Intention Machines Exhibit

•February 28, 2015 • 1 Comment

Kay Miller Whirling Dervish

Kay Miller Whirling Dervish



UNTIL MAY 30, 2015

248 Utah St, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 399-1439


“We have run in fear from the San Francisco mad-scientist’s widely acclaimed fire-ensconcing robotic art, which brought us too close to the dystopian realities of our real world–where art and life collide in anxiety-provoking, sensory rabbit-holes in which technology and terror machines run amok.”

CHRIS JOHANSON AND TOM GREENWOOD closed out the events part with a wonderful afternoon of sounds…..on Saturday May 23, 2015.

On Thursday, May 14, from 5 – 7 pm, Spelletich and Alistair Shanks, a Buddhist chaplain who has worked with the Zen Hospice Project and in the San Francisco County Jail system, will give a talk entitled, “”Robots and Mystical Transformations: Can technology help us address spiritual questions and crises?” An electric array of music DJ’d by Shanks and Spelletich will follow.  The exhibit will close on Saturday, May 23 with a musical performance from 3 – 5 pm featuring Spelletich’s robots, as well as Bay Area painter, street artist and performer Chris Johanson who will make a special guest appearance at the turntables. Musician and sound artist Tom Greenwood will collaborate with Spelletich experimenting with sounds produced from the robots to produce a soundscape with Johanson.

San Francisco, CA: Catharine Clark Gallery is pleased to announce our first solo exhibition of the work of Kal Spelletich.  On view April 11 – May 23, 2015, Kal Spelletich: Intention Machines will feature approximately seven robotic sculptures, each representing an actual person influential in Spelletich’s life and artistic career.  Several photographs of the sun which Spelletich took with a digital camera modified with various apparati will also be presented as part of the exhibit.  A video documentary and paraphernalia from the production of Jo Harvey’s performance Hally Lou (1983) will exhibit concurrently in our dedicated media room.  Both artists will be present for the exhibition opening on Saturday, April 11th 2015, from 5 – 7 pm.

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In his capacities as an artist, Zen philosopher, ardent activist, inventor and musician, Kal Spelletich has spent his creative career exploring the powerful possibilities of combining art and mysticism with the rigors of science and technology. Spelletich is well known for his mechanized, fire-ensconcing robotic art, but his latest work leans away from pyrotechnics and towards a spiritual vein.  Intention Machines features seven headless robots— avatars of friends, mentors and heroes who have profoundly influenced the artist’s life.  Each robot is titled for its namesake, and wears unwashed work clothes previously owned and worn by the person embodied by the work. Poet and artist Lawrence Ferlenghetti and Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, are among those represented by Spelletich’s machines. His mechanical models genuflect, clasp hands in prayer and whirl
like Sufi dervishes.  Viewers activate the robots by touching an interface sensor that enables the machine to ‘read’ the viewer, and react with a responsive gesture.  Sensors on the robots are programmed to detect a variety of inputs: proximity, touch, force, breath-alcohol content, polygraph metrics, and ambient sound.  Responses are spontaneous and unique—the robots have no stored memory.  Each of the photographs in the exhibit relates to the same individuals personified by the robotic sculptures.  Spelletich took the photographs with a digital camera modified by a child’s magnifying glass and lenses cannibalized from old slide projectors in an attempt to view the sun in a way one cannot with the naked eye.  Spelletich’s process is very much rooted in his desire to pay homage to his mentors.  The work titled after Martha Wilson was taken while Spelletich was conjuring her during a partial solar eclipse.

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Several special collaborative events will take place as part of Spelletich’s exhibit.  On Saturday, May 2, from 7 – 10 pm,  artMRKT San Francisco will co-host an after-party at Catharine Clark Gallery in conjuction with the art fair festivities at Fort Mason.  Kal Spelletich will join with artist-musicians Scott Hewicker, Alicia McCarthy and Paul Kos for a night of DJ’d music and cocktails poured by Spelletich’s robots.  On Thursday, May 14, from 5 – 7 pm, Spelletich and Alistair Shanks, a Buddhist chaplain who has worked with the Zen Hospice Project and in the San Francisco County Jail system, will give a talk entitled, “”Robots and Mystical Transformations: Can technology help us address spiritual questions and crises?” An electric array of music DJ’d by Shanks and Spelletich will follow.  The exhibit will close on Saturday, May 23 with a musical performance from 3 – 5 pm featuring Spelletich’s robots, as well as Bay Area painter, street artist and performer Chris Johanson who will make a special guest appearance at the turntables.

