Homebrew Electronics is a new series on the Rhizome blog. For these posts, I will be conducting studio visits with artists and inventors who create unique electronic instruments.
Last week, I met up with Jeff Donaldson, aka noteNdo, on a particularly sweltering summer day in his studio in Bushwick. For close to a decade, Jeff has been modifying video game consoles to produce glitchy audio and visual material. These machines form the backbone of his practice, which began primarily in a live performance context, and has expanded from there. In the past few years, Jeff has begun to apply the patterns created from his consoles into material form by making scarves and prints, and more recently, he’s moved into fully immersive, interactive installations. For this studio visit, he walked me through a number of his consoles.
Meet Leo. Named after Leon Theremin, this Nintendo NES from 1985 was one of Jeff’s first projects and has become a staple in his work. He got the idea to make animation after a vivid dream - and set out on his Nintendo NES, the only tool he had at the time.
This is the patch bay for Leo. Patching the jacks offsets a short circuit that creates a visual effect, which Jeff discovered through trial and error. The patches allow him to revisit these effects - which are essentially bad reads by the system. Leo allows you to swap in and out different games - exposing the cartridges to the visual effects produced by Jeff’s modifications. Jeff described Leo as essentially an “auto-collage system” allowing a reworking of the original material through the settings he has determined.