Homebrew Electronics


noteNdo Live at Blip Festival 2008

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.

Jeff Donaldson's modified Nintendo NES Leo

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.

Early, basic NES glitch from noteNdo recorded straight to VHS tape in 2001 ...


Call for Participants



A new project by Brody Condon, LevelFive, is seeking participants for two intensive seminars in September - one at the Hammer Museum in LA from Sept. 3-5 and the other in San Jose from Sept. 16-18 at the San Jose Convention Center during the Zero1 Biennial. I'm curious to see what comes of this event - it seems really interesting. You can read more about it below. To register, visit the sign-up section of the LevelFive site. Space is limited.

LevelFive is a live role-playing event focused on critically exploring self actualization seminars from the 1970’s. The LevelFive performance will loosely follow the structure of early Large Group Awareness Training sessions like Erhard Seminars Training, but it is not a re-enactment. The open-ended live role-playing environment provides a space in which players are free to explore self actualization issues with varying degrees of personal intensity, but via an alibi or fabricated character.

During the 1970’s hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans came for weekend seminar sessions, to be taught how to free themselves from the restraints of contemporary society. Intended as a kind of self transformation for the masses, the seminars utilized a combination of various philosophic and spiritual teachings focused on “allowing participants to achieve, in a very brief time, a sense of personal transformation and enhanced power.” Quickly copied, successors included not only similar self actualization seminars, but also grew into the mass of success and corporate training seminars that we are familiar with today.

Players will arrive as their characters, and are expected to emote, and experience as their characters, with minimal interruptions for the 2-3 day duration of the game. LevelFive is a live game based on the Nordic style of progressive live role-play that explicitly works with “bleed”. In role-playing games, bleed happens when ...


A Visit to Babycastles


The setup downstairs at the Silent Barn.

Yesterday Ceci and I went out to Silent Barn in Ridgewood to meet with Kunal Gupta and the other guys who run Babycastles. Babycastles is a DIY arcade space with a rotating set of independent games curated by local artists and game designers. The space is usually set up for play during shows at Silent Barn, but they'll turn the machines on and let you play if you come by any time they're around.


Dismantled laptop for a costume in Babycastles "Indie Game Cosplay Music Video Shoot Machinima" party

When we arrived, the guys were prepping for a big "Indie Game Cosplay Music Video Shoot Machinima" performance/dance party with CHERYL that they are throwing this Saturday, part of Game Play at the Brick Theater. Upstairs they were disassembling old laptops so that could be attached to the costumes of cyborg dancers that would double as playable arcade games. While they tinkered with soldering guns and laptop guts we played a few rounds of Tristan Perich's 1-bit game KILL JET on a small portable TV about the size of a car battery. The game is operated using two buttons, one to move the plane up and the other to move it down. For previous installations the game was played on a larger TV with the buttons attached to the back, so that the player had to hug the screen in order to play. Kunal showed us some of their costumes in progress and discussed some ideas for interactive dancing machinima gifs before we headed downstairs to see the arcade.

Jacob playing Tristan Perich's KILL JET

Glamour shot of Tristan's circuit board for KILL JET

The current series of games on display at Babycastles is curated by Zen Albatross ...


In-Game Chat with Jason Rohrer from Bad At Sports


Another great interview by Nicholas O'Brien for Chicago-based contemporary art blog Bad At Sports! In this clip, O'Brien speaks with game designer and artist Jason Rohrer. For this series of interviews, O'Brien captures media artists within the medium in which they work - whether it be Second Life, Video, or in the case of the above, Rohrer's game, Sleep Is Death. Rohrer was a panelist for the Rhizome New Silent Series event on indie gaming "Next Level" a few years ago, if you want to watch a video of that talk as an addendum to this interview, go here.