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Kal Spelletich: Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, Kal Spelletich received his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa, and an M.F.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, both in the field of Media Art.  For 25 years, Spelletich has been exploring the interface of humans and robots, using technology to reconnect people with intense, real-life experiences.  His work is interactive, requiring participants to enter or operate his pieces, often against their instincts of self-preservation.  He probes the boundaries between fear, control and exhilaration by giving his audience the opportunity to operate fascinating and often dangerous machinery.  In 1988, Spelletich founded Seemen, his interactive machine art performance collective.  Since then, he has performed, exhibited and lectured worldwide, collaborating with scientists, musicians, politicians and actors on various projects. Spelletich’s work has been included in numerous museum and gallery exhibitions over the past two decades, including the de Young Museum, SFMOMA, Exploratorium and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; California Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, CA; Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; and Headlands Center for the Arts, Marin, CA. He has also exhibited internationally in Namibia, Germany, Croatia and Austria.  Kal Spelletich lives and works in San Francisco, California.


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Join us for an opening with the artist
on Saturday, April 11
from 5:00-7:00 pm

248 Utah St, San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 399-1439


•September 26, 2014 • 3 Comments



149 Gough Street @ Oak
Opening party November 13, 2014 6-8 P.M.
Jules Maeght Gallery Presents Inaugural Show
November 14, 2014- January 31, 2015
Media Contact : Natasha Boas
(415) 549-7046


Wine Pourerer

The Wine Pourerer In Action


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Sept. 22, 2014 – San Francisco, CA. Jules Maeght, of the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence and Galerie Maeght, Paris, opens his first gallery in Hayes Valley, S.F on November 14, 2014 with the highly anticipated inaugural show “Art in Motion” including works by Pol BURY, Alexander CALDER, Marshall ELLIOTT, Vassily KANDINSKY, Kirstie MACLEOD, Joan MIRÓ, Clovis PRÉVOST, Tracey SNELLING and Kal SPELLETICH.


Inspired by the history of kinetic art in the  collection and the fact that the new gallery is housed in one of San Francisco’s legendary inventor and machine-maker Rube Goldberg’s studios on Gough Street in Hayes Valley, Art in Motion brings together works that explore kinetic art in diverse forms. To celebrate the opening of the new gallery and encapsulating its new program, European modernist will be shown alongside Bay-Area contemporary artists whose practice involves what Calder referred to as “art that lifts figures, colors and scenery off the canvas and proves that art is not rigid”.

Art in Motion, co-curated by Jules Maeght and Natasha Boas, showcases works including video, drawings, paintings, sculptures and photographs, that contain movement, either perceivable by the viewer or that depends on motion for effect. Ranging from three-dimensional sculptures such as Pol Bury’s “Vingt-cinq boules sur dix plans inclinés, 1965” (Twenty-five Balls on Ten Inclined Planes); San Francisco-based artist Kal Spelletich’s new series of poetic wooden machines “Locally Euclidean, 2014”; Oakland-based artist Tracey Snelling’s mixed-media tableau of the Golden Gate Bridge 2012, to Alexander Calder’s ink and gouches on paper from the early 1970s and Vassily Kandinsky’s drawings from 1926, Art in Motion encompasses a wide variety of overlapping techniques and styles from the 20th century through today.

The original Galerie Maeght opened its doors in Paris on December 6, 1945 with an exhibition of drawings Henri Matisse had made during the war, and immediately became the epicenter for modernist artists and writers. Aimé Maeght, the gallery’s founder and a publisher of limited-edition artist books, began his art career in the South of France with his wife Marguerite.
The Maeghts had an unparalleled eye for quality, combined with a skill for nurturing and promoting new art and artists. These essential qualities secured their position as perhaps the most respected and influential advocates for art of their time. From 1946 onwards, such artists as Bonnard, Braque, Calder, Giacometti, Léger, Rouault among many others became part of the gallery.
Seminal exhibitions such as “Le Surréalisme” curated by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp in 1947 changed the course of art history and exhibition-making. In June 2014, the Maeght Foundation in St. Paul de Vence, founded by Marguerite and Aimé Maeght in 1964, and now entrusted to their son Adrien Maeght and his children, celebrated its 50th anniversary showcasing its world-renowned collection which includes some of the most important oeuvres of European Modernists.

