PIFcamp is in full swing! //PIFlog, Day 2

According to PIFcamp regulars, the workshop schedule on the first day filled up the fastest ever.This is perhaps not so surprising, given rapid response is encoded in the nature of live coders, who are probably the most numerous community at this year’s PIFcamp. Monday was therefore more or less spent live coding: PIFparticipants were invited to attend two workshops (a live coding music workshop with Živa, a SuperCollider set of tools, and a live coding visualizations workshop in Hydra) and a presentation of the CLAVM live coding system. But first, it was time for the basics: right after breakfast, Bernhard showed the participants how not to get killed by mains voltage in the 50Hz workshop.

Bernhard Rasinger’s 50 Hz workshop. Photo: Simão Bessa

With their new-found confidence, the PIFparticipants then built extensions, since you can never have too many of them on the worksite.

Participants are concentrated on building extensions. Photo: Simão Bessa

Before lunch, Karl Yerkes invited us under the tent for a demo of CLAVM, a live coding system, which is still in development. He impressed the audience (mainly made up of live coders) with his inventive solutions and delivery. Karl is also developing a live coding music workshop these days, so stay tuned!

While some of us were getting acquainted with the new live coding environment, some of the participants started setting up the DIY geodesic dome, by now a traditional PIFcamp feature, on the neighbouring lawn.

Building the DIY geodesic dome. Photo: Simão Bessa

This year too, Blaž Pavlica will spend most of his time in its company, continuing his work on the Ambisonic Dome project. This time, he will be working on the development of a user interface that will allow visitors to arrange sounds from the library in a virtual space, and play the result on a multi-channel spherical system. He’s developing the interface as part of the B-air project, which investigates the role of sound in human development from the embryonic stage onwards. Blaž’s installation is aimed at children, and with them in mind he has put together the sound library – you’ll be able to choose from a variety of sounds of jungle animals. Coming soon to a geodesic dome near you!

Building the DIY geodesic dome. Photo: Simão Bessa

After lunch (thanks Klemen, Miha and the team!) we worked on our storytelling and drawing skills at the No Name Fiction workshop led by Julien Bellanger. We used the scratchboard technique to create cards of our ghost Pokémon, giving them a rainbow image, naming them and writing out a list of their skills. In a day or two, Julien will hold a follow-up workshop where we will elaborate on their stories. To get ready for the catch, check out the set of creatures on the notice boards while you are waiting in the lunch/dinner queue.

Julien Bellanger during participant’s ghost creatures presentations. Photo: Simão Bessa

The tables under the canopy were too crowded for all the participants of the late afternoon live coding music workshop with Roger Pibernat, which spread over half of the terrace. The intensive workshop was about getting to grips with Živa, a tool and syntax sugar for SuperCollider. As the PIFlog editorial team prides itself on first-hand reporting, we bring you the experience of one of the participants: “Roger’s live coding workshop was intimidating at first, as I don’t know how to code at all, but in the process of getting to know Živa, using the SuperCollider tools for simple coding, the fun blew all my fears away. We learned how to import libraries of sounds and synths, playing like musicians in an orchestra. Coding finally made sense! There are so many sounds you can create with Živa and the possibilities for modulating them are endless, so you’re bound to be hooked.”

The activities then moved back to the tent, where Thomas presented his PIFproject, in which he is exploring what light looks like in the medium of sound. After introductions of the new PIFparticipants and dinner, followed by short interruptions of work (or sitting on the lawn) due to the occasional rain, the crowd gathered for the last Monday workshop. Mentored by Blaž Pavlica, whom you met at the beginning of this blog entry, it was a smooth introduction to Hydra, a great browser-based tool for live coding visualisations.

Thomas presents his PIFproject. Photo: Simão Bessa

Most of the participants were chased away by the rain in the early hours of the night, but the more persistent ones enjoyed the jam session arranged by jesusonecstasy and loopier, with Blaž’s backing in Hydra. Tuesday starts early, with an optional hike or hard work on projects, and then continues with a full schedule of activities, so we bid you farewell for today.

