CCCB (Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona), "Los Miedos", BAC IV - 12/2003

F2T?
Conceived and Created by Frank Plant and Thomas Charveriat
with the help of scores of others

OkF2T is probably the most ambitious artistic project I've ever beeninvolved in. What started out as a "What if..." conversation, you knowthe ones, they begin "What if we could go to the moon?", "What if wecould rebuild the Eiffel Tower with toilet paper rolls?", you know theones. F2T is the answer to the question "What if we could build aninteractive hip hop installation that worked with your mobiletelephone?"
F2T


In January 2003, Forrester Consultants, calculated thatabout 25 billion SMS messages were sent around the world in 2002. Newtechnologies impose their language. Now, a flood of letters and signs,a hieroglyphic argot at the middle of the road between telegram andstenography dominates the virtual world. The “ :`-( “ (“I am crying andI am sad” ), “atb” (“All the best”), “cu @” (“see you around”), “thx”(“Thanks”) arrive with power. F2T, a creation by artists ThomasCharveriat(France) and Frank Plant(United States), combines sculpture,robotics, hip hop, and SMS messaging to explore the ways technologyshapes the development of language, particularly new forms of slang.Viewers interact directly with the artwork by sending it a short textmessage from their mobile. Once received, the SMS is scanned forfrequently used words and, when a match is found, the four elements areactivated. The main piece, "Rapper" begins to twist and wave his handwhile mouthing a rap based on the message sent, the new lyrics culledfrom more than 150 different hip hop phrases written by Amsterdam-basedlyricist and composer Jim Barnard. The rest of the piece issimultaneously set into motion: "Boom Box" starts flashing and blastingout the song while "Joy Ride" a bouncing low-rider, and "Shake Ass"(looks like it sounds) begins to move, triggered by ambient soundsensors. When the song is finished, a thermal printer spits out asouvenir with the original SMS and the words of the "Rapper".


Wellthat's it in a nutshell but if your interested in the story behind thestory hang around, if you would like to go directly to a video createdby Fabrice Amzel about F2T? click the below link.
F2T? Video and Edition by Fabrice Amzel
At first F2T? existed solely as a central figure that we figured wewould hook up to a portable stereo or soundsystem. We started outfooling around and I took or had taken rather a couple images of me infull on MC mode. The image to the far left served to banish any doubtsanyone had about my childhood in the ghetto. We took other images of Thomas Charveriat (co-author) and Dennis Menard (sound designer). Fortunately we didn't use them...

The principal image of the rapper/MC initially was just a trial butsomehow it stuck, minus my face that is which we replaced with thefirst rapper/vocalist that we enlisted to record the database of hiphop phrases that we used in the project.Yes we did tend to focus on thebling side of things which doesn't necessarily mean we were tipping ourhat to that part of the community, it just boils down to the fact Ifuckin' love the song and video "Country Grammar" sung by Nelly anddirected by Marc Klasfeld (Pictured below).
Low Rider

Now the idea of F2T came before I saw the video butthe video did serve to embellish the project quite a bit. Cars andwomen figure prominently in the video and my mind started to wander abit. Thomas and I agreed that perhaps it would be better to add acouple elements, flesh out the project a bit. The first thing that wethought of was to create one of those muscle cars on hydraulic pistonswhich seemed easy enough. We just had to figure out a way to animatethe thing so it jumped up and down.
The solution lay in electro-magnetic pistons which was a new discoveryfor me but not for Thomas. When an electrical current is applied themagnet creates a force which pulls the piston into the socket. With thelate night help of Jan van Ommen, official problem solver and go to guyon this project as well as many others, we developed four springs thatwe could hook up to an ambient sound sensor (we also hooked up led's inthe resin headlights) so that the car would bounce depending on thequantity of ambient sound the sensor received.

