The exhibition of The Bertha Revolution is September 4th - 8th at the Dunedin School of Art Gallery, 10am-4pm.
I’ve built a drawing machine that produces posters that express why feminism is still relevant. The posters contain news headlines, things people have said to me or in my presence and most importantly, things that piss me off. I’m aiming for 300 posters and they can’t all be my voice.
If you have things, stories, experiences or rants you’d like to be added to the poster wall share them with me. Complain to me about things that piss you off/ the inequalities and injustices you experience. There is no topic that won’t be included. The posters are A2 sized so between 1 and 100 words max.
A digital copy of each poster is also in a PDF book alongside appropriate citations or an optional expanded version of the text. It’s your call if you’d like to remain anonymous, cite a website or included a social media handle etc.
They are to be displayed as a giant poster wall in the Dunedin School of Art gallery in September 2017 as part of my Master of Fine Arts degree. Alongside the posters are 300 small ‘Bertha’ sculptures, two huge “Bertha” figures and a series of larger drawings also drawn with a drawing machine. “Bertha” is based on a mannequin I made a few years ago.
Stories (or questions) can be directed to the contact form on this website or Facebook
Berthas and posters (aka my artwork) are all over Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook
Also, the drawing machine is entirely open source, instructions are here and here.
Another day, another rant. Someone remind me again why I’m incapable of making my own informed decisions? Clearly my delicate lady brain can’t action such a thought process.
The NZ Herald published has an article detailing an Australian woman’s fight to have a tubal ligation. She is repeatedly denied the procedure because of her age. It gets better, her husband has requested a vasectomy but is also denied because of his wife’s age. The details on why she wants the procedure are irrelevant, as is their ages. The point is, it’s her decision and hers alone.
According to Family Planning, in New Zealand it’s made out to be a simple thing, getting a tubal ligation. You simply ask for one and they’ll refer you to a hospital or specialist that can do it. What they don’t inform you (at least on their website) is that there’s a point system involved. ‘X’ amount of ‘points’ are required to have the procedure unless you can afford to go privately. Conclusive information on how exactly this points system operates is proving hard to come by. It seems that to get enough points one must be over 30 and have already produced a number of offspring. Purely having made the decision yourself is not enough, the state gets the final say.
Did I mention that if someone wants a vasectomy there are no hoops to jump through. Just an appointment at your GP or Family Planning, a comparatively small fee of a few hundred dollars and boom! No more baby creating material produced.
Ever since I was a teenager I never wanted children. People always said “Oh, you’re only young, you’ll change your mind.” Well, now that I am about to hit 30 the ‘natural’ desire to procreate still hasn’t kicked in (come on nature!). Apparently it's a case of “you just haven’t met the right man yet” or “Just because you’re queer doesn’t mean you can’t have a baby these days!” What part of no do you not understand? Also, please educate me on why I’m incapable of making this decision? (or any decision about my body for that matter) Want an abortion? Sure! But first you need permission from two certifying consultants. And please tick the box that says you require an abortion on mental health grounds. Not because you made an informed decision.
Because it’s my decision, right?
So I see the Otago Daily Times have done it again. They’re reported on the lack of inclusion of women in a list. This time it’s new street names from the Dunedin City Council, last time it was list of notable people (men) who helped shape Dunedin by a group of historians, published by the ODT.
Here’s the offending article, with the fantastic headline “Belated Gender Balance Bid” What they are trying to say is “Hey, we’ve learned from that time when there were no women on that list (and we pissed everyone off), we’re letting you know that we can do better this time!”
But what they actually say is: “Oh look no women on this list! But anyway here’s why the men deserve to deserve to be there.”
OH, WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE MEN!
Some of the men on that list are there because they lost sons in WW1. So what of those mothers that lost those same sons? Do they not deserve the same recognition? And what about the son, why is the father named instead of them?
Granted, the DCC have issued a statement reminding us that the list is only the first stage of the project and “the intention was always to add the names of other people, including women.” (But first let us focus on the men)
And oh no, it doesn’t end there. As pointed out in the article by Cr Jinty MacTavish, not only are women merely an after thought so to is anyone who isn’t a white dude. Dunedin’s history includes (and is by no means limited to) people from China and Lebanon. And what about the inclusion of Maori people? Can someone more knowledgeable please rage about this lack?
