It's alive! International Week workshop report 2

By Róbert Frankó
photos: Joanne NH Wong

It is alive. But what does it really mean? Define the thing that is alive. What does it have to do to call it alive? Does it have to have a beating heart? Does it have to feed or consume? Does it have to be able to respond or react in some way? It is a hard question, and whoever you ask, the answer will always be different. Specially if you travel the world and meet people from different cultures. Not an easy task to define something that has been researched in many decades. Especially if you only have four and a half days to search the topic and come up with something that you can call alive...

We faced these questions on the first morning of the international week. Our hosts on this journey were Michel Pitstra, Baz Laarakkers and Samuel Vd from Academie voor Popkultuur, Leeuwarden, Friesland. After getting to know them and their work in Netherlands we got to know each other better too, introducing ourselves and telling about our interests. And literally “in medias res”, we have found ourselves making field recordings, and making keyboard and drum kit out of plant leaves. Yes, you've read it well. Drum-kit and leaves in the same sentence. Mind: blown.

The next day Michel had a presentation about image and sound perception that had us all thinking where we are at this point and where the world heads nowadays, we have even discussed a bit the topic of cyborgs among us. Although first it was not 100% clear where it will lead us, by the end of the day we were on the right track and all the information and given knowledge got in their correct place. So why stopping there? Let’s head to why we were really there for: creating something that is alive. Stepping over the confusing fact that we can literally do ANYTHING a wild brainstorming rushed through the classroom leaving a huge list of words behind, creating a mind map. Our tutors guided the brainstorming so professionally, that the basic idea was born in couple of minutes and so the fine tuning could begin. The ideas what the Creature should be able to do were so similar, that next day we were able to collect the tools, materials and technical equipment we needed to begin.

Day 3: the structure was clear and forming, at least in the head, as we had no proper material but with the help of Joni we managed to solve the problems and got back to the right track. By the end of the 4th day, the Creature was standing and trying to make it’s first contact with human kind.

The team

And how was the Creature able to communicate? He had the ability to react and interact with your or basically any sound in the surroundings as it was eager to make connection to you. Although it didn't speak any spoken language, it was using the sounds it remembered from it’s constructing, and the sound the environment (you) gave, so it created a sound based on them. As it had a round shape plate on top with liquid material in it, it reflected visual images, memories while the sounds it tried to use to contact you ceated wave-forms in the liquid. It also reacted on touching, it had the sense of feeling, and according to your approach it responded in some acoustic way.

If you are interested in the how is made process, first try to think how you would do it, then if you would like to, go to and join a discussion.

On Friday  when the presentation started we have had even more visitors than expected and seemed like after the introduction people couldn't wait to see the Creature (without a name), and a surprisingly big amount of interested visited it in teatteri.

What were the reactions?

“It's really cool!”
-Ville Hoikkala
“I checked your Person. Fell in love. Captivating and mesmerising are words coming alive looking at awesomeness like this.”
-Cai Melakoski
“ It was really cool! and scared me a bit.”
-Venla Linna

Great compliments from everybody who visited the Creature! Unfortunately he didn't make it until the end of the day, and passed away piece-fully, the same way it arrived to our world.
R.I.P. Creature!

What is the end result of the story? As we discussed with Michel, Samuel and Baz the workshop continues next year, they will be back in action. The only thing i can say is that i highly recommend this workshop to everyone who would like to be part of a great team,  learning and having fun with well prepared and organised, enthusiastic (fanatic :)) teachers, Do not hesitate. You don’t need any technical background, only your imagination without limits or borders. You can do anything, so you should live with this chance!

Big thanks for the school for organising, and big thanks to Michel, Samuel and Baz!
The workshop was part of our 6th International Week

The author is a student of TAMK Degree Programme in Media
Read more stories by and about IMPs, the international media programme students