‘Biopoiesis’ Project Profile: Carlos and Steven Invite Makers to Help Create Cybernetic Art



Carlos Castellanos and Steven J Barnes will be showing their project Biopoiesis at this year’s VMMF. They are members of Dprime Research and Carlos is a graduate student at SFU’s School of Interactive Art and Technology. You can see Biopoiesis at the SFU booth, or check it out June 5-10 during an interactive exhibition at Gallery Gachet.


Biopoiesis is an electrical device that grows its own wires. Before I saw it in the gallery I didn’t even know that was possible. Can you tell us more about how it works and where the idea came from?


The project is based on cyberneticist Gordon Pask’s work in the 1950s on electrochemical computational devices [in electrochemical solutions electricity causes a chemical reaction]. In Biopoesis, the solution is held between two plates of glass with wires running into it. When we send electricity into it, the solution grows its own wires, or “threads” as we often call them.



The threads are made of conductive crystal structures and they grow unpredictably, but we can make them react to their surroundings by hooking the wires up to a sensor, like a microphone. So in Biopoiesis, the threads are capturing information about their environment in the way they grow. We’re also recording the growth of the threads with a video camera and using that to alter the electricity going into the solution. This is a classic cybernetic feedback loop, the threads grow based on electricity in the wires, and the electricity in the wires is altered based on how the threads grow.


The project is part of an exhibition called Proof-of-Process where visitors can interact with and change the work on display. What led you to organize a show like that?


Much of interactive or new media art is what they call “process-based”; the work is often characterized by continuous prototyping and testing. Typically the artist creates several pieces that explore a central concept, and then displays them in an exhibit.


We wanted to open that process up. Basically reversing the standard gallery exhibit, where you see the finished product but not all of the work that went into it. This is pretty common in the art world these days, and this is just our particular take on it. When we started DPrime Research we wanted to try and make interesting/weird art-science projects but also bring them and the ideas surrounding them “down to earth”. So there is this tension between our complicated ideas and theories and this sort of community-based, open-sourcing of the work, where people can come and change the art without knowing all the theory behind it. I think having that unresolved tension can be good.


I’ve often heard members of local makerspaces talk about how diverse the maker community is, and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology is an interdisciplinary department. Has working with people from different backgrounds had an impact on your art?


I think it has but probably not in the way I may have imagined. I should say that my background is originally in music, I never really wanted to be an “artist” in the stereotypical sense. And I have always been interested in technology. Being at SIAT is probably what got me interested in alternative modes of computation like Biopoiesis. It’s like I said to myself, “everyone else is coding all the time, let me try and NOT do that”.


What’s your favorite part of the project so far?


It’s open-endedness. All of the projects in Proof-of-Process can be configured in so many different ways. We are really looking forward to others coming in with their ideas. I’m sure they will come up with things we never would have thought of.


Inspiring Makers — Ladyada Takes One Giant Step for Womankind


Limor Fried, or Ladyada as she’s better known in geekspeak, is a prolific maker, engineer, kit maker, entrepreneur, MAKE advisory board member and open source hardware pioneer.


In an exciting blessing for makers and female engineers, Fried graced the April cover of WIRED magazine: a publication that’s been around for 18 years. This is the first time a female engineer has ever been featured on the cover.


MAKE Magazine called it a milestone for makers, for women, for engineers, and anyone who makes things for a living.


Fried was also interviewed this year on CBC’s Spark by host Nora Young. She defines what a Maker is, and touches on some amazing projects she’s got her eye on for the future.


“A maker is the new hobbiest. It’s someone who likes to build stuff with their hands and with tools,” Fried says. “I work a lot with electronics makers, people who really like to build electronics, both from scratch, and to take stuff off the shelf and modify and manipulate it to make it do cool and awesome stuff.”


Cool and awesome indeed. Though she’s one of the most talented, hard-working and intelligent voices in the maker community, one of the best things about Ladyada is that she’s female, and she embraces it.



