The Aerographer



The Aerographer maps the air to raise fragile grounds. In times of ubiquitous technological mediation and accelerated uncertainty, borders among territories and boundaries among bodies do not endure nor cease to evaporate. What is it like to live in airlike times, when everything is transparent, and no ground lingers? The Aerographer is both a system and an individual, trapped on groundless air, seeking to sustain a place inside of the clouds.


What have you made?

The Aerographer is a kinetic and interactive installation that reacts to subtle changes of the air. It consists of modular measuring units of airspeed that convert the differential measurements among themselves to linear motion, which shifts retractable lines that spatially inscribe a space in constant motion.

As part of a research of the gaseous state of matter as Zeitgeist, the artwork deals with the narrative of the "Aerographer", an individual that lives in a time of profound uncertainty, whom maps the air to sustain hers/his own place during unstable times. The installation is mounted as if the Aerographer has raised it, while walking in serendipity within a place, finding points of reference to measure, assembling standing points for observation, and connecting the raising differences to graph a space that persists on uncertainty.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

Inside several media theories and philosophical texts that deals with media and technology of the past couple of decades, the metaphor of the "liquid" (and its variations) has a predominance to describe the state of fluidity and uncertainty of our current times. The initial inspiration came from studying the reasons behind such metaphor, and than further asking the question: what if such "liquid" has already changed its state, and we are already living or approaching "gaseous" times?

By multiplying such questioning with our current global tensions on borders among territories, transparency among ubiquitous technologies, and the even more unclear boundaries among thoughts and disciplines, I started to develop the idea of the gaseous state of matter as Zeitgeist and analyse the paradigms it would carry.

What is the original idea behind this project?

To grasp key physical and phenomenological aspects of the gaseous state of matter, and extrapolate them to a tangible and perceivable dimension, tracing their connections to the previously mentioned paradigms by means of a narrative setting.
The artwork, in the end, deals with the idea of the "Aerographer", an individual that lives in a time of profound uncertainty between what is and what isn't, what is virtual and what is actual, what is digital and what is analog, what is knowledge and what is speculation, what is inside territory and what is outside territory, what is the self and what is the other. This individual would thus be living in what I call "airlike times", in a groundless space of uncertainty and change. The resulting installation is what the Aerographer performs while searching for an orientation in such chaotic cloud: the graphing of a territory of fragile shifting existence, sustained by the air, serving as a new basis for thought and living.

How does it work?

The installation reacts to subtle changes of airflow. Each module contains a PCB with a stand-alone Arduino Uno running on the fixed center part, and has one to three fixed probing parts. Each probing part works as a disassembled hot-wire anemometer, grasping constantly micro changes of temperature between itself and the center to measure airspeed. In between them, a node travels by converting the measured airspeed difference into mechanical linear motion, which shifts retractable bands that can be connected to other nodes. A map thus unfolds, from a tree-like structure of fixed parts, to a networked kinetic map of differential measurements in motion.

How long did it take to make it real?

The first part took around six months of sporadic and discontinuous research to build the concept, as well as test and prototype different ideas. The second part took around four months of continuous effort to design, develop, produce, and document the work.

How did you build it?

The project was extensively prototyped with Arduino-based basic electronic components. Bellow, a list with the main parts and production techniques used on the production of the installation.

Electronics - Processing:
- PCBs, produced by laser cutting on painted copper plates and DIY etching.
- Arduino Uno (stand-alone with an ATmega328p microcontroller).

Electronics - Sensing:
- Custom hot-wire anemometers, developed with inexpensive 1N4148 diodes working as temperature sensors.
- PCBs to hold the sensor parts.

Electronics - Actuation:
- Stepper motor drivers: DRV 8825.
- NEMA 17 stepper motors.

Physical construction:
- Custom 3D Printed white ABS pulleys and PLA holders, small cases and adaptors.
- Custom laser cutted cases of white and transparent acrylic plates.
- Custom retracting bands, made by grinded metric retracting bands enclosed on a 3d printed case.
- Standard ball bearings, steel cables, threaded rods, nuts, and aluminum tubes.