Jules Maeght, Adrien’s son, a specialist of art editions and publications, opens his first gallery in San Francisco later in the same year 2014. Pioneering and exploring new vistas, Jules Maeght continues the Maeght family legacy of passion, adventure, and a commitment to artists and creative experimentation in the new Hayes Valley San Francisco gallery. Along with his partner and wife Amelie, the next Maeght generation will work to combine modernist artists alongside contemporary Bay-Area and international artists with provocative and engaging new exhibitions and programs.


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GALLERY LOCATION: 149 Gough St. – San Francisco – CA 94102
GALLERY HOURS: Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 6pm
CONTACT: Amélie and Jules Maeght –

September, 2014 Cologne, Germany

•August 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment


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I am in an exhibit in Cologne at the very cool Robodonian Festival.

I am bringing a new sensor based and trigger robot. It will rebirth another very flammable robot.

See below-




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Here is my proposal;
I propose to build a 3-6 meter tall articulated robot arm, in the manner of an industrial robot, but out of wood and found objects, as well as hardware I will provide. This robot will be positioned in front of a video screen facing the audience with a smaller sculpture between the robot and audience.

Projected onto the screen will be the robot view of the sculpture and audience. The smallish sculpture is made from found objects and branches.

There will be a barrier in front of the entire installation. In front of the barrier is a station with sensors and switches that operate the robot and sculpture. I have some new sensors that read a volunteers touch, heartbeat and skin conductivity, a sort of aura reading.

Volunteers touch copper plate sensors and switches triggering the robot to respond, the robot has a live camera, lights and fire on it pointed at the sculpture as well as the audience, the video image is projected, large, behind the robot. The fire, will of course, be regulated.

The sensors will be able to trigger 3 movements on the robot as well asthe light, laser light, fire, and sound amplified from the robot. Eventually, the small sculpture will catch fire.

So; audience-barrier-sculpture-robot arm-video screen

I hope this makes sense!?
please see enclosed drawing.

Kal Spelletich


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•November 1, 2013 • 2 Comments



A Class I Am Teaching this summer 2014

Sign on UP!

What is the legacy of making transgressive art? How do you make art subverting the dominant paradigms and survive? Stay out of jail? Not break the law? From the Dadaists to Punk Rock, The Diggers to The San Francisco Cacophony Society—we will cover it all in this class. I will lecture on these topics, give assignments, show videos and images, bring in guest artists, and present first-hand anecdotes on this overlooked special genre of contemporary art. There will be a special emphasis on San Francisco practitioners in the field and the recently released book I am featured in and contributed to, Tales of The San Francisco Cacophony Society.












Stanford LASER of 3 april 2014

Stanford Art Institute, Stanford Office of Science Outreach and Leonardo ISAST invite you to the next Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous, an evening of art and science presentations.

When: 3 april 2014 at 6:45pm

Where: Li Ka Shing Center, Room LK120

* Robert Rich (Composer) on “Slow Music in a Manic World”
* Patricia Burchat (Stanford/ Physics) on “What is the Dark Energy in the Universe?”
* Kal Spelletich (Kinetic Artist) on “Interactive art as a catalyst towards an engaged life”
* Sharon Spain (Curator) on “A Nexus For Art & Environmental Activism: Recology Artist Residency Program”

Details, directions, links at


my frankentree

A new Class I am Teaching;

12 Sessions » Wednesdays, January 29–April 23
(no class March 19)
7:30–10:30 pm | Studio 105 several sessions will meet off-site at Kal’s Dogpatch studio | $480

If you know people that might be interested with a 20% off discount, feel free to share the code 7072 with them, which is valid on registrations prior to January 15.

Survive life as an artist with this eclectic, skill-based crash course. You will learn some: installation building, carpentry, home-brewing, guerrilla gardening, electric wiring, robotics, fire-making, fixing things, plumbing, pneumatics, pumps, water purification, high-voltage electricity, video surveillance, electronic interfaces, scavenging for materials, cooking alternatives, solar power, skinning a rabbit, lighting, remote control systems, survivalist contemporary art history, and promoting and exhibiting your art. This class will have local visiting artists. We will incorporate elements of time, process, interactivity, performance, light, space, installation, and video, and we will consider how to realize these practices in a contemporary, conceptual way.

