the space. People negotiate social behavior, jumping over lines, stepping in and out and performing collaborative tasks, all without interaction.

We followed up the tour with conversation along the lines of development process, how to generate user feedback and more. Here, it turns out that the new media staff spends a lot of time casually observing how people use the interfaces, refining the process. Prototypes are put on the floor without a huge degree of bureaucracy, creating a truly experimental science space.

Schrödinger’s Cat (explained)

For the No Matter project, Victoria Scott and I designed 40 “imaginary objects” first in the virtual world of Second Life and then materialized into real life. One of our favorites is this paper sculpture of Schrödinger’s Cat.

Many have asked us what is “Schrödinger’s Cat” and I usually respond that it is a thought experiment illustrating principles of quantum physics. With a hot debate in science over the Copenhagen Interpretation or the Multiverse interpretation, the mind reels.

In this one-minute video, Henry Reich explains what this is with line drawings and voiceover. Great job!

Double Reflecting Dolores Park

Last Saturday, I did my first recording session with Double Reflection — a sculpture I made during a residency a few years ago at Anderson Ranch — in Dolores Park, San Francisco. The object itself is a human-sized sculpture with a two-way mirror and inside rests a camera which records what the artwork “sees” in portrait mode, capturing the scenery while people puzzle at its purpose in public space. The sculpture and resulting video will be on exhibition at an upcoming show, Keeping an Eye on Surveillance, at the Performing Arts Institute in San Francisco.

The reactions were amazing, capturing the gaze of curious passer-bys. Many guessed there was a camera inside. Others thought it was a “grooming station” and one person ventured that it was a solar cooker.

As I moved the sculpture to various sites in the park, I would sit on a blanket nearby, watching the interactions with a sly grin on my face. Was I making fun of people? Sort of, but more than anything, this was an experiment in sculpture performing in public space.

What has changed since I built the work in 2008 was that surveillance in pubic spaces such as a park no longer seems to bother most people. I explained that there was a camera inside to some folks. Did anyone care? Absolutely not. I attribute this to the naval-gazing culture of Facebook rather than the proliferation of CCTV cameras. People have become comfortable with their images being captured and reproduced by others in a surprisingly short amount of time. This strikes me as a beautiful media gesture, accepting ourselves for how we appear rather than cowering from it, and understanding that our image is beyond our control.

I will release the video soon, but will wait until after the show opens on September 10th, 2011, just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Interview at Futherfield

Ruth Catlow from Futherfield interviews Scott Kildall (that’s me) and Nathaniel Stern during the Made Real opening

Perhaps its the Budweiser-in-hand which makes Nathaniel so enthusiastic during his description of Wikipedia Art. But I suspect that is his nature. He later shows a more pensive angle when describing his beautiful piece, Given Time, which I was thrilled to finally see in person — the visuals do it proper justice.

Meanwhile, when I discuss Playing Duchamp, you can see how excited I get about the chess commentaries — these were so much fun to do and will be finally processed and online soon.

Plastic Forever at Telluride

Here’s a reportback from the Plastic Forever project — an ongoing art collaboration by Richard Lang and Judith Selby — at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride. Their process involves finding discarded plastic debris and displaying aggregates of toys, lighters and other knickknacks in photos, sculptures and other works, breathing aesthetic life into these (mostly) non-reusable items.

For the festival, they built trophies from found plastic materials in Telluride itself.


And here is an award recipient, who is displaying her prize.


The conceptual tension behind their work reminds me of Edward Burtynsky’s photographs, which are beautiful depictions of ugly manufacturing processes.


How to display net art

Last week, I installed Playing Duchamp — a Turbulence commission — at Futherfield Gallery for the “Made Real” show. The work is a net art piece, existing only on the web, which presented obvious difficulties in a gallery setup where: (1) people tend not to engage with an online chess game and (2) the gallery doesn’t want to give access to the operating system or other applications.

Here’s how we solved this. First, we used a monitor embedded in the wall and then placed a 5′ x 5′ white platform in front of it. Adding a step, a white chair and white table, made it so that the player crossed an invisible threshold, making them part of a “living sculpture”


Inspired by the “Singing Sculpture” image from Gilbert and George as well as “One and Another” by Antony Gormley, which invited 2400 different people to stand on a plinth at Trafalgar Square for one hour and do whatever they wanted, I designed the exhibited artwork to be both the viewer and the contents on the screen. It worked! Each player made a decision to step up and play and spent time with the game while others watched.



The second issue was a technical one and was easily solved by one of the assistants, who turned me onto a free browser called Plain View. It is a simple browser which goes into full screen mode and locked out other applications. Combine it with a wireless mouse and an alternate version of the Playing Duchamp website, which disables external links and there you have it: a net art kiosk that feels like a genuine gallery-quality artwork.