"A tin can telephone" updated for the 21st century
16 May 2013
Our series of interviews with the artists involved in the Can you hear me? I can see you! exhibition which showcases seven months of workshops introducing older people to technoloy concludes with creator of the Laser Communicator, Dave Lynch.
Dave's work seeks to further the achievements of the original pioneers of cinematic and communication technology by further developing their discoveries with some of the ubiquitous technologies we have around us.
Often inspired by military advancements, he is interested in out relationship to the current technological paradigm shift and can often be found routing around in skips, charity shops and car boot sales for bits to repurpose into something else.
Can you tell us about what you have made for Can You Hear Me? I Can See You! - what is it?
Laser Communicator demonstrates one of the simplest forms of communication with light and is built using repurposed technology from a DVD player and household audio equipment. The device allows one person to whisper to another by sending the sound of their voice over a laser beam. For the exhibition there are laser communications devices hidden within two amorphous beehive shapes, and these are mounted onto the pillars in the FACT Connects Space.
You met with the residents and showed them an early prototype of the device you have made - can you tell us about it?
The experience of working with the residents was humbling in many ways; one thing being my use of language in explaining the technology and the concepts behind it: although the origins of what I was discussing was invented before all in the room, the session pushed me to evaluate everything I technologically take for granted in my explanations. The second thing was how direct and engaged the residents were with the prototype and wanting to know all about the nature and dangers of lasers.
One aspect I found rewarding was being able to discuss the wider conversation of recycling and repurposing. I explained that the technology had come from a DVD player and that, in the majority of urban spaces, you are not more than 10m away from an appliance that uses technology, which is ready for repurposing. This sparked conversations lead by the group into an investigation and iPad research into further studies of what products around us contain lasers: we looked at shop tills, speed cameras and even took an in-depth look into FAX machine history. We all became wrapped up in a conversation about how the world would move to a halt if we didn't have lasers!
Did the residents give any specific feedback? Did the piece change as a result?
The residents reminisced about using two tin-cans and string for communication of their formative years. This was a great visual metaphor for me.
How did you feel about this unusual use of user-testing / consultation processes in the making of artwork?
I found this to be one of the most interesting parts of the project. I will definitely make this type of device-human interaction/reaction part of my practice.
Does the device you have made relate to other work/works you have made?
I have been working with lasers for about three years within the forms of visual communication: http://nimbus.davelynch.net. This project a FACT however, was an exploration into the building of lasers, basic electronics and the use of audio transmission unlike I have ever worked with before. The commission allowed me to realise and push the wider application of an idea and led to the creation of a workshop in laser communicators which I delivered at Manchester Met University and also another commission for building a space laser with an independent TV studio!
Can you hear me? I can see you! is at FACT between 17 May - 2 June.