I seem to have a certain critic referencing my class…..

“but it’s also time for grad programs to stress courses in craft and various skills — from blacksmithing to animal tracking,”


I am curating this closing event, it will be real great, this i PROMISE! We will have some very special guests DJing.

Thursday, December 12, 7–10 pm

whiskey pouring machine

whiskey pouring machine


Saturday, November 23, 2013    5:30-7:00 P.M.

Yerba Buena Arts Center

I  will be showing some machines and robots and giving some demonstrations on how and why I build and built them.


Most of my art in 6 minutes and 8 seconds


My career in 1 minute 56 seconds


From a Recent Show at my STUDIO>

mark making with my upside down Gyroscope

gyro on metal


I gave a talk and presentation of my work at UC Berkeley for the Bay Area Science Festival ;

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An Exhibit In Los Angeles

•September 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Brandon With His Head In The Clouds

Here is something.

Helloo All,

I am in a group show in Los Angeles titled “Artifacts of A Life Lived By the Living” ( To Live ), It opens on Saturday September 28, 2013 from 7-9PM at the Craft and Folk Art Museum.

5814 Wilshire Boulevard (at Curson) 

Los Angeles, CA 90036

(323) 937-4230

Admission is $12.00 for the opening, there will be some food and drink and a DJ aaaand my BB-Q’ing action.

The title of my piece is “With Your Head In The Clouds”

It is about the tyranny of busy and in search of a daydream nation.

I will show a video installation of some 50 people daydreaming projected on the ceiling with 5 projectors. As well as a live camera anyone can stand in front of and be projected up with the other dreamers. I will have one of my walking BB-Q’s and will be cooking food on for you all at the opening.

Turns out daydreaming is good for you.

Featured artists: Alex Cohen, Alicia McCarthy, Carmen Papalia, John Ratliff (Swan), Justin “Kutmah” McNulty, Kal Spelletich, Kim MacConnel, Liz Harris, Michael Bernard Loggins, Sue Tompkins

Curated by Chris Johanson, this group exhibition focuses on established and emerging artists who have had to adjust their artmaking practice due to changes in their life condition, such as chronic illness, pollution, detainment, or other experiences that have altered their perceptive and creative abilities.

Artifacts of A Life Lived By the Living ( To Live )

September 28, 2013 – January 5, 2014.


On Monday Sep 23 2013 – 7:30pm

I will be in the house at The Castro Theater in San Francisco, with my Electroshock Whiskey Pouring Machine.

We are having a book release event for a book I am in.


Meanwhile one of my best buddies also has a show in LA, it is spectacular, AND it is free to see it:

Industrial ROBOTICS art PERFORMANCE in San Francisco

•March 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Industrial ROBOTICS art PERFORMANCE in San Francisco

Friday, August, 23, 2011

8:00PM until Midnight

1043 Marin St.,

S.F., Ca. 94124

cross street Illinois St.

General Admission: $10 or what u can pay…

Students and Seniors: $7

Live Audience Experiments with Machines and Robots

WITH! Dj Big Daddy, tip him!


Here is some discussion about my work:

This is a BYOB event, there will be no alcohol served, bring some if you want some, the nearest plaCe is 8 or so blocks away at Reno’s.


From the freeways

Cesar Chavez (Army St.) exit from 101 or I-280  North or South, take Cesar Chavez East, go about a mile from 101, 2 blocks from 280, go through intersection of 3rd St., immediate right onto Illinois St., go one block, building is kitty corner, on your right.

Look for the red light, ya can’t miss it.


South on 3rd. Left on Cesar Chavez, immediate right onto Illinois St., go one block, building is kitty corner, on your right.

Look for the red light, ya can’t miss it.


East on 16th street from Portrero St./the mission, take a right on 3rd., go south a couple of miles, Left on Cesar Chavez, immediate right onto Illinois St., go one block, building is kitty corner, on your right.

Or, go East on Cesar Chavez FROM THE MISSION, go through intersection of 3rd St., take immediate right onto Illinois St., go one block, building is kitty corner, on your right.

