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.

2018 – Week 38

This week I finished a little room upgrade, that’ll make my ability to shoot object photography a little more capable.

A 3m curtain rail, that I can use to hang a backdrop on, which when combined with the rolling workbenches I built, means I can set up an object photography / cyclorama system over my bed.

Other things this week, we had the prize-giving for the Immerse High VR filmmaking competition. The results were a great mark for representation, with both First and second places going to female students.

First Prize:

…by a young woman in Year 11.

Second Prize:

…by a girl in Year 7. Astounding camera work in this piece.

2018 – Week 37

…in a row?

Continuing to clear out and reorganise my storage space – getting to see and reconnect with all the stuff I’ve hoarded away, most of it for potential sculpture projects, it’s inspiring. Makes it all the worse that I have no studio space.

The job should almost be finished by the beginning of next week, however – all my stuff will be accessible, so that if I WANT to make things, I can.

The library asked me to guide a group of four people in exploring VR on Friday, continuing my ambassadorial role as the Artist In Residence for the library service. Eventually only one turned up, which made for a relaxed session.

Also, the VR filmmaking competition for which I’m a judge had its closing date extended by a week.

Closed the week with a night of making Japanese food, drinking Japanese beer & whiskey, and watching the despecialised version of Star Wars.

Han shot first. Han has always shot first.

2018 – Week 36

Another week continuing the features of the previous. More work done on these tables, though they’re more or less finished, another VR supervision at the Makerspace, and more time spent on arguments with the bureaucrats in companies, this time a credit card provider.

This is an interesting one, local banks here are charging “overseas transaction fees” on PayPal purchases, when PayPal has handled the international side of things, and issued a charge in local currency, from their local subsidiary. At the moment the case is with the Financial Industry Ombudsman’s Service, for which I had to put together a 24 page report with supporting documents etc.

All this for less than $4, which has already been refunded to me. Fighting fights because they have to be fought, even for no benefit on my part, seems to be a pattern in my life.

The week ended on a high note – Noosa Library Service has offered to formally extend my position of Artist In Residence indefinitely. It’s not a high paying gig, just a small stipend to cover my expenses, but it’s an appointment to a formal position, nonetheless.

2018 – Week 35

More VR stuff this week – guiding a few students through the equipment for this VR filmmaking contest. The biggest event for the week was checking out the new makerspace:

That section of wall between the windows, perfectly sized for C45C4D3.

Other than that, the project of the week has been getting the two long stacking benches I built, painted and finished off. I also spent a bit of time in my storage tank, continuing the cleanup and consolidation process. It’s slow progress, and with my knee choosing this exact time to start flaking out on me again, one that can only be done in small steps, but it’s getting done.

2018 – Week 34

A week of un-glamourous grunt work, that started with a wonderful chance to demo VR to a group of high school students, as a part of the Immerse High VR / AR film making competition.

It’s volunteer stuff, like a lot of the library makerspace stuff I’ve been doing, however it’s cementing my position as the Artist in Residence at the library, which is a huge kick for me.

The library also let me know they’re still interested in providing a permanent home for C45C4D3 – my gold circuit board sculpture, at the new Noosa makerspace which is in refurbishment at the moment.

The other major use of time this week, has been the continuing effort to reorganise my storage space. I bought a bunch of little dollies that are now strapped to the only sculpture that wasn’t on wheels. Now, I can move any of my heavy stuff around, easily and safely.

The week ended with a trip down to Brisbane, checking out all the eyewear stores at one of the big malls. Shopping for anything is difficult when you’re more or less defined by having some strong aesthetic opinions, because noone is ever going to make something that’s as much what you want, as you would design yourself.

2018 – Week 33

Well the new displays arrived. I ended up going with a pair of Benq SW240s, which are a 10bit (8+2FRC) display, with 14bit LUTs. In other words, they’re pretty accurate, and they’re pretty adjustable to be kept accurate. I’m waiting on a dedicated colour calibrator that’ll come with them as well.

Short version – they’re magnificent. From a visual perspective, and from a usability perspective. Physical buttons that aren’t on the outside edges, micro-fine bezels, they put out no heat. Really can’t say a bad word about them.

One quirk – connecting them via Display Port, they show up as 59 HZ NTSC. The solution was to connect one via the DVI port on my graphics card, and the other by a DVI cable, to a DVI -> Display Port adapter, and into one of the card’s Display Ports.

One thing I lost with the older Dell display, was the CF card reader it had. I’ve replaced that with a little USB version.

I also grabbed a little app called SwitchResX which is necessary to enable 10 bit colour output from the Mac.

The other major thing this week, was my continuing battle with utilities providers over my late father’s estate – the power company, which had previously used details obtained under the guise of “giving me access to his account”, to move the power billing into a new account in my name, then tried to remove his pensioner discounts from a bill covering time in which he was alive, on the grounds that they only honour pensioner concessions, if said pensioner is alive at the time the bill is issued. After suggesting it should be pro-rataed, they agreed, so the $491 power bill is reduced to $247.

I’d be stuffed if I was a grieving elderly partner, who didn’t usually handle the utilities bills.

2018 – Week 32

Another VR demonstration this week, this time for local high school teachers, for an upcoming student VR film competition. I’ve been asked to volunteer with helping teach the teachers, and providing support to students, if necessary, s a part of this event.