PIFcamp by night. Photo: Simão Bessa

PIFcamp started and the first day went by in the blink of an eye!

The 8th edition of PIFcamp will take us into the world of live-coding, lasers, prototyping, noise, more or less rhythmic sounds, community projects, and the endless possibilities of exploration.

More than sixty participants have made their way to Soca. The day started with a lot of work, setting up tables, setting up the tent, and arranging the internet connection, cables and other details. The kitchen was quite lively, the cooks and little helpers prepared a delicious leek-chickpea soup, for all the hungry and tired. After a new type of welcoming at the entrance – a quick antigen test, and very fortunately, for once, we were all for sure on the negative side of the scale, the traditional introductory part began.

Last but not least…

The last day at PIF started off with preparations for a busy evening full of project presentations, performances and… a farewell Milky Way themed party!

Some of the participants were racing to make the most of the day and to wrap up their projects or gather as much research materials as possible to continue their work after they return back to their labs and studios. Miha Godec for example spent the morning paddling in the Soča river, to acquire footage for his 360 degrees VR work.

Meanwhile, back in the camp, the others were cramming around the table where T-shirts and other garments were being decorated by this year’s PIF graphics.

For the whole week the cozy shadow of a nearby tree hosted a pop-up tattoo shop run by Leoni Voegelin, Rodolfo Costa Castro, Julian Jungel and Hannah Perner-Wilson that by now resulted in some very interesting personalized drawings proudly worn by quite many PIFcampers.

Now, the tree became a storytelling venue for yet another PIFcamp project, when Irene read her mycostories (stories she collected si far about how mushrooms influenced and changed people’s lives) to the gathered crowd.

Beepblip (Ida Hiršenfelder) who joined PIFcamp to embark on the expedition to the vast universe of retrofututrist sound has been building a complicated DIY analog synthMusic from Outer Space Sound Lab ULTIMATE since she arrived at Soča. On the last day, she was tucked away in her make-shift studio and focused on preparing the presentation of the work she has done over the week. Her’s was also the first presentation to launch the evening programme of performances that spanned three venues and was masterfully organized by Jacky.

Ida performed in the “DIY ambisonic dome” that is a continuation of last years project by Blaž Pavlica, who experimented with spatial sound synthesis and processing. This time Blaž worked with synthesis of the 3D sound fields and new sound effects possible in ambisonics format with the SuperCollider programming and livecoding environment. The dome, that was for this evening renamed as the “Shooting Stars from Mars” venue, hosted several performances of the last day’s programme.

The second venue was the basketball field behind the school where most of the participants have been staying for the past week. Under the red light of Janez Grošelj’s light installation, the performance of the Cracking Choir and a Robot Chicken Movie screening by Mónica Rikic and Anna Carreras happened but also spoken word performance by the tattoo crew, Voices of PIF field recordings by Heather, and an acupuncture hack performance by Stephanie and her son, accompanied by sound by Jacky Noise and visuals by Jurij. Later the basketball field served also as a stage for Jesus on Ecstasy and Toyota Vangelis.

Besides the “dome”, Bernhard set up his laser to once again create some stunning projections on a nearby tree, while Tilen and Matija played their sets.

When the bonfire slowly started to wane, the PIFcampers moved to the dancefloor to heat up the atmosphere. The dance turned into a small rave that crowned the conclusion of the seventh edition of PIF. We hope there are many more to come!

Friday!

No excuse was good enough to avoid the traditional Friday mandatory hike to Velika Korita where PIFcampers are every year able to cool down in the (almost) ice-cold Soča river. 

Upon returning and after enjoying a deserved lunch the PIF participants resumed the work on their projects, while several workshops were taking place around the camp, for example, a cat rescue workshop aka rope tree climbing and a workshop on the history of mutual aid and economic modelling, followed by two more workshops focused on MQTT and Wavey Wind motion controller. 