Neither Kal Spelletich, KALTEK nor anyone associated with this event shall be held responsible or liable for any LOSS, DAMAGE, INJURY or DEATH arising from any activity organized, sponsored or promoted by Kal or the presenting organization anywhere in the universe, forever.



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And i have stood on the shoulders of giants:



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I am very happy to be in residence at the Arts Benicia Artist in Residency (ABAiR) 

Program for Site- Specific Installation Artists




707 747 0131



991 Tyler street , #114

Benicia, CA 94510

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This Thursday July 18, 6:30-9:00 PM we are hosting a BB-Q with one of my walking BB-Q’s.

Also, I will be shooting short video clips of people “Looking Hopefully Towards The Future”.

The exhibit opens on Saturday August 3, 7-9PM.

I will give an artists talk on Saturday, August 10 1-3PM.

And host a workshop Sunday August 18th, 1-5PM.

Gallery hours are 12-5 PM, Thursday-Sunday

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Hello All,

I am in an exhibit at The NEW Jack Hanley Gallery in NYC.

The show is up from Friday, April 5 until May 5, 2013.

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_ and interesting observation by Chris Cobb:

327 Broome Street

New York, NY 10002 646-918-6824
    hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11am- 6pm
subways: J train to Bowery / B&D trains to Grand Street /

6 train to Spring Street

327 Broome Street
between Chrystie and Bowery

The Exhibit is called Weird Science.

I helped curate the show a little. Putting in V. Vale and Matt Heckert.

Matt Heckert's Flamegun

Matt Heckert’s Flamegun


Space Measurer:

Overview of the show:

Video Of Hunter Thompson Firing Matt Heckert’s Flamegun:

Abstract Laser and Video Images:

Time Monitor



Serving Cocktails

Serving Cocktails

Come on by and I will serve you some laser activated Quinine with gin in it. It’s phosphors turn UV light into visible light making it glow blue.  Phosphors are special substances that emit light (luminescence) when excited by radiation. You can also peruse my Time Monitor and Space Measurers.

TITLE: Time Monitor/Space Measurers

Kal Spelletich provides two machines and photographs having to do with measuring the speed of light and metaphysics. He uses robotics, wood, lasers, alcohol, flowers, surveillance, interferometry and sensors.

It is an attempt to measure, understand and dismantle the fundamental principles of the universe; the ontological and cosmological. Measuring space, time and light waves with a little smoke and mirrors.

Arcus coelestis tempore potest convertere significat temporis spatium.

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The title is taken from the lyrics of the punk band the Minutemen.

Refraction, bending light.

Beam splitting


“Rayleigh Scattering”

Slowing the speed of light

Experimenting, hacking and measuring the speed of light

Recreating the original speed of light tests

Light as a portal to enlightenment.



Here is the full Essay by V. Vale;


Kal Spelletich, Matthew Heckert, V. Vale at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York City.

327 Broome Street, New YorkNY 10002

Because of the lack of a stifling hierarchical, authoritarian, tradition-bound institutional hegemony, California’s Wild West engendered a climate of unprecedented imaginative creativity (the freedom to play, take risks, take chances, and be wild and free) which has almost singlehandedly created the start-up culture of the 21st Century, typified by Apple Computers, Google, FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter, the GoPro videocamera, Burning Man, and other inventions both real and virtual. Silicon Valley and Hollywood created the last fifty years of most of the world’s technological and cultural innovation. (There are a few exceptions, like “Gangnam Style,” but they remain minor. Most of the “Designing of the Future” has sprung from the West Coast.)

Forty years ago the British futurist-visionary J.G. Ballard wrote, “Sex times technology equals the future.” (1972) However, it can be argued that technology in itself changes the future. And that includes the future of all culture, including “art.”

In the last hundred years, the definition of art has expanded almost infinitely. Marcel Duchamp said, “Anything is art if an artist says it is.” Duchamp invented the concept of the “readymade,” which included industrially-manufactured objects such as a urinal, a bicycle wheel and a stool. Simply by titling and autographing them, he made them museum-worthy and valued at probably $1,000,000 or more in today’s dollars. He also helped invent conceptual and performance art: he gave himself a haircut with a star emblazed on top (anticipating ’90s hip-hop stars) and also played chess in public with a naked woman (that was called art, too). His last grand meisterwerk was an installation which could only be viewed through a peephole  in a door (thus rendering the viewer a Peeping Tom or Tomasina) featuring a naked woman, legs spread, holding aloft a lantern in one hand, with a fake stream of water nearby (Freudian symbolism?).


