ABSTRACT GENE by Panayiota Agathangelou


Panayiota Agathangelou
Fablab Lisbon, 23rd June to August 23rd 2014
In Lisbon for a 9 weeks internship to gain creative experience with Gecko programmes, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Description of the artwork “Abstract gene”
The project started as a research among many ideas to provide Fablab with an artwork that express the facilities offered for the creative community there, together with an artistic insight.
The installation is placed between the office and the adjacent column and is mainly made with PVC plastic tubes with diameter of 16mm, which are connected with multiple identical 3D printed connectors particularly designed for the size of those tubes.

2484aThe space before the installation

SONY DSCThe installation

Final installation

The concept of interactivity and playfulness is something that contemplated my previous artworks.  Click here to see an example of my old work

This installation though is more connected to generative art rather than interactive because the artwork can still change but there are some variables given for this structure in order for it to hold together such as the direction or length of the tubes.

Genetic algorithms in design work similarly to genetic codes in science. In this case because I multiplied the same design, the shape of the connector, that consequently a number of combinations of it would form a different morphological system in a macro-scale. This fact also connects the artwork with the idea of chaos and order. The chaos is processing while the structure is growing which makes it endless, with some limits. The endless part creates the chaos because of the length and amount of tubes in each shape. On the other hand, although the directions (angles provided by the connector) are quite random, it is always the same one. And this creates the order. The structure needs the order too, that we need to respect because I noticed that if we force something that the structure cant support it would eventually break.

The generic interactive piece is; a connector designed on Rhinoceros, which starts a game with some rules where another person could alternate the piece with, and therefore the artwork continues within the same variables. This makes the generative system to continue representing my own artistic idea, or that the system itself takes on the role of the creator.

Someone might think on the first glance that the artwork is abstract and easy to assemble but the variables mentioned before have a big importance.  The connectors can break if forced and the structure can fall apart like a domino if one of the variables is over the limit. Also it is hard to calculate how the structure will finally look like because as perfect the connector might seem, it is still different when you assemble it, and there is always the choice to make the structure go somewhere else that could make you wonder “Maybe I like it more this way”. Is a process that is growing with what you have already assembled.

Technical difficulties

With the help of Bernardo we tried 3 different versions of designs in total until we found the best for the installation. We attempt firstly to make only the part were the tube would be inserted, not the whole connector.

The first design was suitable for the tube but it was taking too long to print and too much material was used from the printer as seen on image.  Also, it was stretching the tube, it was small for it and the tube was entering only if the edge of the tube was cut in 45 angle. The second design was breaking when the tube was inserted. The picture below shows a mistake of a missing support of the same design which accidentally was working, but we preferred to use a more simple design without the extension on the top to hold the tube.
Finally the last design was using less material than the others was not breaking and working fine. Those are some of the connectors used for the final installation.There were some difficulties with the calibration of the printer and some of the connectors needed replacement.

I never had the opportunity to use the process of 3d printing prior to this intern; at first I thought the process would be easy. As I started printing the results were not always as I was expecting. I realized that every single setting on Cura and on the Ultimaker original matters in order to have a perfect print!

First designSecond design, fail

final design

Final design of the connector

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 12.20.02

The calibration of the bed of the print as well as all the combinations that can be done between speed of printing, thickness, build plate or any kind of support, even the way you position your print does matter. I think I reached the best parameters to print this connector and it can be use by any one (it is saved on the computer at the FabLab next to the printer as a profile setting).

The quality of the print is very important as the outside thickness becomes very fragile and can break while the tube is inserted.To resolve this issue, after cutting the tube with the saw I was cutting the pointy and sharp ends with the cutter make it softer so it enters the connector easier. Same process was also needed for the connector as some times the printing was not perfect and there were pieces I had to remove by using tools.The first few trials of the structure were made on the floor and taped it so I could see how it looks like before I actually started to put it together on the wall.I noticed that bigger the tubes were harder it was to support them with each other and sometimes I needed help from people to avoid losing the structure, as sometimes you move one piece and unpredictably you can lose a good looking part you were not expecting.

Assembling on the floor,trial.Trial in small version


If you ever continue this idea here are some Do’s and don’ts!

  • Think about it twice before you start!
  • Cut the edges of the pvc before you insert it in the connector
  • Realize that the structure is fragile and is like a domino, try to predict what will happen if…
  • Make sure the piece you are moving is not much forced when you are pulling-pushing
  • Be patient

Don’t give up!