The Laboratory.

Getting started…
It’s hard to think back to how the residency began. I decided that as it was a Friday, to take the first few days quite easily. I spent a day walking around the town and feeling nauseous. The architecture in that town is so odd, and although I put the cause of nausea down to the long drive and drinking some mystical mountain water en-route, the random hodgepodge of buildings sent my mind racing.

I began thinking about thermochromic inks, I was already aware of their limitations, the fact their pigment was not particularly powerful, and they did not mix well with oil-based inks. I was disappointed with how they came out, a thin flaky colour, there texture easily turning too powdery or too transparent. They certainly could not cover or hide messages or images as I had initially intended to use them.

I also began to envisage how the book would work, how to incite the heat-change for the images to change as the pages were turned. After spending the last residency over-heating my previous circuits, I wondered whether there was a way to utilise this heat. I began by sending small currents through simple copper circuits. Even as a complete noob, it didn’t take me long to work out that the batteries would short before the copper would heat- I would need high-resistance wire for this purpose.

At the same time, I began to consider how circuits could work embedded in paper, not merely stuck together, but if the paper became part of the circuit board and how traditional papermaking, which I had tried a few times before could bring something to this process. This started out with the most basic form of having a LED circuit, in which the circuit became part of the image itself. A train-track which lit up when the control lever was pushed.
Then began the research into heat-inducing electronics, nichrome wire, conductive fabrics, thread and even paints.

Materials:
One of the difficulties has been finding a material which consistently heats up across an equal spread of heat. I am not sure I found a perfect solution. Don’t waste your time with the SparkFun EonTex stuff unless you have a huge power source. The LESSEMF microwave carbon fabric seemed to be of the correct resistance and kind of work. However, I found that often it took a great deal of current to create heat across a wide plane. It was also plastic backed with a kind of carbon centre and not the most aesthetically pleasing material to work with. Since the project ran, I discovered a thing called heat conductive tape, which comes from a supplier in Russia and I will be following up on plans, so watch this space…

Thread:
The thread came in several forms and variations. Silver and copper provide a significant level of conductivity, with low resistance, making the balance between short-circuiting and not generating enough power generated a problematic heating tight-rope. The other common form was the steel thread, which in a small quantity of around 1.5 metres a 9v battery provided a reasonable level of heat, without short-circuiting.
Paint/Ink:
Unfortunately, I was unable to find available for small-quantity, non-industrial purchasing, but it looks exciting and something to keep your eye on as it could become available to small-timers in the future.

Laser-engraving the print plates.
This was something which I wanted to invest time exploring, I am due to lead a teaching course in laser-cut and letterpress back home this Autumn! I wanted to look at how the plates could be etched for both etchings relief printmaking, it was a lengthy process. I chose to use an acrylic plastic as it would hold the image better and not go soggy like MDF or plywood, it also avoided the inevitable smouldering which wood gives. It does let off a terrible smell.

Papermaking V2.
I happened to be cycling past Gonzaga university one day. I noticed a couple of students who were making paper out on the campus fields. They had a machine for blending fabric into paper mulch, something which I had tried once before in Bristol. By coincidence, the department had recently worked with paper-artist Drew Mattot, from the Peace Paper Project, who had lead a similar workshop I attended, in Bristol three years previously. Matt Rude, the art lecturer at Gonzaga kindly lent me his equipment and space. Thanks to a pure cotton bed sheet, I was able to pull some beautiful feeling sheets.
He showed me how to double-cooch the paper (sounds funny, yes), but essentially pull one sheet of paper, then lay on the circuits, before pulling a second and laying it on top.
As the paper is compressed and rolled out the fibres of the two sheets join, trapping the circuits within.
This part was super successful. I only had an issue with one sheet, which I took apart later and glued back together, for some reason the water and PVA mixture managed to oxidise the copper.
Binding an electronic book.
Initially, I had wanted to use a traditional bookbinding form (see model one). However, when it came down to working out the circuit for this, how the switches would be toggled when the pages open and how this would connect to each pin, it seemed a complete headache.
I switched quite quickly to a Japanese Stab Stitch binding. I wanted the conductive thread to connect the pins to each relevant Arduino pin, to stay true and utilise the form of the book in the circuits. I also found later that I had to include four transistors in the heating elements, so I wanted to take advantage of the aesthetic of these components and have them on show.