Duchamp came to the West Coast (otherwise known as the Best Coast, the Left Coast, the Free Coast) and quickly adapted to the Wild West pioneering mentality where social pedigrees, privilege, and titular wealth were largely ignored. But much earlier, foreseeing the influence of technology on the future, in 1915 he had begun engineering his precarious “Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even”—a kind of perpetual-motion masterpiece of “useless” technology. Duchamp’s detailed drawings reveal him to be a kind of “weird scientist” decidedly uninterested in anything but the metaphoric, the impractical, the conceptual. Four hundred years earlier, Leonardo da Vinci was producing the same kind of highly detailed “schematic” drawings hinting at a science of poetic alterity, much like Duchamp adumbrated.

Duchamp is now considered the Godfather of 20th Century Conceptual Art and has long been part of the Pantheon of Blue Chip Artists. But most people forget that it was not until 1963, in California, that he was given his very first museum show, by the prescient uber-curator Walter Hopps, at the Pasadena Art Museum.

Walter Hopps almost single-handedly catalyzed the West Coast School of Art which included Ed Kienholz, the first Californian artist to make art out of that singularly American invention, the automobile. Predating Ballard’s “Crash,” Kienholz created an installation titled “‘Back Seat Dodge ’38” which showed a woman in the backseat of the car in some unidentified stage of sexual intercourse. This once-shocking tableau has now been permanently enshrined as a classic work of bona fide art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Again, technology creates the future.

Of course, technology was used in Europe to change the world and bring innovation into culture—think of Gutenberg’s printing press, circa 1436. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Italian Futurists (particularly one Luigi Russolo) created a strange orchestra of music-and-noise-producing machines to honor the industrial age’s contribution to changing the world’s soundtrack by increasing ambient noise decibel levels. The Swiss artist Jean Tinguely began collecting abandoned rusty machinery and fashioning machinery which drew, painted, produced sound and sometimes self-destructed. Some of the machines were grouped into installations which school children could activate. Today there is a Tinguely Museum in Basel, Switzerland.

Flash forward ahead several decades to the birth of the Industrial Culture Movement, most prominently spearheaded by an art company calling itself “Survival Research Laboratories” in context of the beginning of the Seventies Punk Rock Cultural Revolution. Principals Mark Pauline, Eric Werner and Matt Heckert were the mainstay of the anarchic gathering of wayward talents. During this decade, San Francisco had begun its deleterious shift from a manufacturing economy to a service, design and marketing economy, as labor began to be exported overseas by unpatriotic corporations and CEOs. The result was that literally dozens of light machine shops and small factories were abandoned almost overnight, their contents left to attract dust and rust. Sensing that this machinery could be used to make art, the can-do young American mechanical engineers in SRL began breaking in and carting off this detritus. One of them was San Francisco Art Institute student Matthew Heckert, who taught himself welding “outside of class.” Quickly he began fabricating large-scale performance art machines for deployment in city-block-wide outdoor performances accompanied by high-volume weird-musical-collages, which he curated.

A San Francisco Punk Rock publisher named V. Vale (disclosure: that would be me) began publicizing the work and theory of SRL beginning in the last issue of “Search & Destroy” magazine (1979), the first three tabloid issues of “RE/Search,” the “Industrial Culture Handbook,” and two books titled “Pranks” (Volume One and Volume Two). RE/Search also published an early SRL video titled “Menacing Machine Mayhem.” These books reached artists and rebels worldwide. This video, and other videos of these “industrial art machine” performances, began inspiring other artist-engineers all over the world, as well as attracting new talent to pilgrimage to San Francisco and join SRL.

One such innovative artist compelled to join Survival Research Laboratories was Kal Spelletich from Iowa. Mr. Spelletich had managed to find the RE/Search “Pranks” issue and had been so impressed by what he read that he raised money, sold off his possessions, and drove to San Francisco straight to the SRL shop to join the crew.