While everybody was immersed in their activities, the art and crafts department formed spontaneously at one of the tables to create “the most beautiful PIFcamp schedules of the Saturday wrap-up program so far”, according to Tina. 

The evening concluded with by now the usual jam session. 

Thursday. Fear of missing out intensifies…

We entered the second half of the PIFcamp week with a strong FOMO feeling. The schedule was full of planned workshops already in the morning as if everybody feared there would not be enough time to finish all the work before the seventh edition of PIFcamp concludes. Only three days left…

So the activities started immediately after breakfast when Miha Godec invited the participants to join him in the tent which in the fore-noon sun slowly started turning into a sauna. The participants didn’t mind the heat though and were keen to follow the beginner’s guide to VR and 360 panorama videos. The workshop offered an overview of possibilities and tools and allowed everybody to try on the helmets and gain a first-person VR experience.

Just before noon Hannah and Julian organized a workshop where participants learned how to craft a paper speaker…

…while on the other side of the camp a kids-only workshop was taking place. Monica, Marta and Anna taught the PIFcamp’s youngest how to build their own CHICKEN ROBOTS! Look around you, the chicken robots are among us, and rumors are spreading they will soon show up again…

Right after lunch, Qianxun Chen held a workshop on textual seedling, that – unfortunately – had to be less practical than expected, due to server issues. Nonetheless, the idea of “growing” a digital plant in your browser, based on natural language associations, fascinated all the participating campers. 

The meme specialist Maggie Kane continued with her etching party where participants got to etch their favorite memes on a PCB board. 

After dinner, Stefanie presented a short lecture on ethical hardware, that focused on her experiences and challenges of working on the intersection of feminism and technology. Besides the issues related to gender inequality in the tech field that she and her colleagues are addressing with workshops and exhibitions at Mz* Baltazar’s Lab in Vienna, Stefanie’s lecture touched upon the questions of the ecological impact of technologies, as the materials these consist of, copper, for example, are tied to chains of ecological and social exploitation. “The future is that we look for substitutes for the materials and components that are not ethically sourced”, stressed Stefanie, while showing the interested PIFcrowd some examples of art projects that test out different, ecologically friendlier alternatives or make their works out of recycled materials. As an example of the latter, she pointed out a project by one of the PIFcamp-goers present, Irene Posch’s The Embroidered Computer that consists of (textile) relays, similar to early computers before the invention of semiconductors, and is solely built from a variety of metal threads, magnetic, glass and metal beads. The project is inspired by traditional crafting routines and patterns and explores the possibilities of re-using historic gold embroidery materials and knowledge to craft a programmable 8-bit computer.

The jam session involved even a larger group of participants this evening. Blaž Pavlica joined in as well with his live-coded visuals, and the party went on long after the bloggers went to bed. 

PIFlog04_Wednesday

The camp was quiet on Wednesday morning at breakfast time. Thirty PIFcamp participants embarked on a hike to Krnsko lake already at 7 am,  leaving the remaining half of the PIFcrowd enjoying some peace and quiet, and shorter waiting lines at the breakfast table. The hike was led by Neža and although the route they took this year was not as challenging as the last time, the surrounding Triglav’s national park still offered some spectacular views.

Upon return, after even the last hikers had had their deserved lunch, the tables got quickly repopulated, and the regular PIFcamp routine resumed once again.

Many attended the workshop led by Joreg about the toolkit VVVV, and everybody had their fun trying the visual programming interface to discover the possibility of this innovative tool.

Then, it was the turn of the knife etching workshop, held by Simon, that lured a good bunch of enthusiasts of their precious tools, looking forward to color and decorate them.

After dinner, Heather Contant talked about Makrolab, PIFcamp’s older cousin as she named it, and Blaž Pavlica led a workshop about drawing with code with P5live, where psychedelic animations were made live and directly on the browsers of the participants.