The Heating Element
I took this from fellow Laboratory resident, Liza Stark’s, previous research into heating elements. She had used this circuit countless times with TIP120s with no problem. However, in this form I was finding that it was hard to get enough voltage to provide enough heat, the diode was overheating and the transistor. After a little bit of research, I discovered a few issues:
1. I had been using a silver thread, which in some cases was causing the circuit to short, which would work OK as long as the program allowed enough time for the switch to be open.
2. The TIP120 has a voltage drop of about 1-2v at 0.5A (or something like that, if I have this wrong then a constructive email is cool – don’t troll me) and a MOSFET is far lower 0.004V. Also, a TIP120 is slower to switch, so I imagine when running with a PWM it is less efficient.
3. As the circuit was essentially shorting, the diode was storing a lot of the current – therefore prone to overheating.
I don’t think I perfected this, but I did manage to get it working.
MP3 player
I went for a MINIDFPlayer, which is available all over the internet for a very low price. This seemed to e great, working better with the command function than any available libraries (The best I found was the fastminiplayer by …. But I found it still ended up confusing the other parts of my code).
But then disaster struck, for some unknown mystical reason, it stopped working, as did my other spare. It was a completely baffling, night-before the show nightmare. No reason at all in the circuitry, nothing in the program. It was bizarre. Liza Stark somehow managed to run this code through it, and for some reason, it kicked it back into action… A few hours later the same happened to two of hers she was using on her project, and for some reason running the same thing had the same result.
Finally
TIME (or the lack of it)
As is often the case, I ran out of time. I was only able to piece together a prototype, with all the components there, but not quite debugged. Under normal circumstances, I know it takes me one month to make a book, so with electronic components, two should do it right? Right!??
Nope, well almost. So close I can taste it. All in all, I was proud of the way this turned out, but I have got some good old refinement to do on it. I can’t complain; it was another huge learning experience, which is what I feel this residency was all about.

Links:
Thermal Tape: https://www.carbonheater.us/
Less EMF (hilarious): http://www.lessemf.com/

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Learning to Speak Snakish in Estonia

It was a pretty impressive first impression, witnessing a huge industrial proofing-press hoisted into the air on a snowy afternoon. Arriving in the middle of the museum move meant that there was only time for a quick introduction to equipment and staff. Within a week- and what was no doubt a few sleepless nights for the everyone, it was complete. As the dust settled, I was able to explore to get to know the amazing collection of printing presses and the equally amazing volunteers and staff within the building.
When people asked why I came to Tartu, it was for this. The paper and print museum.
I work as a technician in Bristol at Spike Print Studio, and 2016 ran my own project researching the Bristol Print Industry, so needless to say this was the motive for my application. Until the residency started, I was admittedly not so well-versed in Estonia. Estonia is snowy. This was the first thing to hit me as I stepped off the plane. It could feel pretty overbearing at times, with the clouds hanging low in the atmosphere, the sun feels so far away, fighting through so many layers of air. I did love it though, the cold was a great place for peaceful meditation and nurturing new ideas. The thick cloud coverage gives a fantastic colour at night, Tartu skies never entirely darken and emit a purple-pinkish hue. I was amazed by this phenomena, naively believing it was related to the Aurora or other mystical things of the Northern countries. Then a past resident informed me it was a cucumber farm – the greenhouse lights run throughout the night.

Initially, I felt a bit stuck with the residency. With only two months, I thought I was unable to justifiably create work based on a place which I knew such little about. This residency also found me at a critical point in my career, when I am exploring new ideas and approaches. I am currently researching into underground printing in Poland during communist censorship so I wanted to use this residency as a way of testing ideas which I could use later on. The collection of typewriters at the museum had to play a part. Early forms of samizdat (self-published books and pamphlets) were forbidden texts reproduced using carbon paper, either by hand or on a typewriter. I wanted this incorporate this with the anonymous sharing of stories. So I began leaving typewriters at various locations across the city, these asked participants to answer the question found on the typewriter and respond with a further question. I liked this anonymous approach to sharing stories and ideas, which reminded me of a kind of old-fashioned twitter feed.

At this point, the project split into two halves. One was using cyanotype and photographic processes to respond to the typewriter texts. The technician, Jorgen has been investigating Carbon printing (one of the most difficult pre-silver forms of photography). I was keen to try, and fail, many times. However, I did manage to develop a way of combining cyanotype with Van-Dyke Brown prints effectively. I fell in love with mixing the industrial rust contrasting a dark blue. I felt proud of being able to find ways the images could effectively overlap.

The second idea was a bit of a hair brain scheme of creating an automatic typewriter. Yes, I thought with one month and little electronic experience this would be an achievable endeavour. You can’t fault me for trying…
I had the idea to try to set up a typewriter which could replay the messages collected from Tartu, using actuators and an Arduino to pull the keys. I found it had been done already, a few times actually. I became entranced by this video of Harvey Moon https://vimeo.com/63481843. So, car door locks, 50 transistors and one dodgy circuit board. I managed to occupy a small corner at the Spark Makerlab, a communal open-access studio with laser cutter, woodwork, electronics corner and some of the smartest, most creative and most fun people I have ever met. I have never enjoyed being so sleep deprived in all my life, and I am in awe at how hard these guys work! I was significantly assisted by the guys from Degritter and can’t wait to see the launch of their product and Indiegogo video. So I’ll put you out of your misery… the typewriter failed. I made a few fatal errors of judgement in the circuitry department, and it meant the night before was spent burning myself on over-heating components. The guys stepped in and tried to save me from impending doom. But it was too late.

