Until the next PIFcamp!

Friday’s rage claimed several lives: the morning began slowly and drop by drop, but without rain! Katja’s workshop (second part) bore the first fruits. After spending the night in the darkroom, the first cyanotype images appeared: the river in Gambia, a pet dog, river Soča, a mask.

In a full workshop with the locals in Soča town Dario and Darja shared their findings and knowledge. Meanwhile, we were kept under a tent by the last in a series of workshops by Andrew Quitmeyer, where we saw ants in a hitherto unknown role. The colonization of colonies on the body and interfaces as fashion accessories has succeeded. Wearable ants are a hit of the summer season. Dolce & Gabbana is out of fashion, here are Simon & Andrew.

Just after sunset, Vaclav from BASTL showed us how subtle music from DIY instruments can be. For a moment, we wished we could have listened to the mildly dosed rhythms and lyrics in melodious Czech for hours. How do you say ‘more’ in Czech?

The concert was followed by an AV performance by Bernhard and Rob, which included samples from the river’s surroundings and projections on the treetops. It seemed to us that the trees were moving in synth rhythms and rocking us in the hips. The audience went home hyped and ready for the last night in PIFcamp. Julian will take part of the atmosphere from the camp to Bohinjska Bistrica, where he will conduct a microscopy workshop.

The end is near. We are reassured by the thought of Luka’s rotator for potted plants. Until the next PIFcamp-!

All photos © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

It’s Friday!

It’s Friday?! A sultry morning started with the traditional and mandatory PIFcamp hike. Jumping into the pools of the (almost) icy cold Soča was reserved for the bravest and most heated heads. We keep their esteemed names in the editorial office!

In the afternoon, the PIF members continued with their work. Rob Canning is developing a tool for musical performance related to geological processes in the Soča Valley.

Over the past few days, he has been collecting field recordings and sounds of the surrounding landscape. Using the SuperCollider platform for audio synthesis and algorithmic sound composition, he is developing a system that will also be able to process music by other creators. Initially, the research was supposed to lead to the release of a short EP, but PIFcamp opened the opportunity to connect with the research and projects of other participants – Rob will also test the system in Blaž’s DIY ambisonic dome. In line with his previous creative ethics, Rob will make all media available to the public, under a creative commons license (click).

Darja prepared a workshop on hydrolates, tinctures and ointments from medicinal plants (among others Arnika, Rman, Thyme), which were collected by PIFcampers in the past days in the surrounding meadows.

Katja introduced us to cyanotype, one of the earliest photographic processes, and a once popular image transfer process, characterized by the blue color of the final image. That is why it is also called blue printing, and this time it was done on paper. The main compounds are ammonium iron citrate and potassium iron cyanide. Under Katja’s guidance the participants developed their own photos. After the introduction to the chemical process, we set to work. Some have developed images from meadow flowers and – suited to 2020 – from a protective mask! After the chemical process the images have to sunbathe, thus Katja’s workshop will be on the schedule on Saturday as well.

Robertina and Miha tested the protocol of the aquaforensic_2.0 workshop, which they developed together during PIFcamp. As the name of the project suggests, water forensics focuses on often overlooked contents from sea depths. At a lively and informative workshop, the mentors presented the development of the project from the very beginning, when Robertina and Gjino (Šutić – unfortunately absent this year) conducted preliminary field research (Ars Electronica Linz, etc.) and tested the content of pharmacological and toxic contents in rivers and seas. “The pharmaceutical industry is not interested in flushed parts of their medicines,” says Robertina, adding, “this project opens up a view of this silenced part and perhaps this can be a step in a direction of industries thinking more sustainably and less harmful to the environment”. In addition to microscopy of microorganisms, Miha also presented his invention from this year’s camp: sonified TSD sensor that reacts to conductivity and can be used to test liquids. The principle is this: more salt, more music! The maestro added salt by feeling.

Stella and Črt enlivened the evening via a live-stream from Ljubljana, where they performed an audio-video set they were working on at PIFcamp.

