Hackers tackle domestic devices

image captionThe haunted typewriter knows you are watching and lets you know how it feels

A haunted typewriter and the live corruption of a classic video game are part of an art exhibition deconstructing everyday objects.

Called Unleashed Devices, it features work by artists and hackers who take mundane objects as their medium.

By hacking the objects, the artists give them new life or help them shed light on our relationship with gadgets.

Many of the artists use social media as a way to engage the audience and turn spectators into collaborators.

"Participation is really important because for many of the artists in this show, their installations become alive or start to exist only when the audience interacts with them," said Irini Papadimitriou, co-curator of the exhibition at Brentford's Waterman's Gallery.

One such installation that invites interaction is by Tine Bech called Catch Me Now. It couples a narrow spotlight with a movement sensor that directs the light to always move away from those it detects unless they leap into its centre.

Then the light becomes a broad spotlight and encourages a spectator to perform by playing music and putting on a light show.

Hack here

Ms Papadimitriou stressed that the show was not about computer-based art but centred on actual objects that had been hacked or augmented by the artists, makers and enthusiastic amateurs taking part.

"There are people with different backgrounds," she said. "There are people who work as engineers and there are a lot of techies and people that did not start as artists but got that art background later."

Featured in the show is a work by Dave Griffiths that features the progressive destruction of a version of the classic video game Missile Command. The game is gradually changed into something unplayable and non-functional by its core code being re-written in real time.

image captionThe iLog - in the hands of hackers familiar devices are transformed

Other installations include a work called Real Virtuality which sees its creator Peter Forde connected to a game controller via a Bluetooth headset. Press the movement buttons and he will walk in that direction.

Via the action buttons he can be made to bow, wave, give a high-five or a thumbs-up gesture.

In his experience, people stop just short of being cruel when they are controlling him - but he has been put into some awkward situations when made to walk up to policemen or people who are much larger than he is.

"I can generally tell, when I see their smiles, that they are enjoying controlling me," he said.

The Haunted Typewriter literally gives life to an 80-year-old typewriter by fitting it with an ultrasonic sensor and fitted with solenoids attached to 30 of its keys so it can tap out messages when people get close.

Anthony Goh, co-creator of the Haunted Typewriter with Neil Mendoza, said they had given it a personality that matched its age.

Messages it types includes "What are you seeking?", "Please leave me alone" and "Seriously, I'm not in the mood to talk right now".

"It's generally baffled or grumpy," said Mr Goh who was keen to identify himself as a hardware hacker rather than an artist.

"To call stuff art is to try and put a label on it," he said. "You can see a lot of the people here have just had a lot of fun just playing with devices, hacking, just seeing what they can do."

"Sometimes they do it for no real higher purpose but just for the joy of it," he said.

Unleashed Devices is on at the Waterman's Gallery until 22 October.

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