frugal.systems

This portfolio is an eternal work in progress... some of my older projects lead to my previous portfolio atherramienta.digital.Soon I'll update with a spanish version as well. 🙃 At the moment I'm working on Aura & Transvestmenta crypto-collectible video essay reflecting on notions of value, artificial scarcity and the value of art in the digital realm. I'm also working closely withcirca 106an independent space where I take care of the digital infrastructure. I'm currently enroled at theHochschule für Künste Bremenas a master student ofTechnology, Theory, and Design. Write me an email at: x@pablo.sx

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Hello! Welcome to my portfolio. My name is Pablo Somonte Ruano, here you will find my work in design, sound, art and research. Write me at x@pablo.sx
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I work as a technologist, interaction designer, media artist, researcher and musician in the fields of ambiguous software, generative systems, transmedia narratives, post-blockchain infrastructure, participation, p2p networks and odd music. I mostly use free and open-source software and release my work with copyleft licences. In my projects I explore subjects such as structural violence, alternative economies, theories of value and language.



I offer frugal services in design, programming and consultation on diverse technological affairs. I do some of my work free of charge.

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Some of the things I like doing are coding unusual websites, automating graphic and video processes, designing generative visual identities, animating typography, producing sonic interfaces and advising on the use of free software for artistic practices and collective organization.

I like to do some work for free, with reduced fees or in exchange for other's work and/or other forms of non-monetary compensation. If you are a precarious freelancer, an independent group or cultural institution, a self organized collective, a cooperative, an anti-capitalist project or a company with a social purpose, get in touch!



Aura & Transvestment
~ 2020
* VALUE, ARTIFICIAL SCARCITY, CRYPTO-COLLECTIBLES
→ video-essay, writing, crypto-collectible, website
Reconfiguration of thought as a communal act
~ 2020
* PARTICIPATION LANGUAGE, TEXT
\ COLLABORATION, SERVICE
→ publication, exhibition, website, printable
circa106.info
~ 2020 - 2021
* PARTICIPATION, VISUAL IDENTITY
\ SERVICE, COLLABORATION
→ website, online-exhibition
◊ Bremen
Arriving to Bremen
~ 2020
* LANGUAGE, 3D, SIMULATION
→ video, exhibition
◊ Bremen
Mythopoesis
~ 2020
* TEXT, FICTIONING, PHOTOGRAMETRY
\ COLLABORATION
→ exhibition, curation, writing
◊ Bremen
fictitious.cash
~ 2019
* DATA VISUALIZATION, PERFORMATIVITY, VALUE
→ print, exhibition, writing
Authority Evaluation Form
~ 2019
* SUBVERSIVE BUREOCRACY
→ print, webiste
Raw Data: Material Narration
~ 2019
* VISUAL IDENTITY
\ SERVICE, COLLABORATION
→ website
◊ Bremen
Wearable Autonomy: MXCD03
~ 2018
* AUTONOMY, WEARABLE, SPECULATION
\ COLLABORATION
→ print, exhibition
◊ Mexico City
DERIVA MX
~ 2015 - 2020
* TRANSMEDIA, STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE, PARTICIPATION
→ cinema, documentary, exhibition, website
◊ Mexico
Documento 18
~ 2018
* VISUAL IDENTITY, ANIMATION
\ SERVICE
→ kinetic typography, motion graphics, video
Google Codec
~ 2016
* KINETIC SCULPTURE, HARDWARE
\ COLLABORATION
→ kinetic sculpture, installation, website
◊ Mexico City
Calculator of death
~ 2017
* VALUE, FLOWERS, GRAPHIC
→ print, exhibition
◊ Mexico City
carlossomonte.com
~ 2016
* PHOTOGRAPHY, PORTFOLIO, VISUAL IDENTITY
\ SERVICE
→ website
Texts of Guerrero
~ 2017
* LANGUAGE, TEXT, PUBLIC SPACE
→ website, publication
◊ Mexico City
Reverbo
~ 2015
* RHETORICAL FIGURES, LANGUAGE, VOICE, HARDWARE
→ object
Temperamental Radio
~ 2014
* ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM, LIGHT, RADIO, HARDWARE
→ object
AMD 2015 + 2016
~ 2015 - 2016
* VISUAL IDENTITY, KINETIC TYPOGRAPHY, ANIMATION
\ SERVICE, COLLABORATION
→ video, music
◊ Mexico City
TRES-LDR-555
~ 2013
* LIGHT, HARDWARE, SOUND
→ object
Maps: Intersection
~ 2013
* SPECULATION, CITY, MAPS
→ print, exhibition
◊ Mexico City
Generative poetry booklets
~ 2012
* LANGUAGE, POETRY, GRPAHIC
→ print

