BØN541 v3.0

BØN541 v3.0 is the third in my BØN541 series, exploring the form of bonsai trees, using recycled & salvaged materials.

This work was created to be a setpiece for the 2018 staging of Rent, the musical, by Matt Ward Entertainment, at QPAC Brisbane. It is the largest work I’ve produced so far, and is constructed primarily from corrugated plastic water pipe, which is suspended using the truss and chain from my 2012 work Reconfigure.

The work features three major parts:

The play’s designer provided a bunch of old car hubcaps as a material she wanted featured, as well as decorations for the branches, in the form of aluminium cans cut into flower-like shapes, which the cast and crew produced. The designer also provided icicle (fairy) lights, to match the look of the hanging points of light I had included in my VR-based design.

Aside from that, the actual form of the work, the construction solutions and the materials from which it was made, were my responsibility.

Background of the Project:

I was approached by the designer of the play, who had seen my earlier work BØN541 v2.0 and wanted something similar for the Xmas tree that is created by a character in the play. The designer had a goal of involving “real” fine artists on the project, on account of the play being, in aspects, celebration of the 1980s New York art scene.

My initial idea was to build a welded steel armature of triangular cells, almost like 1980s-era computer graphics, into which various junk could be threaded. This was my first option, since welded steel is the only way to get the necessary combination of spannable distance, thinness and (relatively) light weight. Unfortunately, the production lacked the budget to spin up this process.

Bamboo Version

The next idea I proposed, was to use dozens of long stalks of bamboo, in place of a traditional tree trunk. I also developed the base in response to feedback that the specific shape of the base of BØN541 v2.0 was a highly desired part of the project. This would be both cheap, and solve the engineering problem, since bamboo is self-supporting.

However, the response was that it wasn’t “metal” enough, and that the design was being kept very literal to the script, the tree being specifically referred to as made of metal.

From these constraints, came my eventual solution – to use the hanging infrastructure I had already created for 2012’s Reconfigure, to create a vertically-suspended version of 2014’s BØN541 v2.0.

Coincidentally, at this time, I was working on a Virtual Reality project at the Cooroy Library makerspace, and so I was able to use this new VR toolset to actually design the work at life-size:

The choice of materials was dictated by budget – we couldn’t afford the stainless steel braided pipe used for the other BØN541 series works, but I realised there was something I had worked with previously – agricultural water pipe, which I had used when creating my 2011 sculpture This?

Sprayed silver, it would have a metallic appearance (in a Dr. Who sort of way), and the corrugations provide a way to secure the hanging points so that they can’t slip along its length.

So, with a decision on materials, and a clear vision on the form of the work, I was ready to begin production.


Building the base.

Strengthening the truss.

Upgraded, strengthened and complete.

Creating the trunk.

Packing everything away for bumpin.

I did this project for free, and loaned some rather expensive equipment to the production, because I wanted to see it succeed.

I wish the show well, and hope that my contribution is acknowledged.

Special thanks to the QPAC people I worked with – a brilliant, professional rigging team who got my work hoisted and in place at the Cremorne Theatre.

2019 – Week 7

More futzing around with house sale stuff, and solicitors (who are allegedly working for us) who dress up ultimatums as requests.

Things seem to be on track for the VR residency, we’ve got a developer who’s keen to help out with training library staff, but we have to find a way to fund him.

I spent a bit of time messing around with camera stuff, still chasing down the autofocus gremlins that seem to plague me – it’s a hard one to figure out.

I also spent some time wandering along the beach following one of the local leopard rays.

2019 – Week 5

Most of the week spent on an application to the Swell Sculpture Festival – a big outdoor sculpture exhibition on the gold coast. It’s always interesting, making these – having to revisit your bio and cv. It forces you to keep thinking about who you are, what you do, and why. My goal is to get There. exhibited.

Wednesday night was kebabs on the beach, watching dolphins patrol back and forth, about 10-15m from the shore.

Friday was my late father’s birthday, the first since he died. He would have been 75. The same day, we had an offer on his house, and have accepted it. Hopefully the sale will go smoothly.

I went out to the river mouth, and took a few pics to take my mind off things.

