Mayhem Machine by Marieke Verbiesen @ EKKO festivalen, 2014


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9 days after my first encounter with the machine, I was lucky to get to really spend a small hour and play around all by myself in a very quiet environment. Oh boy! This is really cool - it's even cooler than using my APC-40 and Ableton. It's so simple - so funny - nearly like a game. It will make you smile as it's entertaining to mess around with - even for grown ups.


The EKKO Festivalen is both an music and an art festival. The Mayhem Machine falls into the latter category.

And really, who in their right mind cannot simple fall in love with a machine which have a Really Big Button with the word "Reset" printed on it? Who cannot fall in love with a machine with an old fashioned chaos-joy-stick? Who cannot fall in love with a machine that will record your voice, and play it back just at the right moment? There is even a scratchpad! Wheeee!

The Mayhem Machine in all it's glory, programmed by myself :-)When I saw the machine, I immediately fell in love with the concept, as this interface form factor is something I myself have been contemplating creating a variant of using a microcontroller (Arduino) and another microcontroller (another Arduino) to make the sounds. Animations are not on my radar - too messy, too complex. Not to create an art piece, but rather that I really love to se how far I can take the Arduino platform.

I was really not very surprised when Marieke told me that there was in fact an Arduino running the interface, and then hooked up to a computer.

The Mayhem Machine is really a loopy sequencer which can either play a sequence of 3 x 12 concurrent sounds or play 3 x 12 sound bites after each other. So maybe this is really a mongrel between a sequencer and a pre-programmed synthesizer. Anyway, the machine is really loveable, and is best played when there are no EKKO events going on, as EKKO events have a loudness to them. One thing the machine also does is it plays a small animation when the sequencer hits an enabled button - or 3 animations if 3 buttons are enabled at the same time. And the scratchpad - making havoc. And the joy-stick. Wow! Yes! Behaving exactly as I saw my own device. However, the Mayhem Machine is so much better than what I had planned! It has really good animations synced to the sound bites. Fortunately - or maybe really unfortunately for me - I do not have to create my own inferior version now (maybe I should do it after all, just to be able to wrangle the Arduino platform once more).

The super-duper cool thing about this machine is that it must be played like an instrument - letting the user enable sound and animations at the right moment. Actually, if you spend some time with the machine - getting to know the sounds and animation - it is really not that difficult to use it to tell a story with the aid of visual animations alongside its own sound track.

9 days after my first encounter with the machine, I was lucky to get to really spend a small hour and play around all by myself in a very quiet environment. Oh boy! This is really cool - it's even cooler than using my APC-40 and Ableton. It's so simple - so funny - nearly like a game. It will make you smile as it's entertaining to mess around with - even for grown ups - which brings me to a pet peeve of mine: Does art really need to be non-playable-funny-hahaha?

Marieke paying close attention to Jonah playing the machine.When having a couple of beers with Marieke and a friend of mine, we discussed this. Marieke postulated that she would not be taken seriously as an artist as long as what she created made people smile. If this is really true - then the "art establishment" can go f* themselves. If we look at art as a vehicle to entertain people, isn't is better to have something that can be playable-funny-hahaha, rather than something Really, Really Serious that you, per definition, because it's "serious art", must agree to being "good", even if you really, really, do not understand sh*t, nor find the piece giving you any feeling, but it's presented in an established art gallery, so therefore it must be good, actually, much like this sentence. Got it? [Yeah - got it. You're talking about electric turnips now? - Dave]

Example of "serious art": This summer I finally got to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Go there, if only to experience the big iron installations. Most, if not all, of the upper floor was dedicated to Yoko Ono. A lot of cool and interesting things to look at - and you could even play around with some of the installations. HOWEVER, there was also a green apple on a pedestal, with a sign saying "green apple". WTF?! "Serious art". And, I was nearly thrown out when I wanted to take a picture of the green apple on a pedestal. So because of the name Yoko Ono and because I was nearly thrown out, this must be serious art then? Another example - I invite 10 friends to bring everyday objects (like a tea pot, a mug, a bucket, etc) and put these on pedestals of various heights I will not be taken seriously. However, when the same objects and pedestals are found at the Guggenheim in Bilbao - it's serious art.

Given that this really is the norm as of 2014, I'd rather have any work by Marieke than a green apple by Yoko Ono. If the Mayhem Machine is any indication of the quality of the works that Marieke creates, I will forever value those more than whatever Yoko Ono may put at the Guggenheim. On a pedestal.

Lucky for me I have not grown up completely yet, and can really enjoy Marikes Mayhem Machine on it's own terms.
 

 
Main picture: Close up of the Mayhem Machine.
First picture: The Mayhem Machine in all it's glory, programmed by myself :-)
Second picture: Marieke paying close attention to Jonah playing the machine.





permalink: permalink -- -- tagged: • Marieke Verbiesen • EKKO Festivalen • Mayhem Machine 
Rate this article: 4.5 2



Dave 29.10.14 18:12
posted by: Dave

"Because the thing about modern art is: how do you know if it's any good? You've got a representative piece of modern art, say a skull with some crispy pancakes stuffed into the eyesockets. How do you know if you should like it or not? It's all about the title. If it's called something pretentious, like 'The Death of Love', it's bad art. If it's called something honest, like 'Skull with pancakes', that's it, that's perfect." - Dylan Moran
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