The Explosive Art Of Detonographs

The visual arts are a broad field, encompassing everything from the chiselling of marble sculptures to the creation of delicate landscapes in charcoal on paper. However, [Evelyn Rosenberg] has experimented with some altogether more radical techniques over the years, creating her explosively-formed detonographs.

The process of creating a detonograph starts with sketching out a design, and using it to create a plaster mold. The mold exists as a bas relief, upon which metal sheets are laid on top. Various different metals may be layered up to create varying effects, and other objects like leaves, branches, or lace may also be included in the stack up.

Rosenberg’s piece titled “Enchanted New Mexico.”

Then, the metal plate sitting atop the mold is covered with explosive powder. When this is detonated, it smashes everything together with great force. The metal sheet takes on the negative form of the bas relief mold, while also picking up imprints from any leaves or other objects included in the various layers. Dissimilar metals included in the stack-up may also weld together during this process.

With some post-processing like polishing and chemical treatments, the result is a beautiful metal artwork full of dimension and detail. It’s somewhat like an artistic take on the industrial process of explosive welding. Video after the break.

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3D printed fish leaping through waves

A Crazy Wave Automaton

[Henk Rijckhaert] recently participated in a “secret Santa” gift exchange. In a secret Santa, everyone’s name goes in a hat, and each person must pick a name without looking. Each gives a gift to the person whose name they drew.

Henk needed a gift for Amy, a friend who loves the water and water sports as well as maker-y things.  So he built her a wave automaton — a sea wave and fishies, and documented the build in this video.

The build is mostly plywood and 3D printed parts. We have to  think reprising it in a nice wood and brass would make a lovely project for a hobby wood and metalworker.

The bulk of the project is 30 plywood boards stacked up with spacers. Each board is mounted with a 3D printed stepped bushing on one end that rides in a horizontal slot. On the other end is a 3D printed eccentric riding in an oversized (about 5cm) hole. So the board moves in a circle at one end and back and forth at the other for a very nice simulation of an ocean wave. Continue reading “A Crazy Wave Automaton”

This Spherical Lamp’s Pieces Ship Flat, Thanks To Math

[Nervous System] sells a variety of unique products, and we really appreciate the effort they put into sharing elements of their design and manufacturing processes. This time, it’s details of the work that went into designing a luxury lamp shade that caught our eye.

Top: Finished lamp. Bottom: Partially-assembled.

The finished lamp shade is spherical, but is made entirely from flat-packed pieces of laser-cut wood that have been specifically designed to minimize distortion when assembled into a curved shape. The pieces themselves are reminiscent of puzzle cells; complex, interlocking cellular shapes found in many plants.

As usual, [Nervous System] applied a hefty dose of math and computational design to arrive at a solution. Each unique panel of the lamp is the result of a process that in part implements a technique called variation surface cutting for the shape of the pieces. They also provide a couple of nifty animations that illustrate generating both the piece boundaries as well as the hole patterns in each of the 18 unique pieces that make up each lamp.

As for making the pieces themselves, they are laser-cut from wood veneer, and assembly by the end user takes an hour or two. Watch a video overview, embedded just below under the page break.

We’re glad [Nervous System] takes the time to share details like this, just like the time they figured out the very best type of wood for laser-cutting their unique puzzles and didn’t keep it to themselves.

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Moon moving from inside a large glass sphere into screens of two vintage television sets

Blending Pepper’s Ghost, Synths, And Vintage TVs

We were recently tipped off to the work of [Joshua Ellingson], and digging in, we found an extensive collection of art and ongoing experiments, with synthesizers deforming and driving old black-and-white clips played on vintage television sets, objects jumping from screens into the real world and back, and cathode ray tube oscilloscopes drawing graphics in the air (loud sound!) (nitter). It’s recommended that you check out the short showcase videos we embedded below before you continue reading, because transcribing these visuals into words won’t do them justice.

In case you’re not up for a video, however, we shall try transcribing them anyway. Animals, shapes and figures appear in the real world, bound by glass spheres and containers, using the technique known as Pepper’s Ghost. A variety of screens used for creating that illusion – sometimes it’s a tablet, and sometimes it’s an old television set rested upside down on top of a glass aquarium. Vintage television sets are involved quite often in [Ellingson]’s experiments, typically found playing movie scenes and clips from their appropriate eras, or even used as one of the locations that a Pepper’s Ghost-enchanted object could move into — firmly a part of the same imaginary world turned real.

It’s not always that things move from a TV screen into their glass boundary, gaining an extra dimension in the process, but when it happens, the synchronization is impeccable. All of that is backed by — and usually controlled by — Moog synthesizer sounds, knob turns driving video distortions or aspects of an object movement. Not all of his clips have synthesizers, old TVs, or Pepper’s Ghost illusion in them, but every experiment of his contains at least two out of these three, working in unison to create impressions. And as much as the art value is undeniable, [Ellingson] also adds a whole lot of hacker value for us to take away!

