drink delivEry system at the ODEON


an article by "Xeni Jardin"

heres Jeni with her pal Shaq 

Kal Spelletich is a Bay Area-based machine artist.

[His] performances invite audience members to directly operate and
interact with their machines, robots and kinetic art [in] real-life
experiences... He has been delving into bio-morphic inputs, sensing the
human body and using those signals to trigger the machines/robots/pyro.
Virtually anyone who attends a performance has the chance to operate a
machine that can, well, kill them -- but will empower them instead.
I've been to a number of his performances, and they're as fun as they
are frightening. What differentiates him from a number of other
so-called "robotics artists" or "machine performance groups" is a sense
of playfulness and exploration. His performances aren't about
machine-against-machine combat, or blasting the audience deaf with
supersonic booms that liquefy your guts -- rather, it's more of an
exercise in sensory fusion. In other words, synaesthesia. They're also
positively beautiful (I'm thinking in particular of one piece called
"Icarus" that involves a wearable set of flaming, robotic, metal wings).
Kal's shows compel the audience to sort of fuse themselves with the
machines, become one of the machines, perceive the world and their place
within it differently as a result. Participants control (or are
temporarily controlled by) the art-bots, many of which are engineered to
respond to human biological data. In a kinetic, visceral way, Kal's work
traces a sort of elusive, thin, membrane that separates the physical and
digital worlds.

by"Xeni Jardin"
Xeni Jardin is a technology journalist and co-editor of the weblog BoingBoing . She hosts events exploring tech culture, and contributes to publications including Wired  Magazine ,Wired News , and National Public Radio's Day to Day .

Art for the Ashcroft era
san francisco bay guardian

 Lately mad scientist-artist-inventor Kal Spelletich has been building a lot of mutant polygraph machines, fusing the electrical guts of lie-detector devices – heart-rate, perspiration, and voice-stress analyzers – with strange and ominous robotics. One machine blows spinning halos of fire. Another uses a pen-equipped mechanical arm to scribble away on sheets of paper. All are hooked up to humans. Talk shit and these machines know – and respond. "This is kind of my PATRIOT Act twist," laughs Spelletich, the driving force behind the Seemen, a critically lauded robot art troop. "I'm experimenting with the same medium our government is." Spelletich brings an assortment of his interactive nightmare machines to the close confines of Valencia Street's Jack Hanley Gallery for an intimate exhibition running through Feb. 28. Though he won't be showing any of his massive flame-spitting pyro-robots, visitors get to play with a bunch of smaller, slightly less menacing interactive machines, like the Portable Castrator (which features a pair of snapping steel jaws) and a clawed steel hand that drags itself across a blackboard. Tonight's opening features DJ Ragi Da Lawyer. Through Feb. 28. Opens tonight, 6-8 p.m. (gallery hours: Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.), Jack Hanley Gallery, 395 Valencia, S.F. Free. (415) 522-1623, . (A.C. Thompson)

FROM BUZZ TOWN by Beth Lisick

The rain didn't seem to keep anyone away from Kal " Seemen " Spelletich 's opening at the Jack Hanley Gallery Friday night.

Flocking to the first night of the machine-art show, moist robot lovers and free-beer seekers packed themselves inside the fogged-up gallery, steeped in that uncanny wool-sweater/shaggy-dog/hair-product fragrance of our own making.

Mostly composed of prototypes for 20- to 40-foot-tall public sculptures, the show is a continuation of Spelletich's life's work: to make humans and machines more cozy with one another, even if someone has to get hurt. As people squeezed between exhibits, buzzers buzzed, gears grinded and the jagged bear-trap jaws of the portable castrator freaked people whenever it snapped shut.

Go interact with Kal's creations through the end of the month, but remember that you're the only one responsible in case of loss, damage or injury.

Saturday, February 21, 2004
Ye Olde Castrator/ Jaws is a steel contraption inside a vintage suitcase, which, in the words of its creator, "has a movement sensor that is very moody and goes off when someone gets VERY CLOSE to its razor-sharp snappyjaws." So it won't come and get you, but people visiting Kal Spelletich's show "Machines, Robots, Video" should probably think hard about where their appendages are relative to the art. The drawing machines, the whiskey-pouring machine (voted best by journalists!), even the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard machine: All these are, physically speaking, harmless. Several other pieces are extremely dangerous, and some could kill you -- this is Spelletich's hallmark. It's all in the name of good art. Are you afraid of it? Do you respect it? Does your heart rate rise just to be near it? Well, good. You ought to be paying more attention to art anyway. The exhibition is up through Feb. 28 at the Jack Hanley Gallery, 395 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 522-1623 or visit .



SF State University paper

    If you were to climb into one of Kal Spelletichís art pieces, as many techies and brilliant-minded NASA engineers have over the years, you might have a near-death experience--and like it.
    One of Spelletich's most famous pieces, Jaws of Life invites a participant to strap their torso, arms and legs to a metal bed frame that violently jerks up and down while bulldozer scoop-sized claws clamp closed mere inches away from their face while propane-fueled flames dance all around.