Last but not least, the card battles continued this evening as well and were accompanied by an audio-visual impro dessert offered ad-hoc by Rob, Klemens, Bernhard and Anja.

All photos © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

Thursday at PIF!

Early in the morning, eleven PIFcampers and Dingo the dog set off on an eight-hour hike along the off-road trails of the surrounding peaks. Bernhard lost both soles in mountaineering zeal, but the brave hikers agreed upon their return that the shoes were worth destroying for the stunning view from Čisti vrh.

Off-road trails and mountain peaks © Matjaž Rušt

The second group, meanwhile, visited Breginj. The village is situated very close to the Italian border. Here the group visited Mazora Museum Collection, an impressive private collection with 11,000 exhibits from the surrounding area and with an emphasis on both world wars. Breginj also houses the Breginj Museum, a curiosity and one of the rare examples of preserved construction of stone two-storey houses intertwined with porches. After the earthquake that destroyed most of the houses on this side of the border, the houses were replaced with prefabricated ones. The neighboring Italians, chose a different approach and mostly preserved the old villages. The visit to Breginj was followed by a stop in the village of Logje, where the Last Museum of Contemporary Art resides. It is led by visual artist Damijan Kracina, one of the members of the Society for Domestic Research. The cold Nadiža river offered a nice opportunity for cooling down after a long day.

Visit to Mazora Museum © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

Activities also continued in the PIFcamp base: Saša and Tilen Sepič spent Thursday morning in the surrounding forests, where they continued recording inaudible and invisible landscapes of fungi and microbes with geophones, hydrophones, microscope, thermal and infrared camera. The videos will be part of Saša’s MycoMythologies project, a series of ontogenetic mythological stories, video essays, and machines. The series explores the flow of substances in the fungi mycelium.  These serve as an inspiration for a new myth-building practice that would enable us to think differently about the conditions and possibilities of living in capitalist ruins.

© Tilen Sepič

Klemens Kohlweis continued his media archaeological research into EPROM chips (erasable programmable read-only memory), which were used from the 80s to the mid-90s, and are found also in digital drum machines used in Pop music of the time. The characteristic of EPROM chips is that the silicon part is visible and exposed, and the data can be erased with UV light. This process of deletion can take multiple hours, during which you can “play” the chips, explains Klemens, and observe how the data “sounds” when being destroyed.

Klemens also participated in the project of Saša Spačal, who is developing the Light Reader workshop, video tutorial and a lab book. For the lab book Klemens prepared two schematics of the electrical circuit. The Light Reader is a simple physical interface for triggering sound using light. Its technological principle was developed and used in Saša’s biotechnological sound art installation Mycophone_unison in 2013. The Light Reader is now also available on Github: https://github.com/okelk/Light-Reader

Klemens and Saša at work © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

Luka completed his solar powered rotator for houseplants, while Blaž tested the DIY ambisonic dome, which we have already reported on in previous posts.

Plant rotator © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

Andrew Quitmeyer, a mentor for an interactive ant-farms workshop, gave an online lecture in the afternoon on the safe placement of ant colonies on the body. Thursday was dedicated also to searching for anthills in the area and gathering ants.

Andrew lecturing about ants © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

Yet another productive day at PIFcamp was concluded by an evening sitting by a fire, playing cards, and enjoying improvised video and laser projections.

© Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

…less rain and more fun!

Wednesday finally brought slightly better weather so the morning walk with Dario took place on schedule, and the harvested plants spiced up lunch and dinner.

PIFcamp-goers continued to develop their projects and research: Robertina Šebjanič and Miha Godec, who are preparing a lab book for conducting aqua_forensic 2.0 workshops, have assembled a TDS sensor, which measures water conductivity. The degree of conductivity was sonified via an electronic circuit. Robertina and Miha hiked with Saša Spačal and Rob Canning to the Lepena valley, where they created field sound recordings. Blaž Pavlica joined in as well and he will use the recorded material in his DIY ambisonic dome project. On the dome, which was developed and used as part of PifLab and past PIFcamps, a matrix of eight speakers is installed – a diy system for reproducing the ambisonics, a spherical spatial-sound format that allows immersive representation of the sound field.

