31 January 2013

Author Lesley Taker

Along with FACT Technical, Liverpool-based artist Ross Dalziel has been facilitating these hackspaces, allowing people who are unsure of using PureData, Logic, Arduino or MIDI to unlock the table's full potential for customisation. As a result the table has been turned into a Battleships board, a bell-ringer, a synthesizer, a learning resource, and has played a variety of different music, including reworking beats by locals Bantam Lions, Acrobat, and Kepla. 

The first hack was by Ross Dalziel and Adrian McEwen from DoES Liverpool, a collection of makers and technologists based in a co-working studio space/workshop in the heart of Liverpool's city centre. They played around with Noisy Table and managed to use the comport object in PureData to turn the MIDI output of Noisy Table's arduino into a solenoid trigger using some very colourful toy bells complete with their own LEGO-adorned stand. This isn't a wasted project as the guys are looking to simplify the object so it can be used as a USB plug & play addition to Noisy Table wherever it goes. 

This complicated sounding set-up simply meant that whenever a certain section of the table was hit with the ball, a small electronically powered rod would strike the bell in front of it. As well as this physical connection of bells to the table, Ross and Adrian manipulated the sounds made by the table itself into something more festive, and strapped wii controllers to the table tennis paddles. This meant that whenever the player swung their paddle, one of various chimes sounded: turning the whole of the FACT Connects Space into a carillon of bells for the afternoon, three days before Christmas. Although they didn't manage a festive rendition of Jingle Bells, Ross and Adrian did play some chords, as did Mike Stubbs and his children, who tested out the customised table. You can see pictures and documentation from this (and all the other) hackspaces on the right hand side of the page.

Noisy Table has also had a direct impact on the building itself. The LED window which sits at the front of the building has been activated with a variety of visualisations which detect and interpret play, using PureData software, showing where the ball is landing, how loud a noise each bounce makes, or displaying a screensaver when people stop playing. This screen is another element of the building which has incredible customisation possibilities and which we are very interested in working with both locals and visiting artist to animate.

Alongside this, local zine Bido Lito! have been hosting a table tennis tournament featuring Liverpool bands ClinicAll We AreAfternaut and Alpha Male Tea Party amongst others and are now down to their final matches. In addition to the tournament, some of the bands will be at Hacky Birthday on Saturday 23 February and have taken audio produced by play on Noisy Table and created a whole new track based around the sample.

The table has proved incredibly popular not just with hackers but also with the general public. Nash's piece has encouraged people to play Ping-Pong with a stranger, to talk to FACT staff about how the table works and to help hackers experiment with the table and see their customisations in action. People are so enamoured with it that they are even bringing their own bats and balls to FACT to play outside gallery hours. 

Noisy Table has been the best possible piece to initiate the FACT Connects program, which not only has a physical presence in the foyer, but also strives to connect FACT with local artists, musicians, makers and technicians, and exhibit the outcomes of the creative projects which our engagement team facilitate within the community. Noisy Table, although created by a Brighton-based artist, has brought the hacker community to FACT, has been used by local schools as a learning resource and also has obviously appealed to the public in an amazing way. This piece is the ideal example of  what we want to use this space for, to show engaging artworks which allow people to delve into FACT's more playful side, and open our network to all the incredible artists, and exciting things happening, in the city.

Want to see more about the hackspaces? Click on the tab on the Noisy Table page for upcoming events, or to see footage from previous workshops.

So far we have had tablehacks by Deep HedoniaRoss DalzielSimon JonesAdrian Mcewen and have more from Roberto Becerra (one of the technicians behind Edwin Van Der Heid'sEvolving Spark Network in Gallery 1), HIVE and Noisy Table artist Will Nash himself, to come.