Aura & Transvestment

2020

A series of crypto-collectibles and a video essay that explore notions of value, ownership, artificial scarcity and abundance in the digital realm. Visit the project's website

Aura & Transvestment is an artwork consisting of a series of crypto-collectibles based on public domain photographs of various western paintings created between 1900 and 1935 that have been visually transformed through simple, yet resource intensive algorithms. When purchased, each image gives you access to a high resolution original that contains the key to a corresponding video-essay. Through storytelling, the work explains its own mechanics. By describing its own powers and contradictions it explores notions of value, ownership, artificial scarcity and abundance in the digital realm. The underlying essay is a marxist analysis of the commodification of digital art taking Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura as a starting point. Finally, it proposes transvestment as a temporary counter-action for the expropriation of value from capitalist forms of production and into new models of social coordination that aim for total de-commodification of art.

Quotes shown in the screenshots are by Rachel O'Dwyer and Michalis Pichler.

Reconfiguration of thought as a communal act

2020

An interactive experience and a hybrid online / offline publication as the result of a text-based care-work exercise between five writers, one editor and the visitor. Visit the original publication at circa 106.

An exercise of writing which is not self-sufficient and dismissive, but rather opening and keen to be contested and transformed. The website allows for the assimilation of multiple pathways, in which the visitor can navigate through and with the texts. Each path functions like an ecosystem, accommodating a set of writings. Additionally, the visitor is invited to respond to the texts with a simple drawing and two text inputs (one to copy-paste excerpts that resonate with them and one to contain their thoughts). With these acts of care, each visitor reconfigures a singular route through the participant’s contributions. Finally, it is possible to export a printable file, which materializes the response in a single A4 page.

Participants: Hakeem Adam, Nadim Choufi, Suyeon Kim, Jana Piotrowski and Dorsa Eidizadeh. Texts edited by Will Lee.

A project originated by the conversations between Aria Farajnezhad, Víctor Artiga Rodríguez and Pablo Somonte Ruano. Curated and organized by Aria and Víctor. Online publication and coding by Pablo.

Special thanks to Prof. Andrea Sick and Irena Kukrić. As well as the support of The Dynamic Archive and the Hochschule für Künste Bremen.

circa 106

2020

Digital infrastructure and online exhibitions for the Center for International Research in Collaborative Arts, an student-run space in Bremen, Germany.Visit the website.

Circa refuses the determination that 106 suggests. The space is to open a discourse of inclusivity for cultural practitioners from all backgrounds.

The space is located in the city of Bremen, Germany and since 2017 it has been run by different student groups from the University of the Arts (Hochschule für Künste Bremen). Currently run by Aria Farajnezhad and Victor Artiga Rodriguez. The focus of the space is to open a discourse of inclusivity for cultural practitioners from all backgrounds, to share ideas and disciplines around a diverse set of interests. The space initiates an open and welcoming platform for everyone to feel actively heard.

Circa 106 initial intention was to address a number of subjects by situating the space within the city. As well as be open to proposals for workshops, lectures, film screenings or other events that contribute to the community. Because of the covid-19 pandemic, much of their activities switched to online exhibitions, publications and experiences.

The collaborative aspect of the space is reflected as well within the program Version Room, that will take place on a monthly basis where The Dynamic Archive will exhibit its components and versions. In line with the context of Circa 106, The Dynamic Archive sets out to discuss, probe, and develop the questions of collaborative work and sharing.

Special thanks to Prof. Andrea Sick and Irena Kukrić. As well as the support of The Dynamic Archive and the Hochschule für Künste Bremen.

Arriving to Bremen

2020

A 3D simulation of "The Bremen Town Musicians" folktale translated to the international maritime signal flags.

A ship approaches Bremen through the waters of the Weser river. The foreigners aboard are greeted with a local folktale narrated with the international maritime signal flags for communication among ships. This system of colorful flags and pennants, each representing a letter of the latin alphabet plus the numbers from 0 to 9, allow sailors to arrange flags in specific combinations that have predefined meanings under a shared international standard.

Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten, a central element of the city’s cultural identity, is a story of traverse with a port city as the final destination where 4 animal characters proceed through explicit actions, precise positioning and coordinated maneuvers. They refer to weather conditions, engage in search operations, communicate danger and supply relief for one another. For these reasons the folktale can be competently narrated with the reduced visual code used by merchant and military vessels.

In a speculative manner, the signal flags system is explored as a medium for storytelling, exploring a central hypothesis: Could the port city tell its most iconic folktale utilizing a visual system specially designed for maritime communication? The translation is articulated through a 4 minutes video of a 3D simulation depicting 5 groups of flags, one for each animal character and an additional set for the narrator. The flags are positioned in a vertical manner resembling the traditional depiction of the animals on top of one another and hinting which flags correspond to each animal. In the animation, flag combinations take turns to express each section of the folktale, while the intensity of important moments is conveyed by the speed of the wind and the consequential faster flapping of the flags. In this virtual setting, all elements including the water and the sky, are digitally simulated, creating a fully artificial and controlled environment that replicate Bremen’s weather conditions around the year 2020.

Additionally, a notebookwith the step by step translation is provided for the spectator to follow the story. Reading while watching mimics the back-and-forth gesture carried out by sailors when consulting the official guide to interpret the flag combinations of a vessel in sight.

Mythopoesis: A speculative Ethnography of Bremen

2020

Bremen is seen through the fascinated yet naive eyes of foreigners trying to make sense of complex idiosyncrasies through the superficial scrutiny of significant cultural artifacts.

From an imaginary future, we look into the past in an attempt to comprehend the present. Utilizing the colonial tropes of discovery and exploration, the city at the Weser is the object of study of a team of four fictitious ethnographers, archeologists and anthropologists.

The alternate time in which the exhibition takes place is articulated through various forms of fictioning present in the pieces exhibited, as well as in the museography and the accompanying support material. The exhibition consists of a set of small artistic gestures like photofilms, interactive installations, video, audio and 3D scanned objects. These explore themes such as maritime flag storytelling, the interesting self-referential qualities of artifacts like souvenirs, the recurrence of the number four in Bremen’s iconography and the usage of the stacking morphology as seen in the sculpture of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten.

As students coming from colonized territories in Latin America we are familiar to seeing past and present cultures reduced to artifacts and inductive descriptions in sterile museum spaces. By employing scientific reasoning and data collection, culture is quantified and human experiences are diagnosed and logged. With these actions we seek to reflect upon colonial practices, power relations and the tools used to understand and depict the ‘other’. Finally, through the use fictioning and playfulness we seek an alternative approach.

This exhibiton took place in Shpere, Bremen on the 31 of January 2020 and was created in collaboration with Víctor Artiga Rodríguez and Icaro López de Mesa Moyano.

fictitious.cash / Fictitious Capital

2019

A series of 70 data-driven generative banknotes depicting the evolution of fictitious capital in Germany, Japan and the United States of America. Visit the project's site.

Fictitious capital describes money that is thrown into circulation as capital without any material basis in commodities or productive activity (Harvey, David, 2006). Data of this phenomena is encoded in the tilt, length, value and map distortion of each bill. Various security measures embed in the design act as anti-forfeiture measures to assure its originality and uniqueness.

Fictitious capital comes into existence through the commodification of anticipated wealth. This temporal reachout petrifies the future and neglects the possibility of radical change. Interests on loans, public debt and stock speculation are all premeditatedly priced-in and packaged as financial products available today for those with access to excess capital. Calculating risk and reward, financiers, renters and investors play a game whose theories lay concealed behind jargon, opaqueness and complexity.

Cash is money in the physical form of currency. Banknotes are paper or plastic notes made by a bank and recognized as legal tender. Once redeemable for precious metal but now only backed by the common trust on our financial institutions, fiat money is as fiat as ever. The complexity of the designs and the mixed media commonly used in their manufacturing act as anti-forfeiture measures preventing their unlawful reproduction.

White or invisible UV ink, holograms, serial numbers, embossing, complex data-driven textures and microprinting are all part of the design language of paper money. In everyday use, it is enough for forfeited cash to look and feel like real money to become real. In a performative manner, its exchange-value derives from the tactile and visual experience of handling paper banknotes.

he bills are parametrically designed using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and rendered to a pdf file. The prints are made at a high resolution of 1200 ppi on a 200gr, matt fiber, photo quality Hahnemühle paper, and printed on a six-ink printer.