Shake  Ass

The next element required quite a bit of research onthe Internet. Let me tell you what a wonderful tool the internet is, Ihad to find images of a fairly large ass to make a dynamic piece ofsculpture that actually shook her ass in the way that is so popular inrap videos today. There is no shortage of images of all types and sizesof asses on the internet and I spent one of the more pleasant periodsof the development of F2T? doing this research. Alas sometimes whatyour looking for happens to be right under your nose and in thisinstance it happened to be the case. My lovely girlfriend happened tobe willing to compromise herself in the name of art and I came up withthis image.
Now for a lot of people this derrier would beconsidered quite remarkable, but sadly this is the type of ass wherethey laugh you off the set at the video shoot. So what was left for meto do but to savagely attack it in Photoshop and while I was at touchup those thighs a bit as well. The lengths we will go to acheivereality. The results you see below.
The sculpture actually has two asses, one mounted on top of the other.The top one is connected to a motor by a pin that passes through thebottom at more or less the position of the base of the spine. It isalso hooked up to an ambient sound sensor and reacts by shaking her assto the sounds that happen to be in the surrounding area. Thesensitivity can also be regulated, just like in real life!


Our man in the 'dam, Strawberry Ize AKA Jim Barnard, One bad Mutha

F2T, The Music

Whilst we are busy in Barcelona developing theproject up in cold Amsterdam Jim Barnard, our recruit to take care ofthe heavy heavy job of composing and writing rap phrases thatcorrespond to the words that we have in our database is hard at work.Our database consists of the 150 most popular words used in sms's. Thisit turns out is a shitload of work, much, much, more than any oneanticipated... Later these will be loaded onto a chip that throughtechno wizardry ala' Thomas Charveriat will be triggered by incomingsms's.

Jim is busy at it, with a list in alphabetical order that lookssomething like this, here you have an excerpt from the r's and s's thathe wrote:

Read - Catch my flow, bro, if you need to understand
it, helps to read, this how I planned it.

Real - Fuck keepin' it real, my deal is to fake it,
make it up, I'll give it you take it.

Record - Put the needle on the record, come on over get
nekid, grab a pill and fuckin' neck it.

Room - Take

Safe - It's safe to see me, it ain't safe to be me, my
style is to rock for you, to short sharp shock for you.

Sea - Nice an' slow coastin', fry roastin', try
toastin' like a raggamuffin, chuffin' on a sticky stink
ting.



Vocalist Tairo Nimaga and Sound God Denis Menard in the studio
In the end due to time pressures we start to do some of the recordingin Barcelona with a fella named Tairo Nimaga that you see here in thestudio at Placeta Montcada 5. In the end I think we used maybe fivedifferent vocalists with both Jim and Dennis pitching in hours uponhours of fine tuning to make sure we were up to spice.
Example of the receipts printed for every person that interacted with the project.
Other Things...
One of the cooler things that we did with this project that Thomas cameup with all on his own was to put a thermal printer into a tube of pvcand program it to spit out a receipt that gave the number of the personthat sent the message, the message they sent, the reply given andartists credits. This was a great foresight and a really important partof the piece. The public would send their messages but the raps wouldgo by so quickly that in the absence of the printer they would have noway of ascertaining which reponse was directed at them and what thehell they were saying anyway. In any event it was also a great souvenirfor our adoring public.

One of the cooler things that we did with this project that Thomas cameup with all on his own was to put a thermal printer into a tube of pvcand program it to spit out a receipt that gave the number of the personthat sent the message, the message they sent, the reply given andartists credits. This was a great foresight and a really important partof the piece. The public would send their messages but the raps wouldgo by so quickly that in the absence of the printer they would have noway of ascertaining which reponse was directed at them and what thehell they were saying anyway. In any event it was also a great souvenirfor our adoring public.




We also had a small light box with more or less instructions on how theproject worked and of course the number that you had to send the smsto, as well as artists credits. We discovered you can never giveyourself enough credit.
Last but certainly not least is the bangin' boom box with a car stereo,a 150 watt amplifier and four car speakers installed in it that we usedto broadcast the whole proceedings. Also installed are LED's beneaththe "buttons" that are filled with resin. These are also hooked up toan ambient sound sensor and blink according to the volume andfrequencies that they receive.

F2T? inaugurated in the CCCB (Centro de Cultura Contemporanea deBarcelona) for the first time in November of 2003 and has since beenexhibited in Observatori 2004, Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe,Valencia, Spain, Customize04, Covento de Sant Agusti, Barcelona, Spain, Ram Foundation, Rotterdam, Den Hague as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Shanghai in Shaghai, China.
Article in El Pais