JANUARY 20, 2015
Wander into DM+D on any given day, and you’re likely to bump into Maximillian Lawrence, who may be waxing philosophical about karaoke, robots, or people who look like Alice Cooper, all while programming something on his laptop or working on his latest Frankenstein musical instrument.
Max was one of the The Hacktory’s artists-in-residence for the last year’s Unknown Territory Fellowship, as well as a founder of Space 1026, an artist-run collective that focuses on silkscreening, printmaking, painting, audio/video production and graphic design. With his roots in painting (and a BFA from RISD after starting at Cornell in the Arts and Sciences), he’s spent the last ten years making art that incorporates circuit boards, wire, painting, printing, sound, light and other multimedia elements to explore contemporary culture.
Having worked exclusively over the last decade with physical materials, such as hardware and solid state electronics, he’s now moving into the world of programming and developing cool tools to produce new art. We caught up with Max to talk about what he’s been doing at DM+D over the last several months.
5 QUESTIONS FOR MAXIMILLIAN LAWRENCE
1. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
It’s a tool that can take midi music files, like the ones used for karaoke, break them down into their components for text, pitch and timing, and allow them to be recombined in all sorts of ways to create completely new music and visualizations. The output can do all sorts of things, like vocalize words, display a visual on a screen and provide input for other programs. In this way, the raw data could be combined in countless ways to create new music or art that builds off or responds to the original midi files.
2. HOW DOES DM+D INSPIRE YOU?
I needed someone to tell me where to start for my next project, and that’s what the Hacktory crew was able to do. They told me where to start, what I needed to do, and how to approach it in a manageable way. It’s been an amazing experience, but it hasn’t been easy. There’s been a lot of new stuff to learn.
3. WHAT’S ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS YOU REMEMBER MAKING ON YOUR OWN?
That’s a good question. I think it was a sideways apartment building out of a giant cardboard box. Giant cardboard boxes are awesome.
4. WHICH MAKERS HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?
My father and mother and my father’s mother, granny Ruth Lovell, are numero uno. She had a degree in physics, which is remarkable considering that, in her day, women didn’t even go to college. Along with her brother-in-law, Bun Lawrence (who didn’t have a degree in physics but did co-found the American Rocket Society), and her insane WWII Marine Corps test pilot husband (GrandPa), she developed the Redstone Rocket and started Reaction Motors, which was later absorbed into NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though much of U.S. rocket development is attributed to Wernher Von Braun, the United States already had an equal caliber scientist to the Germans. The inspiring part is the fact that a woman (Granny Ruth), a professional crash dummy (GrandPa) and an old-fashioned inventor (Bun) developed this rocket system in a garage in New Jersey, test launched them in people’s backyards (and then ran from the cops)—all while trying to take accurate measurements. Grandma finally had it with stuff blowing up so she made them move it out of the house and get a new location.
Aside from them, I’ve been influenced by Jeff Blankinsop. The dude is about as punk rock as you can get. Hisao Tiwao and Larry Seven are also two of the most inspiring individuals I’ve met in a long time. Hisao developed the dancing Alka-Seltzer pill that jumps into a glass of water in the 1980’s commercial completely using magnets and math. Larry is nuts. He can’t operate a cell phone, but he can build an entire radio station from scratch. And Timothy Hawkinson. He makes stuff with motors on it, and it’s arty. And Chris Vecchio. Because he’s the one who introduced me to engineering. He’s an engineer and an artist at the same time.
5. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS?
Comprehension is the best part. You can’t choose the time and place where you’re going to comprehend something, so it’s exciting when it happens. And repetition is the only way that you get there.