Over the last couple of years, a new space has emerged in Osborne Park. Part engineering workshop, part artist commune, part mad scientist lab, The Artifactory has added some much needed imagination into Perth. All with the power of SCIENCE. We had a talk to one of it’s members, SKoT MacDonald, to explain what was going on.
“The Artifactory is a an example of a hacker space, which is a loose collection of people who rent a warehouse or find a workshop, generally, and start making things. There’s a little bit of a desire to explore technology, there’s a desire to create art (possibly with a twisted science or technology aspect), but it varies from group to group around the world. So whatever a random collection of individuals want to do, that’s what they’ll end up doing. In the Artifactory’s case, lots of work placed into electronics, another strong group that’s into music technology, others will play with 3D printers and laser cutters, and we actually have a lot of sculptors and full time artists who use the space to build their commissions.”
Hacker spaces have been around as a concept since the late ‘80s. “C-base in Berlin was one of the first, as part of the post wall coming down. They have a freaky weird theme of recovering tech from a 10,000 year old crashed space ship.”
Since then they have spread across the globe, loosely organising though various websites. “There’s no world wide organisation as it really is fairly anarchic. The only thing that really unites everyone is we want to share some of your space because things like laser cutters and power tools are really expensive and take up a lot of room. It’s really up to each hacker or maker space to set up whatever non-profit or other way they want to do things. What usually happens is people will come up with open source designs, or bits of code, or electronics, or ways of using a hot glue gun in an interesting way and put it up on their hacking space. Information, designs and ideas get shared around this way. No hard and fast rules other than don’t kill other people, clean up after yourself, and to help keep the place going – if you got skills, share those with other people because there will be a sort of skill karma that comes back.”
This strange combination of skillsets has seen some remarkable results. “We’ve actually had situations where engineers in their down time will build a CNC machine or a 3D printer for the sheer joy of it, and artists will go ‘Right, I know exactly where that’s going to go.’” Hence The Artifactory has been the birthplace of such diverse machines as the Arcaphone ( a musical instrument capable of producing “the fourth state of matter – plasma”), Mad Max-inspired dune buggies ( for Blazing Swan– WA’s own Burning Man), and steam-powered ostriches.
With various themed nights and a welcome policy to visitors, it might be worth checking out. Head here for further details.
DAVID O’CONNELL pic: Perth Artifactory