Today is the last day that my interactive 8-bit retro display will be serving people at the Yelo house gallery in Bangkok. The whole process of making this piece of arts in the duration of about two months is quite emotional. The unexpected problem that keep emerging everyday from the technical challenge of this project during the figure it out step had force me to pick up the new knowledge and gaining the intuition to debugging the complexity world of electronics circuit. Eventhough, all those obstacles that keep emerging everyday, this is one of the best moment in my life.
I wrote down all the bittersweet moments during this period.
About March of 2018 I managed to asking one of my friend P.Best if she know any good gallery that might be interest in my type of works. After that chat, we met and visiting several gallery the first one is Yelo house and this one happen to be the one that willing accept my proposal. Just only one email explaining what I want to do is good enough to arrange face to face serious meeting. My first idea was I am going to do a mechanic mirror that reacted differently according to the audiences movement or behavior. This is a super challenging project and of course it cost a lot of money to try. Time pass and it only one week left before I need to show my physical prototype to the gallery. No more time for slow decision making anymore, at this moment I realized that both of my technical resources and financial resources are not enough to fullfilled the first idea, so I decided to pivot my idea to something that is more realistic. As a result I come up with Click Canvas idea, This is the idea that the audiences can injecting something much more meaningful to the art pieces and left a piece of their creativity at the gallery before they left. At this moment I decided to going back to my familiar medium which is a smart LED and focusing more on the value of my arts to the users experience. After everything is crystalize I managed to asking the gallery for one more week extension to present my second idea prototype and the gallery are kind enough to accepting my new proposal and giving me sometime to figure it out.
Making the prototype unit is quite easy in term of electronics challenge. I can almost pick up any microcontroller and just use it. So the presentation went smoothly the contact are signed and now it time to do the real tough work that can not be compare to the prototype. The being of Click Canvas probably started here.
Only one and a half month left before the opening day. I need to move everything as quick as possible, making fast but careful decision because the cost of a single mistake are time and money and I do not have any of those at this moment. One week after the gallery protoype presentation I managed to buy every necessary stuffs from online site. This need to be quick because it usually taking 3 weeks delivery time, I dont have money to pay for the luxury of two days delivery. During the delivery waiting I need to produce all of the enclosure as fast as possible because things will not go as smooth as I expecting for sure. First decision that I already made is to have 187 LED boxes, which will be aligned in X and Y axis cartesian coordinate 17 and 11 respectively. The number of this units is the result from an iteration by putting a piece artwork into the pixels boxes while bearing in mind that people will not stay in front of this canvas for so long to produce some piece of arts. So the decision are being made and all of these units are spanning up to 2M by 3M. As you can see below. The biggest project that I have ever done.
After the number of units are being decided, the materials are being choosen and the design of each units are being finalize. The time to do mass production had come. At this scale of work I can not do everything by myself so I did hire some people to help me deal with all those repetitive tasks such as glueing the boxes together or spay painting all of the enclosures. Managing people to do the work is both new and important experience for me because normally I did everything by myself. The most important lesson that I learned when managing labors is to try to explain each assembly steps as accurate as possible, no room for them to imagine. Secondly, Let them do one single task at a time until they finished all of the units then moving on to the next simple task.
I only made 187 enclosures for this batch because of my inexperience and financial constain. If I could go back I will made at least 200 units. I need to have a spare units for quick project maintenance. Lesson like this can only be learning through experience maybe.
After all those static parts are being produce, now it time to produce the electronics.
Soldering all of the electronics parts is quite challenging when I need to explain to the novice but in the end everything seem to be fine eventhough, I need to fix some parts by myself. The whole electronics making process consume at least two weeks. Can not do it faster because I need to carefully monitor every step.
Now it time to put LED and enclosure together for testing. Yeah big Yeah !!!
First step is I just want to make sure that every electronics parts are working just fine and the wire connectors are also connecting together properly. It took me at least 3 days to finally getting every boxes to lighting up. The biggest challenge at this stage is I need to learn how to use a new 32-bit micorcontroller Teensy 3.6 to control 2244 LEDs. So after some trial and error I managed to get all this LEDs to loop the color properly. Took four days to figure it out.
Now the LED seem to work just fine. It time to moving on to the next step which is to integrated the microswitch with each boxes. This step is quite challenging because their are many ways to do it but for me I try my best to design the wiring system that is not only easy to do the maintenance but also easy to set up on the site, so I decided to partition the whole microswitches into difference section. I chose shift register chips to read all those buttons input value. Each shift register can reading up to eight buttons per unit, then I decided to chain six shift registers together to an 8-bit microcontroller to form a micro system that functioning as a sub-brain which sending the serial signal to the Teensy big brain when the state of the microswitchs are being change. I made four sub-brain to read all of the buttons state. Lucky enough that the Teensy board is powerful enough to have six serial ports.
