Mark Buitenwerf

Artist in residency at AADK Centro Negra


On the 16h of December 2016 I won the Media Art Friesland Young Masters audience award with my work Taste of Light.

Besides the honor of winning the price I also won a spot in the AADK Centro Negra residency program in Blanca, Spain.

Media Art Friesland provided me with the means to travel to Spain.


On the 5th of April 2017 I traveled to Blanca and here I am doing my month long artist in residency.

In the residency program I will be focusing on developing new concepts, ideas and techniques in the field of programming, electronics and interfacing. I take to an learning by tinkering approach to this focusing on learning rather than producing new work.

On this page I will keep weekly track of my progress and my other activities.

Week 3 & Open Studio Exhibition


My last week at Centro Negra was mainly focused on finishing things for open studio exhibition.

I started the week "finishing" with my electronics. I brought quiet a bit of gear to Spain and I forced myself to experiment with all of them.


I started with working with Gemma. Gemma is Adafruit's smallest platform for wearable electronics. It was interesting working with this platform because it gave me more insight in to how  the Atmel AVR platform functions. Where Arduino is a plug and play experience the Gemma platform requires you to manual start the Boot loader on the board and doesn't have any form serial communication. Also the standard AVRISP-II Arduino programmer doesn't work with the Gemma. It's these small things that made me look more in to how  the stuff actually works. I don't think I'll be programming my own AVR controllers any time soon, but It does give a under the hood insight of things.


I started working with Adafruit's sequin's and Neopixels in combination with the Gemma.

Firstly I was quiet frustrated with library not being explained properly until I stumbled upon the Neo Pixel Uber Guide which helped me on my way. Even though I would like it so much if manufactures just gave a clear per function explanation of their libraries.


An example of this is the inclusion of the <avr/power.h> library. It is used in every example, it's clearly fundamental to the controller, but it is never explained why. This stuff really gets under my skin, it creates a black-box situation in this Hacker/Maker environment.


I went on working with the NeoPixel ring(12).

This was such a great experience in learning to use for() / while() loops to create animations and effects.

I was so happy when I got the 3 RGB LED's to pop on and off on 12 different locations without ever colliding.

The NeoPixel experiment really helped me to get more confident in programming and brought me the essential skills to work on my final project.


I went on tinkering with electronics and worked with an 8x8 LED matrix, ultrasonic sensors and gave the pusle sensor a second go.

A short summary:


LED Matrix: working with the Adafruit GFXlib was a breeze, very similar to the drawing functions in Processing. Super cool effect. I can see myself incorporation this in my future works.


Ultrasonic Sensor: I wasn't to excited about this one. It's useful for project that don't require quick sensing, it's clearly aimed at robotics.


Pulse Sensor: I tried their "advanced" code do derive a BPM from the sensor. This is kind of coding is just way over my head. It didn't work and the code was to complex for me to dissect to find the problem.


My experiments with the LED's, Neopixel Ring and 8x8 Matrix



I continued working on the LCD-movie concept. I already wrote a short movie and a story board but I still had to bypass the biggest obstacle with this medium. The 8 custom characters dilemma. Usually the HD44780 LCD Modules can't hold more then 8 custom characters. Using an Arduino to re-write the custom chars in th loop() function can bypass this problem.

I still can't use more then 8 custom chars at a time. But this allowed me to use multiple chars in my program.


I also played with the internal pixel shift functions and turning the screen on and off to create some cinematic effects similar to screen shake.

Another breakthrough was using a decimal system instead of a binary system to create the custom characters.

This way I could reduce this:


byte customChar[8] = {












to this:


byte customChar[8] = {14,17,10,14,27,4,10,17};


In the end this made my code so incredible much more readable.


With all these new tools I decided to reprogram my sea I made in the first week of the residency.

Using my new for()-loop skills and the use of the decimal system I was able to reduce my code from 340 lines down to 90.


"breaking" the 8-char rule


I continued to work on the LCD movie concept for a few more days. Also talking with my fellow residents and coaches about the project. Following this I dubbed my work LCD Cinema, the smallest cinema on the planet. I was getting more and more proficient in making animations. I started with 1 block images (5*8 pixels) and moved on to doing 4 block animations(10*16 pixels) end ending with 6 block animations(15*16 pixels). This really was a throwback for me to my early game design days making small animations. I must admit that my experience in drawing so small on a computer really helped me doing animation on the LCD screen. I ended up with a psychedelic drug invested movie which was about 3 minutes long and required 3000 lines of code. I used all the effects that I could think of, made screen filling scenes as well as texts and titles.


A visitor of the open studio exhibition checking out the LCD Cinema.


For the open studio exhibition I presented the LCD Cinema, my drawing robots, a music instrument that I made in the last week, the lamp, a video of my process and I did some video mapping on the wall to decorate the space a bit.


The Drawing Robot XL


Exhibition description


The open studio was very nice to do and gave a cool conclusion to the residency.

