My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.



3 possibilities: Hackspace Bristol, DMT and the Aquatrick

Today I had some important realisations and considerations about various projects I'm working on - Hackspace Bristol, the Green Noise Open Hardware Project, and the invention of the Aquatrick, a water based, sensor controlled, light projecting device. I don't know how related they are except for this snowy day in Bristol, but that's life, and here they are:

1. Hackspace Bristol

Here is a project plan/wish list of sorts for Bristol Hackspace, which is currently based at Coexist/Hamilton House in Bristol:

Bristol Hackspace will be a feature of Stokes Croft and active contributor to it's attractions as a local and international centre of alternative arts and culture, adding a technological aspect to the existing local autonomous spaces, and hopefully working with these and with the wider world-wide hackerspace or makerspace (and dorkbot?) movements as well as many others. To this I hope to be able to assist by curating events, co-ordinating workshop series' as well as one-off and off-site events featuring our members or invited guests, and co-ordinating arts/object production. I think one main use of the hackspace will be this last one. Supply, as well as in house production and sale of open hardware creations might take place, from simpler Arduino based devices to more complex or diverse projects such as the RepRap, Lifetrac or Hexayurt.

A lot of dorkbot/hackspace participants would like laser cutters, 3d printers and the like, so it just depends what we can get funded, donated, or made ourselves, but cheaply.

It would be great to also get to mess with other workshop environments, such as Chris Chalkley's planned kiln workshop some day, which he is planning for his Stokes Croft China sensation...

Also, there will certainly be the more artistic inventions by our own members or international or well known or common sense open licensed ideas. These can be worked on during electronics or arts related workshops, or simply made by hand or mass produced so as to sell in our (fingers crossed!) Stokes Croft shop front.

Members can pay several levels of monthly fee which contribute to the basic running costs and rent, but we could also go for various different types of funding on a project basis and hopefully sponsorship from creative, community based, educational and business related establishments around the city that might begin to also benefit from our classes and various types of open, participatory crafting events.

And now for something completely different:

2. I may have invented my own religion, or, DMT's important connections with Buddhist and other spiritual practices.

I realised also today that there is a link of some kind between the plant and animal chemical DMT and a more Buddha-like state of being. DMT is a powerful psychedelic drug also manufactured by the human brain (some say the pineal gland at the centre of the brain). Nam Myoho Renge Kyo on the other hand is the chant, rhythm and teaching at the centre of Nichiren Buddhism and it's various offshoots. In this, a Mahayana interpretation of Buddhist teachings, Buddhahood is a pervasive force inside every living being, an absolute force and potential for good in everything, which is said to have taken place whilst he sat by a Pipal tree - Ficus religiosa - for many days, eating only what fell from this tree.

A typical Nichiren Buddhist's personal practice might involve study, application of buddhist teachings in their daily lives, and chanting anything from 10 times a day to even so called "5 by 5s" - 5 hours a day for 5 days, to an inscription in a scroll called a Gohonzon.

In simple terms the purely Buddhist belief is that by doing this we make ourselves more in rhythm with this absolute, positive energy that pervades the universe, and that by doing so we are able to have the wisdom, fortune and timeliness to be in the right place in the right time so as to make a large difference in life for oneself and others - in essence, to be a hero, able to behave like a Buddha at all times.

The reason I make this probably blasphemous assertion about dimethyl-tryptamine is due to the Green Noise Experiment I put on as a performance art/mind hack experiment at the Arnolfini Arts Centre here in Bristol in December 2009 (see previous entry on this blog for links). Basically, I put ping pong balls over the eyes of around 38 participants in a darkened space, and gave them various types of continuous white noise, green noise or pink noise to listen to for either 5, 10 or 20 minutes each.

This experiment in sound and open hardware was more to do with a inducing an also mildly psychedelic, but more hypnagogic state similar to that encountered when falling asleep or possibly during sleep paralysis, but it led me to look up various wikipedia articles about DMT production and read about various other experiments to see if there was a known link between DMT and the ganzfeld procedure I had used.