Game Glitch Gifs (2010) - Max Capacity


[T&C; Surf Designs Glitch]

[Section Z Glitch]

[T&C; Surf Designs Glitch]

[Ninja Gaiden Glitch]


Deep Play (2008) - Harun Farocki


Installation shot of Deep Play at Greene Naftali

Documentation of Deep Play from Documenta 12

A formal expansion of the artist's essay films, Deep Play brings together 12 different vantages on one of the biggest television events to emerge in the new millennium--the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The event, held in Germany, was reportedly seen by an estimated 1.5 billion viewers worldwide. Unfolding in simultaneous, real-time montage, Deep Play depicts the artist's own footage of the game, official FIFA footage, charts of player stats, real-time 2D and 3D animation sequences, and stadium surveillance, exposing the visual, informational, and technological design of these grand cultural spectacles. Though visually bombarding at points, the network of images and data stages a reprocessed disarticulation of spectacle, aptly pointing out the present conditions of visuality and its overwhelming influence on representation and subjectivity.



Trying the Hand of God (2009) - Knifeandfork


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Knifeandfork explores the media-perpetuated nature of the chance moment in Trying the Hand of God, hosting a carefully choreographed continuous reenactment of the infamous illegal, but not penalized, "Hand of God" soccer goal from the 1986 FIFA World Cup. The performance is staged on a recreation of Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, constructed within the confines of the MOCA Sculpture Plaza. A limited number of audience members have the opportunity to play the role of Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer legend who scored the controversial goal against England during the quarterfinals, eventually leading his team to win the match and the tournament.

Through live performance, Knifeandfork introduces the potential for variations on a familiar, media-repeated image. The issue of variation is particularly interesting in this case, as the controversy over the "Hand of God" goal raised complex questions of chance, skill, and fate. In their choreographed reenactments, Knifeandfork attempts to control for all possible variables, yet the possibility of a "perfect" performance inevitably remains elusive. Rather, the repetitions serve as a form of kinetic documentation, both of what was and what might have been, and they grant the audience agency over the representation of this iconic event which has been otherwise ossified by media reproduction.



1 Question Interview with Billy Rennekamp


Billy Rennekamp, Big Head Mode, 2010

This weekend, DIY storefront art space Cleopatra's in Brooklyn will be hosting an exhibition for Billy Rennekamp's WIN WIN. The event kicks off tonight with a talk on video games and cheats hosted by designers/writers Charles Pratt and Simon Ferrari. This exhibit is an extension of Rennekamp's BA thesis project at Bard, titled Big Head Mode. Focused on the idea of cheats in video games, and especially the agency yielded by the use and development of cheats in game play, the works in this installation comprise a 3D video game made by the artist, a prepared version of a Pokemon ROM, and a mix of hand sewn and store-bought sports balls littered throughout the space. In anticipation of the show, I conducted a one question interview with Rennekamp, à la Rafael Rozendaal's One Question Interview blog.

(Full disclosure - Billy is a former Rhizome intern extraordinaire and a member of badass internet surf club Loshadka.)

What makes cheats so satisfying?

We spend our life building up this little rule book that describes how everything works. So when we see something that defies these fundamental rules, we freak out. The unusual and unexplained are always fascinating.

Things are supposed to work a certain way. They've worked that way forever. But then they stop and the rules might bend or even break. When that happens a special energy is produced. Every time something rare occurs--something outside the ordinary--people make wishes and try to harness that power. Needless to say the power is felt. When I was three I got bitten by a Brown Recluse. My arm was swollen with pustules for weeks and the necrosis on my hand left a permanent scar. There's nothing beneficial about a scar, but I ...


"Mark Essen Makes 8-Bit Action an Art" on Motherboard.tv


In this clip, Motherboard.tv profile video game artist Mark Essen. It's a nice, brief overview of Essen's practice.


..so different, so appealing? (2010) - Jonathan Monk


Installation View of "..so different, so appealing?"

Jonathan Monk, Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller, 2010

Jonathan Monk, Sony BRAVIA 19 LCD DIGITAL, 2010

In his current exhibition Jonathan Monk is showing fourteen different electronic devices from the area of home entertainment. Powered speakers, a flat-screen monitor, an iPod, a radio alarm clock or an interactive video game console - the new and functional brand name devices selected by Monk form a cross-section of the range of products to be found in an electronics retail store. However, the artist undermines their usability by presenting the individual devices in custom-fitted plexiglass showcases, therefore conserving them as objects.


Originally via Contemporary Art Daily