Soundscapes at Šunikov gaj © Miha Godec
Rob Canning working on his field recordings © Miha Godec

Lovrenc was busy working on his weather station – cleaning 3D printed elements and programming the Arduino and Raspberry. The lesson of the day: “Don’t update Linux!”, Says Lovrenc, who due to this fatal mistake spent significantly more time for programming than planned. The weather station, which will be connected to the network of amateur stations Weather Underground and installed here in Soča, will measure wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity, and will also be equipped with a camera. In the future, the station can be upgraded with air quality and CO2 sensors as well. 

Test measurements at 8 PM (CET): 19 degrees / 148 hectopascals / 1.42 km/h

Lovrenc at work © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

The afternoon was marked by workshops and presentations. Julian’s introduction to microscopy introduced various DIY and professional lenses and devices, we then used to look at soil and compost samples from the immediate surroundings. Julian Chollet is collaborating with the DIY soil photogrammetry project at PIF. On Sunday (after the end of this year’s camp) he will conduct a Humus Sapiens field workshop in Bohinjska Bistrica as part of the konS platform.

Intro to microscopy © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

In the tent, the initial part of the remote workshop with Maggie Kane aka Streetcat.media took place. In the coming days the workshop will introduce the participants to the principles of designing narrative video games in the coming days. An enthusiastic cosplayer and versatile artist who gets bored at concerts, as Maggie described herself, presented various examples of how artists can use  “sick visuals and interactivity” of video games to enrich their concerts, performances and other events to increase audience engagement.

Maggie Kane’s remote workshop © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

As part of their μπA (micropia) project, the Beam Team (Stella Ivšek and Anja Romih) researched ways of mapping video projections on natural objects and, in collaboration with Tilen Sepič, who prepared an improvised music set, also tested them in an experimental evening performance on the shore of river Soča. The live performance took place in an intimate atmosphere – due to the slippery terrain, only a handful of PIFcampers could attend. Thanks to the diligent video team the documentation of the event will soon be available to internet public as well. 

The weather forecast for the coming days is promising, so in addition to the many activities that are yet to happen, we are “looking forward to less rain and more fun”, as Luka concluded at the end of the day. Tomorrow, he will finally be able to test his solar cell-powered rotator for houseplants.

Beam Team & Tilen Sepič © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

PIFcamp 2020: The early rain catches the strom

After a rainy morning in the village of Soča Peaks (to listen to the soundtrack click here), the planned hike with Dario Cortese was postponed until the afternoon. Such sweet mornings under a tent are ideal for documenting, which is also this year’s umbrella theme of PIFcamp. In cooperation with the PIFcamp video team (Jure Lavrin, Tilen Sepič, Domen Ožbot, Katja Goljat and Matjaž Rušt), the participating PIF-goers put on display their artistic and / or research process, part of which is also being developed within the camp.

2020 realness © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

Documentation, often underestimated in the culture of makers and hackers, the rain was the first good excuse to commence work on archiving. Under the safe roof of a tent, the future archives of the following PIF-goers were created: Julian Chotell’s DIY-Soil-Photogrammetry, which is an attempt to use photography as a tool in exploring the earth, with the help of modified scanners. Robertina Šebjanič and Miha Godec in the aqua_forensics project developed water forensics experiments with the help of drugs found in rivers and seas. The second part of the project is in vitro experiments and verification of the emerging lab book.

Aqua forensics in the making © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

The first morning workshop on botanics in the wild, led by Dario and Darja, took place under a tent, where wild plants were given two new roles: in form of a toothpaste and a healing cream. In the afternoon sunny hours, the classroom moved to the neighboring hill Lemovje, where Dario and Darja presented edible and poisonous wild plants on a hike in situ (among others: thyme, sage, cloves, long-leafed mint, yarrow, horsetail, sage, wild garlic, St. John’s wort).