This project was shown as part of a collective exhibition: Raw Data: Material Narration in Tor 40, Güterbahnhof, Bremen in 2019.

Wearable Autonomy: MXCD 03

2018

A technological garment and a series of posters speculating on a possible techno-communalist future in Mexico. Shown as part of the exhibitionMXCD: 03 The future of Design in Mexico City. in Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura.

In collaboration with artist Amor Muñoz we speculated on fictitious new territory in the near future where people have self-organized into collective organizations, cooperatives and unions in order to provide themselves with the basic human needs: food, shelter, energy, water and communication. This efforts materialize in a “wearable-autonomy” a poncho-style clothing that fulfills this needs.

To speculate on the political context in which the wearable-autonomy is created, I worked on a series of generative propaganda posters that promote and show the work of four different speculative techno-communal organizations.

Cooperative of Solar Soverignty
Descentralized Organization for a Free Internet
Open Lab: Water for the Common Good
Union of Sustainable Agriculture

Using web technology (HTML, CSS + JavaScript) a software was developed to generate infinite variations of propaganda posters created by this fictitious organizations.This organizations are allcreating technology which is implemented in the poncho-style wearable-autonomy. A short description of thework and political structureof each organization isincluded in the poster.The posters are also anspeculation of possible graphic styles for the future.

process of machine learning (artificial intelligence) known as style-transfer was used to transform images from projects of technology appropriation from the appropedia wiki and into the style of traditional mexican engraving and printmaking from the begging of the XX century.

Each individual poster was printed in a 21,59 cm X 35,56cm. A total of 200 posters were printed.

For the exhibition, 6 other pieces were created by 12 other designer / artist / creator also working in pairs. The curation was done by Mario Ballesteros, Pedro Ceñal and Alejandro Olávarri. The exhibition design was done by Escobedo Soliz + Eugenio Rebolleda.

An english article has been writen by Benoît Loiseau in Wallpaper

DERIVA.MX

2015-20

Transmedia documentary project about structural violence in Mexico.Visit the project's site.

DERIVA.MX is composed of an interdisciplinary group of young mexican filmmakers and interaction designers. We believe violence is a complex phenomenon that acts at many different levels, involving a sum of economic, political, social and cultural factors. To generate a constructive analysis, it’s important to understand its multifaceted nature. Therefore, we propose an interdisciplinary approach toward examining the definition and impact of structural violence in Mexico. We don’t believe there’s a single answer, but rather that there are a variety of ways to understand it.

The team has travelled along the mexican national territory, filming video capsules that make-up an archive of documentary capsules and interviews. In addition, we are also collecting objects, images, sounds, and music. With this multimedia archive we seek to document Mexico’s diverse realities. The project takes on subjects such as national identity, power relations, work culture, and traditions. With the use of cinema and an array of digital tools, we seek to broaden the concept of violence by focusing on its structural nature.

In order to approach violence in new ways, a subjective computational approach is necessary. The use of different data analysis tools serves to reveal the complex relations involved in structural violence. This analysis enables an algorithmic approach to cinematic montage that helps constructs coherent sequences based on the subjective classification in relation to the audience’s participation. We believe this exercise approaches a rhizomatic structure through the embrace of emergent database narratives on cinema, exploring the subject of violence through associations of themes and subjects that may be unknown to ourselves and the audience.

DERIVA.MX can be experienced iin three main outputs: web, traditional cinema spaces, and exhibition spaces such as museums and galleries. In traditional cinema spaces, DERIVA.MX becomes a participatory projection experience. Each screening is differently unique, its shape and content are partially determined by the public’s previous interaction with a web based questionnaire.

The project is a collaborative effort with my dear filmmaker friends Analía Goethals, Nicolás Gutiérrez Wenhammar and Santiago Mohar Volkow.

Download a pdf with more information in english. The theoretical development of DERIVA.MX was my undergraduate tesis, download it here (in spanish).

DERIVA.MX has been presentad at:

Photojournalism festival Mirar Distinto, Xalapa Veracruz (2016).
Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum), Queretaro (2016).
Casa del Lago UNAM, Mexico City (2017).
Semana de documental Contemporáneo (Week of contemporary documentary) : FARO Aragón, Mexico City (2017).
Tamayo Museum, Mexico City (2017).
Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia (Morelia International Film Festival, Michoacán México) (2017).
Foto Museo Cuatro Caminos, CDMX (2018).
Ciclo: "Los nuevos atuendos del documental" (The new shapes of documentary) Universidad de la Comunicación, Mexico City (2018).
International workshop "Public Space, Transgression y Youth", Geography Institute UNAM, Mexico City (2018).
AMBULANTE (Documentary Festival) Salón Transmedia, Center for Digital Culture, Mexico City (2018).

