un pistolet

Ceci n’est pas un pistolet.

Not because it is art.

Not because the material is fragile and will explode when discharged.

Not because we are not gunmakers.

This Liberator is  a work of high art, it is a thing of beauty with functioning mechanics, springs, latches, handles and interlocking pieces that are a wonder of engineering, made out of a single “produce on demand” material.

A zip gun is actually a gun. The ease of fabrication combined with the practical function makes it the winner in a gun fight. The crude zip gun is cheaper, more effective, more stealthy and  more dangerous both as a weapon and a toy. For $20 and a trip to the hardware store, the enthusiast can make a gun in a matter of an hour or so that can fire a bullet, and be reloaded.

As a printed 3D object the Liberator is a challenge to our community, a rallying point for ignorance and a frightening piece of equipment. It is so full of fearful potential that it may have a negative impact on laws regarding 3D printing.  This is the greatest tragedy. The disruptive and transformative potential of 3D printing is not to be taken lightly. We have seen these technological revolutions happen with publishing, video, telephony and the network. The technology must remain unencumbered to reach its fullest potential, to truly experience innovation in the space and to be able to grow naturally. Other advances including shifts in fundamental intellectual property mean this will be profound.

As a file it challenges to both the first an second amendments of the constitution. What is the right to keep arms if the arms are plans?  What is the right to expression and free speech if the file/plans cannot be published or sent across international lines?

As speech the data needs to be protected. There does not exist currently a lot of DRM on files and data related to printing. This stands to liberate our things, to free manufacturing from carbon intensive transportation. There will always be room for craft, even if a thing can be duplicated perfectly it is desirable to have one that is full of the imperfections left by the craftsman.

As an object, the Liberator has been donated to Works/SJ for their charity auction.

Ceci n’est pas un pistolet, ceci est le futur.


a train a story

I am on my third train from Paris to Berlin and 26 hours into my journey as I write this. I regret that I was out of touch for so long, and further regret that you probably won’t get this for at least 3-10 more hours when I connect to the network.

Allow me to share with you a story of one mans trip from the city of lights…

The scene opens in a cozy Paris apartment in the 11th arrondismont, where our hero has taken pains to make sure he has everything he came with and packs the new shirts he bought into his luggage as well. Noting that he may have to either jettison some clothing or get another bag he packs himself an overflow bag with toiletries a hat and an overshirt.

The temperature is a blazing 80 degrees Farenheit, though it is dropping ever so slightly as the promise of rain in the evening threatens to make our hero’s journey a moist one.  (more on that later) Our hero, does not relish the idea of going to Berlin on what may be the highest temperature on record (well over 90 degrees) and on a Sunday to boot, but the night train was his only reasonable option.

He arrives at the station on time, and finds his cabin empty!  Six empty bunks, and him not in the middle again. The train pulls out, his bed made and after a sufficient wait for the conductor the distant memory of a concessions car rolls through his mind. After passing through no less than six cars on a moving train he finds an amazingly long line to a poor girl working alone in the corner of a car.  Passing time with the chatty asian boy from Chicago and the rest of the French and German tourists he makes it to the front of the line and finds himself with a crappy pilser beer and a cheeze and pickle-relish sandwich.  Such is life the French would say, but they would say it in French and it would sound much better.

The hero of this story heads back to the car and opens the door to his cabin to find two little blonde girls occupying the top bunks on either side.  Thinking he is in the wrong place he excuses himself and steps back into the corridor, checking both the car number and the cabin number.  Yes, this is where he shall sleep tonight. He re-enters the cabin and sees the father in the middle on the right, he is the lower on the left, and papa is crashed out.

All is fine he negotiates lighting with the little German girls and continues reading book three of Game of Thrones. Not to spoil anything but he is feeling particularly flummoxed by having a lack of a hero at this point. Anyhow he reads a bit and then goes to sleep, only to be woken by the most massive thunderstorm he has ever seen in Europe. As a lad our hero grew up in tornado country and these clouds, thunder, lightening and rain were an eerie reminder of the power of nature when the train stops.

Our hero asks himself, “Why would a train stop like so?  Is it unsafe to go so fast in a thunderstorm? Are there whirlwinds ahead?” After a moment of consternation our hero is again struck by the beauty of the landscape and the forces of nature and lets it pass. He sleeps as the storm subsides, waking occasionally because papa snores like a sawmill but generally getting some good rest.

In the morning our hero learns the true reason for the stop: Aliens! Greys, with big almond eyes and a taste for cow probing… no wait that is another story.  The true reason is that trees had fallen, knocked over by high winds and lightening and crews had been clearing them. Further he learns that they had only traveled 2 hours of a 12 hour trip. The power was out, the situation desperate (the toilets on the train flush by electricity, which was out). Then the BAD news: the conductor had been murdered and everyone was to be held for questioning.  (did you fall for it that time?) Perhaps just the engine had been damaged and a replacement had been sent for. The train was towed back to the nearest station where they served our hero a prisoners diet of water and coffee with cream and sugar.  Then came the free croissants and coffee, and then the care packages of snacks and food. Where was our heros beloved beer?

