Holon A.

Holon A.

Materials/Languages: Various

The word “holon” signifies a collection of nested systems. Based on the writings of Michael Pollan and Arthur Koestler, Holon A. reflects the holons of American industrial agriculture through an interactive miniaturization. Five integrated modules invite the visitor to ask questions about the efficiency of our industrialized ecosystems. Diorama-style modules cover such topics as E. coli contamination during fabrication of beef, the varying public uses of the term “chicken,” traditional fiber arts, and the government’s role in the American corn economy. Holon A. utilizes a wide variety of industrial and hand-made materials from electronic components and wood to hand-silkscreened plush steak.

Holon A. at the Chelsea Art Museum, 2007

The modules

The radiation level required to combat E. coli contamination of livestock varies with the amount of corn in the cattle’s diet, as it is not its natural food source.

Corn Currency asks about the US government’s role in the market value of corn, and when the corn economy is good, livestock eat more of it. The visitor is left with plastic waste.

The cornstalks’ adjustable light source self regulates the light output and also influences glowing of the beef module.


The fiber module consists of a knitted viewer with sound to encircle the face, giving the feeling of a private space. The conforming body of the knitted object reflects our once traditional fiber practices being industrialized under our noses.

Live Internet-scraped images can be seen as the somewhat “public” opinion of chicken today. The visitor has control over the playback of these images.

The modular, rough-cut construction fits with the conceptual framework of industrialization of nature.

Press: Featured in MAKE Magazine issue 11 and The 2007 New School Sustainable Design Review.

Elevator Urinal

Experiments for a Pleasant Elevator Ride, or, This is Not a Urinal: a Proposal and Framework

This is an OPEN CALL for intervention ideas and documentation. Responses will be published to this page.

Some elevators in large Brooklyn apartment buildings are subject to what some would call “undesirable” or “inappropriate” behavior: urination. As these buildings’ lobbies are used as gathering spaces for non-residents, such visitors relieve themselves in the private spaces these elevators afford. 302 Eastern Parkway is one such building. Its lobby and stairwells are venues for neighborhood drug dealers and, in the colder months, vagrants. This elevator is cleaned daily by building maintenance staff, but maintains a constant and very pungent odor. The purpose of this proposal is to suggest three interventions to be executed in this elevator in Brooklyn at any point in time. The interventions intend to alleviate the urination’s negative effects, not necessarily prevent or punish it (see Fig. 1).

The Interventions

1. Urinal Cake Floor (see Fig. 2)

The elevator currently has two ceiling-mounted air fresheners at opposite corners, reassuring that the Management is aware there is an odor and sanitation problem. This intervention proposes to line the floor of the 7-foot by 7-foot elevator with urinal deodorizing blocks, commonly called “cakes.” The purpose of this experiment is to provide riders with a more pleasant journey while calling greater and more focused attention to the elevator’s alternate use. Those participating in this alternate use may also notice that their behavior is indeed noticed as a nuisance to others in the building. Regardless of any change in behavior, the elevator will smell more fresh.

2. Moisture-triggered Monitoring & Reaction (see Fig. 3)

This intervention proposes to mount four moisture sensors in the lowest part of the non-level elevator floor. When triggered, the ceiling-mounted, locked and secured wireless camera will transmit images and/or video to a monitoring station in a nearby apartment. The speaker also located in the camera mount will then play soothing “elevator” music, in this case by the work of musician Kenneth Gorelick. This experiment is expected to capture both urinators and custodial staff, enabling the comparison of frequencies of the two actions. It is meant to entertain cleaning staff while they mop the floor as well as surprise and alienate the urinators. The presence of a conspicuous security camera is expected to radically change urination behavior in this elevator. Those who still remain motivated to urinate in the elevator, it is proposed, should be acknowledged with Adult Contemporary saxophone music.

3. This is a Urinal (see Fig. 4)

Repurposing the elevator entirely, this intervention transforms the elevator into an actual restroom. Four urinals are proposed to be installed, and the elevator is to remain on the ground floor or the building for the duration of the experiment. A sign with the words “Elevator Out of Order” is to be placed on it sliding door. Data is to be collected regarding communication received from tenants to the Management.

Download the PDF below, which contains details concerning collaborative partners and budget & materials required for the above interventions.


Kevin C. (New York, NY): Cover the elevator floor with a metal plate so that when urination occurs, a circuit is grounded and the participant receives a mild electric shock.

Paul S. (Ashford, CT): Place a grate floor inside the elevator, under which is small plastic containers. Test the contents of the receptacles for drug content, and assign police officers to the area according to the results.


Knit Pattern Generator

Knit Pattern Generator

Materials/Languages: Objective C, Cocoa, OpenGL

Knit Pattern Generator is an OS X application to make knitting pattern charts from images. This pattern generator was first developed as an OpenGL pixel manipulation in C, then modified to work with Objective C and Cocoa to allow the OS X user to manipulate the pattern’s characteristics.

