Hacklab at the Sea July 12-18 /2010 (DL 26.6.)

Hacklab at the Sea July 12-18 /2010 (DL 26.6.)

M.A.R.I.N. invites short proposals to attend Hacklab at the Sea, an informal workshop on an island in the Finnish archipelago combining tinkering and brainstorming of ideas. The workshop explores sensory experience of marine environment and ecologies. Participants should all do hands-on tinkering with the likes of but not limited to, sensors, sensor networks, DIY electronics, low power computing, and alternative energy production. read more: http://marin.cc/seahacklab

Sound Waves

DSC02060.JPG As part of the collaboration with the AND Festival, M.A.R.I.N. artists in residence did a 2-day workshop with sound artists from SoundWave, a music and sound art organization from Workington. We met first on the catamaran docked in Whitehaven for informal discussion and dinner, introductions, and telling about our work and journey so far. In between several days of gushy winds, we enjoyed a cool and crisp, calmer evening.

We joined SoundWave at their offices in Workington for a show and tell, first myself, Nigel Helyer and Andreas Siagian discussed sound art in contexts of public space, locative work, and ecology. SoundWave coordinates programming for a nice 8-speaker rig in the town centre called The Hub, originally designed by BASE Structutes for the Allerdale Borough Council, and including work by Illustrious Company (Martyn Ware and Vince Clarke).

DSC02081.JPG The Hub’s soundscape was quite beautiful, giving a sensation of for example sea birds hovering above you. Emma Foxall presented a community project called Sonic Picnic that they had realized at The Hub, from which one got a real sense of building community ownership through participation.

Also Steven Pearson, Dave Camlin, Mark Newport, and Dave Roberts discussed their work, in particular in the context of The Hub, 3D recording and authoring. Soundwave had also realized an interesting project called Slate Song at the Honister Slate Mine last Spring. Performed in the mine, a 1.5 tonne “Musical Stones of Skiddaw” instrument had been performed together by a mezzo-soprano and fiddler (Mike Newport).

Data collection from Belfast to Bangor

ecolocated_072Nigel and myself, accompanied by cap Lars took a 2 night trip to Bangor. We wanted to make a data trace from river Lagan using the YSI 600XL Sonde, recording temperature, pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen and oxygen reduction potential. It was another summer in Belfast with lot of rainfall, so there should be a lot of nutrients in the water. Weather forecast was luckily wrong for the day we went out: it was sunny with a smooth South-Westerly wind that made it a pleasant sail after the harbor area motoring zone. We also stopped along the way to make hydrophone recordings.

ecolocated_235 Once in Bangor, we sought permission to take the catamaran onto a slipway. One of its folding propellers had corroded and literally disintegrated. Also it was time to get rid of some barnacles. They are an amazing species, leaving a substrate behind even when removed, leaving a “bed” for new larvae. Think we removed about 60kg of it from the boat, and put into trash. The catamaran looked mighty big when off water, yet also beautifully designed.

Before dusk, Nigel and I took out the little dinghy boat with the water testing kit and hydrophones. At the entrance to the harbour, a dozen of fishermen were casting for mackerell. A few seals also loved this spot, not least to the treats that returning fishing boats would give them, the unused bait. We got pretty close, 2 meter distance from one of the seals, which seemed to have lost one eye. We tested the water in the commercial and yacht harbor, and then went out to Luke’s point, an area where I knew Bangor still has open sewage to the sea.

ecolocated_074 An unfriendly, cunning rock crept up from the sea to scratch the small engine propeller on the way. When going out to the sea, dissolved oxygen levels improved significantly, but when approaching the spill area, we’d hit values closer to six mg/l DO. The readings were showing worse water quality 200 meters off shore at the spill area than in the visibly polluted commercial harbor of Bangor.

The calculation one city may do is whether the wider impact of their sewage output has long term effects on wider aquatic areas. As it washes out to the open sea, the impact is in the short term, regional. What about the longer term stress on the marine ecosystem?

ecolocated_251 In the harbor, rather new mussle boat with trawling gear was in the harbor. On the coastal road, there was a sign warning to eat any mussels in Belfast Lough because of pollution. I turns out that the mussels in Belfast lough are replanted in other waters, grown, cleaned and sold.

We slept two nights in Bangor, and sailed off early in the morning to record a track from Bangor to the other side of the Lough near a power station, then up to the beginning of the Fairway buoy. The weather was rather windy.

Our water quality testing is something I would call indexical work. In order for the data to be meaningful for science, it takes a long period of time to monitor a single site to take into account changing conditions, and the possible measurement errors (which always are part of the picture). The mobile kind of monitoring that we do helps give an idea of an existing issue that may be worth investigating closer. For example, there are no permanent measuring equipment stationed in front of Bangor to monitor the sewage output.