As she explains to CBC:


“I just love glam. I wanna go out there and be crazy and blinky and awesome and have a good time.”




After first talking about the importance of open source software and hardware (that’s how she learned her stuff), Fried talks about her own clothing line using wearable computing. This is clothing with embedded coloured lights that allows the wearer to feature a movie, favourite team colours, or other more elegant displays using layers of softly lighted fabric to create a stunning visual display.


And what if she gets lost?


Fried also has an idea for a handbag that would harness GPS powers to tell the wearer which direction to walk in.




If you’re still not convinced that Ladyada is awesome, take a gander at her website Ladyada.net. The site receives about 3000 unique visitors each day, and logs an average of 20G of traffic per day. After taking a peek around her site, it’s easy to see why.


There’s a veritable feast of information on how to make/deconstruct/hack/recreate different electronic items, all with her trademark upbeat, step-by-step instructions.


Two of my favourite projects are the Minty Boost: a portable USB charger, and the x0xb0x: a digital synthesizer.


The Minty Boost is a small-yet-powerful USB charger for your mp3 player, camera, cell phone, and pretty much any other gadget that plugs into a USB port to charge. And it all fits neatly into an Altoids tin.



You can order the kit from Adafruit Industries, Fried’s webshop. With a few basic souldering skills and your own discarded tin, you can make your very own Minty Boost for about 20 bucks.


And once you’re done, just sit back, relax, and watch your electronics come to life!


The x0xb0x is substantially more complicated.


x0xb0x (pronounced “zocks box”) is a full reproduction of the original Roland synthesizer with a fully functional sequencer. The sequencer can be programmed just like the original, and can be used to control other synthesizers using one of its various output formats.



The x0xb0x boasts 128 banks of track memory and 64 banks of pattern memory, which are stored in onboard EEPROM.


And, of course, it’s got no less than 40 LEDs.


“Crazy and blinky and awesome!”


In Fried’s words:


“Electronics is now the new palatte. It’s the new way for us to modify, hack, explore… It’s great for everyone to know how to fix the things around them, or upgrade the things around them… [because] everything that you fix is another thing that isn’t being thrown away.”


Amen sister. Now how do I join your official fan club?


Photo credits:

Wired Cover — Courtesy of blog.makezine.com

Fried with x0xb0x — Courtesy of wired.com

Minty Boost and x0xb0x — Courtesy of ladyada.net

Maker Spaces: Means of Production Artist Garden

Means of Production Garden or MOPARRC (Means Of Production Artist Raw Resource Collective) is a native plant garden and a terraced fruit orchard “creative commons” garden that cultivates materials for artists and art projects. The project started in 2002 with Oliver Kelhammer as lead artist, working with the Vancouver Parks Board and Community Arts Council of Vancouver funding the Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) as a partner. The garden has provided artists with materials for basket weaving for the Urban Weaver Project, materials for natural dyeing, as well as wooden horned instruments, in the case of the Legion of Flying Monkeys. The garden is located at the corner of St. Catherines Street and East 6th Avenue. Located in central Vancouver, in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.

Artist Projects from Garden Materials:
The Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra

The Urban Weaver Project

Natural Dye Experiments, Blue Mollusc

Art Bike Project Profile: Mike Zeitz is Learning to Make Tall Bikes

Big Mike has spearheaded the first ever Vancouver Mini Maker Faire art bike project, where he is recruiting Makers to start decorating, building and creating custom bicycles – of all shapes and sizes. So far he’s managed to wrangle bicycle fabricators, sign decorators, and has found a pile of bicycle parts for pillaging. His overall goal is to learn how to make bicycles from old parts, meet friends, engage with Vancouver’s cycling community, and help promote Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. He’s looking to do more, and looking for more people to get involved. You do not have to have experience with welding to join the project – just enthusiasm Sign up now to get involved!

1) Where did the idea for the art bike project come from, and how did it start?