Tuesday; Alternative social media, memes, tattoo studio and more…

Tuesday morning was busy. The group of music and technology enthusiasts who formed a community project focused on the development of a multi-sensorial synthesizer called (for now) OctoSense continued their work under the guidance of Václav Peloušek (Bastl Instruments). The development of an interface that will enable the simultaneous use of different sensors to synthesize sound and control other devices started already in Ljubljana and continues now at PIFcamp. 

By now, most of the OctoSense prototypes had been built and the group started the testing process. Julijan and Jakob wrote the basic firmware to test the interface elements, the buttons and LEDs, but they still need to test the analog circuits and inputs just to see what of the hardware works and what doesn’t, says Václav. The idea is that this device will be able to do calibration, data extraction and mapping. But how will this device differ from what is already available out there on the “market”? “Normally you write a custom piece of code for all these parts, you connect the sensor to an Arduino, you hardcode a piece of code for the calibration, if you need some data extraction you keep wrestling with that for another day and then you somehow map and hardcode it… so, it is a lengthy process that requires a lot of programming”, explains Václav. But with the Octosense interface, you will be able to do all of this in just a couple of minutes and also make adjustments in the process, during a performance for example. 

However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before the Octosense can be released as a working product.  At the end of the week, the calibration part will hopefully be complete and in September, when Vaclav returns to Ljubljana for the second part of his residency with Projekt Atol and Osmo/za, the group will focus on the data extraction and mapping. If everything goes according to plan, the user will be able to easily do all these things with just a few button clicks. What the team thus also needs to develop is the user interface for all these parts. 

In the late morning, Joreg invited everybody to the main tent to talk about alternative social media: despite the tropical heat – caused by the “greenhouse effect” of the tent under midday’s sun – many decided to attend the workshop.

While presenting the existing alternatives to mainstream social media, many important concepts were touched: closed systems vs open ones that allow interoperability, the role of corporations and the dilemma of the active user vs the passive consumer…

The workshop then focused on Mastodon, one of the most successful social media alternatives, and on the ActivityPub protocol and the connected Fediverse, the ensemble of interconnected servers used for web publishing, and gave rise to a long, wide, participated and interesting debate, touching on many important topics, from active usage of technology in general to censorship on the internet.

After lunch Maggie Kane led a workshop focused on memes as part of her on-going DIY meme project where atendees can design functional circuits that look like popular memes & etch their designs onto copper PCB boards.

Meanwhile the pop-up tattoo studio was har at work under the cool shade of a nearby tree. A project by Leoni Voegelini, Rodolfo Costa Castro, Julian Jungel and Hannah Perner-Wilson, offers the PIFcamp participants a moment of rest and relaxation while they temporarily tattoo them with a design that captures each participant’s current project.

During the night, under the incredible starry sky of the Soča valley, three different situations melted together to form a unique experience for the night crowd: the classic bonfire, that reunited those participants seeking a bit of warmth, the amazing laser projections made by Bernhard directly on the trees in the surrounding woods and – once again – a long, enjoyable and participated jam session.

Many persisted until late, not afraid of the early morning mountain walk (and of the consequent morning mountain hangover) that was waiting for them the following day.

Let the brewing start…

On the first working day, PIF’s backyard was buzzing with excitement already at breakfast time. But while everyone else was still getting ready for the activities ahead, the cooks Klemen and Miha proudly presented their first creation.

The beer brewing workshop, held by Rob in Neža’s barn was one of the first events of the day on Monday. By filling, filtering and explaining all possible variables and hacks, Rob showed all the people present how to make their own beer at home, according to each one’s individual taste.

A Pale Ale takes about one month from grain to glass, but the PIFcamp-goers will attempt to create a beer in five days! The smell of the boiling mixture, expanding to the grass field above where Luka’s dome was being built, together with a slight general inebriation due to the beer tasting available for the participants, made this workshop a useful sharing moment, and a typical mitteleuropean summer breakfast experience.

