On a sunny Sunday afternoon in October when the trees were still brilliant yellows, oranges and reds, Andrew Claydon biked a familiar path around downtown Ypsilanti.
Claydon, Washtenaw Community College’s Mac support specialist in Information Technology, usually rides the 20-minute loop around Ypsilanti when he’s with the Bike-Ypsi crowd — a bike-advocacy group in town. This time, with a video camera strapped to his helmet, Claydon was capturing aspects of Yspi that most people in the Washtenaw County area have never seen, at least not from the seat of a bicycle.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand how fast and easy it is to get from A to B, and a lot of people drive here and drive there,” said Claydon, who admits that Ypsilanti is not a very bike-friendly city. “But when you hop down in there it’s actually pretty fast.”
Claydon’s video is part of a larger project that he and a few others are creating for the Shadow Art Fair on Dec. 5. Masterminded by the Michigan Design Militia (MIDMI), the fair is held biannually with about 35 to 40 vendors setting up shop at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti.
“Getting creative people to connect with the community is a good thing,” said Melissa Dettloff, a member of MIDMI and a WCC Web designer. “Giving people who might not have other opportunities to show their work like that is a good thing because I know that a lot of these types of events have pretty high application fees. And ours is pretty low on purpose because we don’t want it to be exclusive.”
But don’t expect average craft-fair items to be popping up on every table. More and more, MIDMI looks for vendors with “maybe a little bit more art and less craft, and maybe a little bit more weird than mainstream,” said Dettloff. Adding that the group tries to strike a balance between interactive pieces and tables filled with wares for sale.
Claydon’s project errs on the side of interaction. When The Washtenaw Voice spoke with Claydon, he was still working out the kinks of his piece, but he hoped to have a bike-powered video ready for the fair. It’s pretty simple: A participant will hop on a bike hooked to a generator. Once the subject starts pedaling, the generator will power a monitor that will play Claydon’s video of biking through Ypsilanti — bumpy roads and all. And when the peddling stops, so will the video.
“When you’re riding, it’s almost like a simulator. . . . And that’s the feel I wanted out of it,” Claydon said. “So you get on. You get to ride through the downtown. You get to ride around and up through EMU’s campus.”
By the time the Shadow Art Fair hits, many avid bikers will have put their bikes to rest for the winter. Claydon hopes the video will give people a feel for what the ride is like.
“People might go, ‘Hey. This is great,’” Claydon said.
Other interactive oddities to look for are Dan Blades’ Sound Blocks — circuits that create noise when touched at more than one contact point. A student at WCC and member of Dirty Bros., a creative company based in Southeastern Michigan, Blades’ longtime interest in electronic music led him to the noise music culture in Ypsilanti.
“People use really primitive sound circuits and make crazy noises with them,” Blades said. “I decided to basically figure out how these things were made.”
Blades started recreating the sound circuits and tweaking them, eventually installing them in old cigar boxes that he paints — some boxes have golden-yellow human silhouettes, others have baby-blue rockets.
The circuit and the parts used to create the circuit (a battery, for instance) are simple, Blades said.
“It creates a wave form, and then when it comes out the speaker, it’s sound. . .,” Blades said. “What I’m doing with them is either making a contact, or I’m putting a little light resistor so that it changes the voltage with the light or changes the voltage by touching it.”
The end result? It can be anything from high and low tones to distortion, but it’s not pretty sounding, Blades said.
“You get a reaction out of it just by touching it or waving your hand over it,” Blades said. “So it’s instant — you can play it even though you don’t know what you’re doing. But you actually are changing the sound of it just by doing something really simple.”