Monday, July 27, 2009

Artists as Public Programmers? Machine Project excels.

machine project, public program, soldering
By Maria Mortati
This weekend, I attended a "Soldering: the Musical" class held at Critter Salon run by the smart & super nice Mark Allen of Machine Project:
"Learn to solder in this three hour long workshop presented by the amazing Mark Allen of Machine Project fame. Participants will learn to solder by building a primitive synthesizer. During the workshop the band ing will play music to solder by. As people get their synths working, they will join ing in playing some simple repeating musical patterns. At the end of the workshop everyone will play a simple and inevitably out of tune musical piece together."
As a result:
  • I can solder.
  • My little machine works.
  • We took all our instruments & "jammed" as a group with a real-live musician.
machine project, public program, solderingAll done in a simple, constrained but fun steps. It was geared towards a positive outcome in an informal vibe. It was so much fun, and I couldn't stop laughing.
Here's the video of our "performance":
Then I brought my "instrument" home, and my 17 year old stepson couldn't get enough of playing with it. So I ordered a couple of kits online for him too.
The above sounds simple, but I've taken a number of these types of classes over the years. This was the first time it really... worked.
Mark has given this particular one over a dozen times to iterate & refine. If you'd like to learn how to be a master at a maker class, take one of his.


Nina Simon said...

Thanks for sharing this! I saw Mark last week and sadly was down in LA during this workshop. I'm glad you got to participate and share your impressions. Mark is part of a proposal I submitted for AAM 2010 on "design for participation" - hopefully we'll all get to hear a lot more there about his process!

Maria Mortati said...

Hi Nina!

Glad you got to talk with him. I've known of him for a while, but this was the first time I got to take a class and see him in action. Think he will be great for an AAM session.

In the museum context and on this blog (as well as with clients where it makes sense), I've been a proponent of using a segment of new building percent for arts to go towards these types of artists- to supplement any permanent sculptural approaches that may have been taken in the past (not that I want to take money away from that).

My feeling is that artists who work in this manner can have a ripple effect on programming staff as well as community, at a much lower cost.

At Gyroscope we always hope to be able to support the Public Artist selection process where possible- as it can greatly enhance and do things that are not in our budget or scope, while also supporting the program of the museum du jour.

Personally, I'm hoping to do a collaboration with Mark in the future. We'll see!