rhythm apparatus for the overhead projector -- a metaphorical device
a lecture performance by christian faubel

For the japan media arts festival I propose an extended version of a lecture performance that is based on the publications rhythm apparatus for the overhead projector – a metaphorical device and Rhythm Apparatus on Overhead. These articles were published and presented at the xcoax conference on computation, communication, aesthetics and x in bergamo, in june 2013 and at the nime conference in london, in july 2014.
Freed from the time limit of a conference talk of twenty minutes, I envision to smoothly move into a pure audio-visual performance at the end of the scientific presentation. In total the performance will take 40 minutes.


The core idea of the lecture performance is to pick up the tradition of philosophical toys as experimental setups that are used to convey scientific insight while in the same time providing amusement and entertainment. The scientific background is a contemporary theory on cognition, entitled embodied cognition. A central claim of this theory is that intelligent behavior in biological systems arises from the real time dynamics and interaction between the nervous system, the body and the real space the body is situated in.

the lecture performance

In the lecture performance i use a robotic device that is placed on an overhead projector to demonstrate 3 core concepts of embodied cognition

  • How structured patterns emerge out of the interaction of simple units.
  • That functional modularity fails to account for the complex interaction of subsystems.
  • How everything matters: the nervous system, the body, the environment and their real-time interaction.

The lecture starts as a classical lecture using slides and pencils on the overhead projector. i provide the theoretical background and i cite an experimental example about babies that learn to walk, based on the work of the developmental psychologist Esther Thelen.

short animation of the full setup

short animation of the full setup

Then i build the device in a step by step manner during the performance and the device shows more and more complex behavior as i modify its body and the environement. in parallel to this assembly the sound and visual patterns also become more complex.
When the full system is assembled, i start to use it as an instrument to create an experimental drum and synthesizer set. It uses the rhythmic patterns that emerge out of the interaction of the electronics, the body and the real space. I use these ever-changing patterns to trigger different synthesizer sounds while also integrating directly the pickup-up microphones that deliver sounds similar to a bassdrum. what started as a theoretical science lecture ends in something that rather reminds of an electronic hip hop set, with broken beats, odd sounds and lot of noise.


presentation at the nime conference 2014

  • article presented at xCoAx 2013
  • article presented at nime 2014
  • instant twitter reactions to the presentation at nime 2014




Christian Faubel works at lab3, the laboratory for experimental computer science
at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, he does performances with the projectorband ray vibration and with derstrudel he teaches workshops at the edge of science and art and creates installations that are self-sustained habitats using autonomous robots.

After studying mechanical engineering in Toulouse, France and Dresden, Germany he became interested in autonomous systems during an internship at Sanyo Denki. There he worked on an small sized autonomous robot within Sanyo’s household appliances research and development department in Osaka, Japan from 1999 till 2000.

When he returned to europe in 2001 he worked for a short period as a freelancer for the Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart and for the Technical Collections Dresden. In 2001 together with Sebastian Noth he founded derstrudel to give structure to their shared interest in simple analog robots, in all sorts of electronic tinkering and the mediation of relaxed approach to electronics. Workshops and installations of derstrudel have been featured at numerous venues, including the garage festival, the transmediale, the piksel festival, the international film festival rotterdam, the art of the overhead, centre pompidou paris, sight and sound festival montreal.

in 2002 he started to work in the autonomous robotics group at the Institut für Neuroinformatik in Bochum. After working on dynamical systems for robot navigation, in 2004 he focused on autonomous perception and object recognition based on dynamic neural field theory. In 2009 he finished his phd and continued to work at the Institut für Neuroinformatik as a postdoc. In 2012 he started working as member of the artistic/scientific staff at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.