Over the last decade I have been working on installation and electronic music projects. Some of this has picked up attention in the press, especially during my academic work at Oxford Brookes. This is a summary of how the work developed and press coverage over that period.
Though not my first project, Play House has had the most coverage. This was largely thanks to John Baichtal suggesting I wrote a making-of article for Make: http://makezine.com/2014/04/15/play-house-build-notes-acid-house-and-lego
This somehow went viral and led to coverage in Mixmag, Creator’s Project and Wired, and led to me showing Play House at the BFI in London. It was a crazy couple of months.
Wired were fantastic. The editor got in touch to get more information on the motive and workings of the piece. This led to me talking at Wired Next Generation the following year http://www.wiredevent.co.uk/alex-allmont.
One Dot Zero
One of the most fantastic groups I’ve worked with are One Dot Zero in London. They invited me to talk at their first Shoreditch DotDotDot event which led to a follow up talk at the V&A in London: http://onedotzero.com/news/VA-Friday-Late–Shoreditch-Takeover. I was lucky enough to work with One Dot Zero at a Bleep launch the following year with a mash up installation of my pieces Clunky Drummer and All Work and No Play.
If you get the chance, go to their events. They are enthusiastic, supportive and very down to earth.
My first visit to Kinetica was in 2012. I’d just finished my MA and wanted a bit of a send-off for my work.
I installed Music of the Gears, Missing Link and my LEGO Clock along with my newly-built piece for the show called Clunky Drummer. The latter was very much in progress and it was great to have Kinetica as a deadline. It’s the piece that drove me towards electronic music machines and my live performance work. Here’s an early build:
The great thing with Clunky Drummer was seeing people’s reaction as they put the headphones on. The jump from seeing the machine from the outside, noisily clunking away, and then jumping ‘inside’ into the sound world just did something magical and people had huge grins on their faces. Exploiting this jump into headphone space was a huge influence for Play House.
I had nice write-ups from the show including this from RAAK: http://wewillraakyou.com/2012/02/the-raakonteur-73-the-clash-of-the-weak-tie-titans-know-reddit-to-do-reddit.
Festival of the Spoken Nerd
I did a presentation at Kinetica on how to build a LEGO clock https://vimeo.com/36818280. We had to rejig the performance times which led to the comedian Helen Arney writing to me – as she had wanted to see it but missed it – so asked if I could perform it as part of the show Festival of the Spoken Nerd with Matt Parker and Steve Mould (http://festivalofthespokennerd.com/show/new-material-night). I was buzzed up from the Kinetica so accepted before I’d had time to reflect on how nervous I get on stage.
The FoTSN guys are amazing, incredibly supportive, and I had the chance to do another talk at the show about doing maths with machines. The talk was a practice session for a workshop I was putting together for Edinburgh University on mechanical computation, again connected through Matt Parker who’d suggested I get involved in MathsJam.
Museum of the History of Science
Really this institution should be at the top of the page because it’s where things started off, and they are a lovely crew. I wouldn’t have done Kinetica if I hadn’t had a chance to build up my confidence with MHS. I showed my LEGO plaiting machine as part of their ‘Fourth Plinth’ series http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/plaiting-machine-made-of-lego and this led to my requesting the use of site for my final MA piece.
My piece Music of the Gears was on show several months later http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/music-of-the-gears. It’s a very quiet meditative piece which worked perfectly on site, still one of my favourite meditative pieces.
I still work occasionally with the Museum on installations. Most recently I worked with Owen Shaw and Michael Wright on a coin operated orrery. Michael has an encyclopaedic knowledge of historical mechanisms and built a beautiful 17th century brass orrery. I built the glowing resin sun, coin mechanism, lighting and motor control electronics.
For an example of Michael’s work here is his Antikythera mechanism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eUibFQKJqI.
Just before working with MHS I took part in a group show in Raven Row in London. I was very lucky to be part of a well-curated show in a beautiful gallery for my first real outing, not often the case for artists who are just starting out.
Mechanical Art and Design Museum
I met the Mechanical Art and Design team at Kinetica and lent them my LEGO clock for the opening of their first exhibition. Afterwards I built them a custom clock they could hang on the wall and it is still ticking away at their new venue. The clock is powered by gravity and the audience can rewind it interactively.
After building a wall-mounted clock I became interested in building more picture-format sound work that you could stand and look at and listen at for a long time. This led to one of my favourite pieces All Work and No Play which is intentionally rather bleak. I made it when I was tired with the whole LEGO thing and had the idea of a child who played as a form of protest, building brutalist drone isolation pieces to articulate his frustration.
I also exhibited my new piece Clash of the Fractions which was an exploration of polyrhythms, developed from an interactive piece shown at BEAM in Brunel University.
Unfortunately I blew too much money and couldn’t afford to do any more shows! However this was more than made up for in meeting Graham Carrick who wanted to show my work at his Fluxion show, and the Music Tech Fest team with whom I later showed work and did a talk at the O2 in London.
During my MA I showed a new – mercifully non-LEGO – piece called Too Much Coffee: http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/10407445.display. This was a really fun expiration of generative music and polyrhythms. It was effectively a software prototype of Clash of the Fractions.
After Kinetica I met some of the team from the Music Hackspace in London who invited me to talk about how I develop ideas. Looking back it’s amazing what a melting pot that place was, a space including startups like Rebel Technology and ROLI. The opportunities for developing in a well-sourced hackspace are amazing, they had a fantastic workshop in Shoreditch.
After meeting Graham at Kinetica he asked if I’d be interested in putting work together for a show at Trinity Buoy Wharf. It was great to put a collection together of my personal favourite work intermingled with other artists’ creations http://www.trinitybuoywharf.com/whats-on/event/fluxion. This is where I met Jon Baker who is an artist and curator I still work with today.
I built a custom piece for the show called Pot Drum. This came from the discussion of children making their own toys in third world countries, and the incredible creativity this instigates. I thought I’d go for a first world take on that, the Pot Noodle.
Jon Baker runs Sigur Gallery and represents a fantastic range of artists. After Fluxion we discussed commissions and residencies and he’s taken my more portable pieces to Berlin, Italy and Hong Kong, which is a phenomenal way to road-test mechanical work. Jon continues to keep me motivated when I’m at my most moansome http://www.juancarlosarenas.co.uk/Siger_Gallery/Alex_Allmont.html
My current active project is live music performance work with Ryan Quarterman under the banner AARC. Ryan plays electronic drum machines and guitar pedals and I work with my analogue synth. It’s a very exploratory experience and our intention is to maintain a certain intimacy that connects with the audience and slows everything down.