Laser Cutting for Short Circuit Exhibition by Antonio Roberts

Unauthorised CopyExposedFor the Short Circuit exhibition at Stryx, which is taking place from 3rd September to 29th October (or took place, depending on when you read this), I’m exhibiting newly commissioned work called Proxy Pavilions. These pieces build on the Copy Bombs previously exhibited at Permission Taken at Birmingham Open Media and University of Birmingham and take the idea of offline networks a bit further. Essentially I wanted to create browser-based works that existed only on a local network. The impetus behind this is to give internet art a more physical presence and highlight that the technology behind the internet is still reliant on servers, resources and people based in specific, physical locations.

The aesthetic of these Proxy Pavilions was to resemble the Copy Bombs. I still am very strongly influence by glitch art and I wanted their appearance to mirror this.

Copy Bomb at Thinking Out Loud

The difference between these and the Copy Bombs is that I wanted to make them a lot smaller and out of acrylic. This had several benefits:

  • Cost: Acrylic is a lot cheaper than wood
  • Time: Cutting and bonding acrylic, even by hand, is an easier process than wood, allowing for quicker build times
  • Portability: I don’t envision these being handled during the exhibition, but at a smaller size there is less possibility of damage from handling

And finally, the benefit to myself is that I can learn easily from it. I have no intentions of learning how to work with wood (yet) and so starting with an inexpensive material allows me to experiment and gain knowledge before moving onto different materials.

To build these I enlisted the help and services of Fab Lab West Midlands. This Fab Lab is fairly new and is housed in the building that previously house The Public, which is now Sandwell College. Similar to many Fab Labs the one in West Bromwich has the usual kit including a 3D printer, laser cutter and vinyl cutter. Having seen the work from the likes of Juneau Projects (who are also in the Short Circuit exhibition) I opted to cut the acrylic using the laser cutter.

Despite being a founder of fizzPOP and having made files to be sent to a laser cutter, I’ve never actually used one myself! On 9th August I paid a visit to the Fab Lab to learn how to use one.

Laser cutting
Using the laser cutter

They’re surprisingly easy to use, especially if you know how vector graphics work (if not download Inkscape and experiment). One of the main considerations was to change the line weight. Outlines under a certain weight (0.2mm) were cut and ones over were etched into it. With this knowledge I produced a few test pieces.

One of the laser cut pieces
One of the laser cut pieces

Not bad!

Going back to the design of the Proxy Pavilions, I decided to design them in the same haphazard way as the Copy Bombs. I made an Inkscape document with lots of triangles and would then stick them together as I saw fit. On several of the triangles I etched images relating to the content contained on the routers. For one of the routers, Exposed, I etched images of things relating to surveillance and the internet such as Edward Snowden, the Anonymous mask, and a military drone. For Unauthorised Copy I used images of the Monkey Selfie, Left Shark and String of Puppies by Jeff Koons.

The cutting file
The cutting file

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After a late night of creating the build was finally finished!

 

 

 

Making these was definitely an enjoyable and educational experience. I can see acrylic being a material I definitely work with in the future to help realise some of my ideas. The speed with which it can be create is the main benefit to me. One area I would also light to explore is how it interacts with light, especially with the neon acrylic.

Thanks to Fab Lab West Midlands for their help and Aly Grimes for the invite to participate in the exhibition. The exhibition runs in Birmingham until 29th October.