I want to thank all the people at Centro Negra for all their support and help!

Next day I left Blanca early in the morning while the clouds passed over the mountains, a lovely final glimpse.




Si nos encontramos de nuevo!


Week 2


On my second week at Centro Negra I worked on more small electronic projects and tried to add more of an artistic application to my experiments. Besides making stuff I also learned more about the local community and start to feel at home as well as getting to know the local art scene.

This week was mainly to prepare for the third and last week in which I will produce a work for the open studio exhibition.

I decided that I will continue developing the LCD movie technique I developed in the first week because I still find it intriguing.

Besides that I want to build something that involves the location, a site specific work because I've never done that before and I think it will be a good exercise for me as well as an interesting project. Of course there will also be more electronic experiments and shenanigans as I go.




Week 1


The first week was a short one. I arrived Wednesday late in the evening.

I got a warm welcome from the crew at Centro Negra who were so nice to pick me up from the bus station in Murcia.

They gave me an nice apartment all the way at the top of the mountain overlooking the town below.



The beautiful view from the apartment



The next day I decided tot unpack all my equipment and head in to the town to take a look around and do some basic shopping.

The rest of the day I tried to make some plans for the rest of the residency. The evening ended with a nice dinner provided by the AADK crew together with my fellow resident Pavel, some locals and previous residents. Here I met the German artist Ireen and her friend Tobias. Together with Pavel we decided we would travel to the capital of the municipality Murcia tomorrow.



A walk along the Segura



We traveled to Murcia late in the morning where we visited the an exhibition by Peter Greenaway as well as the Palacio Almundí, T20 gallery and Art Neuve gallery. Of course we also took a stroll through the city to take some compulsory holiday pictures. We ended the evening in a small thrift shop for a small concert from the local art scene. All and all a very nice day trip with loads of new impressions.



Busco piso sin wifi by Juan Ugalde at the T20 Gallery



On my third day in Blanca I finally started to work (you might got the feeling I was taking a little holiday here, well.. maybe a bit).

Before I left I bought myself a little heart rate pulse sensor ( and decided to give it a try.

I hooked the sensor up to my Arduino and on to Max to check if my heart is still beating.


To my great joy I found out that it does!

Together with the fact that I recently found out that I have a functional brain I can finally say that I am alive!


I used the data from the pulse sensor to trigger sounds in Ableton with some degree of success.

The problem with the sensor is that it is extremely sensitive to movement of the body.

I already envisioned attaching the sensor to my body and creating some house music while doing push-ups.

No such luck yet. The video bellow demonstrates the instability of the sensor.


Now I have to admit that I simply used the code provided by manufacture.

When I feel like exploring the sensor more I think I could derive a BPM from the sensor instead of pulses, giving me a more stable platform to work with.



On Sunday I really dove in to Arduino.

I've worked with this platform on and off before but I decided that it was time for me to really learn the whole programming language with actual experiments. So Sunday I basically sat down and forced myself to work through the whole Arduino Projects book that I brought for this trip. I thought this would provide me with an good foundation of the language.


Now I've been programming for a while but I tend to stay basic and write out everything, avoiding subjects like arrays, switch statements, writing my own functions as well as for/while loops. Because technically you can do without them, it's just more work. For this same reason I prefer an written out AND instead of the  && abbreviation. It makes it more readable and understandable to me. I decided it was time to grow up and start learning this stuff as well. I already knew how it worked in theory, I just never applied any of it.


I started out with some simple blinking LED scripts to freshen up my memory and cycle through the first two chapters of the book.

After that I dipped my toes in to using a temperature sensor to digitally confirm that the weather is great here! (hahaha!)

Moving on I used a servo motor to make a little bit of randomized music instead of following the book to make some mood cue.



Next I made a little LDR based theremin. First I made it as done in the book and later I upgraded the code to scale the frequencies to the C-minor scale. This also forced me to learn about arrays and how to use them. Useful stuff!




Lastly I played with a DC motor which was all good and fun and more interesting on the electronic side of things.

Refreshing my knowledge on decoupling and diodes.


But the most awesome stuff of the day was playing with an LCD screen.

Now I have to admit that I skipped most of the stuff in the book and went straight on to the creation of custom characters.

Most LCD screens can hold up to 8 custom characters at a time. This is mostly used for creating arrows, wifi symbols or the Celsius symbol.

This limitation of symbols really inspired me to try to make movie on an LCD screen with just 8 characters.


I did it, I made two short clips of a sea and of a group of people dancing. But this is punishing labor!

Just the sea code, which is a 4-frame movies was more then a 350 lines of code.

But it was also a lot of fun to make and probably the most educational part of the day.


Somewhere in this residency I will continue working with this LCD medium, I don't know how yet but the limitations are inspiring.

Also there are quite a few functions in the library that I haven't touched yet but that is something for another day.