Reports Reports – number one – ADA, a day about sound in ‘s Hertogenbosch

The month of May has been busy busy. Lots of challenging activities, lectures, workshops, inside, outside and even more than a million Volts somewhere along the line. For posterity’s sake, and to keep a trace of past adventures I’ll try to reconstruct these activities in some stories.

Here goes Report Number one; started in May, finished in July:

ADA, a day about sound in ‘s Hertogenbosch

Here‘s the announcement of that day on the Constant website:

Wednesday 11 May 10:00-22:00

’s Hertogenbosch Onderwijsboulevard 256 5223 DJ ‘s-Hertogenbosch The Netherlands

The Digitale Werkplaats together with AKV|St. Joost is organizing a day around sound & noise. Constant was invited to participate with a lecture and a workshop. We decided to make a contribution on scanning the inaudible frequencies, combining this with the manual made by julien Ottavi aka Noiser, under a GNU Free Documentation License, as a starting point. We will make antennas that transform the electromagnetic spectrum into audio, listen to work of other artists, look at free licenses in art. To end the day we will walk in ’s Hertogenbosch with our DIY antennas.

The day consisted out of four parts:

– a small lecture

– a workshop

– a walk

– a presentation of what happened that day

I’ll tackle these topics one at a time.

– a small lecture

Of course I start out the talk with who am I, what is Constant, why am I here etc.. Half a year ago the Audiovisuele werkplaats invited me to give a workshop on building an EMF antenna, because they had seen the Baltanprogramme. Now, I did not want to just give the workshop without contextualizing, and talking about the origin of the manual of the workshop.

I start out by showing some work of artists who use EMF in their artistic work, such as Christina Kubisch and Joyce Hinterding (proprietary work).

Both Hinterding and Kubisch’s work are result based – you as a spectator are not directly involved into the “how does this work?” aspect of their installations and sound walks. The technical part keeps it’s mystical layer, although Hinterding’s installations actually integrate the antenna visibly and physically in the space. Both artists – as most artists – do not integrate the reproduction/future life of their work into their practice.

As we were going to build antenna’s during the afternoon which are based on the manual Julien Ottavi wrote in 2007 in the VJ 10 book Tracks in electr(on)ic fields, we delved a little bit deeper into the topic.

A user guide or user’s guide, also commonly known as a manual, is a technical communication document intended to give assistance to people using a particular system.[1] It is usually written by a technical writer, although user guides are written by programmers, product or project managers, or other technical staff, particularly in smaller companies.

User guides are most commonly associated with electronic goods, computer hardware and software.

Most user guides contain both a written guide and the associated images. In the case of computer applications, it is usual to include screenshots of how the program should look, and hardware manuals often include clear, simplified diagrams. The language used is matched to the intended audience, with jargon kept to a minimum or explained thoroughly.

I started out with an image from Openclipart, with the keyword “manual”. In four images the body positions of hammering are shown.

For me, in the nature of a manual there are step-by-step descriptions on how to build or fix something, from code to hardware, from operating systems to making sensors detect.

Were it not by the generosity of others I could not do what I do now, make the work I make. I depend on other people’s generosity to share their ways of working, step by step, meticulously documented on wiki’s, fora and tons of other websites. Last April I had a serious technical problem – for a week I dialogued with someone on a forum on this issue and he or she found and solved the problem. With the idea in mind that other people could run into the same problem I had, I tried to document everything step by step, as clear as possible. In Free software and open hardware circles, this kind of practice is quite standard – but in a visual arts context this is not so common. This is why I wanted to highlight this way of working. So I showed a part of this process in Den Bosch.

Through these manuals I snuck the theme of licensing into my talk. In these online manuals, howto’s, quite often there is no particular license added to the content, which means that the content is automatically copyright, which in theory you cannot reproduce these manuals. I explained the Gnu Free Documention license, because the Antenna making manual has this license.


Material licensed under the current version of the license can be used for any purpose, as long as the use meets certain conditions.

* All previous authors of the work must be attributed.

