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Sketching Device #1

by Ranjit Bhatnagar

Sketching Device #1 is a moody art machine for which expression is more important than precision. Its bad temper turns simple instructions (back, left, down, right, repeat) into unpredictable swirls and snarls.

Based on research by Dan Reznik at the University of California, and inspired by a remark by Ed Stastny, Sketching Device #1 sends low-frequency vibrations through a sheet of paper to guide objects-- such as pens-- in any direction, without direct contact. The principle is similar to the way you scoot yourself around in a rolling office chair without touching the floor: jerk back quickly to make the chair move forward, and relax more slowly to get centered again without pulling the chair back. Sketching Device #1 does this about thirty times per second-- too fast too see-- and the pen in its plastic "boat" appears to float around the page by itself. In this primitive implementation, the process is not very reliable or predictable, and that is what makes the resulting sketches interesting.

Ranjit Bhatnagar works at gameLab (www.gmlb.com), lives in Brooklyn, and has been making impractical art and music devices for nearly twenty years. Other projects include the Silence Organ (Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia), and, with gameLab, Fluid (Centre for Global Dialogue, Zurich).


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