If naming streets after people is used as a method of acknowledging them or their achievements then it is misguided to constantly leave out people that aren’t old white men. The old excuse that women (or anyone else) didn't do anything of note is outdated thinking. As is the fact that these lists are structured in terms of men and women. But that's another rant entirely.
Well shit is getting serious now. As I currently enjoy a jar or so of cheap red wine whilst editing some writing, the National Council for Women post an extension on the early bird registrations for their gender equality conference. Slightly excited at the prospect of a trip to Wellington I hit the link and study the prices.
The opening line:
“2016 presents an unprecedented opportunity to come together to discuss, debate and then embark on a new path to improve the lives of people everywhere through achieving Gender Equality”
Unprecedented opportunity!! I must get in on this. Much excitement
Then the prices:
Prices for the two day event (excluding the members AGM), is $540.50, a bit cheaper if you buy now and slightly cheaper again you’re a member.
So, NCWNZ, you want to promote equality, specifically gender equality. You’ve succeeded in doing a good job at pricing out the participants and voices of those who aren’t rolling in spare cash. Namely, most people I know. Not exactly a great strategy for your #genderequal campaign.
Now, I’m all for paying good money for good events, you are, after all reading the blog of someone who ended up at Phantom of the Opera more than twice. (Because once is never enough) But when a two day event aimed at equality for all women is more than what myself and others earn in a week, well something’s a bit fucked up here.
Understandably you have things to pay for. Events cost. I get that.
Unfortunately, I’m a woman (and it’s my fault, I know) And I can't afford to attend an event aimed at equality for my gender. (What about the other marginalised groups who are worse off than me?)
Given that the gender pay gap does indeed exist at 11.8% in (2015,) you're promoting equality but pricing out the very people it effects the most.
Obligatory angry mannequin image:
For some reason the drawbot remembers the order in which I drew the lines in Inkscape. Watching the machine is now like I am the machine, watching my hand redraw an image. It's especially creepy on recently done drawings when I can still recall the order in which I initially drew. It also now affects how I draw in the first place. I'm concious of making the next line the closest to the previous line to cut down on the drawbots travel time. (Time spent moving but not drawing)
Beginning images of a series on personally experienced sexism/misogyny/things that piss me off
The drawbot is going well. All problems I had were down to my average math skills. I've since bought a new tape measure with bigger numbers and lines on it. My studio has relocated; the drawbot is currently set up on a smaller scale, on a 900x1200mm board, suited for drawing on A2 paper. Parts for a larger machine have been ordered so I can go back to drawing at 1500mm wide (the widest paper I could buy) The new machine has an SD card reader and LCD screen so there will be no need to have it tethered to a laptop. Exciting times.
Before I downsized the drawbot, I managed to draw a life sized Bertha on some scrap paper. It turned out wonderfully
Then I tried to draw four Berthas, giving the machine a vector image. Four turned into 24.
One of the ideas behind my drawbot project was to free up time. In theory, I could have the robot drawing whilst I was performing other tasks. For me, these tasks range from studio and theory practice related, to holding down a job and the mundane domestic chores one must perform to sustain everyday life. The reality is that firstly, the drawbot is mesmerising to watch. Secondly, the drawbot can’t be trusted, unforeseen things happen. The pen runs out or a counterweight gets caught on something, straining a motor, putting the drawbot out of alignment etc. Thirdly, errors in the code can result in the drawbot not performing as expected, so I must be around to step in and rectify it. Thus a ‘domestic guilt’ starts to set in, because on those days the machine is drawing, I make plans to do other things, to save time. Things like going to the supermarket, or my weekly, (read:daily) trips to Bunnings or doing the washing. These things hardly get done. What does get done is a lot of tea drinking and reading. But those things are unseen advancements. I still come home to at times, empty cupboards, dirty washing and more reading.
Days when the drawbot is not running are spent either at my part time job or in front of a computer writing/reading/creating the next image. This is usually done at home, which turns problematic as although I may have achieved a lot, again there is no physical thing to show for the time spent. What there is, is a pile of washing and dirty dishes. This is a hangup from years spent on sculptural projects where there was a measureable physical change in the work on a daily basis, making a sense of achievement much more noticeable.
This is not to say I exist in some kind of heteronormative domestic bliss whereby a male companion sits at home expecting me to be both domestic servant and studying Artist with a part time job. This is the twenty first century after all. My sole flatmate is a normal functioning person, performing an equal (if not greater) amount of house related domestic duties.
