MAPP (Mechanical Art Production Platform)
The Mechanical Art Production Platform, or MAPP, is an art-making platform, consisting of a three-axis drawing machine attached via microcontroller to custom computer software.
MAPP is a platform, and not simply a machine, by virtue of the fact that it was not designed with a specific aesthetic output in mind, but rather as a vehicle for expression capable of various and unexpected artistic results. Thus there is no singular input or output for the machine, but rather a number of choices for the artist to make.
The aesthetic range of MAPP is determined by its three main components: the physical machine, the software that controls the machine, and the drawing media used for each particular piece.
The mechanics of the machine are centered upon the movement of three plexiglass stages (one per axis), attached via a nut and threaded rod to a stepper motor. The attachment of the rod to the motor turns the radial motion of the stepper motor into the linear motion of the stage. The software arrangement translates various forms of user input into commands that, once received by the microcontroller, cause the motors, and thus the stages, to perform specific movements.
While MAPP is currently a single instantiation, it is also the beginning of an attempt at providing an accessible framework to aspiring artists and technologists who wish to work on similar projects in mechanically driven art. The instructions for the physical machine and electronics are adaptations from the open source project reprap.org, and the custom programming work will soon be released as an open-source library for others to use and expand, in the hopes of fostering more inventive projects bridging the worlds of art and machines.
As neither a trained artist or engineer, I found the prospect of building an art machine intriguing and challenging. The process of designing a machine without also designing a specific output was an unusual and enlightening method. It meant that the only real judge of aesthetic success was my own personal taste.