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 28

My new graphics card arrived this week, however I’m still waiting on a weird cable to connect it to power inside the machine.

I also ordered a bit of photography gear I’ve been interested in for a while – a device that allows remote control of the camera, including live view, from a smartphone app. should make certain situations where I need to be able to focus carefully, but can’t be physically behind the camera, much easier.

The other thing I picked up is a new finishing sander, which I’m going to use to complete my long nesting tables.

I spent some time investigating Capture One, a photographic application that might replace Aperture as my photo library manager, but decided that I can stay on Aperture for another year, given reports are in that it works fine with the next version of macOS.

The big bad news – the constant squeak I’m hearing in my car might be a $40 bearing, that requires $500 in labour to get to, because it’s in the middle of the gearbox. *sigh*

2018 – Week 27

It’s been an admin week. Moving bank accounts to a new Applepay enabled provider, as well as finally pulling the trigger on a new graphics upgrade for my Mac Pro – and boy, was that a saga.

Backstory – the “Cheesegrater” Mac Pros have the ability to supply 2x6pin power to a graphics card. That’s the equivalent of a single 8pin connector. When Apple announced the recent next version of macOS “Mojave”, my machine was included in the “supported” list, with the caveat that it had a certain level of graphics card support. Most of the cards that would fall within that envelope were released after Apple stopped making machines with user-upgradable graphics cards. However, there is one specific card they mention by name, as it was supplied by them in a piece of developer hardware – the Sapphire Pulse 8gb Radeon RX580.

Great, so I’ll buy one of those – not so fast. The exclusive Australian distributor isn’t carrying that card, because there’s a higher spec one with more features they’re concentrating on. It’ll work, but because it’s physically larger, it’ll block a extra slot in my machine.

Looking at Newegg – they carry the card, and will ship to Australia, but have a terrible after-sales service reputation. Amazon no longer ship physical products to Australia, as a result of the Australian Government’s idiotic decision to impose GST on all imports, down from the previous $1000 threshold. You can buy on the American Amazon store, then use a shipping service to forward it here – but it’s more expensive.

Not the best of situations. Then, I thought about New Zealand – I’d seen a few search results come up with NZ stockists, so I looked at Sapphire’s official distributor page for NZ (there are three official NZ distributors), and found a company which not only had the cheapest price in NZ, but also have an Australian side to the business. I was able to phone the local side, they transferred me internationally, and the NZ salesperson gave me an Australian bank account to pay into – no international funds transfer fees, no expensive phone calls, easy and simple.

With that sorted, I had to order a special cable to power it, because of course Macs are weird in the way they do things. Cable is on its way from China. Could be here soon, could be here in weeks.

So with all that sorted, my machine should have it’s final major upgrade complete. The next thing to think about is getting a bigger, higher resolution monitor, because the new photo management software I’m looking at, looks like garbage on standard-dpi screens.

2018 – Week 26 (VR Residency Week 4)

The final week spent of my residency was spent checking out a bunch of CAD-based VR apps, including in a plugin for SketchUp that allows it to be used in VR.

This culminated in an industry meet & greet event I organised, to get local architects, engineers and fabricators, to come have a look at VR, and see how it could be applied to their industries.

Sadly, we didn’t get much of a turnout, but the library was very happy with it, and the residency in general. So overall, it’s been a great month.

2018 – Week 25 (VR Residency Week 3)

Monday this week saw the final proofs for my 3D VR modelling to 3D printing workflow demonstrated.

First small-scale proof print.

It’s still got all of the support infrastructure attached, which is designed to snap off.

Tuesday, I explored some other VR appliations, Kingspray Graffiti is an astounding example of a great app, with a brilliant tutorial. I also made some updates to the model, and cued up a new print…

Guess I’m coming back the next day…

Wednesday, I went in to the makerspace to check up on my finished print. Everything looked OK, though I waited a few days before taking off any of the support structures:

There’s a little roughness around the glasses, where we’re getting into the limits of the printer’s capabilities, and I lost a tip of the collar, but it’s a pretty solid proof of the process. I may cast it into a clear resin block to protect it.

