blog archive summer 2009

September 7th 2009

Writing from plane, somewhere over Russia: 5am start to catch airport bus from Shibuya, sayonara Japan, we had a great time once again:)

Word of the day: Heathrow

September 6th 2009

Dorkbot day. The venue was spectacular: 23rd floor of Gran Tokyo South Tower, close to Tokyo station. The room is a large conference/seminar room run by Recruit. After high tech security procedures, a fast glassed lift takes the visitor up at high speed. The view from the room provides a vantage point on the architectural variety of the rooftops in Tokyo east.

More pics and info here.

Word of the day: otaku = nerd

September 5th 2009

Hunting for sun visors in Sangenjaya and Okachimachi. I am planning to bring home two more of the things. The idea is to customise them
all slightly differently for future B.O.R.N. use.
Unfortunately the sun visors proved hard to find: either cheap tat, or pastel sponge coated, or really expensive. Went to Tokyo national Museum in Ueno Park for a counterbalance to shopping madness. Beautiful prints, wind screens, samurai armours and swords.
Walked by the lake in Ueno park, completely covered in large water plants.
In the evening had food with Kanta in Shimakitazawa, splendid fish restaurant. Tried fish kidney paste with sake, surporisingly moreish

Words of the day: sunbaiso = sun visor, pittari = optimal, as is to follow a mouthful of fish kidney paste with a swig of sake. Also useful to know that sake = alcoholic drink, while nihon-shu = sake.

September 4th 2009

A couple of easy days before the Dorkbot gig. Charlotte and I visited Inokachira park, near Kichijoji. A rather pleasant park, even if slightly over domesticated for my taste. We saw different animals: scary spider, two types of turtles being tagged by
park attendants, small vivacious water bird fighting food away from typical brown and orange large carps.

Word of the day: ikimono = animal

September 2nd 2009

Back in Tokyo, in the same hotel as before. Now 11th floor, change of vie
w: Seiyu supermarket giant red sign glowing not far away, while in the background busy motorways cut through the cityscape 15 meters above ground. Full moon on its way.
Went to the opening of the Apmt series of events, including Dorkbot Tokyo on 6th. The do took place in Super Deluxe, an over-cool club near Roppongi. We sat through a laidback presentation by the Tokyo Max Users Group, followed by a world jam performance by Tokyo based musician Merce Death and several remote guests. Chilled evening.

Words of the day: moon = tsuki, sun = taiyô

September 1st 2009

Some pics from Osaka, and of the empty gallery with discarded, emptied Black Box going for waste. In Osaka, such voluminous items can't be disposed of freely, a special charge is applied. Nevertheless, it looks like tthe box has a sort of future: it has been taken by a friend of Kanta's who owns a hill in Osaka. He's building a trash pyramid on his hill, and it looks likely that the Black Box will be part of it.

Word of the day: gomi = trash

August 30th 2009

The gallery was opened from 1 to 6pm. Kanta refined some of his mechanisms while informing the continous flow of visitors. I spent the afternoon painting approximately 20 black boxes
which I stuck on the walls around the gallery. The visor was activated, but not worn. By the end of the day, we both felt happy with the space and the things within it.

Tetsuya Umeda enjoying visor

Word of the day: semi = cigada. There were lots of them in the nearby Utsubo Park, lots of them dead on the paths. I used a grub shell and a dead semi in the installation/performance.

August 29th 2009

We finished programming, building and fiddling
at 5pm for performance at 6pm. Ready just in time, black box buzzing. We operated the system for 45 minutes, Kanta adding elements to his intricate unstable network of magnets, strings and springs while I was painting black boxes. I was wearing the visor, which at iregular intervals entered in communication with the black box, thus calling me to performa another action . The idea was that Kanta and I were subject to the black box as much as any other object in the room. The performance went well, with a curious audience staying afterwards to examine the system. There sure is scope for development.

After the performance we went to Juso, an area of Osaka where food and drinks are cheap, with small pedestrian alleys lined up with old restaurants.

Words of the day: mono = thing, taberu = to eat, nomeru = to drink.

August 27th 2009

Another full-on day in the gallery, with a quick escape in the morning
to buy a few parts from Digit. Stocked up on li-po batteries and ivory coloured plastic cases, including one that will host the visor's electronics.
At 6 I went to Shin-Osaka to meet my jet-lagged lovely girlfriend Charlotte-san, arriving straight from Cardiff.

We went for food in an old style tavern that served quality traditional food, including Osaka's classic Tako Yaki, fried squid balls. The owner found it funny to involve me in an arm wrestling match with a giant Japanese fan of the Osaka Tigers, then Charlotte against his wife, a smily cook. We both lost but got out with our lives and a full belly.

Word of the day: ichiban = number one, the nick name of my opponent.

August 26th 2009

Busy day in the gallery, I was making circuits and stitching user interface and formatting the black box, Kanta balancing and experimenting with electromagnetic mini cannon. Altogether a productive day, countdown is speeding towards Saturday!

I'll keep it brief tonight, sleep is calling.....z

Word of the day: Kuroi Hako = Black box. Also Doyôbi = Saturday.