“Warning: Deep Water”

On brighter news, my bike is working wonderfully, and better yet, my knee is working wonderfully. Back when I used to ride every day, my knee would puff up after a ride, and I’d need to ice it down with a bag of frozen pees. Now, though I’m taking it easier on my ride, there’s no after-effects of the exercise. Spending most of a year doing 250 leg lifts every morning to keep my kneecap tracking correctly seems to have helped, and I with my general strength and fitness returning, I can finally get back rebuilding that leg.

2019 – Week 4

Vale Trevor Ashton.

Uncle Trevor was a great guy. A genuinely nice dude, who helped out with a number of things at critical points in my life. He passed away peacefully on Saturday morning.

On Friday, I had both my car, and bike serviced. The bike service is interesting – mobile folks who come to you. So with the end of the week, I’m going to get back on my bike, after a year off.

Work-wise, this week is the week I cracked the issues for images in the Surfing The Deathline collected edition. It’s been a really interesting series of dead ends negotiating macOS bugs, Affinity Photo bugs, and Photoshop issues. But, it’s finally sorted – all the conceptual problems are solved, and now it’s just down to implementation. So far, I’ve managed to lift the text off the page art in the EPUB version, which paves the way for toggling text on and off, and having a sketch view of the original pencils, with the final dialogue over them.

2019 – Week 3

More progress on the Surfing The Deathine collection. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to use JPEG images, after the book reached around 800mb and kept crashing iBooks.

There’s a minor problem with sound effect text showing some red/blue chromatic aberration, but I may be able to solve that with running the sound effects on a separate layer, and through a greyscale conversion.

I also had a meeting with the library service to discuss my next residency. The project should be VERY interesting, if we can get the tech to work.

Spent a bit of this week trying to teach a teenager about the ethical considerations of relying on volunteers for projects, largely to no avail.

2019 – Week 2

Did a bunch of work on the collected edition of Surfing The Deathline this week. It’s been interesting, revisiting macOS’ Automator software to try and build out my process for processing images, and comparing the quality of images.

I had managed to create a practical demonstration of pulling the textboxes out of the images, and putting them on a different layer in the EPUB. It worked, but seems to be really slow in practice, especially on my older iPad Air. The goal was to make the text layer something that can be toggled on and off, with an eventual goal to make the sketch layer something that can be toggled on and off.

I may just go ahead and do it, as a tech demo, to see if I can.

Where I’m at now is that I output each page from InDesign, using a script that outputs separate pages as individual pdfs, then I have an Automator action which has been made into a Finder service. So, I just select all the PDF pages, right click, choose the service workflow, and then the operating system processes every PDF to an image file, resizes it, and then saves it out to a different directory as a PNG file.

It’s completely removed Photoshop from the later process of the file, which was what I previously needed to create the PNG files.

The working week ended with discovering some of my photos from the Drone racing days had ended up in an article on the national broadcaster’s website. Unfortunately I hadn’t been told they were going to be used, and they weren’t credited to me. So, some quick emails to the ABC, and it was all sorted.

2019 – Week 1

A final week of holidaying, before getting into the year proper. I made a pretty significant decision with regards to the next update to my EPUB comics, and how to evolve them.

It’s going to involve significantly reworking all my original Photoshop files, as well as all my InDesign files, but will result in a structural separation of text and art onto separate layers in the EPUB. The result will be that text can be toggled on and off, different versions of artwork can be toggled on and off, independent of text, and background gradients on pages can be specified in HTML, and changed without regenerating the page art.

As with most things, it involves more time spent on setting things up in the first place, but sees greater flexibility and power to make changes down the road .

I’m starting to have some solid ideas about what this year will be. I will hold back on other people’s projects, and devote my time to my own. I’ll try to be as much stuff out of my storage space as possible, so that I can make it a useful working storage space, and I’m going to set up a welding bay in my back yard, to finally get on with making my ethernet sculptures.

2018 was in many ways, a year of sorrow. I’m going to make this year better, if I can.

2018 – Week 52

A week of time off, and enforced doing nothing. Friends around for dinner on the Saturday. The one worklike creative aspect was discovering that I can output layers from InDesign with transparent backgrounds, which might make it easier to process my comic art at higher quality for EPUB output.

2018 – Week 51

Some bad news this week, but it’s embargoed until next year.

I spent some time messing around with data backups, having to replace an existing backup drive because my backup set was larger than its capacity. Time Machine is such a junk solution for anything other than very simple requirements, and so many solutions to its problems involve “wipe your backup and start again from scratch”, which defeats the point of its use as a historical versioning backup system.