In addition to picking the work up, I also spent a while chatting to a retireee couple who were looking at the makerspace in my capacity as Artist In Residence. I showed them a bunch of VR stuff, and talked about the possibilities, especially for things like rehab and aged-care.

Wednesday night, I edited a video of working in Kodon:

Thursday was a down day, spent on admin, plus a walk by the river, where I met a very friendly duck. Friday, back in to the makerspace to keep looking around at Kodon. Saturday, I dropped in again, primarily to test a couple of things I couldn’t get to work correctly. I joined Steam, and put a couple of messages on their forums, which seem to be the app’s primary support channel, so we’ll see if that gets us anywhere.

2018 – Week 24 (VR Residency Week 2)

This week started off with watching my first PC build in person. It’s an interesting process, and one I feel I can probably do for myself when the time comes.

I continued with the VR residency, learning more and more about working in Kodon to sculpt in virtual clay, and hit a real milestone when I realised you can up and down-res an individual layer, which effects how small the voxels (volumetric pixels) produced by the tool are. So, if you need more detail while sculpting, up the density a couple of hundred percent, work to get what you want, then drop the density back down to smooth and save filesize.

By the end of the week, this is where I’m at…

It’s a squid, wearing a coat, and glasses, fake nose & moustache,  and hat.

Next week, I’ll be taking it to the 3d printer to see what happens.

Other things, I spent a bit more time running through ideas for this building, talking to the body corporate secretary, I’m a bit neither here, nor there on it. I know I’m not going to get many other options for premises, but I’m not sure if this one is right enough to commit all my worldly possessions towards. It’s decisions.

2018 – Week 23 (VR Residency Week 1)

This week I started in on my residency, and got my first hands-on time with Kodon, a VR clay modeller. It’s early access software, so not everything in it works properly, but it validates a working methodology – doing 3D in VR is WAY batter than doing it on a screen.

Here’s my first quick scribbly effort:

From there, the next stage of what I’m trying to achieve, is to take these organic models, and see if they could be 3d printed. Thus:

So that would seem to indicate my plans could work out. There’s definitely a pipeline here for creating objects in VR, and then printing them in 3D.

It’s the freaking future.

2018 – Week 22

Some interesting things afoot this week. Without sounding ghoulish, some rough calculations have given me an idea of what I may receive from my father’s estate, and on that basis, I’ve been looking around at industrial properties in my area.

I’ve found a place that may be in my budget, the question is whether it can be adapted to my needs. Some very serious SketchUp modelling has been engaged in to try to build the studio / home machine of my dreams.

Hopefully the madness of Belmore doesn’t return.

2018 – Week 21

A whole week without waking on a shot of fear and adrenaline. It’s been a recovery week – I went and saw a couple of movies, as well as having a meeting about my upcoming residence at the library makerspece, but aside from that, it’s been nice and quiet.

2018 – Week 20

A week of horror, sorrow, regret & relief, with one small moment of joy. Most of the week was spent in what was my father’s house, cleaning. It was an insane job, there was so much stuff. Years out of date unopened cans and jars of food, an entire 2 council garbage bins full of it.

A week in the cold of Victoria cleaning my dead father’s house – it was like being in a Russian novel. I’ve never loved the subtropics more, than I did coming home yesterday.

Relief, that I have finally bumped out the sculpture from QPAC, and the most disheartening and traumatic project I’ve done, is finally over. I kept the silver pipe, but all those flower decorations, that the designer made such a goddamn fuss over for not getting sufficient credit, after we had to remove them from the pipe, got turfed into a dumpster. I’d suggested to the producer that they might make nice keepsakes for the cast & crew, but nope, they’re just rubbish. Sad, really.

The joy:

I’d contacted one of the local papers directly, to tell them about the QPAC project, and the fact the local library’s Makerspace was the enabler of the project. I didn’t know when it was going to publish, but in the middle of my awful week, I received an ecstatic email from the library, thanking me for the piece.

It again reinforces the feeling I have, that being present, going to events, and being seen to be a person at these things is really going to be important, and is now starting to pay off. The mayor knows my name. I’ve never experienced that before.