On the other side of the camp, in the tent, a Feminist hack acupuncture workshop was taking place. Led by Stephanie Wuschitz, the participants focused on building a device to sonify your most active acupuncture spots on the surface of your skin and also connect the input from your acupuncture points to Pure Data. 

Stephanie Wuschitz, whose attendance at PIFcamp is supported by Österreichisches Kulturforum Ljubljana (many thanks!), works at the intersection of art, research and technology, with a particular focus on feminism, open source technology and peer production. She is one of the core members of  Mz* Baltazar’s Lab, a collective and feminist hackerspace based in Vienna. 

The workshop used fair trade, self-made and recycled electronic parts and explored the capacitive quality and resistance of our own body.

After lunch, a well-attended introduction into designing PCBs (printed circuit boards) with open-source software KiCad led by Klemens Kohlweis kicked off the workshop that will continue during the week. On Monday, the group talked about challenges and possibilities of the design and manufacturing process, but in the days to come they will focus on drawing their own functional and/or beautiful circuit boards – and hopefully even get them manufactured by the end of the PIFcamp week.

Just before dinner a group of fungi friends gathered for the first story-telling and speculation session of the Internet of Fungi project by Rosi Grillmair. Rosi proposed this speculative storytelling project to imagine an alternative internet network, based on fungal systems. The main question is how we could benefit from and nurture these systems to send messages via these already existing paths. Maybe, we could invite the networks to grow close to human communities and create a data highway of nutrients and information? Which communication protocols are used in fungi networks? What does the fungal network need to flourish?

After dinner, multiple activities were happening around the camp. At the basketball field behind the school, a Catwalk dance class led by Janne Kummer offered some quality and fun evening exercise. Luka the firestarter took care of the first bonfire of this year’s PIFcamp, while in the tent Polona led the by now traditional “Losing at Tarok with Polona” workshop session. 

PIFcamp crowd is back and ready to create DIYstractiON!

After last year’s Covid-resilient pocket edition PIFcamp is back in its full glory! A crowd of sixty familiar and new faces of artists, hackers, musicians, engineers, memsters and their inhuman friends gathered at the now traditional location in the Soča Valley to launch the seventh edition of PIFcamp, a one-week production lab that combines art, technology, creativity and open-source knowledge.

After everybody settled in at the camp’s backyard Tina and Uroš explained the do’s and don’ts. What followed were participants’ introductions which promised a varied week full of practical workshops, presentations, field trips, laboratory research, jam sessions and – which is never lacking at PIF – fun.

We are looking forward to projects and workshops searching for “mechanical nature”, collecting “micro stories” about fungi, using open source technologies for beer brewing, developing interfaces for simultaneous use of different sensors to synthesise sound and control other devices, exploring new 360 video filming techniques, speculating about “fungi internet”, developing experimental low cost motion “glove” controller and DIY microbial fuel cells,… if we mention only some of them. 

It seems that the keywords of this year’s PIFcamp edition are #mud and #funghi. We have yet to witness what will grow out of this combination, but one thing is certain – if nothing else it might provide fertile ground for quality pifmeme content. The Soča Memelords are already hard at work. Expect more reports in the future PIFlogs. 

After dinner, Bernhard took out an MB’s Vectrex, a vintage gaming console, built in 1983. Once the console was switched on, people started gathering around it, attracted to it like a cat to a laser point, or like mice to the sound of a flute. Many of the participants played at least one game with the Asteroid-inspired Mine Storm video game, and for the whole evening, the console was never left unattended.

Soon, the vintage space sound effects coming from the game got mixed with the sounds and the notes coming from Mitja and Vaclav’s synths.

After a while, the Vectrex was added to the jam session, functioning as an oscilloscope to render the sound waves coming from the synths.

This added a dreamy hypnotic visual tone to the chilly melodic style of the jam, making it continue well into the night, for the amusement of the few night owls that were still awake, bringing the first day of PIFcamp to a conclusion.

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