Saturday, September 15, 2007

[Robodock] Kevin Mathieu's Field Notes

Heavy weather lies ahead for the crew and RoboDock for Monday to Wednesday. Despite the expected storm ahead crew has had clear sailing so far with machines re-assembly and prop creation. The 5 days delay allowed us to wash down and vacuum the entire shop floor area ( which is really nice considering its previous condition of piles of dust and droppings). As well as get four large new props created from scratch.

Image from Kevin Mathieu

Time is not wasted here; it is pinned down and wrestled to the ground, so every moment can be held accountable for its output.

SRL is ensconced in its lock down fenced compound inside the NDSM ship building in Northern Amsterdam, a free ferry ride from Central Train Station. Our fencing and attitude amuses the events organizers, other artists, and instills a sense of defined space in comparison to the other groups. Plus discourages distracting lookee loos.

With several of us sleeping with the machines every night, we have control of our environment from those tempted with thoughts of pilfering or sabotage. Elsewhere at RoboDock a German crew lost a brand new welder, so we know we are not being paranoid, simply sensible in a foreign clime.

The night guards know us live in watchers, and cautiously approach due to rumors of the mad Americans being armed with home made projectile devices. I can not confirm or deny.

Todays (Sat Sept 15th) arrivals include David Gessel and Carolyn Anhalt, plus Kent Cates's partner Rebecca. Rebecca brought Peets coffee to fuel the crew. As a backup David and Carolyn have brought some beans as well, plus a nice little ethernet switch to sort out an irritating internet connectivity issue. Really long ethernet runs in this huge building do not make happy packets.

Currently the V-1 is fueled and nearly ready to go. Nina and Liam have been the core team forking in every little and large V-1 segment, assembling up all of the dozens of bolts, wires and connectors.

The Running Machine and Inchworm are almost done.

Mark Pauline has kept the big picture open and clarified the details on every bit of minutiae on machine assembly, operation, manufacturing, and of course concept for many of the new big props. You can see Mark everywhere from vacuuming up the floor with other crew members, to teaching new tool tricks to old and new dogs on the crew. It is a real privilege and pleasure for all to work with a pro like what we joke as Grandpa Mark. He is why we all work so many hours and put our utter best into all we do. Mark has done that and seen that, is cool and mellow about his experience, then makes and teaches something new to all of us everyday by example and interaction so that we all gain and become better in art, direct experience, or spirit.

Image from Nina Alter

David Gessel with an hour of arrival stared sorting out the Shock Wave cannon. Already assembled 90%, its the last 10 percent requiring his MIT fine tuning for the controller. Within 3 hours it had its' first test. Many of the crew stood less then 10 meters away to enjoy its sound wave impact for the 5 or so test ( which we were
kinda not suppose to do due to the glass skylights). The reverberations echoed off the building for minutes. This is the sort of stuff we live for.

The Screw Machine's electronics are being a tad wonky but Michael Shiloh, just one of our master circuit board wiz's should be sorting it out soon. He also sorted out the potentiometer for the Hovercraft. Now the new ones are in their happy place, ready to rotate the pulse jets to Marks delight.

Image from Ulrika Andersson

Kent Cates and Joanne Bloomfield assembled the Inchworm with all its very heavy bones and tight pin connectors. It is tricky and tight tolerance rigging to get the heavy bones into place just right. Joanne has also been busy with a very cool, super secret prop surprise for the show. No pics so come to the show for the birth of this one time work of art.

Kent, as house electrician, has setup the power grid and transformers that juices this crew. We suck the electrons down. From drying our clothes with an 30K BTU theater in the container, to the grinders and welders, prop motors, work lights, the Chinese Mill, laptops and much more.

Greg Jones, the designated SRL VIP tour guide, last night discovered that the local massive shipbuilding crane out front ( the last of 4, three have blown down) is being held up by just four thick roller bolts. A kinda sketchy weak point for all that weight. No one wonders why this crane is scheduled to come down in three years. Which will be sadly missed as it looms, beckons, and teases us all to be scaled.

Other then investigating the local machinery Greg Jones created 2 new props. Both are heavy duty loud. If the 6 jet engines weren't reason enough to have ear plugs and ear muffs for the show, these two props will justify your preshow purchase of industrial-strength hearing protection. Locally, ear muffs are 10 euros ( get the 30 db or highest rated, if possible).

Image from Kevin Mathieu

Babalou has been doing what she does best, producing the show, running interference and translation between crew and show organizers needs. The crew may be the fluid of the SRL body, but she is the nervous system that keeps the body out of danger from odd impulses and filters out extraneous inputs.