[Ellingson] understands what goes into building optical illusions like Pepper’s Ghost — using a variety of different glassware, from Erlenmeyer flasks to teapots, producing a consistent and ongoing stream of new ideas with unique spins on them. His aim is to share and create beyond what his art can achieve, which is why he encourages us to try it out ourselves — with this one minute video of a quick Pepper’s Ghost build, using nothing but a generic tablet, an emptied-out plastic snow globe and a piece of cheap transparency film used for school projectors. If you want to go beyond, he’s made an extensive tutorial on illusions of the kind he does, their simplicities and complexities, and all the different ways you can build one.

We all benefit when an artist finds a technology and starts playing with it, closing the divide between technology and art – and by extension, the divide between technology and nature. Sometimes, it’s flowing light art installations where you are a boulder in route of plankton’s movement, other times, it’s through-hole component-packed printed circuit birds that sing not unlike the non-printed-circuit ones, or manipulation of CRT displays with function generator-driven coils to offset the beam and turn the image into a pattern of lines.

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AI-Generated Sleep Podcast Urges You To Imagine Pleasant Nonsense

[Stavros Korokithakis] finds the experience of falling asleep to fairy tales soothing, and this has resulted in a fascinating project that indulges this desire by using machine learning to generate mildly incoherent fairy tales and read them aloud. The result is a fantastic sort of automated, machine-generated audible sleep aid. Even the logo is machine-generated!

The Deep Dreams Podcast is entirely machine-generated, including the logo.

The project leverages the natural language generation abilities of OpenAI’s GPT-3 to create fairytale-style content that is just coherent enough to sound natural, but not quite coherent enough to make a sensible plotline. The quasi-lucid, dreamlike result is perfect for urging listeners to imagine pleasant nonsense (thanks to Nathan W Pyle for that term) as they drift off to sleep.

We especially loved reading about the methods and challenges [Stavros] encountered while creating this project. For example, he talks about how there is more to a good-sounding narration than just pointing a text-to-speech engine at a wall of text and mashing “GO”. A good episode has things like strategic pauses, background music, and audio fades. That’s where pydub — a Python library for manipulating audio — came in handy. As for the speech, text-to-speech quality is beyond what it was even just a few years ago (and certainly leaps beyond machine-generated speech in the 80s) but it still took some work to settle on a voice that best suited the content, and the project gradually saw improvement.

Deep Dreams Podcast has a GitLab repository if you want to see the code that drives it all, and you can go to the podcast itself to give it a listen.

Sound And Light Play Off Acrylic And Wire In This Engaging Circuit Sculpture

It’s no secret that we really like circuit sculptures around here, and we never tire of seeing what creative ways people come up with to celebrate the components used to make a project, rather than locking them away in an enclosure. And a circuit sculpture that incorporates sound and light in its design is always a real treat to discover.

Called “cwymriad” by its designer, [Eirik Brandal], this sound sculpture incorporates all kinds of beautiful elements. The framework is made from thick pieces of acrylic, set at interesting angles to each other and in contrasting colors. The sound-generating circuit, which uses square wave outputs from an ESP32 to provide carrier and modulation signals for a dual ring modulator, is built on a framework of tinned wires. The sounds the sculpture makes have a lovely resonance to them, like random bells and chimes that fade and mix together. There’s also a matrix of white LEDs that form a sort of digital oscilloscope that displays shifting waveforms in time with the music.

While we like the way this looks and sounds, the real bonus here is the details of construction in the video below. [Eirik]’s careful craftsmanship working with multiple materials is evident throughout; we were especially impressed by the work needed to drill holes for the LED matrix, any one of which slightly out of place would have been painfully obvious in the finished product.

This is far from [Eirik]’s first appearance on these pages. His vacuum tube and silicon “ioalieia” was featured just a few weeks back, and “ddrysfeöd” used the acrylic parts as light pipes in a lovely way.

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Pyrotechnic Posters Are Fireworks Drawn On Paper

There’s a deep love many humans feel for fire; it’s often cited as one of the most important discoveries that led to the founding of civilization. The work of French artistic duo [Pinaffo-Pluvinage] definitely hits upon that, combining pyrotechnics with paper to make what are probably the most exciting posters you’ve ever seen, as reported by Heise Online.

The artworks are made with a variety of powders, including those for blue and red flames and one with a special “scintillating” effect.

The posters aren’t huge, measuring 50 cm x 70 cm. However, what they lack in size, they make up for with literal flames. Yes, the posters are laced with a variety of pyrotechnic powders that combust in a variety of designs and patterns to create a dynamic burning artwork once ignited.

Each poster is thus a work of art in both the visual and combustible realms. Different parts of the artwork burn at differnt rates and with different colored flames, adding to the performance when the poster is burned. Impressively, the artworks are not destroyed in the process; the pyrotechnic material burns off with much flame and smoke without destroying the poster itself.

Putting together the posters wasn’t as simple as simply doodling some designs. The duo had to develop their own methods to apply the pyrotechnic material to the paper. Reportedly, the effort took hundreds of experiments to get right.

It’s unclear exactly how the effect is achieved without burning the whole poster down; one suspects some kind of protective layer may be used. It’s quite the opposite of flash paper, which consumes the paper itself in the combustion.

In any case, fireworks experts will likely have some good ideas of the chemicals used to achieve the flaming effects; sound off in the comments if you know what’s what!

The pieces could be interpreted as a commentary on the transience of all things, or the artist’s intention could have been something different entirely. Who can say? Video after the break.

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