August 25th 2009

Good working day today, no shopping, flat out in gallery space. The Spontaneous Phenomenon project is shaping up nice, things are getting built and start making sense. 4 days to go before performance, fingers crossed that should be
enough to reach some completion .

Kanta's birthday today, got him a pseudo-cake: Warabi Mochi, sort of translucent sticky balls that look like giant frog spawn, eaten with a brown sweet powder and liquorice syrup.

Word of the day: Warabi Mochi, see above. Also Nyi Nyi Qu = garlic.

August 24th 2009

Today gorgeous weather, autumn style, felt like a warm dry summer day in Europe, with clear blue sky and sharp light.

Went shopping for parts, looking for a box that will become the centre of the installation in Ad and A, a black box.

Digit Osaka

After a run in a 100yen shop in namba area (pic left), we walk to the best electronic shop in Osaka, Digit, near the Ebisu-Sho metro station. They do lots of surplus goods, and many components at bargain prices.

In a nearby second hand shop[, they had a grey wooden cabinet going for 500 yen. Perfect dimensions, a hinged lid, wheels and a drawer, lots of Black Box to be for the money. Purchased, and dragged back to the gallery in the tube. There it sits now, still prestine and grey.

Word of the day: Ebisu. Name of a district in Tokyo, a tube station and a restaurant in Osaka. Ebisu is originally a good humoured god who is pictured with a big smile on his face.

Logo of Ebisan fish restaurant, Osaka

August 23rd 2009

Good day building parts for the Spontaneous Phenomenon room.
Now Just back from a very good gig in Kyoto, where Tetsuya Umeda, a friend of Kanta was performing in the University art school gallery. His work belongs to the same territory as Kanta Horio's, with a strong sonic element generated by hand-made devices with minimal electronics, nothing ready made.

Tetsuya-san installed and activated with style several devices, including ice, water, live 110v mains, piezo microphones, sparks and feedback. The performance ended aptly with a short circuit that tripped a breaker, all went dark.

Going back I got lost around Osaka Umeda station. Finally at 1 am I was in my local Yoshinoya, eating with limited joy beef slithers on rice. Yoshinoya is a fast food chain I believe present in the whole of Japan. I saw at least 4 when I was looking for my way back to the bed.

Word of the day: Yotsubashi Suji = Yotsubushi street, which took me a while to find. Suji means street in Osaka, not in Tokyo or Fukuoka.
August 22nd 2009

Today workshop in AD and A. Kanta prepared some kit, all the components necessary to build your own Arduino on a breadboard. The participants have various levels of expertise.They will assemble an Arduino, test digital output, analog input, then go on an experiment with piezo transducer as sensor and 12V solenoid as output, a typical Kanta Horio set-up.

Workshop circuit diagram

Workshop went well, I did not do as much as usual in such circumstance because of language, but found myself useful a few times as circuit or program debugger. Practiced my Japanese number talking about pin numbers. Participants seemed to enjoy the ride. We finished on time and went to a Korean restaurant, I ate raw beef liver for the first time, will not become my favourite things, but worth a try. Took a few night pics of the Higobashi neighbourhood during my digestive walk.

Word of the day: Ni San Pinu = pin 13

August 21st 2009

Now in Osaka, getting ready for an Arduino workshop tomorrow, where I will help Kanta get to grips with 13 Japanese participants. Looking forward to meet them, will keep you posted.

Before leaving Tokyo, I visited Kanta's workplace, 4NCHOR5 LA6, a very cool company created by Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi. They make smart objects and interfaces either for art or for corporate customers. When I was there Mr Manabe was working on a display for Nike. I first heard of him for his work with myo-electric apparatus.

Next day off on the train to Osaka, Nozomi super express, pleasant ride spent geeking about on laptops and looking at the window.

Arrived in Osaka no hassle. Nice to be with a Japanese friend to crack the arcane tube ticket system in place there. Then off to gallery AD and A for checking space and meeting owner Kotaro-san.

AD and A building Osaka, and exhibition poster

3 words of the past 3 days:
= cutting pliers
Pench = pliers

Betsu Bara = expression for somebody having eaten well, but still feeling like having a desert: means little extra stomach for sweet.

August 18th 2009

Arrived in Japan today, mission is to complete stage 2 of my collaboration with Kanta Horio (stage 1 took place in Cardiff in October 2008), and to present a performance in Dorkbot Tokyo.

The collaborative residency with Kanta will take place in Osaka, in the AD and A gallery located in a contemporary looking Japanese narrow building near Higobashi.

Weather forecast for Tokyo area, 17th August

I spend one day in Tokyo before leaving for Osaka, staying in a pretty good hotel, The B Sangenjaya, half way between Shibuya (busy shopping centre with world famous pedestrian crossings) and Shimokitazawa (laid back neo hippy neighbourhood
with a colourful fashion sense).

Picture on the left is view from the hotel, with Shinjuku skyline on the horizon.

Word of the day: Ji-sa Boke, describes the effects of time difference on human. Literally: Time Difference Stupid

This visit was kindly funded by the following institutions:


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