Saturday, July 03, 2004

F2T ? Free to Talk ? Mobile hip hopping madness...

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

Ok F2T is probably the most ambitious artistic project I've ever been involved in. What started out as a "What if..." conversation, you know the ones, they begin "What if we could go to the moon?", "What if we could rebuild the Eiffel Tower with toilet paper rolls?", you know the ones. F2T is the answer to the question "What if we could build an interactive hip hop installation that worked with your mobile telephone?"


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

Well that's it in a nutshell but if your interested in the story behind the story hang around, if you would like to go directly to a video created by Fabrice Amzel about F2T? click the below link.

  • F2T?, The Movie

  • Or you can youtube it right here!

    Get Poor or die tryin': The story behind F2T?

    At first F2T? existed solely as a central figure that we figured we would hook up to a portable stereo or soundsystem. We started out fooling around and I took or had taken rather a couple images of me in full on MC mode. The image to the far left served to banish any doubts anyone had about my childhood in the ghetto. These other images though thank god never made it out of the box and now I just use them to blackmail their subjects.

    DJ Whitebread AKA Dennis Menard, the sound designer, for F2T

    Thomas "Tommy Gun" Charveriat, reigning technophile and co-author of the project. This guy just oozes hood...

    The principal image of the rapper/MC initially was just a trial but somehow it stuck, minus my face that is which we replaced with the first rapper/vocalist that we enlisted to record the database of hip hop phrases that we used in the project.Yes we did tend to focus on the bling side of things which doesn't necessarily mean we were tipping our hat to that part of the community, it just boils down to the fact I fuckin' love the song and video "Country Grammar" sung by Nelly and directed by Marc Klasfeld.

    Low Rider

    Now the idea of F2T came before I saw the video but the video did serve to embellish the project quite a bit. Cars and women figure prominently in the video and my mind started to wander a bit. Thomas and I agreed that perhaps it would be better to add a couple elements, flesh out the project a bit. The first thing that we thought of was to create one of those muscle cars on hydraulic pistons which seemed easy enough. We just had to figure out a way to animate the thing so it jumped up and down.

    The solution lay in electro-magnetic pistons which was a new discovery for me but not for Thomas. When an electrical current is applied the magnet creates a force which pulls the piston into the socket. With the late night help of Jan van Ommen, official problem solver and go to guy on this project as well as many others, we developed four springs that we could hook up to an ambient sound sensor (we also hooked up led's in the resin headlights) so that the car would bounce depending on the quantity of ambient sound the sensor received.

    Shake Ass

    The next element required quite a bit of research on the Internet. Let me tell you what a wonderful tool the internet is, I had to find images of a fairly large ass to make a dynamic piece of sculpture that actually shook her ass in the way that is so popular in rap videos today. There is no shortage of images of all types and sizes of asses on the internet and I spent one of the more pleasant periods of the development of F2T? doing this research. Alas sometimes what your looking for happens to be right under your nose and in this instance it happened to be the case. My lovely girlfriend happened to be willing to compromise herself in the name of art and I came up with this image.
    Now for a lot of people this derrier would be considered quite remarkable, but sadly this is the type of ass where they laugh you off the set at the video shoot. So what was left for me to do but to savagely attack it in Photoshop and while I was at touch up those thighs a bit as well. The lengths we will go to acheive reality. 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 the bottom at more or less the position of the base of the spine. It is also hooked up to an ambient sound sensor and reacts by shaking her ass to the sounds that happen to be in the surrounding area. The sensitivity can also be regulated, just like in real life!

    F2T, The Music

    Whilst we are busy in Barcelona developing the project up in cold Amsterdam Jim Barnard, our recruit to take care of the heavy heavy job of composing and writing rap phrases that correspond 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. This it turns out is a shitload of work, much, much, more than any one anticipated... Later these will be loaded onto a chip that through techno wizardry ala' Thomas Charveriat will be triggered by incoming sms's.

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

    Jim is busy at it, with a list in alphabetical order that looks something like this, here you have an excerpt from the r's and s's that he 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

    In the end due to time pressures we start to do some of the recording in Barcelona with a fella named Tairo Nimaga that you see here in the studio at Placeta Montcada 5. In the end I think we used maybe five different vocalists with both Jim and Dennis pitching in hours upon hours of fine tuning to make sure we were up to spice.

    Other Things.....

    One of the cooler things that we did with this project that Thomas came up with all on his own was to put a thermal printer into a tube of pvc and program it to spit out a receipt that gave the number of the person that sent the message, the message they sent, the reply given and artists credits. This was a great foresight and a really important part of the piece. The public would send their messages but the raps would go by so quickly that in the absence of the printer they would have no way of ascertaining which reponse was directed at them and what the hell they were saying anyway. In any event it was also a great souvenir for our adoring public.

    We also had a small light box with more or less instructions on how the project worked and of course the number that you had to send the sms to, as well as artists credits. We discovered you can never give yourself 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 used to broadcast the whole proceedings. Also installed are LED's beneath the "buttons" that are filled with resin. These are also hooked up to an ambient sound sensor and blink according to the volume and frequencies that they receive.

    F2T? inaugurated in the CCCB (Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona) for the first time in November of 2003 and has since been exhibited in Observatori 2004, Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe, Valencia, Spain, Customize04, Covento de Sant Agusti, Barcelona, Spain and the Ram Foundation, Rotterdam, Den Hague

    Article in El Pais