Enter the matrix: Hackers get together for marathon session in Bushwick

Enter the matrix: Hackers get together for marathon session in Bushwick
Photo courtesy of Pamela Reed

You’ve touched a computer, you’ve talked to a computer, but have you fed one food?

Tech savvy artists are coming together in Bushwick for a 48-hour marathon session of creative collaboration leading up to a party on Feb. 28, where they’ll show off the fruits of their labor — like a digital girl hungry for pizza.

“It really surprises you how much you can do in 48 hours,” said hacker Pamela Reed, who participated in last year’s Art Hack Day. “It’s amazing to think about what artists can do in such a short time when they have to.”

And when Reed and her partner Matthew Radar put their heads together they formed a video of a hungry girl connected to a button that allowed users, if they felt like it, to feed the girl pizza.

While hackers in popular culture come in many forms — cyber-terrorists, leather-clad superheroes, or just petty thieves — these creative coders are hacking for no set ends; they’re doing it just to see what happens, capturing a fun and creative meaning of the word.

“The term came out of MIT in the 1950s, when the model railroad group would build interactive computers and get model trains to do lots of things they weren’t built to do,” said Art hack co-organizer David Huerta. “We’re trying to come up with new uses for technology.”

When it comes to Art Hack Day, new uses often mean something entirely strange.

Along with the Reed’s pizza machine, last year’s projects included the marriage of a 3-D printer and pop singer Billy Joel. The printer created a sculpture of a waveform of Joel singing “Scenes of An Italian Restaurant,” representing all the sonic peaks and valleys of the song. Another team invented a copier that allowed people to mark their dollars bills as fake.

If these projects seem far-flung and difficult to comprehend, it’s because Art Hack Day isn’t trying to pitch business proposals to investors — like most hackathons — it’s trying to give life to ideas, no matter how strange, said Sean McIntyre, whose project last year used the blinking lights of wireless routers to display an abstract mathematical concept.

“The idea of a traditional hackathon is for programmers to try to create an idea and then show that to a panel so that they can make money off it,” said McIntyre. “This is more just us getting together to be creative. Ideas expand much quicker than when you’re working alone.”

Art Hack Day at 319 Scholes (319 Scholes St. between Waterbury and Bogart streets in Bushwick, www.319scholes.org). Feb. 28, 7–10 pm.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.