If the aim of this residency was to learn and experiment, then it was a complete success. I got to meet some great people; it gave me the needed space to fail without fear. More importantly, I found a reason to return. I am still set on the idea of completing this typewriter project, improving my programming skills, in Python and Arduino, as well as printed circuit boards. It also gives me a chance to Tartu in the summer…

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Developing the Project.

So it is coming to the final few weeks of the digital residency. I am in Warsaw, where I have seen all of the rest of the family. There is one final family member who I would like to find, he was mentioned by my great aunt Irene- Jacob Biszewski. The great-grandfather’s brother’s son.
I have no idea if he is still around or not. It is hard to say.
I will have to do some serious digging as I dont feel like Irena was the type to have email addresses.

Follow more on http://digitalartistresidency.org/artists/charlotte-biszewski/

In the meantime I have found a place to work. A great studio in the heart of the City. Vigoda Press, is one of the city’s first book art gallerys and Letterpress studio.

It has been great, I have felt really at home here and in the city. I have discovered so much. I cant believe it is coming to an end of my digital residency. I feel so far from finishing the project. We visited the graves of Kaszia’s ancestors in preparation for All Saints Day- more of that to come!

I have begun playing around with translating the images onto Unity. Which I have to admit was a bit of a head *** I promise myself over and over I will learn code, and I did manage to get it to do what I want. But it looked simple and then I fell at the final hurdle. So I found an online panorama maker, which does what I want.

This is a first test
https://www.charlottebiszewski.com/panorama

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To Hel and Back

On Process

The processes I am developing during this project are Cyanotype and Van-dyck Brown. These are two similar pre-silver forms of photography, (well actually van-dyck does have a bit of silver nitrate in it), one producing a beautiful Prussian Blue and the other a rich Sepia.The advantages of both is that apart from the chemical formulas of each, there is little required to develop prints and they are far less light sensitive than traditional photography- not requiring a dark room. Infact the bathroom of many of the places we having been staying have done the job more than adequately, having forgotten my scales, I have been able to successfully eyeball the measurements and it seems to work. You can work with acetate negatives, sketching onto tracing paper, found objects and stencils. It is super fun.

 


It has to be said, travelling with someone who is doing this is a pain in the arse, Charlie finds that he is having to wait for the chemicals to dry before he can shower, and asthe aux-in cable is defunct on my laptop, we have been forced to listen in silence to the recordings I have been taken on loud speaker, while my laptop captures the sound through microphone.

In between all this we drove to Hel, (and back) the other day. Stopping in Sopot and Gdyynia along the way. Check out the Grand Budapest Hotel!> The beach was beautiful, I dont think I have been anywhere so empty in my life.

 


Along the trip I managed to expose a few prints in the back of the car, to use as kind of a photographic sketchbook.

 

I have been collecting objects and prints and rubbings along the way, but due to the nature of the process, it is better to do the exposure over one or two days.  So there will be more on the visuals to come.

Family #2

Irene lives in Gdansk.

She was the Niece of my grandfather,  she lives in an old people’s home in Gdansk, she speaks no English. I went to visit her with Kaszia, who is the Granddaughter of my Grandfather’s sister. Confused? I think I will draw a family tree.
So there was Edmund (great-grandfather) who worked on railways in Russia and Ukraine, (him and his wife were put in a work camp in siberia after the Communist Revolution – for being the beaougouis. They had 5 children at the time, who were taken care of by a priest in St Petersberg. Great-grandmother wrote to Lenin, explaining she had 5 unacompanied children and they were released.

There were 3 girls and 2 boys.Maria Antonina ur.Biszewska ur.~1905; Jadwiga Biszewska ur.1907; Halina Biszewska ur.1908;Edmund (Muś) Biszewski ur 1910Stanisław Biszewski (najmłodszy) ur.~1912.Anyway I will maybe do a family tree, but heres a bit of the interview and some recordings from the trip to the beach, driving across Poland and more all mixed together. 