    For the uninitiated, it seems unfathomable why any person would choose to get inside a machine that can dismember a nose if a hinge comes loose, or cause third-degree burns if a straps falls off. But there are always takers at every show.
Call it a modern rite of passage, or a new way for thrill seekers to get an adrenaline rush, but for 15 years, people have sought out performance shows by Spelletich and his artist collective, the Seemen, to have precisely this kind of experience. For Spelletich, mechanized art is the most exciting, relevant art on the planet. This San Francisco-based artist who is known in art circles around the world dedicates his life to making art that agitates, scares, and thrills. And if a few sacrifices in personal comfort have to be made along the way, Spelletich volunteers himself as the lamb.

Today, Kal Spelletich, 42,  rummages through a worn cardboard box filled with transformers and other electrical odds and ends. Heís looking for something to fashion into a ìbiomorphic inputî that will allow Slug, a neighborís dog, to operate a new robot under construction. Spelletichís fingernails are dirty, and there is a burn mark the size of a D battery on his right hand.  He's still short a DC motor, and he borrows one from a completed robot to test the circuits on the new piece. He paces the rubber mat-lined floor, installed to ease back strain caused by standing too many hours on concrete floors. It's one the one of the few visible luxuries the Spartan mechanical artist allows himself. Everything in his Bayview warehouse, from the avocado green and brown-stripped couch where he reads The New York Times to the boxes of what seems like long-ago discarded appliances, seem to suggest that every material possession Spelletich owns was acquired second-hand. Donít cry for him Argentina's he likes it this way.
These are admittedly humble digs for a semi-famous artist who has contributed special effects for movies like the Matrix and Titanic, and wrote and acted his lines for Slackers. He is also the subject of numerous masterís degree theses about emerging trends in electronics-driven art, and lectures at renowned universities all over the world including M.I.T. and Parsons School of Design, and is a guest lecturer this semester at San Francisco State University, teaching art students about robotics. Even though heís been offered gigs that could have paid the rent on shelter more comfortable than his current 3200 square-foot metallic hull of a workspace whose 34-feet tall corrugated steel walls amplify both the summer heat and winter chill due to lack of insulation, Spelletich chooses to live frugally to remain artistically independent. Since he's not forced to take a job just to cover the rent, he can make what pleases him, practicality be damned. He values his artistic integrityóand if he has to make a few personal, professional and financial sacrifices along the way, he has his eyes wide open.

There is a certain punk aesthetic to the artistís approach. Thereís the poverty, of course. Most of the materials used in his art pieces were probably recovered from a dumpster. As independent filmmaker Craig Baldwin puts it, ìKal reanimates dead metal.î
There is danger involved in many of the art pieces Spelletich is most famous for. In Spelletichís opinion, fear and fire are mediums as legitimate as clay and canvas (they're the original paint).
Basically, Spelletich is amused by art that is noisy, psychologically agitating, and challenges the definition of what constitutes art. Passive, traditional gallery experiences are bad. The audience physically interacting with art pieces is good.
Which is probably why a museum would never want to showcase a Spelletich piece in a museum and would ever consent to allowing the public to physically interact with a piece they are they are charged with protecting for posterity.
It's hard to imagine a museum displaying a piece like Fireshower. A participant steps into a metal cage similar in size and shape to what Jacques Cousteau used to dive shark-infested waters. When inside, a gyroscope of flames spins around in varying directions, disorientating both the passenger and viewers alike. A wrong step by either party could spell serious injuries.

In a fun, conceptual way, my work attempts to generate the kind of enlightenment gained by some after near-death experiences, Spelletich explained once in an M.I.T. magazine.
    But what really makes Spelletich's approach to art so idealistic, if to the point of self-sabotage, is that he structures shows in a way where his audience, not him or even the art piece itself, becomes the star. What I really like about Kalís approach is that he puts the viewer in position of participant,î says electrical engineer and occasional collaborator Jonathan Foote.
Spelletich refuses to operate his machines at gallery openings; but from his experience, there is never a shortage of volunteers. While it holds to the punk rock ideals of egalitarianism, itís undermines the cult of personality necessary to catapult an artist who is still alive and creating work from the level of unknown, poor craftsperson to ìstarî art personality. As a result, he hasnít become a celebrity who can command thousands of dollars for appearances and partake in the other perks enjoyed by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and current multi-millionaire Dale Chihuly ñ who can charge Las Vegasís Bellagio Hotel $11 million dollars for a hotel lobby ceiling that he didnít even handcraft himself ñ but merely only had to put his ideas on paper for his assistants to produce. 

