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T.H.A.W. Flyer 1T.H.A.W. was my PComp final. It’s a piece that explores technological determinism, decay, and systems that don’t give you feedback until it’s already too late (think the economy or global warming or girlfriends) or simply a chance to experience the destructive joy of aiming a hairdryer at ice.

Five sound-generating acrylic ice cubes are mounted on a piece of glossy black aluminum. Embedded in each is an RGB LED and a temperature sensor. The temperature determines both the color of the LED and the sound the ice cube produces. Initially, all of the ice cubes are glowing blue and producing soothing natural sounds: crickets on a summer night, a burbling stream, an echoey rainforest beat. When the hairdryer is directed at a cube, it begins to absorb heat and turn red, with a grating industrial/mechanical sound gradually replacing its initial natural sound. But the user can’t hear the change because the drone of the hairdryer drowns it out. S/he’s having too much fun melting all the ice cubes, trying to get them all to stay red as they begin to cool and return to blue. The user turns off the hairdryer and is shocked to hear sirens, traffic, trains, and the rat-a-tat-tat of a nail gun in a factory. Maybe playing whack-a-mole with a hairdryer wasn’t such a good idea after all. But it’s too late now. All s/he can do is wait for the system to gradually cool and return to its earlier state, though it never looks or sounds quite the same again.

It also has a built-in physical toggle that does a conceptual high-low switcheroo, always my favorite. Flick the switch, and all the conceptual headiness gives way to five randomly colored ice cubes that, if heated in the right order, play the opening chords of Van Halen’s Jump. Hair metal with a hairdryer. Now that’s a concept I know we can all get behind.

[I’ll be uploading a better video of the finished product that includes the audio once I get a chance to document it. In the meantime, here are some pictures I took of it and a video from Phil Torrone over at MAKE that shows it working, minus the audio:]

All BlueTwo Red Cubes


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