So, this is where Rubik’s Cube comes back into the frame.
The cube – like Hacker Farm itself – straddles the eras of the Real and the Remembered; it can act as a mimetic bridge between the Solid and the Virtual, making it the perfect physical-world key to unlock some of that boring, old, unsexy digital-content we talked about earlier. So let’s reclaim it, we decided. Snatch it back from the selfish paws of History. A twist of a Rubik’s Cube, a series of wrist-actions in the physical world – something slightly more demanding, more gesturally engaging than an iSwipe – could be used to turn a digital lock-tumbler in the shadow-world of ones and zeroes.
As a solution, we thought it had a certain wayward elegance. A smidge of ironic symmetry. A touch of hedge magic. Win!
Now, HF have some previous with redundant media like cassettes and floppy-disks: I mean, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t completely immune to the gravitation-pull of Object-Nostalgia – these are, after all, beautiful, beautiful things whose physical richness increases with each passing year (and, paradoxically, as they themselves seem to simultaneously disappear further into some sort of shared memory-space; as History itself digitises them…).
But, the real pleasure for us comes in the doing, in the repurposing of things, in turning them into something else.
HACKER FARM: “LIBOR MANIPULATION” MUSIC DOWNLOAD HERE
We are Object-Hackers. Garden-shed tinkerers. Punk-scientists. It’s a deep and venerable English Tradition: the workshop eccentric, the middle-aged DIY inventor, the lock-up garage bodger. We are proud to be part of that lineage: helicopters, Hoovers and homemade computers. Add to that: ‘knacker’ – a subversion of a term used by China Miéville to describe people possessed of a certain wyrd (and often misplaced) magical talent; because – and let’s be honest here – there is a certain surreal beauty in the juxtapositioning of objects into new and unlikely positions: it’s like dragging a dream into the waking world; an odd and peculiar form of magic. But one that anyone can perform.
So, call us knackers, then – for we have knacked a Rubik’s Cube. Summoned it down with a soldering-iron, some sticky-labels and a kitchen-table incantation.
Our other current nerdish fascination is QR-codes, those square, black-and-white images you see at bus-stops on posters for the Twilight films. QR is a way of using images to represent or imprint a form of transferable ownership onto objects and intellectual properties. The corporate equivalent of knacking. It’s the offspring – the grandson, maybe – of the old swipeable POS bar-codes. It’s still a relatively new technology, but we like the whole Pop Art-i-ness of them; their flatness and visual simplicity; the fact they’re black-and-white and ‘blocky’-looking – they suggest pixellation, which makes them avators of what Bruce Sterling calls the New Aesthetic, a catch-all Art-bucket that holds (generally, vaguely) stuff relating to the extrusion of material / symbols / visual motifs from the digital world back into the physical world (the opposite of the on-going slooow digitisation of physicalia wot we talked about earlier, remember?). So you can see why this ticks many splendid boxes for us.
So, yeah, QR-codes: we like them a lot. They have a huge potential for inversion and subversion. They are images which form surface-layers that sit over underlying / invisible digital processes,so are therefore hack-able. You can knack them. Knack an image. So we’ve been squirrelled away writing software that turns QR-Codes into sounds and words and processes that are the obverse of the commodification-enablers they were intended to be. Win!
So, here – *off-key flat-battery charity-shop Casio preset-trumpet fanfare parp* – we have combined a Rubik’s Cube with QR-Codes. One code for each side. Solve the Rubik’s Cube and scan the QR-Codes with a QR-reader – a mobile-phone (or “corporation-tethered revenue-appliance”, as we call it down on Hacker Farm) – and you will be delivered unto a page – 6 of ‘em! – with downloadable or embedded content: music, films, images. And words.
Oh, look! You’re already here.
Hacker Farm, South Somerset, April 2012.