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Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out

Eastside Culture Crawl

I’m deep in preparation for the East Side Culture Crawl, an annual weekend festival in which studios scattered throughout the east side of Vancouver hold open houses.

The art can be very good, and even if it isn’t, you get the chance to wander inside parts of Vancouver that most people only pass by. It feels like an authentically East Vancouver event. Artists take a bit of time away from their day jobs — because c’mon, who can afford to live on creative dollars around here — and exhibit what they do after hours to stay sane. More or less. This makes it one of my favourite events to attend.

I opened my own house for the first time two years ago — just prior to starting this website and blog, which is no coincidence. It was tremendously motivating and started me thinking about these projects more seriously. Deciding to think of them as show-worthy pieces has improved their quality considerably.

Since 2012 nearly half of the pieces will be new. I’ve (temporarily?) retired Cephalophage and Wiretap — both need reworking — but frankly that’ll clear some much-needed space for new projects.

There’s nothing like a deadline on one thing to inspire ill-advised sojourns into another. I presented at a school some months back and someone asked me about Ticker, which was looked great but wasn’t functional; I had planned to make it actually tick. Well, I finally did — dead-bugging a 555-based circuit and wrapping it around the speaker cone:

This was kind of a nice tribute to dead-bugging as it’s meant to be — dead, dessicated and crooked. None of this OCD-laden right-angled perfection. Also, it turns out you can solder right onto batteries if you rough up the surface a little with a nail, not that you should ever do either of those things.

On the flip side, making it actually tick detracts from the purity of the first one I made. Because the watch shell is so shallow, all that’s left of the original speaker is the paper cone — nothing else will fit. Making it tick required sticking a piezoelectric transducer inside as well, which is an inelegant solution. (This kind of thing is why I don’t like almost any of the steampunk stuff I see; form and function are totally separate.)

But on the plus, the parts left almost no spare space; everything fit like origami (after some squinting and fiddling). The winding knob serves as power switch. I could’ve gone with surface-mount or whatever and had acres of space to spare but I kind of like the high-school-labness of a 555 circuit.

Anyway! Come visit on the weekend of November 20-23. Check out some projects and if you come via this blog rather than Brownian motion, please make sure to say hi. I’ll probably be wild-eyed but will appreciate it in retrospect.

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  1. Max says:

    Agree: technological experimentation, especially how you presented it today, is an art form! Irreverent and authentic. Cool gadgets, Alec.

    • admin says:

      Thanks, Max! This was a really fun alternative to having the projects gather dust once they’re finished; I’m not quite sure what else to do with them. But I’m especially flattered now that I see your work ( — that’s really impressive.

      • admin says:

        (My sole regret in opening house during the culture crawl is that I’m pinned down in my living room talking my face off instead of exploring studios in search of creativity. The woodworking has always been among my favourites.)

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