Plant hub with Dario and Darja © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

The sun rays lured Blaž Pavlica and his assistants to set up a dome for distributed perception. This time, Blaž will use it to create a DIY spatial-sound format that transmits sound above and below the listeners. The first attempts will follow in the coming days!

PIFcamp 2020: Will you PIFcamp me?

Once again (the 6th time already!) PIFcamp gathered makers, hackers, tech freaks, and nature lovers in a semi-remote location of Upper Soča valley. This year, the Covid-safe edition with about 35 participans remains in a pocket format on the location, but is big on-line, with several live streaming of presentations and workshops. Hiking, however, remains in the domain of real presence. Europe’s most popular hack and maker summer camp also happens offline!


Kick-off, day one © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

Kick-off of this edition, according the camp’s main organizer Tina, resembled the “family gatherings”. The old faces of PIFcamp mixed with the few new ones. The pristine Soča valley welcomed the participants from the neighboring countries (Slovenia, Austria, Czech Republic) and the global followers online. After short presentations of the participants, the Sunday evening was devoted to timetable-building, orientational walks, and first talks among camp-goers. The opening day was topped with a mouth-watering dinner by tandem cooks Klemen Košir & Miha Tumpej.

Klemen Košir & Miha Tumpej, the cooking team
© Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

On the second day, a morning walk with artists Robertina Šebjanič and Miha Godec included collecting water samples and video shooting of the scenic Soča river and walking towards Koritenska jezera. Šebjanič will present updated version of her aqua_forensic project at the camp and share some insights at the workshop later in the week. We are looking forward also to Dario Cortese’s traditional hikes focused on collecting wild edible plants that will culminate in a Plant hub, a sort of crash course in wild botanics.

Yard tent © Katja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

All the way from Panama, the familiar PIFcamp-goer, a scholar and the enthusiast Dinacon maker Andrew Quitmeyer held a video call in the PIFcamp yard about ants, ant sensor and ant ecosystem that are his main interest for the past 10 years. Myrmecorpora is Quitmeyer’s 6-day workshop for wearable interactive ant farms. The workshop that will be held online and facilitated by Simon Gmajner offline will end with a fashion show of wearable ant-farm. Andrew’s ant licking quotes escalated on PIFcamp memes. Isn’t this fANTastic?

Testing video streaming equipment © Kaja Goljat, Matjaž Rušt

The super informative, hands-on evening lecture held by Bernhard Reisinger and live-streamed with the help of Vaclav Peloušek introduced us to oscilloscope, sound and its visualizations. Oscilloscope, “an instrument that allows you to play” enables you to see the visual representation of sound that for Bernhard is much more playful than a laser system based on mirror reflection. Sound and visuals to play. Is there a better way to start the week?

Audio-visual laboratory

Composer and musician John Richards (Dirty Electronics) has brought his DIY text-to-noise synth to Trenta. In his art circuit, he is wanting to feed into it various texts and debates taking place at this year’s PIFcamp and displaying them on an embedded LCD screen. With PIF participants he was sharing his knowledge of the electronics, design of electronic circuits and construction of analogue and digital instruments. Also, variants of an instrument he named Bad of Nails were made at his workshop. For the development of which they have used materials found in the camp’s surroundings – bricks, wood, stones and the like. As he said, great fun was had while designing a radical chip for crazy low-level computer music. With minimal resources, it was done together with Staš Vrenko and Klemens Kohlweis and they hope to play it live for us.

Another regular visitor to the camp, Staša Guček, has been further developing her last yeas project MOTHeremin. She has created as many as three theremins for the blind and partially sighted, based on drawings of endangered butterflies of Slovenia. Slovenian interdisciplinary artist and programmer Tadej Droljc has made some serious strides into the development of his latest audio-visual composition here. For a project, we will be publicly presenting for the first time in Ljubljana in December, he made a circuit that can control higher voltage devices via an Arduino and has developed a converter that converts audio and laser ILDA signals.

