BOSTON/Jamaica Plain - On Tuesday June 30 from 7-9 pm, the Axiom Gallery in Jamaica Plain was practically overflowing with curious, creative “dorks” of the Boston community. It was the first time the experimental media venue had hosted a meeting for Dorkbot, an organization with the tagline “people doing strange things with electricity.” The evening’s proceedings included presentations by local artists Gideon Weisz, Brian Knep, and Leah Buechley, each willing to display and explain the products of his or her creative and scientific genius. The speakers were followed by an “open dork” session, a period during which anyone was free to exhibit their own technological projects.
Gideon Weisz was the first speaker of the night, haling from Somerville. A chemistry major from a family of artists and designers, Weisz discovered sculpture and jewelry as a way to fuse his interest in chemical structures and his love for “making things.” His work consists mostly of welded metals and focuses on the ways in which geometric shapes interact.
Brian Knep took the podium next to present slides and videos of his mind blowing interactive projections. For years, Knep has been using algorithm techniques to create projected displays that seem to have minds of their own. He is likely most known for his “healing” pools, which are projections of light and shapes on the floor that become “wounded” when people walk over them. After they are stepped on, these pools appear to “heal” themselves by scarring together in the places of contact. His pieces are both beautiful and perplexing as they interact with their viewers in mysterious ways.
The final artist to speak was Leah Buechley, an assistant professor of media art and sciences at MIT. Buechely works primarily with electronics and textiles, combining the two mediums into a category of design she calls “e-textiles.” Examples of her work include a bike jacket with light up turn signals on the back, a shirt with LED lights that can be programmed to scroll words across her stomach, and kits to make soft, artistically customized computers. Buechley is also the director of the High-Low Tech group, an ongoing workshop that encourages audiences with interests in both art and engineering to combine their skills and create their own original technological devices.
The evening wrapped up with an open dork session, which allowed other techie Bostonians to premiere their ideas and projects to a welcome audience. These ideas ranged from moving digital paintings on LCD displays to a device that can “print” three-dimensional objects (it can even print new versions of its own parts!).
The original Dorkbot was founded about 10 years ago in New York City by Douglass Repetto, a self proclaimed dork who wanted to create a way to connect with “his people.” Since then, the organization has spread to cities throughout the country, bringing together all sorts of creative geeks looking for like-minded individuals.
David Nuñez, an overlord of Dorkbot Boston, is very proud of the organization’s ability to draw a large, interested crowd. He says, “Boston’s version of Dorkbot has been around for about three years now. We meet regularly, once or twice a month, to have presenters, do hands-on workshops, or collaborate on projects together. The theme of our events is taking stuff you have, tearing it apart, and making new stuff. This could mean anything from making artwork to doing performances with strange electronic devices.”
Heidi Kayser is the founding director of Axiom Gallery, and she is very enthusiastic about making the connection with Dorkbot: “This whole center was created for these people, for artists who are interested in crossing boundaries. We welcome engineers, people into electronics, programmers from the computer science world dabbling in art, and artists experimenting with programming. Groups like Dorkbot are perfectly in line with our mission to support artists experimenting with new media.”
Nuñez hopes to reach out to an even greater portion of the Boston community. He urges, “If you have an idea, or if you have something you’d like to build or make, or just want to understand the stuff that you own a bit more, Dorkbot is a great way to do it. We have lots of people who are willing to give their time freely to teach you how to do ‘stuff.’ That’s what Dorkbot’s all about. We encourage people to be a bit braver with the materials and interests that they have. Dorkbot is about making electronics more accessible, because everyone has to start somewhere. It’s really about the community and bringing people together.”
Join Dorkbot’s mailing list to take part in this creative community and find out about upcoming events: http://dorkbotboston.com/