I was inspired by the yarn bombing project from last year. I had been thinking over the winter about creative, maker-themed ways to attract attention and media coverage. I realized that art bikes, and tall bikes specifically would be a great way to do that. Vancouver has a very strong bicycle culture with lots of people already making tall and alternative bicycles here. I figured that a brightly colored, wildly decorated tall bike, with Vancouver.MakerFaire.ca boldly emblazoned across it would be a very effective mobile platform for promoting Maker Faire.

2) Can you talk a bit about the different people that are helping to make this happen?

I have received a lot of support and advice from many quarters, but there are some in particular who have proven invaluable. Nearly all of the old bicycles and parts I have used have come from the Pedal Depot and the UBC Bike Co-op. Huge thanks to both those organizations! Many of the people on the Maker Faire team have been invaluable with support and guidance Emily, Richard and Ben have been awesome at encouraging and motivating me! Christina has done so much for this project, and it’s about to payoff in a big way! I am going to have lots of bikes for her and her creative, artistic people to decorate very soon!  Neal DeGroote has also decorated his own bicycle and let us show it off at the MOV Fundraiser. You may see him riding it around the city as well. Down at the Vancouver Community Lab there’s been many people, like Jim and Conrad who’ve given some very good advice, but the one person who’s made the biggest difference is Ryan Paton.This dude is awesome! He’s been there for every one of our Wednesday evening and Saturday build session (plus lots of other time). He’s given materials, shared expertise and loaned tools and equipment! We’re getting very close to having bikes ready to put out on the street and we wouldn’t be if it weren’t for Ryan! All you have to do is look at the Facebook page and what you see is Ryan, making bikes and riding them!

3) What kinds of skills are you gaining through the process of putting together this project?

Aside from the larger goal of helping Maker Faire, I did have a few personal goals for this project. I wanted to get to know some of the people in the art and bicycle scenes. I wanted to get some experience rallying and motivating people. Mostly I wanted to get a bunch of like-minded strangers together and have them emerge as a large group of bike making fiends! I mean friends!

I also have the goal of learning to make creative alternative bikes. Years ago, I was very into biking but had fallen away from it. I’m wanting to get back into biking in a big way! In 1995 I went on a big bicycle tour, and I’m working on getting a leave of absence from my job to do a big ride this fall. I want to make myself a recumbent bike and ride it 2-3000km. Actually, I’m going to make a fairly normal recumbent bike first (a tour-easy clone), but I have some very ambitious ideas about a hybrid recumbent/upright/cargo/camping solar-powered, arduino-controlled, electric assist bike. There’s a whole lot of things about that bike that I don’t know how to do, (yet) but I’m aiming high and taking it step by step, acquiring skills as I go. First thing – learn to weld old bikes.

4) How many bicycles do you think you will be putting together? Decorating?

Initially, I had been hoping to make 15-20 bikes. I have come to realize that 8-10 is probably more manageable for our first year. We have 4 bikes nearly ready for decorating now, and now that the process is worked out, the rest will materialize quickly. I want to have at least 3 or 4 out on display at various prominent bike racks at any given time, with a few in reserve for weekends, big events and repair (hopefully not necessary, but I’m prepared to repair/replace). We’re going to be aiming for main commuter hubs during the week, making sure to place the bikes out of the way, but in high-visibility locations. Tallbikes are awesome for this as they have no larger a footprint than a normal bike, will not take up any more than a normal footprint at a bike rack, but really stand out! On the weekends, we’ll be targeting events (craft fairs, bike events, sporting events) where there’ll be lots of foot traffic and high-visibility bike racks. I’m looking for suggestions for events, bike-themed or otherwise.

5) What’s your favourite part of this project so far?

I’ve met some amazing people! That’s been the best part by far! This city is full of really awesome, creative people!

I love having an output for my creative energy! sending out ideas and bouncing them around with people is awesome!

