I’ve been working for the past few months on a new performance installation with the always wonderful Alex Davis. Our proposed project combines Alex’s sculptural work (seen below), with an interactive pneumatics system that is digitally controlled, and interactive through audience participation.

My apartment is quickly filling with all sorts of pneumatic actuators and solenoids (seen in first image at top) and I’ve had to learn a lot of new things about constructing this sort of system pretty quickly.

This image (directly above) is of the controller system. Using a 16 channel mechanical relay unit connected to an Arduino to control electrical signals sent to individual solenoids, which, when activated, will alter the flow of air through the pneumatic system.

I was running the Arduino from my laptop, using a simple interface to let me manually trigger each relay channel. However, we’re working on developing a solution that will provide a locally host web interface that will allow users to log onto the system with their iPhones or Android devices, present a simple interface, and offer some meaningful options for interaction with the piece and the performers.

I should mention that the combination of these pneumatic elements with Alex’s sculptures is taking the form of pneumatic arms attached to his sculptures… which I’ve come to think of as cocoons. When the pneumatic actuators move, they push and pull the cocoons, as well as the bodies of the performers within.

My hope is to be able to host such a system on a Raspberry Pi, although there still needs to be a fair amount of testing to vet the system for stability.

The hardware in the image is mounted onto a polycarbonate sheet, which works great. It cuts clean, it’s easy to drill thru and mount to, and it looks super sleek in person. I’m hoping to create a polycarbonate box to mount all of this hardware inside. More on that soon.