I also had a video conference meeting with a company in California who does online sales, about trying to get my digital comics onto their platform. The washup of that is that they don’t do the specific part I need a third party to do.

Saturday night, I tried my hand at astro-landscape photography for the first time:

Not too bad as a first attempt, I think.

So that’s the good stuff. The bad stuff is that one of my computer’s two monitors died rather loudly, and now I’m down to a single display. At least having to shop for displays is saving me from fretting over camera bags.

My plan, before this happened, was to but a single 27″ 4k display, and rotate both my 24″ 1200p dosplays onto their sides, to be palette monitors. What I think I’ll do instead, is buy two 24″ 1200p high quality colour accurate displays, and use those in the meantime, until I see what is happening in larger displays in the next year. Along with my car, it’s an expense I didn’t really want right about now, but there’s not much I can do about it.

2018 – Week 31

Been a bit of an admin week – I sent of the final post-project report on BØN541 v3.0 to the producer of Rent. It details my total investment – $900+ out of pocket expenses, and around $16k in in-kind support.

It didn’t have the greatest of returns on investment, and still no reply to the message, or acknowledgement to thank me, so, lesson learned, I guess.

I’ve also had a bit of a confrontation with an electrical utility who supply power to my father’s former house. Backstory is, I called them up a few weeks back to let them know that their bills wouldn’t be being paid anytime soon, on account of Dad’s accounts being locked for probate. They took all my details over the phone, which they said were just to that I could be added as someone authorised to access my father’s account. They then used this information to open a new account in my name, and transfer billing for the electricity to that account.

So right there, we have identity theft, and fraud.

I filed a complaint with the Ombudsman, and then, still fuming, took to twitter to publicly shame the company. Once a couple of my friends were in on replying and stating their dismay, the power company reached out to me and asked my to direct message them the details so they could resolve it. Total elapsed time, less than it takes to wait on hold to speak to an operator.

Other things… the local arts creative organisation has asked me to volunteer in helping with this year’s High School VR Filmmaking contest, which involves schools from the surrounding 100km or so. It should be interesting to see what high schoolers can do with this tech.

I’ve spent a lot of the week refining my SketchUP model of this compact studio design. It’s coming along nicely, and the continuing practice is making me a better SketchUP operator.

Finally, I published an article that had been sitting idle for a while – on my latest gear hack, connecting a Blackrapid connector to a standard camerabag.

Add a Blackrapid slider to a Lowepro Toploader camerabag.

One of the problems when carrying a DSLR, is that occasionally you might want to go somewhere with your camera, where you want to take the minimum amount of bag to protect it, but not have a second strap around your neck / shoulders when you take your camera out to shoot.

Another problem, is that you might go somewhere that doesn’t allow you to carry even a small bag into a venue (some art galleries, for example), but you still want your camera on a strap.

Here’s a solution that ads a Blackrapid connector, on a slider that runs along the small bag’s shoulder strap, and which, when you detach the strap from the bag and join its ends together, turns it into effectively a standalone Blackrapid camera strap.

The donor equipment

In this case, the bag is a Lowepro Toploader 70AW. This is a bag that can take a full size pro body, with a medium sized lens like a 24-70 still attached.

Lowepro 70AW (discontinued, replaced by the 70AW II).

Two key features of this bag, the first is that the zipper that closes it – it’s one continuous length, even though there’s two zips and a buckle in the middle. That’ll be important later. The second, the shoulder strap clips on at both ends, so can be removed.

For the dropper to connect the Blackrapid connector, I’m using a Blackrapid Backpack Strap as the donor for all the parts.

Blackrapid Backpack Strap (Discontinued, replaced by Backpack Strap Breathe).

This has the advantage that it comes with all the bits you need – the BR connector, the safety catch to cover the thumbscrew (not shown in this pic), and importantly, the webbing has a loop sewn on the end.

The Backpack strap has two plastic carabiners on it (the updated version only has one). One is connected to the full length of the strap, the other, to a short loop (left and right images above, respectively).

The other parts you’ll need, are a nice smooth stainless steel d-shackle, wide enough to fit the bag’s strap, but narrow enough that it won’t be able to slide over the clips, and off the end, and a safety splitring.

  1. First Step, you need to cut through the eyelet of the plastic carabiner that’s connected to the long section of the strap. The sewn loop on the end of that strap is something we need to preserve.
  2. You need to cut the pull tag (next to the blackrapid logo left pic) off the end of the strap, so you can unthread the full length of the strap from the cleat (right pic).
  3. You need to cut the short strap and carabiner free of the cleat, so you have it as a separate piece.

Now, you’re ready to reassemble.

You’ll want to seal the cut end of the webbing with a bit of fire (I’ll leave it to you as to how to create that). The difficult part is getting it back through the cleat, which isn’t strictly designed for a double layer of webbing. It’s doable, just difficult. When you’re heat-sealing it, try to squash it flat, so it’ll feed through more easily. You could then double it over with glue / stitching so that it can’t possibly go back through.

Don’t forget to thread on the Blackrapid clip in the process.

The splitring is optional, but what it does, is prevent the pin in the shackle from turning, so that it can’t come loose.

Going back to the advantage of the Lowepro bag having a single zipper – once you connect your camera to the Blackrapid you can now put it in the bag while leaving it connected, and then close the bag behind it.

Not shown – The safety tether I use with any connection system. In this case, I attach it to the shackle, since the split ring means it isn’t capable of undoing.

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