What are 65 hackers, makers, artists, musicians and other techno-explorers doing in the middle of the Slovenian Alps?
In order to understand PIFcamp, we need to meet the PIFcampers. This annual summer camp nestled in the mountains of Slovenia held its 8th edition from July 31 to August 6 in joyful anarchy. Following just a few rules in good practice to ease the flow, the participants themselves made up the program of workshops, solo or collaborative projects, shows and jam sessions. Makery met most of them one by one: Who’s-who, part 2.
Theun Karelse : memory palace IRL
“I’m interested in how tech influences nature,” says Theun. As PIFcamp is an ideal location for this, he is developing two projects. The first is a device that vibrates on the frequencies of animal cries (whale, bee, tiger…) and that you place on your vocal chords in order to “feel what it’s like to feel the animal’s voice”. The second project is an experiment on the way indigenous peoples integrate their knowledge into the environment. “Knowledge has been preserved for 8,000 years,” he explains. “One of the famous examples is an aboriginal song that describes a path: as you walk, you pass through an inventory of knowledge.” It’s a physical memory palace, which “exists for everybody”. In the formidable Soča valley, it’s Theun’s chance to build his own palace.
Vivian Hernandez and David Unland: political/poetic water
What if the star of PIFcamp – the cold, hypnotizing Soča river, could produce energy? Such was the premise for Vivian Hernandez and David Unland, both with degrees in digital arts from University of the Arts Bremen in Germany. Vivian, a Colombian artist, is interested in water in general and dams in particular from a feminist and decolonial approach (she gave a “walkshop” around the splendid Lake Krn). David is interested in transforming nature and landscapes into sensory signals. They spent all week creating a watermill to generate electricity that they will then convert into sound. “I like the simplicity of this project,” concludes David.
Miha Godec, Žiga Pavlovič and Gabriela Filipović: capturing water
Miha, Žiga and Gabriela also captured the power of water. The team filmed the Soča gorges with a drone and used photogrammetry to create a topographic 3D model. “The idea was to take an element of nature and digitize it,” explains the media artist Miha. In parallel, he is developing a sound installation made of 3D-printed “guggle jugs” for Ars Electronica. “Fast-running water produces a sound that is similar to white noise,” he says. “This sound has pacifying properties, because it cancels out all the other frequencies.”
Bernhard Rasinger: PIFcamp power
Bernhard knows the space and the space knows Bernhard. This year is his sixth as PIFcamp’s electrician, but he may as well be a PIFcamper for life – he made the post that distributes electricity to the various posts around the campsite. Before his installation, all the electricity was distributed through a single channel. “When someone heated up their coffee, it could have blown a fuse,” he recalls. Now, the camp’s electricity is supplied by three different channels.
This year, he is working on the latest iteration: a counter to quantify and raise awareness of PIFcampers’ electricity consumption. He also performed a synesthetic and hypnotizing laser show using an analogue oscillator. His expert advice? “Dive into the water, literally and metaphorically.” Given the water temperature of the river, we prefer the metaphor.
Vaclav Peloušek: rehabilitating autotune
“I want to show you that autotune can be really cool, not just annoying,” Vaclav begins. As a designer of synthesizers in the company that he co-founded (Bastl Instruments) and singer-songwriter stage-named Toyota Vangalis, Vaclav is another PIFcamp regular. “I only missed the first edition,” he says. Since 2019, he has been developing his own autotune device, a hyper-personalized microphone that he can use to modulate his voice through various finger combinations, “like a trumpet”. “Autotune was liberating for me and enabled me to finish my projects,” he says. This year, he added an oscillator that allows him to control the modulations by moving the mic and a function to double his voice. A heartfelt project brought to us by the talented Toyota Vangalis.
Simon Turnšek, Jakob Grčman and Vaclav Peloušek: the 8th sense
Founded by Vaclav Peloušek as part of a Projekt Atol and konS project, OctoSens began as a community project but now aims to produce a commercial product. For the second straight year, Simon and Jakob are working on iterations of this synthesizer, which can be integrated into a modular synthesizer or stand alone, especially for workshops. OctoSens’s goal is to “offer the possibility of introducing the real world through sensors” by converting the signals of 8 sensors into soundwaves. Following participant feedback, Simon, Jakob and Vaclav simplified their workshop. “We used and abused the photographer [Simão Bessa],” jokes Jakob. At PIFcamp more than anywhere else, unity is strength.
Maggie Kane: data organizer
Another PIFcamp regular, creative hacker and founder of Streetcat Media, Maggie (whom we interviewed last year) explores new ways to archive data outside of commercial platforms. “Building an online community is difficult, and it can collapse as soon as it’s built,” she says, citing the example of MySpace. In order to bypass censorship, dictatorship by algorithms and copyright issues, Maggie is going analogue. In “Fuck Instagram”, her very arts&crafts workshop, she presents tampons, stickers, Polaroids, notebooks and other creative ways to store ideas.
Julien Bellanger: ghost radio
Co-founder of PING and head of development at Radio Jet FM, a radio station in Nantes where he fosters creative sound projects, Julien walks around the camp with his mic capturing ambient soundscapes. His recordings will later be presented on Makery and Radio Jet FM. Julien also gave a workshop on our relationships with machines and with the ghosts inside them. “PIFcamp neighbors a cemetery, where there are hundreds of ghosts,” he points out. “It recalls the history of radio, when we thought it allowed us to communicate with the dead.” He invited participants to imagine their ghost double, its symbolism and its powers, in the form of a Pokémon card. A pop workshop that can reveal a lot.
Eva Debevc, Nastja Ambrožič, Jakob Grčman and Simon Gmajner: space lichen
For Adriana Knouf, it’s another miss. “This is the third year that I haven’t been able to go to PIFcamp, for one reason or another,” she says from the other side of the screen, livestreamed from her residence in Copenhagen. Nonetheless, the American artist found friendly proxys in the Kersnikova Institute team in Ljubljana. After wanting to go into outer space, flagship of the transgender community (we interviewed her last year about this project), Adriana has decided to send plants instead, and lichen in particular.
At PIFcamp, the multidisciplinary lichen team developed an observation device that can be deployed directly in nature. “In preparing for the camp, I couldn’t find any literature on lichen,” says Eva, a young biologist and junior mentor at Kersnikova Institute. “One of the reasons is that lichen grows really very slowly, sometimes one centimeter per year. Time is a real obstacle.” Using environmental sensors, a camera and a cellular module connected to a Raspberry Pi, the team automatically receives and saves the data.
Taking advantage of their natural camp setting, the four DIY scientists set out in search of lichen in order to take photos, identify and document the specimens. The task proved unexpectedly difficult. “We will need more time to explore this world,” they confess.
Léa Mainguy: technological experimentations
A fine arts graduate from Brest, Léa is “totally new to this type of environment”. While she has participated in collective residencies before, it’s the first time she has found herself surrounded by people “with solid skills in tech, coding, hacking… nerds”. The pluridisciplinary artist used this sharing environment to enrich her project, a sound installation made from scrap metal she collected in her city. She also experienced live coding in front of an audience for the first time. “Everyone is here to help, there is no judgment,” she says with a smile. That’s the PIFcamp spirit.
Nature concert, potato battery, drunk robot… more PIFcampers and projects in our Who’s-who Part 1
Read our article on PIFcamp 2022
More on PIFcamp
PIFcamp is part of the Feral Labs network and the cooperative project Rewilding Cultures co-funded by the Europe Creative programme of the European Union.