We be Cyborgs!

KIKK, Namur, Belgium / October 2013
in collaboration with Kati Hyyppä

“A cyborg, short for ‘cybernetic organism’, is a being with both organic and artificial parts.”
[ Wikipedia ]

KIKK invited Kati and me to give a workshop in Namur around the theme “Next Utopia”. We were free to make what we wanted, and decided that it would be cool to transform ourselves into cyborgs! The workshop space was also ideal for reaching the next level of human development: A Renaissance style, empty church full of divine iconography.

The workshop in the Eglise Notre-Dame de Namur

Regarding the cyborg building materials, we decided to leave computers and electronics out. Instead, we relied on post-apocalyptic plastic trash from one Euro shops, some medical gear and plenty of useful things from the hardware store around the corner:

Piles of plastic everywhere

We spread piles of the inspiring materials on the church floor, and the participants started to sketch their cyborg ideas.

Martin and Xavier sketch the mechanism for their graffiti exoskeleton

Soon after the first plans emerged, building began. Once again, hot glue and cordless drill proved to be tinkerer’s best friends. Here we see Hugo working on his cyborg gear for surviving in a hostile environment:

Hugo and the hot glue

One of his wearable devices enables shooting a magnet attached to a string. After shooting, he can use a crank from a fishing rod to pull objects caught with the magnet towards him. This is useful, for instance, when shopping tomato cans in a supermarket. Already the first tests showed that the shooting works well:

Time for shooting a magnet!

After three days of hard work, all parts of Hugo’s rather complex construction were brought to perfection. Equipped with his new superpowers, he’s now able to:

  • shoot a magnet and return it
  • find light very precisely with a strand of optic fiber connected to his right hand index finger
  • absorb liquids with his right hand pinky (he has to operate a toy pump to do so, though)

This impressed us a lot and we wish Hugo good luck – we strongly believe that he’ll survive any challenging circumstances in the uncertain future!

Hugo fully equiped

Drinking and liquids were also Camille’s main inspiration when she decided to transform herself into a drink dispensing Bar-Borg! She has built a glamorous wearable contraption with which visitors can play a special kind of roulette: Two modified ashtrays generate a random price for a random drink on the push of a button. Based on the results, she serves the surprise drink directly out of the reservoirs inside her shiny backpack.

Camille as Bar-Borg

Here’s the inside of the chrome mannequin backpack revealed: With the air pressure of two hand pumps, Camille can tap five different drinks. No need for thirsty throats on planet Next Utopia.

The shiny mannequin backpack

With a strong vision of an audiophile future, Yordi and Sam developed their sonic cyborg system. Powered by the walking steps of its host organism, the mechanical music machine produces stereophonic sounds. This instant symphony of random tones and rattles is transmitted from the backpack directly into the ears via a set of transparent hoses.

Pling-Plong makes the cyborg

You can listen to a sound sample of this cyborg while watching the gif:

A graffiti painting exoskeleton was the fruit of Martin’s and Xavier’s hard work. Mostly built out of PVC pipes, this lightweight construction moves a spray can in 3.5m height on a rope controlled x-y plotter mechanism. Tagging up the hood in unreachable heights? No problem with this rig!

Spray can and plastic pipes

The simple technique of connecting the pipes with hot air and tie wraps was strongly inspired by Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests ( in this video you can see Jansen’s tie wrap construction technique quite well ). And as the result shows: Three days of sweating in the blazing breeze of the hot air gun paid certainly off for Xavier and Martin.

The finished graffiti exoskeleton

Here we see the exoskeleton in action:

Martin tags the hood

But Kati and me have also not been lazy! In preparation of the workshop, we built already two cyborg constructions in Berlin. Kati wanted to have an instant rainbow machine:

Kati makes her own rainbows!

And I built a head level extender for myself:

One head taller thanks to modern technology

You can read all about our constructions in this earlier blogpost.

And here’s all of us again in a spectacular group shot:

Cyborg invasion

We have also uploaded plenty more hires photos of the workshop [CC BY 3.0 licensed]. You can find them all here.

Zoltan Papdi, a local photographer from Namur, discovered our activities and shot a set of very nice photos, too. It also coveres Julien Maire’s Mechatronic workshop which happened in parallel at the same spot.

Thanks again to Marie du Chastel from KIKK for organizing this three days of awesome experience!

And we also thank the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles for generously sponsoring this workshop, which was part of their Quinzaine Numérique.

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