Google Codec

2016

Kinetic installation that reveals and hides information through color filtration with translucent shapes. For the company’s offices in Mexico.

"Google as the ever-present lens that reveals with precision information retrieved from a chaotic context". Through the exploration of this metaphor, Codec tries to make this process tangible, gathering inspiration from the hidden beauty of computational processes like encryption, data transfers and search engines.

The installation explores the fundamental principles of light and color. Particularly, the phenomenon of chromatic cancellation through subtraction. This is where a tinted but translucent material functions as a filter that affects the perceived tones and brightness of the light that comes through it. Using the monitor screens as the light source, the RGB values of each pixel can be tuned to match the tones in which the physical filters act to almost completely cancel a specific color. This and other tone-specific manipulations of color open a vast world of possibilities that derive from the principles of the interaction between two systems, one that aggregates light (screens) and one that subtracts it (acrylic shapes).

The installation then becomes an investigation in areas of tangible media and mixed narratives between kinetics and moving images. In order for this technology to work, an intense development of feedback systems between digital content and physical movement had to be created. We call this the MKINC box (Media Kinetic Installation by Numerical Control). This machine enables the possibility of synchronization between animation or tracked movement in the screen and it’s correlation with the physical movement of the acrylic shapes in space.

The installation is composed of two main elements:

Six simple shapes made of tinted but translucent acrylic that relate in shape and color to the Google logo. This are mounted in a motorized rail that enables the precise control of it’s location in relation to the screen behind.

The videowall composed of six FullHD, frameless screens.

The project was commissioned by Google Mexico to CENTRO University and developed by a selected group of University teachers and ex-students: Iván Abreu, Heriberto Olguin, Juan Arturo García, Pablo Somonte and Mario Rodríguez.

Calculadora de la Muerte

2018

Floral representation of value relations between elements from the economy of death and the protection of life.

The Calculator of Death is a generative software that parametrically produces different kinds of flowers that function as the units of measure for a value comparison with things designed to protect life. In the posters, an assault rifle specially designed and produced by the Mexican Armed Forces to fit the ergonomics of Mexican soldiers is used for comparison. This rifle is called the FX - 05 Xiuhcóatl (Fire Serpent in Nahuatl).

A series of eight 1.50m x 1.0m posters were generated, each with a set of almost two thousand different flowers. They were exhibited as part of CENTRO's University stand in the design section of the 2018 ZONA MACO Contemporary Art Fair in Mexico City

Textos Guerreros

2017

Linguistic experiment based on the way grammar and lexicon from official messages and local texts relate in public spaces. Visit an interactive site in english published at oral.pub

Words cover the city’s streets. Painted signs, advertisements, warnings, graffiti, and propaganda mark the limits of public spaces. Their presence and permanence illustrate the conflicts between people with authority, control, resources, and guile. Each sign is distinct: handwritten fruit labels, promotions at the Oxxo store for one peso, generic supermarket posters, and declarations of love in schoolhouse ink.

For three weeks, I walked through the neighborhood of Guerrero in Mexico City and photographed signs. I collected the words residents read and write daily. But I also found texts that were not originally from Guerrero, the government’s warnings and announcements. Since they did not form part of the neighborhood’s vocabulary, they looked out of place.

I broke down the grammatical structure of one government mantra: "This program is public, unaffiliated with any political party. It is prohibited to use it for purposes others than those stated in the program." This bureaucratic poem haunts Mexicans from the radio to the television to the streets. I found it in the window of a government office, printed and reprinted to block a view of the interior, like a series of opaque acts.

For a spanish only version, I also applied the system to a Coca Cola advertisment that reads:
Coca Cola.
Live it.

This signs are the basis for a program that randomly substitutes particles of speech from the photograph collection. The experiment replaces instructions for the general Mexican public with the local lexicon of Guerrero, rejecting both the government’s and the corporation structures of control.

Textos Guerreros was exhibited at Galería 5to piso in Mexico City in 2017 and was selected for the Antología Lit(e)Lat an Antology on electronic literature compiled by The Latin American Electronic Literature Network (litElat).