Musical bollard hacks it

Stephen Bevis, Arts Editor
Team Artifactory members Skot McDonald, Morgan Strong, Craig Wale, Tim Gilchrist and Meg Travers.

A music-playing bollard has won Australia’s first “art hack” competition run by the Perth International Arts Festival.

Team Artifactory, made up of artists and technologists Skot McDonald, Tim Gilchrist, Meg Travers, Craig Wale and Morgan Strong, won $5000 for their Hack the Festival project The Sonic BollART.

The Osborne Park team created an interactive electronic bollard housing a theremin musical instrument, reactive LED lights and wi-fi music-share point.

The theremin, which responds to proximity rather than physical contact to perform, triggers a light show to encourage the interest of passers-by.

Travers said it opened up new possibilities of access for the common bollard, which usually restricted access in urban spaces.

“Bollards represent an unutilised art-space with access to high foot traffic, sized at a human scale, and a fun set of constraints to fire the imagination,” she said.

“The Sonic BollART is a vessel where individual artists can develop a range of experiences and develop their unique ideas; it provides a method to share artworks with a local audience.

“It requires no special skills to engage with, yet opens doors for inquiry into music, history and technology.”

Presenting the prize, Department of Culture and the Arts director-general Duncan Ord said the role of the arts was to be a mirror of society and to attempt to challenge and reinvigorate some of its structures.

“The Sonic BollART is a wonderful vehicle by which a whole range of media could be accessed by many people in a community, and it also has the ability to be commissioned, replicated and adapted in other forms,” Mr Ord said.

Fifteen teams had a week to present digital artworks and develop them with the support of mentors who are leaders in their fields of art, technology and business.

Hack the Festival provided a new forum for local artists and technologists to embrace the convergence of interactivity and art across specialties such as apps, websites, robotics and projections.

It drew a strong response from Perth’s creative and technology communities.