In the surrounding of the beautiful Soča river valley, the musician and performer Janus Aleš Luznar (Yanoosh) wanted to upgrade his inter-media performance Ictuscordis, the main subject of which is his heart or heartbeat. He tried to create a sensor for sensing the heartbeat of the dancer, which in the future he wants to incorporate into the performance, thus upgrading the visual element of the performance. However, he says, time will not allow him to finish the project, the first version of which was developed last year with the help of PIFcamp.

For his spatial multi-channel audio performance musician Mitja Cerkvenik developed a midi controller with automation. And the continuation of past visual investigations of light and shadow on a moving textile surface has been undertaken by designer Kaja Kisilak and architect Lea Bradašević. Their analogue type of visuals, which for example used to be part of the Loudspeaker Alliance concert performance in the past, has now been upgraded so that the work of stretching and moving the fabric is taken over by electric motors that will create moire optical effects.

Also, other interesting musical and visual experiments are being made on the camp – projects that are one way or another related to music.

Active start

The annual exploratory trips around the camp guided by our wild man and nutrition expert, Dario Cortese, with whom we are getting to know various edible wild plants, have been upgraded this year. We are working to systematically mark the habitats of the surrounding edible wild plants. The first mapping have already taken place on the way to the abandoned village of Lemovje, located on a hill and featuring some spectacular vistas.

This year we strive to establish guidelines for a holistic approach to the understanding of our relationship to food, which has always been an important part of the camp. Some experiments with fermentation and bread baking are ongoing. Also, in a playful way food is also the focal point of a soon to be completed board game. The board game’s originators Grace Wong and Jennifer Katanyovtamant try to encourage its players to try new flavours (natto, durian, kimchi …), to make new combinations of flavours and above all, to talk about food.

Scott Kildall, an American conceptual and multimedia artist, communicates in a very unique way. By positioning various response sensors and creative electronics at different points around the camp and manipulating sound material he is recording here, he is constantly setting new and humorous tones to our surrounding. 

Possible layouts of modular outdoor mobile furniture, that would allow for participants to work, rest or spend some time even closer to nature are of interest to a group gathered around  the Greek architect Olivia Kotsifa, whose prime interest is in co-creating these possible environments of the future. With an enthusiastic group of fellows Olivia has already checked up some possible locations to set the furniture up.

The German nomadic scientist with a background in molecular biology Julian Cholle has immediately buried his hands in the ground. Visiting the camp with a desire to study and explore the soil, which he otherwise does in the context of the open research platform HUMUS sapiens, he took some samples of soil. Examined under the microscope they indicated that the soil around the camp is alive and full of microorganisms that assist in biodegradation.

Although most PIFparticipans work on their projects, there is a lot of collaboration and idea-sharing. The relaxed atmosphere and openness of the participants allow for creative exchange, validation of ideas, as well as solving completely practical and abstract problems.

A tribe of digital nomads

In the Valley of the beautiful Soča, a river situated in the unspoiled nature of the Triglav National Park, around fifty domestic and foreign multimedia artists, programmers, engineers, theorists and scientists gathered for the fifth year in a row. They embarked on a week-long journey at a summer hacking camp, working on projects at the intersection of art, science, technology, innovation and open knowledge. 

As every year, selected internationally renowned mentors are an important part of the camp, acting in a network of projects as nodes and critically addressing the field of community work, creative electronics, interactive technologies, and learning in nature. And since the camp is designed according to the principle of horizontal knowledge-sharing, the participants already familiarized themselves with the projects they intend to undertake.

The kick-off day started with participants getting familiarized with the surroundings and above all – getting to know each other. After a delicious dinner we had, the day shifted into the night with the sound of music, as the first jam session took place. Our thoughts were full of expectations of the things to come as we concluded our first day enjoying the warmth of the campfire.