SRL’s unique artistic start-up environment of self-financing, hunter-gatherer-foraging-for-abandoned-art-materials, self-tutoring, self-apprenticeship, and empirical trial-and-error engineering investigations was not without excitement. Sadly, one ill-fated experiment resulted in SRL founder Mark Pauline’s right hand being blown apart—it was Matt Heckert who rushed him to the genius S.F. General Hospital microsurgery unit two blocks away. After various toes were grafted on, the bloody stump was restored to a level of usability.

Years passed. More and more art machines were designed, engineered and deployed in huge live art performances and installations. Robotics and drone-guidance technology became incorporated. SRL began giving shows all over the world. More and more SRL individuals developed their talents, skills, and then broke off to create their own opuses of work. Matt Heckert had created dozens of very strange musical soundtracks from the myriad records he discovered in his travels. Heckert, a musician in the Punk band Pink Section (and other bands), began to fuse his talent for engineering with his love for music. Subsequently he invented a number of interactive music-and-noise generating art-machines, to be used in installations, exhibitions, and also in live performances of his mechanical orchestra.

Kal Spelletich, in his voyages all over the world (one of his favorite experiences was visiting Africa, as well as India), has created a number of interactive machine-art installations, performances, exhibits, and even food-and-art machines (many grateful art lovers have eaten his delicious sausages worldwide; sometimes experiencing intense art makes one very hungry). Some of his interactive art machines have been used to educate and inspire young audiences composed of grade school and high school students. Adults have been enlivened by his cocktail-making robotics (shaken, not stirred).

As for New York, it has long been known that for an artist to “make it,” that artist must have a showing in New York. And the avant-garde gallerist Jack Hanley has stuck his neck out to provide a Manhattan home base for this “Weird Science” art exhibition, showcasing two quiet-but-in-it-for-the-long-term technological-artistic innovators living in the Bay Area: Matt Heckert and Kal Spelletich. Both are iconcolastic spirits who have harnessed their rebellious impulses in the service of transgressive yet illuminating creativity: inventing art machines and installations which radiate rhizomatic puzzlement, suggest unexpected affinities, and activate (hopefully) reverberating radicalization.

Both Matt Heckert and Kal Spelletich have used technology to suggest futures which will not be circumscribed by fascistic functionality. Both are engaged in the great project of imagining into existence new modes of interactivity, new modes of being, new modes of transcending a future imprisoned by banal borderlines of conceptuality. Their machine fusions of art with technology are creating new anthropological-mythological enigmas to be decoded by future generations of art historians. So, enjoy them now!

—V. Vale, RE/Search founder-writer-curator-musician,

From The original Research Magazine article....

From The original Research Magazine article….

ANOTHER ESSAY by Kara Kazanoff:

Many of the investigations activate different and hidden modes of a familiar material or space. Dave Hardy uses everyday building supplies – foam, cement, glass – in massive conglomerates that play on perception of gravity. Ajay Kurian melts gummy bears, microwaves bars of Ivory soap to reveal the billowy insides, and textures paintings with crystallized sodium borate. Each of these elements has an anecdote. For instance, the preservative in the gelatin of a gummy bear keeps it from ever fully solidifying or breaking down. While interested in our ideas of the organic and synthetic, Kurian also has a nice way of leveling the playing field between the two. After all, “the things we tend to also tend to us”, and to forget this is to fall into an overly deterministic pattern of thinking. Similarly, for Alex Schweder, the way in which one interacts with one’s living space, the “non-I that protects the I”, will help to define its parameters. In fact, a playful or inventive change in behavior is as profound on the home as an addition to it. As part of his one-week performance for the show, Schweder will be offering free architectural advice on how to renovate the home through the addition of a prescribed performance, some of which he has acted out in a series of accompanying photographs.