In the words of some participants in a well known DMT study in the 90s by Doctor Rick Strassman of the book "The Spirit Molecule", when injected with doses of 0.2 to 0.4 mg/kg of this very simply structured derivative of the amino-acid tryptophan:

(in the beginning, volunteers would experience vibration and many colours would appear, and begin to form complex patterns, like a curtain, which Dr Strassman in this case encourages his subject to go beyond)

"At that point it opened, and I was very much somewhere else. I believe it was at that point that I went out, into the universe-being, dancing with, a star system.."
and a few days later, from the same subject
"I am changed. I will never be the same. To simply say this almost seems to lessen the experience..."
"The great power seemed to fill all possibilities. It was "amoral" but it was love, and it just was. There was no benevolent God, only this primordial power. All of my ideas and beliefs seemed absurdly ridiculous. I never wanted to forget this..."
"I had no idea how long I was in this confluence of pure energy, or whatever/however I might describe it. Finally, I felt myself tumbling gently and sliding backward away from this light"

There is lots more where this came from, and in my experiment I was reminded of this effect in particular by the green noise diffraction effect that participants in the Green Noise Experiment had, and how relevant it seemed then, that white noise in particular, is the sound of absolute randomness all at once, of every possible wavelength and noise put together, whereas green noise was just a more natural and accessible version of this same universal sound due to it's frequent existence in the natural as well as urban environment, and that it might somehow be linked to what we are trying to achieve in Buddhist practice.

I have still to figure out if there was any prevalance in mystical or spiritual experiences in the Green Noise experiment, but the event certainly felt imbued with a positive energy - so many people were so pleased and thankful to have had a chance to try the machine.

My point of view of death, as a Buddhist, is that in dying we fall back into a sea, like an individual wave rejoining a larger whole. In more practical terms, I'd say we visibly fall back into a shadow of our previous selves, the atoms that once made us function slowly merging with other organisms or environments and the changes we make slowly losing relevance.

Although our minds may be gone in death, the memories of those around us, the inspiration, ideas and lessons we may have taught or inspired in others, and the effects of our actions in life carry on.

These changes we make in life, in our families, and in wider society and the environment around us can still can be seen long before and after a single lifetime, as we are seeing day to day with the current environmental and economic situation. This concept seems to have such a huge similarity with what is seen in the space of around 5 minutes in Dr Strassman's DMT subjects.

This thought is very enlightening, and I feel very lucky to be in both the worlds of art oriented electronics and music, and a Buddhist, so as to be able to have this realisation. I don't know if it will lead to anything, or where if so, but it certainly seems important and life changing right now to look into how I might improve my Buddhist practice through creating and using these Ganzfeld devices and through the use of what I've myself called no more than mind hacks.

Doctor Strassman, I believe, has figured out a way to measure DMT in the blood, so it seems worth testing a link between this and the practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, as well as many other Buddhist practices, not least Tientai, also known as Zhiyi, the founder of the Tendai, or Lotus School of Buddhism.

This was a chinese monk who around the year 575 declared the Lotus Sutra to be the highest teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha's sutras, intended for many generations after his time due to the time not being ripe for it to be spread widely when it was conceived.

The Lotus Sutra itself was probably compiled from oral teachings long after Shakyamuni's death.

Zhiyi added to existing meditative practices in year 600 China, the practice of "Great Concentration and Insight", (which I've also seen probably mis-translated as "Stopping and starting") - a complex system of self-cultivation practice that also incorporated devotional rituals and confession/repentance rites.

Nichiren Daishonin, in 13th century Japan, then simplified this practice into the Nam Myoho Renge Kyo chant heard today, taking inspiration from contemporary Buddhist schools offering simpler, more universally accessible practices, and from his own readings into Buddhist teachings. Nichiren's followers and practitioners today strive to make concrete changes in their lives through their practice.

I believe DMT is a vital ingredient in Buddhist practice - a fact which doesn't lessen it's beauty to me in the slightest, and as shown by Dr Strassman, is also present in many other spiritual practices worldwide, and I think this link urgently deserves further investigation.

The Aquatrick

The third truth I would like to tell you about, is that I just thought of an interesting device to make. It is a lamp, which includes an inverted LED in a reflective concave surface, shining onto a small pool of water, in a reflective container. This creates pleasant moving lights on the walls and roof around the device, so it is also a projector, or lava lamp-ish item. On the top of the device, as well as an "on" button are some sensors that allow a user to control the movement of some servo based or electromagnetic mechanisms that stir the water beneath, creating waves. This means passers by, or single / multiple users can influence the movement of the reflections around them. The water might also sound nice, but the shape of the object is probably crucial! And so ends another gathering of quite unrelated truths and future possibilities.

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