Well, I solved all the problems. To the point that the robot has been drawing for nearly 7 hours and the sound is horrific. Even show tunes can't drown it out. (Video here)
The lines would always get out of sync at the same point on the wall, so I figured that my counter weights (mannequin hands) were not heavy enough, causing the belts to slip when it got to a certain point. No problem, I attached heavier hands. That made the steppers not really move at all. So, logic dictates the belts weren't slipping but struggling, so far lighter counter weights were required. Luckily I have a selection of hands. The robot is now rocking some sweet plastic hands from a partially articulated 1960s mannequin with pointy boobs.
The lines getting out of sync on smaller drawings is far less apparent as the steppers weren't having to move as much, hence why I only picked up on this as I drew bigger.
Today's drawings were A2 size, the second one taking 5 hours. Next step is to draw A1 which will double the drawing time. The poor wee motor shield will need its own fan soon, the heatsinks just aren't cutting it.
Things I have learned about getting the robot to draw problem free
- Never be organized by bringing in other things to do while it's drawing like books and thesis writings
- Never set up the camera & tripod to make a stop motion of said robot
These things guarantee robot failure.
Bring on the wall size drawings!
We did so many drawings!
I say 'we' because the robot and I are a partnership now.
I can't realise my artistic dreams without it and it can't operate without my drawings.
I nailed the drawing size issue (pulley size was set wrong so they weren't rotating enough, so the pen didn't move as far as it was supposed to)
I re-measured the wall for the 5th time and got another set of numbers (the correct ones)
I fed the robot the G code of my face and it worked really well. (Of course)
THEN I figured it was time to do some actual drawings instead of my face.
SO in Inkscape I converted some drawings to vectors and simplified the paths so there's slightly less lines to draw. The images are saved as .dxf (Drawing Interchange Format), then opened in the drawbot app on my Linux machine, converted to G code, saved as .ngc.
Then I can open the .ngc file in the drawbot app on my windows netbook which is connected to the robot. It's a terribly messy work around but until I can get Linux to see the robot in the java app that's how it goes. Ideally the drawbot app on the netbook should just take the .ngc, convert it to G code and draw.
I set the robot to draw A1 size, double checked it knew where the paper ended (so I don't draw on the wall) Everything was looking good so I hit the draw button. Then shit got weird. It was supposed to be drawing a circle but it clearly wasn't. The app keeps track of where it's at with the drawing and it wasn't matching up to what was happening on the wall. I stopped the drawing, double checked all the measurements in the drawbot app and gave it a different image. It drew the outline of the image correctly but when filling in the detail it was all over the show.
Naturally I thought the computer has just spat out some dodgy G Code, no problem. I can generate some more. After all, the files have been through a few conversions; .XCF > .PNG > .DXF > .NGC. So I re-set the robot and fed it the G code of my face, knowing that it has drawn from that code before with no issues. Annnnd that's where the logic ended. Robot ended up drawing my face stretched horizontally, then it decided that its 'home' point was at the bottom of the wall, not the centre where I set it to.
At this point I've got no idea what the fuck it's up to, given I haven't changed anything other than paper size. I'm going to re-flash the Arduino with the drawbot firmware and give it another go tomorrow. There is no logical reason this will work given I didn't alter anything important. But with windows you never know.
I'll also continue working on getting the setup to run under Linux. This is where I'm at:
The Arduino IDE under Linux can see the robot but the java based drawbot app can't. (Even if I run the app as root) I think it's something to do with serial port permissions under Linux.
To date I have:
For now I'm just trying to get my main computer to pick up the Arduino in the java app, when it does I will re-create the setup on an old laptop. The robot will never run under Linux on the netbook because the HDD is formatted as NTFS in order to dual boot with windows. Linux won't run a java app when the HDD file system is NTFS for security reasons that Google says can't be bypassed. Linux file systems are typically formatted to ext3 or ext4. Not a lot would give me more pleasure than removing the windows partition for good but it does come in handy twice a year. (Also borrowing a laptop to test something in windows means using windows 10 and I struggle to even find the control panel)
In the long run it's important for me to get the drawbot running solely on Linux as I'm strongly against closed source computing. What's the point of creating an entirely open source robot but it has to run through windows? The only reason I keep a small windows partition on my netbook is for testing things like powerpoint presentations which don't always port over from Linux well (which I have to use at art school occasionally)
End goal is to return to this:
Sporadic rants of an angry queer feminist artist. Regular updates on Instagram