Obsolescence: it seems inescapable, as generations of old gear are replaced with shiny, new ones. But one person’s discarded electronic trash can be an artist’s electronic treasure.

ReFunct Media is a collaborative to make something out of all that used junk. In parades of strange, twitching machines and orchestras of electronic noise, gear goes from landfill fodder to art stars. The collective effort has made its way from Ireland (Imoca, RuaRed) to France (Gaité Lyrique) to, most recently, Berlin and the LEAP gallery, where we catch up with it in the form of some raucous video documentation. The artists themselves are known experimental creators and musicians and hackers – known, at least, in these parts: Benjamin Gaulon (IE/FR), Niklas Roy (DE), Karl Klomp (NL), Tom Verbruggen (NL) and Gijs Gieskes (NL).

You can see the whole lineup at top, and in the video below – a procession of glitchy gear. The installation was joined in Berlin recently by a series of performances from these artists.

Here’s another view of the ReFunct Media installation.

These works can become performative. TokTek, aka Dutch visual and musical artist Tom Verbruggen, makes twitchy, spastic music, constructing collisions of sound and rhythm from rapid-fire gestures on repurposed joysticks. (I’ve also gotten to enjoy his work at STEIM. Somehow, in this video, it loses something – it’s a crowd-pleasure in person, something about sharing a room with all this nervous sonic energy.)

Tom’s art installation works take on a distinct, but related, character. The whimsical, engaging “Crackle Canvas” is described as part painting, part instrument. It seems something out of Willy Wonka’s studio, an interconnected sound toy that whistles and clicks and sucks up recorded sound, chattering and conversing with itself.

A crackle-canvas is a painting that produces sound. It contains a circuitboad, speaker, knobs, switches, wood and canvas. Each one makes sounds by itself but can be connected through cables (patchedd) with other crackle-canvasses. This way the paintings start to reach to each other.

The artists’ description:

“ReFunct Media” is a multimedia installation that (re)uses numerous “obsolete” electronic devices (digital and analogue media players and receivers). These devices are hacked, misused and combined into a large and complex chain of elements. To use an ecological analogy they “interact” in different symbiotic relationships such as mutualism, parasitism and commensalism.

Voluntarily complex and unstable, “ReFunct Media” isn’t proposing answers to the questions raised by e-waste, planned obsolescence and sustainable design strategies. Rather, as an installation it experiments and explores
unchallenged possibilities of ‘obsolete’ electronic and digital media technologies and our relationship with technologies and consumption.

ReFunct Catalog [PDF]

Well, it certainly keeps the toxic e-waste out of the landfill — good — though I suppose you can’t call it quite green. LEAP tells me that when they switched on this giant assemblage of gear, it did suck up a lot of electricity. But while the artists claim they aren’t making a direct statement about e-waste, the revelation that things can be used and don’t have to be tossed is a profound one. “Awareness” is an overused words and doesn’t always solve problems, but it could transform this one.

Here’s another view of the installation and gallery opening:

And in another instance of repurposing gear, performances by “The Society for Nontrivial Pursuits” engaged in their own form of up-cycled musicality, a bit like the adventures of various Handmade Music evenings around the world – and many of the other artists we’ve written up here on CDM.

LEAP presents a performance evening from The Society for Nontrivial Pursuits (Alberto de Campo, Hannes Hoelzl, and students, alumni and associates of the class Generative Art / Computational Art at UdK Berlin, and others) explore the possibility of spaces of complex systems for experimental performance. They freely combine repurposed elements like analog synthesizers, game controllers, sensors and software with self-built/designed/written hard and soft components.

More from the artists – many with extensive galleries and showcases of work in which you could easily lose yourself…

http://www.recyclism.com/ (Benjamin Gaulon)