Knowing this would take time, our daring captain of adventure begins writing, he writes a reply, and then another, he decides to dally with a game but is horribly let down by the DRM on his games that demand to phone home, and after he so carefully set them up a week ago. This was not the first time he was left in a lurch. He then begins working on a 3D model, does some more writing and then the train starts moving, yes dear reader, you read this correctly they got a new locomotive and engineer and started the train again. He sped for the German border (well if you can call 30 mph speeding).

After a few hours of travel at the speed of one of those carts that Floridians and fat old people ride in (no offense intended to the ample of body or to the aged, but there is no excuse to live in Floriduh) the announcements start rolling in…

This train is no longer going to Berlin, in fact everyone must get off at Mannheim. After an urgent conversation with a conductor, our brave stalwart learns that he can take a regular high speed train to Berlin scheduled to land him at about 1 am, a mere 17 hours late. Will he be able to find a place to stay?  Will he alienate the people who want to help him?  Stay tuned for the next installment of “Bald Man In Black Rides a Train in Europe…..”

Digital to Physical (Minecraft, 3D Printing and DMA)

Digital Media Art (DMA) has long embraced the virtual as an aspect and a venue for the production of art. In a project that I did for Zero1 and the Ural Biennial we were able to embrace the social connection established in the virtual environment / gamespace of Minecraft and export the data for 3D printing and unfolding in Pepakura. This post covers the first attempt to incorporate elements of this into the curriculum for Art 74: Introducation to Digital Media Art at San Jose State University.

Art 74 Visits Orwell

Art 74  is tasked with giving an overview of digital media (DMA) and new media art to students who are required to take it as part of the art program.  This includes all  art students as it is considered to be preparation for the major for ALL art programs. Because of this Art74 incorporates a wide range of skill sets.  Coming in and as an instructor I try to respect the diversity of digital experience and help students start using Photoshop (if that is what it means) and set up a good pattern of continued use and practice otherwise. At present the curriculum includes the following: Image Manipulation (Two Photoshop projects that are printed and finished), a hand coded HTML portfolio, extensive Documentation (a 10 page website using Dreamweaver), and a final project of the students choosing. This is all then contained in a final portfolio. Additionally we try to understand how new media and digital media are forms of art and read some of the theory behind this including both conceptual art and theories of new media.

In spring of 2013 Art 74 spent about 10 weeks in Minecraft (MC). Our start was slow, probably too slow, and I need to find a better way to do incremental projects that overlap other materials.  Minecraft embraces complexity, 3D social spaces, and in our case ideas of objects and data which includes the fundamentals of 3D printing and materials considerations associated with it.



Orwell is an artist colony on a private Minecraft server, it has a rich history of democracy, collaboration and art production.  Founded in late 2011 we were first a site for the collaboration “V2V” between the Zero1 Biennial and the 2nd Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art. We also formed our first democratic processes and built our downtown and welcome space. Zoning became an issue for us but we managed to settle that through the use of our democratic process. The greatest difficulty of the democracy was creating a fair, auditable mechanism for voting. We realized that the system had to function ONLY within MC and that it had to be verifiable after the fact, if a player voted for a proposal they had to be able to see that vote in the counting. We ended up sacrificing anonymity and extending the period of elections since our server could not support all of our registered players at the same time.

democracyFocus of interaction and reasons for using Minecraft:

Building Sculpture

The goal was to create “physically” interactive pieces that represent culturally significant objects at a low resolution which requires an understanding of the nature of the object itself. In the process of doing this we discussed materiality, the digital, shape/form and the relevance of culture in determining what objects have the greatest impact. Users gravitate immediately to pixel art which seems to be a first step in visual representation in the lego-like game-space.


The environment allowed us to work collaboratively and to have group critiques in the space. We watched as our peers built objects responded and were inspired by these objects. We moved from pixel art to art history and to original pieces publically discussing the evolution and working both inside the class period and outside it.


Artist in Residence

Utilizing the space socially includes bringing in an outside artist from an international call. Yagiz came in at the tail end of the semester but was able to make a presentation to the class on our final day. It was interesting to see the thinking involved in and the depth of the project he was working on, especially since he was focused on sound in a physically creative space. His interest spun the interaction in an interesting direction.

Printing & Data

Data extraction was pretty straight forward but nonetheless complex through mineways, meshlab and finally into the UP! software as an .stl file.  The real challenges involved understanding how construction influences fabrication and the properties of the materials that were being exported compared to the construction mechanisms that were used in the virtual environment.

DSC_0083Chapel by Michael Amundsen


All told we just did not move fast enough to garner real excitement, the students loved seeing work that had been created in world being extracted but most of the printing took place after our final meeting which meant a giant amount of work for me to connect them to the equipment and no chance for inspiration across groups.