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Vending Machine by Ellie Harrison

Craft & Design Technology

This is a really interesting piece of interactive art by Ellie Harrison. The Vending Machine is programmed to give out free snacks when the recession makes the headlines of the BBC News RSS feed. Also, there is a sign outside the gallery that flashed “Free Food”, alerting any hungry gallery visitors. I really enjoy seeing the virtual and physical worlds interacting in such a cool way. Check out the link for a lot more information about the work.

The Vending Machine project is one of the outcomes of Ellie’s period of residency at Plymouth College of Art in 2009 and is on show at the college’s Viewpoint Gallery as part of her solo exhibition from 23rd April – 30th May 2009. It was programmed by Ben Dembroski in PureData and Python and uses project2891 to communicate with i-DAT in order to activate the messages on the GreenScreen. Production assistance by Jason Mills.

More about the Vending Machine by Ellie Harrison

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10 thoughts on “Vending Machine by Ellie Harrison

  1. cm says:

    The connection between the news and the vending machine is interesting. But that is really the work of Ben Dembroski the programmer isn’t it?

    I don’t think the vending machine is a strong representation of people’s needs during a recession. It just doesn’t quite make sense.

    On her website there is a piece from the same residency where 11 popcorn makers represent 11 financial crises. At an appropriate time throughout the day each one erupts and sprays popcorn everywhere. I think that piece is more representative!

    1. Marc de Vinck says:

      I like the connection. From her site:

      “….the Vending Machine also hints towards a time in the future when our access to food may literally be determined by wider political or environmental events. We may not be able to access what we want, when we want, at the touch of a button.”

      I think it works well.

      As far as who is the artist? Many artists use other people to make their vision come to life. This isn’t much different than a sculptor that doesn’t pour the bronze, or the glass blower who relies on several people to make a piece. What I do like is the fact that Ellie Harrison gives credit to those that helped her. That was cool!

    2. BenDembroski says:

      Hi there,

      I thought I’d chime in here, as I am the progammer in question.

      IMHO, this work is completely Ellie’s. I may have executed the mechanics for her; providing a means to process RSS feeds and translate that to a physical action, but the idea is entirely her own. When she first approached me about the piece, most of the specifics had already been decided & only needed implementing. All the creative and aesthetics in the piece came from Ellie. In this instance, the relationship is similar to an architect and building contractor.

      As Mark mentioned, this isn’t unusual practice in visual art.

      1. Marc de Vinck says:

        Thanks for the insight Ben. I really like your architect/builder comparison.

        1. cm says:

          Great response guys. On second thoughts, I like the concept more, maybe in this sense: “Vending Machine Dispenses Comfort Food When Economy Stumbles” (from Gizmodo article)

          Good to here from the programmer, Ben.


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