 

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Poland – Gdansk you very much

So I am beginning my Digital Artist Residency in Gdansk. It is here where I know of some relatives, here where I have heard of. It was also the first place in Poland which came under Nazi occupation. But don’t worry, this wont be too war heavy. It just feels relevant in this story.
DSCF0493.jpg

My grandfather, Edmund, son of Edmund, grandson of Edmund, yes. All were civil engineers, building the transsiberian railway, my great-grandfather got citizenship (I think he was originally Belarus?) in 1913, after the Russian Revolution.
My Grandfather became an officer in the army and was one of the only to escape when the Poland was invaded. He travelled his way across Europe, avoiding arrest until arriving in the UK, where he was enlisted into the army there.
Oh he left behind a wife in Poland. Her daughter might be on my list of people to find.
Apart from that I don’t really know too much.

So the idea of this residency is to follow this story to find those who were there those left behind, and create a long and winding scroll:

Charlotte Biszewski Rodzina 
Inspired by notions of home, what is means to the individual, how we use objects to adorn our surroundings, to tell stories and store memories. Incorporating work as a traditional printmaker within a range of communities, Charlotte Biszewski strives to find new relevance in traditional crafts through the incorporation of new technologies.
During October she will be travelling across Poland, an unknown, yet familiar territory. Using this trip to research a history, she will integrate analogue practices in photography and tape recording, mirroring ancient scroll forms, creating a giant camera film spool on a 10 metre roll of wallpaper which works in conjunction with the winding of a cassette recording to tell a journey, an unwinding story which travels back in time. The final will result in a digital scroll which will be streamed online, linking the two processes in unity, the audience will scroll backwards and forwards through this journey.

So I have started with an interview at Grandma’s house. It was tough, I know that there are parts which she doesn’t want to give me with this story. So I didnt want to push it. But here is a small sort of recording I did on a tape player.

It was important. It taught me 2 things. 1 was that the original suitcase exposure unit, kindly donated by Hackspace Bristol, was not suitable for collecting 3D objects. 2. My family is a bit closed off.
So I spent one week in Oxford and during that time managed to make my own exposure unit (as originally suggested by the wonder Bristol hackspace members). And it works, 2.5 meters of LED strip lights in a suitcase.
It made me very nervouse taking it through aiport security. What with my suitcase all full of silver nitrate and all.

So now I am here in Gdansk, It is beautiful it is an unexpected treat. Old buildings and cranes as far as the eyes can see.


I have spent some time playing with Vandyke Brown Print and Cyanotype and I am ready to meet aunt Irene, who doesnt speak a word of English.

życzę mi szczęścia!

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Blog one

So it is time, a new beginning, a new practice, a new approach. I have fallen, like the fate of many a post-graduate artist into bad habits, those which serve to deteriorate my ability to create. It comes from juggling a number of commissions, not focusing, losing the love and writing about 100 rejected applications. It is no wonder.
But I have hit the bottom, well I am skimming the stony bed with my bare-behind and I need to kick back into deeper waters. This is my attempt.

A Blog.
A blog is more than a blog. It is my space to think. I need to have a practical output, even when I am using a space to contemplate. It makes me feel better that I have used this space to make something, visible and measurable. I am an infuriating mixture of my fathers anxious inability to relax, and my mothers determined high achieving standards. So this is why I write, so I feel less guilty for the space in which I develop my thoughts. Also the massive underlying narcissistic skeleton, driving the joints in my fingers and loving every self-indulgent moment.

Cornwall. More than just a county.

Alex Goodman stole me away for 2 days in Cornwall, it saved me from a whole hell of serious moping which I would have otherwise been excecuting. Instead I ran the coast and swam in the waves of Peranporth, experienced an immerisive theatre performace of the Wolf Child- more on this, explored Plymouth, the letterpress studio of both The College of Art and The Plymouth University, oh and went for another swim, and smoked a lot of cigarettes – well I am grieving the death of an academic future after all.

Wolf Child, set in the grounds of Trelowarren estate, a

beautiful country manor and house. It was an immersive tale told around the surrounding woods and the grounds. It began in the courtyard, whilst we all drank down our pints, finished our pizzas and killed our zillionth fag (morning), we were greeted by the lord of the manor. A funny introduction into our journey. We were sent into the woods to explore our tale. It consisted of a matriarchal community –lead by mother, who every night would fight off the wolves who roomed the manor’s surrounding woodlands. Between each stage the audience walked, led by the guide of a crow. We follow Rohan, the mute bedraggled daughter sent on the mission to kill the wolf lead. There she meets (and is shamelessly, objectively seduced- god I am a bit bored by these traditional roles – but now is not the time). The walking between acts, the audience chats, shares or silently contemplates. The mud underfoot the smell of the dewy leaves and the mist. I found the woodlands to be the strong element of storytelling. It allowed you to become lost, lost in the way a book loses you, in the way which is unlike a play or a film which shows you in which way your imagination will be directed next, this allowed for the same level of deep contemplation.

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Yes Its a remote control tight-roping unicyclist!

Just wanted to post up the only video I had of this piece.
Its an old piece, but has had some adjustments to the balance (and a remote control)

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