Conversely, our concepts and awareness of time and space are often inseparable from an immediate material reality. Before becoming part of a greater linguistic dialogue, Benjamin Whorf found time to be “patterned on the outer world”. Time is imagined in numbers, and the tongue “makes no distinction between numbers counted on entities and numbers that are simply ‘counting itself’”. It is quantified in “lumps, chunks, blocks”, substance and matter. Jeff Williams’ works operate on two different but related time scales: a real-time change during the course of an exhibition, and an implied long-term transformation that is only glimpsed at during the show. Conservation Fountain sprays water onto fossilized plant mineral dug from the ancient tide-pools of the San Antonio hill country. This traditional method of cleaning rids the specimen of dirt, while also speeding up natural erosion and decay, the same process that had given it its original form. A sense of inevitable annihilation or mutation of material seems to run throughout his work, but it is often tempered by poetically selected moments of stasis, bringing to mind a line from Plato’s Timaeus comes to mind: time is “a moving image of eternity”. A similar idea factors into Kurian’s nuclear ‘rocks’, a hardened plastic that contains traces of nuclear waste, short-circuiting the thousands of years it would take for the waste to decompose on its own. For both of these artists, time is something that is shortened, lengthened, made consumable, jerked from underneath you or felt to be expansive, all through slight and subtle manipulations of a material thing.

Jessica Rath’s porcelain sculptures are based on one of the oldest species of edible apples still existing. This particular set references the politicized nature of food production, shaped by human desire, and its sometimes devastating effects to a local ecology. Slavs and Tatars investigate the hybridized language and politics of Eurasia, the geographic area east of the previous Berlin Wall and west of the Wall of China. The group offers a variation of collapsing time, in that a whole history of cultural interchange and interpretation can be embodied in a single, sleight-of-hand work. Spoonerisms, religious goofs, sociolinguistic slips of the tongue, all bring to light both information and mis-information in a collective cultural make-up. A version of this can be read in When in Rome, a puzzle of hi- and low-brow references with a gesture to the mis-remembered gypsy culture. This is not unlike Bjorn Copeland’s modified “Associated Grocery” posters. Copeland makes a very simple modification to the signs, but the result is a twisted visual-linguistic gestalt that solicits a little investigation from the viewer. Throwing confusion into the mix can be a helpful tactic for artist and scientist alike – “Nothing whets the intelligence more than a passionate suspicion, and nothing develops all the faculties of an immature mind more than a trail running away into the dark”.

Attempting to understand the fundamental principles of the universe is a very human thing, and it needs a sense of play. Kal Spelletich does it with “a little smoke and mirrors” and the help of machine inventions. These maquettes are activated either by blowing into a breathalyzer, which requires a small amount of alcohol on the breath, or a sign of bodily stress tested through a lie-detector. Spelletich inadvertently points out that these tools have been held for years as accurate, but they may be no less of a pseudoscience than his time and light-wave measuring machines. Sharing in a similar imaginative low-tech approach, Matt Heckert’s flamethrower is a do-it-yourself creation from the annals of RE/Search magazine by V. Vale. Heckert likes to create responsiveness in a simple machine, rather than through a super-powerful microchip. Daria Martin’s Soft Materials is also structured around the research of ‘embodied artificial intelligence’: AI that is programmed to function through sensory experience (touching, bumping into things) rather than through a ‘computer brain’. Man and woman engage in a sensual mimetic dance with their mechanical counterparts, studying the kinesthesis of their own bodies through that of another.

Martin may distance her film quite far from the experiment, which was shot on site at a lab at the University of Zurich, but the ghost of the idea remains: the work operates with a leakage between the laboratory, the dance, and the film. For Martin, the way in which one sense triggers another is somehow related to the challenge of trying to translate one medium into an unrelated one. Quoting this idea again in her latest work, Martin starts with a real-life experiment of mirror-touch synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes a patient to experience the feeling of being touched when an outside object is stimulated. The single stimulus activates two distinct and unrelated cortical areas of the brain – the sense of sight, and the sense of touch. Although speculative, it isn’t too far off to imagine that both the experience of art and science are somehow equally ‘sensed’.

The goal of our endeavor is to explore this affective crossover. Like early interpretations of quantum mechanics, it is near impossible to grasp at any grounding notions of what matter, light, and time-space is – just as it is difficult to define contemporary ‘positions’ in art – unless through the measurement of small and brief interactions. But even then, it depends on the observer.

Be it at KALTEK University raining Majorie cameron or William Burroughs, we are down.

2 films i worked extensively on are included in the the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress

•December 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment



OK, well, getting some things done after all, albeit over ten years & 23 ago…. 2 films i worked extensively on are included in the the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress here’s to posterity!

now to get in that there library!




Jen In The Fennel Huggerer!

*jen in the fennel hugger, originally uploaded by k0re.



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