After I managed to put the necessary components together and having sometime to write the code, the time that I need to go and setting up at the gallery had come. To be honest I did not figure everything out back home, so I expect that I still have enough time to figure out those unknown problem during the setting up period before an opening day. Wish me a lot of luck everyone.
Step One: Putting all 187 LEDs boxes hanger on the premade construction board, This step is quite easy task so I ask everyone around me to kindly helping me out.
Step Two: Putting all 187 Microswitchs on the wall. This one is also an easy task.
Step Three: Tightening nuts and bolts together 748 spots. So lucky that I have a lot of people coming to help. To mention briefly P.Alice, N.Fatin and N.Fern and the real MVP at this moment must be P. Tukta. She brought us some Beard Papa, these breads saving us from starving. Quite grateful that I has people around me at this moment. Did not expect anything like that at all.
Step Four: Getting all those LEDs boxes on the black wall, so weird I am too busy on the back , so I did not putting any of the boxes on the wall at all.
At this point it seem like 7PM already, so I only have one or two hours left to finishing up the work. So I decided to at least putting the power wires in places before the end of the day.
Step Five: Power wires preparation, in the evening there are two more special guests P.Best and N.Will coming in to join the installation party.
Step six: Put them on the wall, simply as it sound but if you watch the video below. It required a lot of people to do this task hahaha.
First Day Summary: I never thought that there will be so much friends and family coming in today. Super grateful for everything.
Some photo at the end of the day not included P.Alice because she left early hahaha. Guess what, I am the dude in the middle.
After some good sleep, Now, It time to starting the second day. Before I can continue the project installation, I must drill the holes on the black wall column first. This problem would not occur if I am communicate with the wall constructors carefully. So I spent half of the day to find the spot and drill it.
Step One: After finish the drilling: First task is to grouping the positive wires of the LED boxes together and also the negative wires too.
Step Two: Preparing shift register units before installing on the wall.
Step Three: Put them on the wall by drilling.
Step Four: Install Teensy and the power supply to the project.
Second Day Summary: Thing not going as fast as I think because of the on-site problem but I managed to finish up what I had plan to accomplish.
Highlight of the Day: P.Tukta visiting with some food from Saint Etoile by Yamazaki and a brief visit from P.Best and P.Pop.
The last day before an opening day. Till this day I only manage to get stuffs on the black board and have not connect any of the microswitches to the shift register and the power supply yet. I need to connect everything together as soon as possible because I need to have some time left to solve a known issues that I have not figure it out yet and also an unknown problem that can not be avoid.
Step One: I connect all of the switches to the shift register and the power wires. Fatin the helper save my life again on this task.
Step Two: At this point all of the physical objects already being put on the board, so this is the moment to power it up.
As you can see not every units working out as I expecting but I still have a lot of time left today to solve the issue. At this moment I am a little bit freaking out because I need to do an interview right now while the project is not fully working yet.
Here is the interview:
My body langauges speak out clearly that I not ready to do the interview right now hahaha. I basically explain who am I and what am I doing in the interview and of course begging people to come and play it.
After the interview I am going back to debugging the electronics but unfortunately I can not pointing out the problem so , I am going back and forth for at least five hours. At 10 PM, I am going back home sad but trying to focus on what I need to do in the morning on Friday before the opening in the evening. Below is the picture of me trying to debug the problem.
Today, I come to the gallery pretty early, so I have a lot of time to debug the project. I decided to rewire everything one by one. No eating the whole day. I am looping Good life by One republic the whole day, wishing this music might help me some way somehow. Things seem getting better bit by bit and finally at 9 PM I did manage to solve all of the problem. Below is the footage of how relieving am I.
Today I need to thank you to all of my friends who coming in to support me, They all been waiting for me to fix the project for at least 3 hours without complaining. Below is the picture of who coming in.
P.X , P.Pop , P.Tukta , KIM(me) , N.Will , P.Best and the name on Click Canvas is P.Kate who always supporting me from far away.
First meaningful artwork by N.sorn and Ice
Below are some highlight moment on the first day:
Finally the day ending up in a good fashion, eating some Japanese food together before going back home and having some good sleep.
Highlight picture through out the whole exhibition period:
And finally some good picture of myself! Haha!
Credits: Images and videos by Alice Tsoi, Phimpharb Arunchaiyaporn, and Papassorn Padermprach