Spelletichís financial situation doesn't dismay him. Yeah, Iím broke. But it's the life I chose.  I always need parts. And sometimes I'm forced to choose "do I buy a digital switch, or go on a date? [Shrugs.] I really have to like a girl to take her out for sushi."
In fact, he laughs about his most recent job offers he turned down this summer. Junkyard Wars, now a Discovery channel favorite, was looking for a new host. They went through the all the tapes from the first season, hoping that a former contestant might be suitable. Kal Spelletich, who appeared in an edition filmed in London, seemed like a he would be a natural.
I got a call for Junkyard Wars the same week I was asked to do a porno, laughs Spelletich. I thought, "How appropriate."
He turned down both opportunities because they would be too distracting from making art, "it was lame" and championing worthy political causes like Cruz Bustamonteís gubernatorial campaign and Matt Gonzalezís mayoral bid.
Spelletich subsidizes the cost of making art by running a continuous solicitation for parts on his Web site, Currently, he is asking for a genuine F.B.I. lie detector, someone to insure a gas-motor powered air compressor, a race car trailer, a jet engine, and someone to pray for him.

There is more art philosophy to explain, but itís 1:10 in the afternoon and Indian Summer sun has raised the temperatures under the corrugated steel roof. The chimes of a bicycle-peddling ice cream man promises a vanilla popsicle with raisins. Spelletich walks outside and greets the man by name.

To separate Spelletich, the artist, from Spelletich the citizen, is hard to do. His robot pieces are political in nature.
It's a political statement to make art that can't be co-opted. To make art that can't be bought and sold is a big Fuck You [to the art world].
It does hinder you financially, Spelletich continues. But it allows for the luxury of becoming indifferent to critics and in his words, make art that is more honest.
    Kinetic art is hard to show, because no one buys it; you mostly see this kind of art at festivals. says Will Linn, co-owner of the Tenderloin gallery, Rx, which recently curated an art exhibit of kinetic art that included a Spelletich piece. Linn says he and his partners subsidize the cost of the space by leasing the gallery out to private parties, so that the gallery can stage shows by artists they love without having to be concerned whether or not a show can be commercially successful.
Artists using technology defies the concept of a museum, which is set up to showcase and preserve art that has stood the test of time. They aren't going to risk showcasing emerging artists. Besides, they aren't set up with technical support to assist with the hardware and software of robots.

At SF State, Spelletich's class is part lecture about kinetic art history, and part workshop on how to survive as a working artist.
The class gives Spelletich a forum to tout some of his favorite artists and ideas: Rube Goldberg, Adbusters, Michael Moore, and similarly liberal minded folks who want to shock people through humor into thinking deeply about the world they live in. He considers himself a scholar of Marcel Duchamp, who is famous for placing a urinal in a gallery and calling it art, among other intellectual pranks. Spelletich has amassed enough research on the guy to probably earn him a Ph.D. if he was motivated to actually write a thesis about it.

Then the conversation shifts to the practicalities of making art. What if you donít get a gallery showing how do you show your art? You do show it anyway, Spelletich says. You just stage a guerilla show. You just do it.
The young students, probably half of which are not old enough to drink legally, search Spelletich's face to see if this is just another one of his prankish statements. They wonder how many laws does an artist have to break to make it?
When asked how many laws Spelletich has broken, he says, What time of day is it?î
They surmise he's not kidding this time.

Spelletich spouts off other ways he's defied conventional career paths the Skywalker Ranch job he turned down, the Lollapalooza tours he turned down five years in a row. The Maxim magazine feature story. All turned down for various creative or ethical reasons.
Though there is no physical proof of these job offers, Spelletich comes across as credible. He's not protecting a life many would envy. He tells the class, Don't follow me to my demise; find their own middle ground.
He lays out the three golden rules that he has lived by that have given him the financial freedom to be indifferent to critics: 1) Don't get into debt 2) Don't get married (before turning 30) and 3) Don't have kids. Or at leats postpone this into your 30's!!
 He says that by keeping his overhead costs low, and not creating financial obligations for himself, he's been free to live the life he wants to lead, which is really the point. He's creatively satisfied, and if critical acclaim doesn't come in this lifetime, there is always the next. It really comes down to making art that physically affects people, art that makes people better citizens.
    ìIf a person reflects back just once on their experience with one of my art pieces, Spelletich says simply, I've succeeded.
    Pencils scribble furiously.


LA show 4/11/03 article in LA Weekly
scroll down to 3rd article

Leonardo Magazine article(MIT Press)

SPIN Magazine


and other stuff
scroll down to near the bottom-

machine art of rogue technologists

cartoons about us!?

a book i am in
some show pics.
SEEMEN were on the3-part PBS mini series "The Power of Play".

Neither SEEMEN or the presenting organization nor any of it's members shall be held responsible or liable for any LOSS, DAMAGE, OR INJURY arising from any activity organized, sponsored or promoted by SEEMEN or the presenting organization anywhere in the universe, forever.

I hear and I forget.
I see and I believe.
I do and I understand.
Confucius (551-479 BC)


and while yer at it Help save Islais Creek art community from development

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