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

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?