Image from Nina Alter

Ulrika Andersson, despite a broken rib ( she blames Jack Daniels for the injury tho some suspect a Base Jump gone awry), is the stellar everywhere wrencher and electrician. Easily spotted in industrial yellow ear muffs, has been getting old school with installing servomotors instead of basic stamp boards for controlling the Screw Machine. Beyond this project, she has a 4 column hand drawn spreadsheet to track the power needs ( electrical and fuel) plus current status for the various machines. A truly mission critical, but somewhat tedious task.

Liisa Pine has been finishing touches and upgrades for Mr. Satan, improving the little arm hydraulic manifold, welding up numerous props, and much more. It is rumored that she will be getting the prestigious Worker of the Day award from the RoboDock organizers.

The highly sought prize, may mean she gets to jump to the head of the line for chow at the mess hall. It is either that, or a gift certificate for a local Amsterdam "coffehouse". SRL workers only want to work, so we know which she would pick if granted the award. Going offsite for anything but sleep and parts is rarely sanctioned. This is not a tourism trip to see the sights and irritate the locals, it is much better, they come to us and we amuse and irritate them from our side of the fence compound. Then the show happens and we become the tourist trap.

Liam has been up to trouble in the neighborhood of the V-1, the Dual Mule, props development (which all give him props for), a crafty little tool caddy (out of desk drawer) , and much more.

The V-1, Pulse Jets, and Screw Machine won't be tested indoors, due to concerns of the glass skylights. It is believed that large glass shards falling from 80 feet above on to the compound might slow down work. Work slow down is not allowed at what Babalou and a few old timers jokingly call "Slave Research Laboratories". So those machines head outdoors Monday for a test.

Image from Nina Alter

Mark Pauline is on site every day at 8 am and here til 1:30 or 2 AM every day. His early arrival was a bit of an issue for the local festival management last week since they didn't unlock the building until 9 am.

The solution? His camper was moved indoors to the compound. The disadvantage was that he was locked in at night with the machines, food, bathrooms, and a net connection. What more could one ask for? Wart, our local official liaison between us and RoboDoc keeps us in touch with the stuff we need in materials or equipment. His Dutch rockabilly style and deep manufacturing knowledge keeps us feeling good that we got the right person to connect us to the System. Many of us are rather attached to his British offroad forklift. Some of the crew might be scheming to borrow it somehow ( can we expand the container?) to bring it back to the US to play. Doubtful, but you gotta have a dream.

Image from Kevin Mathieu

Shannon O'Hare has built a fantastic little casa to watch over the site at night. Soon to be fork lifted onto our container as a nightwatch tower. It is hoped he will have better luck avoiding the mosquitos then I did the other night.

The Wedge, half machine / half prop by Shannon and Kimric Smythe is a wonder to behold. The Wedge, is, as Michael S says " Fucking Amazing".

Michael Wehner self proclaimed shit stirrer just describes his current focus as Spool Launcher and handyman to many projects including but not limited to the Running Machine and the Hovercraft.

Kevin Mathieu has been seen in the vicinity of many forklift moves of materials, Dual Mule Assembly, container offload, writing and documenting via words and camera ( still and moving), sleeping with the machines, helping out Babalou from losing it, and taking it out on a unlucky native that nearly ran him down. The bastard deserved
getting his hood pounded for being such a dangerous idiot.

Image from Kevin Mathieu

Our hangout has become the Garage bar, an on-site speakeasy with 1 Euro beers that all the artists have been congregating at post work. You gotta love the Dutch for this, if nothing else. And there is much we love about this place, especially the meals. Course the other artists knock off work by an easy 10 pm or right after dinner, we don't roll into the bar til midnight or more likely 2 am for our one
beer and grog a day ration. Or something like that.

Image from Kevin Mathieu

As one Dutch RoboDock artist at the bar said: "Are all you Americans so crazy? ". All at the table simply laughed. Marnix, a Dutch local addition to the crew has demoed his welding and industrial arts skill on the ladder prop as well as elsewhere. An excellent addition to any SRL show. Marnix was brought in by a previous Amsterdam SRL hand (from the 1989 Amsterdam show). Bram and his partner Michelle. Both have been a invaluable resource from generously loaning spare bikes before our container arrived, plus a priceless and essential coffee kettle, to being the runners for the assorted eccentric needs of the crew and machines. Michelle as been Babalou's Dutch right hand man for on site coordination and much more.

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