Docking in Belfast

M.A.R.I.N. residency catamaran arrives in Belfast for ISEA2009 and exhibition at Catalyst Arts

We arrive in Carrickfergus around 2.30 am and sleep in the marina for a few hours and take lovely warm showers. The weather gets worse, we VHF Belfast harbour master and head to our mooring on Lagan river in the morning, surrounded by mist and rain. We are also doing water quality readings along the way to the Lagan, yet aware that we need to come back for more concentrated sensing later on.
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It is great feeling to set foot on Belfast. It took us 4 days longer than expected to make the journey; partly because I expected the boat to be quicker, but mostly because of winds facing us. At the same time, it could have taken even much longer. We are met by a friendly harbour master. The new mooring is very good. Paul Muhlbach, who has been assisting with local production, working for ISEA2009, greets us and we have a meeting over coffee. Then, to Catalyst Arts gallery (great artist run venue, very nice people running it) where we meet with Aideen Doran, and Duncan who helps out with construction work of the exhibition. Our sea legs sway us a bit, terra firma and first cappucino feel spot on.

One strategic notion for this residency, and future planning is to balance staying in harbours at sea carefully. Even though this was our longest stretch by far, one always needs to give a day or two extra for rain check. Even though sea was rough, our bodies are quite strong and momentum to work on our exhibition is really good.

September winds

I had never sailed North Sea before. I do remember a ferry trip from UK to France, where a man was so sick he was green, which amused his girlfriend tremendously. So I was surprised of two things; that most of the coastline North of Germany and Holland is quite shallow, with many riffs and even way out to the sea, depths of 8-10 meters, and very far out to reach 20 meters. I had thought that the Baltic Sea was very shallow, but this gave new perspective. Unfortunately the shallowness also meant that waves would be rocking the boat to set a rather projectile tone to the sailing experience of Michael and Nigel. I don’t know where it comes from, but I had no nausea at all and could sleep in my cabin, even though the bigger waves would lift me slightly from the mattrass, and sounds around me were like being in a big washing machine, full of hard objects.

Already the first day was informative with regard to working on board: no reading, typing in this type of weather. More learning to balance and cook tea without hitting your forehead more than twice a day would be the appropriate, embodied research to take place on board. At the same time we would be learning a lot of how to sail this cat using the Raymarine C80 plotter, and connected wind meter and echo sounder. We went to 2-hour watches from the very first day. Except for understanding the lights on ships, most things were relatively OK to handle.

In Borkum we witnessed a celebration of the island’s mini railway on our way to an Internet bar, to get decent weather forecasts and communicado. After a night well slept, we decided that instead of going against the wind towards the Channel, we would sail straight out to England. Off we sailed, with quite many big ships crossing our route yet not from very near.

Catamaran speed was rather slow at start, maybe due to incoming tide. We got the boat moving up to 9.4 knots. On average, we sailed around 7 knots, 6 knots if unlucky.

Paralelo & Pixelache

M.A.R.I.N. project was presented within 4 days – and 9000 kilometers – on March 31st at Paralelo event in Sao Paolo, and on April 3rd at the Pixelache Festival in Helsinki. Tapio Mäkelä gave a talk, that has evolved over the last few months of dialogue with artists and researchers on art and ecology, titled Ecolocatedness: Art and Science Practice as Situated Information Design. This paper to be published by InterArts (in Spanish) discusses the role of art and design in creating agency through information design and participatory practices. Ecolocatedness as a term bridges ecology, location and situatedness. More to follow on this topic later…

Luminous Green desert workshop

Marko Peljhan (co-founder of M.A.R.I.N.) & UCIRA /UCSB, in collaboration with F0AM, Brussels, hosted a Luminous Green workshop in Pam Springs Desert, February 13-17th, 2009. The setting was Boyd Deep Canyon Desert research center, surrounded on the one hand by pristine desert landscape, and a posh golf course on the other. Discussions reflected art and design practices on ecology, interdisciplinary collaboration, ways of interacting with audiences, and similar.

Luminous Green workshop in Palm Springs Desert. Marko Peljhan in director's seat.

The event continued as a workshop on UCSB campus on Feb 19th-20th, discussing also ways in which student and other initiatives on the campus could integrate luminously green concepts. Tapio Mäkelä gave a talk titled Art, Ecology and Information Design, which included a preview into the M.A.R.I.N. project.

“Luminous Green is series of gatherings, workshops and play-spaces dedicated to a community of people who care about the world. About the world that supports life today and about the possible worlds, that may support a cleaner, greener and more fulfilling life in the future. The Luminous Green community is composed of creative thinkers, doers and makers, deploying their imagination and ingenuity to shape a brighter future, disentangling from the unsustainable and unnatural.”

M.A.R.I.N. + API brainstorm at the sea

Sea lions on a buoy, Santa Barbara, CA.

After the Luminous events, Marko Peljhan, Matthew Biederman and Tapio Mäkelä, accompanied by Marko’s son Boris, went out to the Pacific Ocean to brainstorm on M.A.R.I.N. infrastructure, and collaboration with the API (Arctic Perspective Initiative). We discussed how to interface work on remote locations with exhibition audiences, and what kinds of tool sets one could use in workshops. We came up with a few good workable ideas, and as on any outing to the sea, had some lunch.

During the outing we saw plenty of pelicans fishing, seals going for their catch, and dolhpins playfully joining our short ride. Sea lions climbed on top of buoys, and even units run by the local oil drilling companies. This area had been a site for a major oil spill that was a catalyst for Californian green movement in 1969.