All of the bikes we have used have been pulled from the garbage stream. Every single bike was on it’s way to being recycled or trashed. I love to get new value and new life out of old things. We throw away too much stuff. I really love the Pedal Depot and UBC BIke Coop for the invaluable work that they do in this area. They rebuild/recover old bikes and get them to people that need and will use them. It’s an honor to me that I can take the stuff that even they can’t use and make something wonderful out of it.
Least favorite part = I keep burning my arms while welding ’cause I’m a klutz.

Do you want to make an art bike but don’t know how or have the tools/facilities? Come talk to us! Our regular times at the Colab are Wednesday evenings 5-9(ish) and Sundays 10-4(also ish). Also, keep an eye on the Volunteer calendar for more updates and events if you’d like to come help out.

We are looking for bicycles too! If you have some old beast that’s been lurking out back or under your stairs, unloved and unappreciated, let us show it some love!

If you have an idea for some other way you could, or would like to contribute, please let us know! Send Mike an email at mikez@makerfaire.ca

Vancouver Mini Maker Faire Art Bike Project

Vancouver Mini Maker Faire is recruiting Makers to start decorating, building and creating custom bikes, of all shapes and sizes (the crazier the better). Want to get involved? Sign up now!

See what Ryan Made Already!!

Want to learn more about the Art Bike Project? ‘Like‘ the Art Bike Project on Facebook.



Call For Contributors: Art Bike Project

Vancouver Mini Maker Faire will be decorating, building and creating custom bikes, of all shapes and sizes (the crazier the better). We are  also looking for people that already have crazy bicycles, to perhaps pimp them out to promote the Maker spirit leading up to the faire. Click here to sign up!

VMMF Art Bike Project’s intentions are to :

  • Promote Maker Faire and other organizations that choose to be involved in the project
  • Promote DIY and the maker movement in general
  • Encourage cross-pollination between bike and art/maker groups
  • Add creative and thought-provoking artwork into the public realm
  • And promote cycling, of course!


What Else We’re Looking For:

  • Groups/individuals who would like to donate bicycle parts (working or not)
  • Groups/individuals who would like to build their own bike
  • Enthusiastic people that want to to help build bikes – experience a plus, but not necessary
  • Help/Ideas/Inspiration for decorating bikes: detailed painting, yarn-bombing/knitting, attaching fun and unusual items
  • Volunteers to shuffle bikes to new locations every couple of days
  • People that just want to decorate their own bikes!


What we need:

  • Bicycle parts/scooter/skateboard parts/wheeled things
  • Printer/Banner materials
  • Silkscreen experts (we have supplies, but need some hands!)
  • Locations to build/store bikes
  • Helmets (Used as props only, so no need to meet safety requirements)
  • Locks


We will be showcasing some of the bikes that are made, for the main event held at the Pacific National Exhibition on June 23rd/24th, 2012.
We already have a few bikes ready for our “Meet your Makers” kick-off party at the Museum of Vancouver on March 15, 2012. It would also be wonderful, if anyone wants to trick-out their own bike (or have us do it up for you) and bring it to the kick-off event!

If you would like to help with this project, click here. Or copy and paste the following link in your browser:



If you have any questions, send an email to cnorberg@makerfaire.ca or mikez@makerfaire.ca.

Calling all Yarn Bombers!


Come out and help plan a yarn bomb attack to promote Vancouver Mini Maker Faire! We’re having an official yarn-bomb meeting next Sunday at the Vancouver Hack Space!




When: Sunday May 29th 1:00pm

Where: Vancouver Hack Space (VHS) [45 West Hastings]. The entrance is around the back where the crow mural is located. Please ring the doorbell and we’ll pass a key down! Confused? Here’s a video.





What: The meet-up will be hosted by the lovely Claire Desmarais, with a feature talk by Leanne Prain, author of the book, Yarnbombing.






This event is open to anyone wanting to get a knitting or crochet project started, or help spread the Maker Faire spirit! So come out, bring some supplies, ideas, friends, and cookies! (Because what’s knitting and crocheting without cookies?)





(images: Yarn Bombing ; The Fibe Squad)