Planetary Keys

This is something I made in anticipation of a similarly constructed robot controller for The keys were designed in Inkscape and printed onto cotton letterhead, then painted over with Bare Conductive paint (you could just paint the keys; I am not a terribly good painter, so I like to design on and print from a computer). I connected them to MaKey MaKey, which lets you turn pretty much anything that conducts even small amounts of electricity, into a button or switch that is interpreted as a keyboard or mouse action on a computer. I wrote a Processing sketch that reads each key and displays a corresponding color and plays a corresponding note. The black, shungite pyramid is conductive and connected to the ground part of the circuit, so when I touch the pyramid (with my right hand, in the video) and also one of the keys, I pull some of the electricity through my body to ground — enough for MaKey MaKey to recognize which connection I have altered, and activate the appropriate output.

(I have only six of the seven keys wired in the demo video, because more would have required the addition of a mouse action, and I just wanted to keep it simpler than that, but it is possible to use all seven.)

The correspondences I used are from Paul Foster Cases‘s Correlation of Sound and Color (you can find PDF copies online); there are others. If you are interested in his sources, Alison Deadman wrote an excellent article about them: “Letter, Musical Pitch, and Color in the Work of Paul Foster Case” (links to PDF). Dr. Deadman teaches music history and Alexander Technique at East Tennessee State University.

I have imagined many uses for this technology; a variety of ritual interactions. E.g., a conductive talisman that “charges” the magician when she completes a circuit by touching the talisman with one hand and an earthed device (metal stang?) with her other — perhaps triggering lights or video, music or other sound. Or printed/painted psionic devices. Etc. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments.


Talismachine Draft

Here is a proof-of-concept draft I made last night, for the talismachines. The print was designed in Inkscape and laser-printed onto cotton letterhead, then hand-painted over with Bare electrically conductive paint. It includes a coin-cell battery, on-off switch, and white LED from the LilyPad Arduino family. The inverted triangle in the upper-right is an alchemical symbol for blood, and contains a drop of (my) blood.

Talismachine Draft 2

The magical purpose of the talisman is to give “great knowledge and wisdom in mechanical arts,” and it features the sigil of the Goetic demon Barbas (or Marbas). It shows also the hammer and anvil of Tubal Cain, and a classical symbol for fire indicating Hephaestus/Vulcan. Its practical purpose is to experiment with the media. The proper talismachines will be screen-printed on parchment or canvas, and will include a LilyPad microcontroller for more interesting interactions. I may need to run conductive thread behind the parchment, because the Bare Paint rapidly increases its resistance over the lines.

Talismachine Draft 5

Click here for more photos.

Bare Conductive Paint Has Launched!!

Related articles: Conductive Sigils

Bare Conductive creates electrically conductive paint (Bare Paint) and body paint (Bare Skin). I first wrote about BC in 2009, and have been waiting since then for it to become available, which it now has—well, sort of. Bare Paint is available now, and Bare Skin is scheduled to go on sale at the end of the October (according to their website).

This opens up a vast dimension of possibilities for magic sigils and art that interact with electronic components and system.

Bare Conductive: Skin Safe Conductive Ink

Bare is a conductive ink that is applied directly onto the skin allowing the creation of custom electronic circuitry. This innovative material allows users to interact with electronics through gesture, movement, and touch. Bare can be applied with a brush, stamp or spray and is non-toxic and temporary. Application areas include dance, music, computer interfaces, communication and medical devices. Bare is an intuitive and non-invasive technology which will allow users to bridge the gap between electronics and the body. //

I discovered Bare Conductive a few months ago, and was immediately flooded with ideas for using their skin-safe conductive ink in ritual performances. I emailed them, inquiring about the availability of their product, but did not receive a reply.

Here is a video by Calvin Harris, demonstrating the use of BC in his “Humanthesizer” (human synthesizer):