This is an open source project; you may download the XCode project.

Chatter Pillow

Chatter Pillow

Materials/Languages: Fabric, batting, yarn, PHP, electronic components including Arduino board, wireless chipset, and LEDs

Chatter uses the Plushie Message Framework (chatlog-parsing scripts) and Arduino to wirelessly send selected instant messages from your computer to a message pillow. Often times I leave my message client open just to get that “emotional check-in” or other brief snippet from a loved one, but I don’t want messages from anyone else. With the Chatter Pillow, I just alter a few parameters in the script to filter all but three messages: “xo,” “on my way,” and “talk to me.” That way I can be on the couch or ready for bed and still get the message. The pillow lights up the appropriate symbol.


Emotional Circuit Diagram

Emotional Circuit Diagram

Materials/Languages: Adobe Illustrator

The Emotional Circuit Diagram is a language to express human world views and decision-making processes. It is a mixture of standardized electrical symbols and typographical elements to convey plans for a constructible device as well as the emotional motive for its creation. This language is free and intended to be expanded.

Click image to enlarge.

Progress sketches:

This is an open project. You may download the illustrator file.

Fixed Gear Mixer

Fixed Gear Mixer

Materials/Languages: C++

New York City’s cult community of fixed gear bike riders creates events and programs for its members in an ad-hoc, homegrown manner, forming followings for Critical Mass and Time’s Up! (a workshop space and awareness organization). Written in a folky, early computing style, Fixed Gear Mixer is an open source, human-readable program engineered to fall in accordance with the city cyclists’ values.

Fixed Gear Mixer is a simple command line program to make playlists that match the cadence of a cyclist’s ride. Further development of this project would include a DIY instruction set for rigging a sensor to measure your cadence en route; also mobile music player programming could be implemented to live-match tracks from your music collection while you ride.

Two sample run-throughs:

This is an open source project; you may view the code.

Co-authored with Kate Garaufis.

Always exercise caution when wearing headphones while cycling.

UPC Sequencer

UPC Sequencer: Music from barcodes

auditory explorations from consumer product barcode data

Materials/Languages: Barcode Scanner, UPCs, Max/MSP

UPC Sequencer is an application that employs a barcode scanner to create music from UPCs. By creating an audio composition unique to each code, the composer begins to value products based on their contribution to a musical score rather than marketing and package design. The one part of the package not designed to appeal to the consumer’s wallet becomes the most valuable component. Items from a similar manufacturer have similar UPCs, creating recognizable patterns for similarly governed corporations. As patterns in sound are known to be highly recognizable, users can understand complex corporate ownership chains by composing music. Controller codes allow the user to select which type of instrument a particular product should be. The product takes on a new meaning that is defined by the user and is therefore much more personal and genuine. Undermining the marketing hype surrounding consumer goods, the UPC Sequencer helps take back control over deciding what roles these products play in our lives.

Performances: video 1, video 2

Some Compositions, digitally captured: mp3 1, mp3 2, mp3 3

co-authored with John Nowak

If you like this project, you may be interested in some of my others:

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Gym Jungle

Gym Jungle

A multiplayer mobile game designed and implemented within 24 hours in the context of a mobile game competition

Materials/Languages: Adobe Flash Lite, mobile phone in public gamespace

Gym Jungle is a multi-player mobile game played within a large-scale, public digital gamespace. Players navigate to the top of a school gym’s ropes course on the larger screen by catching directional cues from dodge balls launched across each player’s handset. To be set in such a venue as a movie theater lobby, Gym Jungle fits in with the flowing natural movement of people through a public space, forming an enriching casual gaming experience. The game uses move-queueing to compensate for network latency. The gameboard map remains static, so players may leave or enter the game at any time. Players compete for score most closely with their co-joiners, making the game perfect for groups of friends entering a space at the same time.

Handset play:

Large gameboard with closeups:

Gym Jungle was created by Las Pwnistas (Kate Garaufis, Anna Lowe, Liz Nesher, Becky Stern, Ira Sutcliffe, and Todd Vanderlin) as part of the 2006 Mobile Game Mosh, affiliated with Parsons the New School for Design, Atari, Glu Mobile, and Nokia.

Press: Featured in Electronic Gaming Monthly, Business Week, and Gamasutra. Flickr photos tagged with mobilegamemosh

Awards: Honorable Mention for Best Sound Design, Honorable Mention for Most Innovative Game

You can play the online mockup of the handset dodgeball game to get a sense of the motion and sound.

Copyright 2006 Las Pwnistas, Parsons the New School for Design, Atari, and Glu Mobile. All rights reserved.