* All changes to the work must be logged.

* All derivative works must be licensed under the same license.

* The full text of the license, unmodified invariant sections as defined by the author if any, and any other added warranty disclaimers (such as a general disclaimer alerting readers that the document may not be accurate for example) and copyright notices from previous versions must be maintained.

* Technical measures such as DRM may not be used to control or obstruct distribution or editing of the document.

From Julien’s Ottavi’s manual onwards (you can download a translation into English here) we had a look at the trajectory of antenna making workshops, starting with the one during Verbindingen Jonctions 10.
Here’s the video of that walk and the photo gallery.

From Brussels to Gent: Summercamp electrified in Timelab
The different physical forms of self-made antenna’s:
Pierre-Laurent Cassière EMF bracelet

Tim Knapen’s tube

Kasper Koenig: EMF in a hat

Frederik’s De Wilde’s antenna


His antenna churned out visualisations and other adventures.

From Gent to Eindhoven: a workshop in Baltan. Making antenna’s with Julien Ottavi and artist/participants.

Even with the same ingredients, copper wire, making a coil, linking it to an amplifier – the antenna’s themselves turn out very differently.


The report of Baltan on the workshop.Here’s the gallery of the whole workshop.

– a workshop

After all these inspiring images of antenna’s, the Ada workshop participants started out to make their own version. I have no  pictures of the workshop itself – as I was too busy following what everyone is doing.

Post workshop: Here are two versions of the antenna:

A bracelet antenna

A (shht Belgian) beer bottle antenna (which worked really well)

– a walk and a talk

After the workshop we went out into ‘s Hertogenbosch to scan the city. Our mobile buzzing orchestra did attract quite some attention, but even walking through the Court (justice department) and the train station just gave us some curious glances – and a few questions – but nothing more.

Here’s and audiovisual account – something I repeated in the evening part of the day. None of the recordings were edited.

Next to the woodwork shop where we built the antenna’s, there is the parking lot. We started out by having a little feedback concert. When the antenna’s are close to the amplifier/speaker, they give out a loud a squeek of feedback. In my imagination it sounds like a group of loud sea lion males :-).
If the player does not work, click here.

On our walk, we met a group of 65+ ladies, with camera’s and big lenses. We asked on of them if we could sniff out the focus of her lens with our antenna. This is what it sounds like:
(other version).

Parallel to that we did some experiments with our own camera’s, listening to the zoom and flash.

(other version).

Everywhere in the Den Bosch train station there are yellow poles, with Rfid readers on them. Each time you get out of the train, you not only check yourself in, but also out. More data about the travellers.

There seemingly quiet poles are actually EMF-wise quite loud. They send out a continuous electrical pulse in order to power the potential card passing by, enabling it to get the unique number on the card (the card needs a little bit of power to give out it’s number).
(other version).

This video is our walk in the station.

(other version).

One of the participants met a friend in the train station. We all demonstrated our circular instruments and started playing with the antenna’s and her mobile phone.
(other version).

Parking meters with their whirring ad whizzing small electrical engines create quite a nuanced spectre of EMF. So when we saw a man going towards the parking meters, we asked him if we could records the payment. The friendly mustached car driver happily complied.
(other version).

The crossing for blind people emits some EMF too. It was however a very long wait because the traffic lights were very slow. Five unedited takes later:::

(other version).

One particular street was very hummy, so we started to change the usage of our antenna’s and dragged them over the street, to create a EMF contact microphone…

(other version).

This same street was full of the 50 Hertz buzz, the sound of 220 Volt running under the pavement, cables everywhere, going to the houses, shops and further into ‘s Hertogenbosch.

(other version).

At the end of our walk, we truly became an improvisation orchestra, listening to each other’s buzzes and hums. Playing with distance, interacting and playing the EMF Rhythms produced by the city. Listen to the audio first, best with a headphone – to see afterwards what we were playing with.

(other version).


(other version).


If you have trouble listening to the sound or watching the video’s: they can all be downloaded here and watched/listened to with VLC.

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