The Machine of Awesome Bright Liquid Blueness @ Vancouver 2016


Performance Sculpture as Methodology


The first Machine of Awesome Bright Liquid Blueness performance sculpture project 
took place July 22-31 on Granville Island, Vancouver, BC. 

Just outside the Charles H. Scott Gallery

The Interactive Sculpture, First Mode:

The Machine of Awesome Bright Liquid Blueness performance sculpture project starts with an interactive, publicly displayed sculpture that functions completely as a refillable water bottle station.  The sculpture communicates directly with the public to act, discuss, and engage with ideas around access and control of drinking water utilizing 5600 sequenced LED’s. The LED’s transform the round face of the sculpture into a pixelated, moving and responding placard. Participants, through touch, need to respond and interact with the sculpture in order to fill their bottles with awesome bright liquid blueness. (aka water)

The sculpture was installed just inside the sliding glass doors of the Charles H. Scott Gallery with participants accessing the work from the enclave off of Johnston St. 

Ready for your refillable bottle.

Community Outreach and Engagement:

A performance sculpture project starts with an interactive sculpture, but requires a substantial amount of community outreach and engagement in order to achieve its goals. Multimodal in nature, a performance sculpture project embraces elements of socially engaged, dialogical, and interactive strategies that combined, work to activate and intervene within a community utilizing various forms and actions.

Second Mode:

Unique in that it is federal land governed by the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation, and sees nearly 40 000 visitors a day, Granville Island includes several localized communities.

One mode within a performance sculpture involves examining the forms of existing public engagement methods used by the local governing bodies, in this case the CMHC, and expanded upon them. 

Specifically for Granville Island, a new public water fountain icon developed by the CMHC on my request was added to a fresh printing of the free tourist map. This located the spaces where free public water could be had. These spaces already existed, but with very little awareness, they remained quiet and inactivated. Contradictory to the soft presence of the public fountains, bottled water displays are front and centre throughout the market.

Activation of a public space that builds awareness of the availability of free public water is my attempt to elevate the significance that free drinking water is available in a public space - and to create new meaning within those sites and the experience associated with. 

Outside the False Creek Community Centre
At the Splash Pad.

Just across from the Art Umbrella.
Third Mode:

Community outreach within the project also included local environmental groups and associations. Both the False Creek Watershed Society and the Still Creek Watershed group became involved in the project. Each group installed specific display information at two of the public water fountains highlighting their activities and programs.

Installed inside the market.

Fourth Mode:

A second manifestation within a performance sculpture project comes through direct dialogue with local retailers and restaurants. These groups are informed about the interactive sculpture being installed nearby and are asked to participate in the success of the project.

On Granville Island three retailers who sell refillable water bottles installed displays. I went to the owners of these businesses and asked them to become involved by displaying a sign promoting Free Water, to offer a sale price on the bottles, and to advertise the location of the sculpture. One owner didn’t want to discount the bottles but instead suggested donating 10% to a local water charity.

Indigena Gallery.


Wickaninnish Gallery.
After visiting the retailers this week I can tell you that, as Nicky the owner of Wickaninnish Gallery told me, “bottle sales have been gangbusters!” It is my intention to have more people own, carry, and use refillable water bottles. If you have a bottle on you, then you’re definitely not going to purchase bottled water.

For additional details, or to book the sculpture, please contact me directly at

I want to thank everyone involved in the Machine of Awesome Bright Liquid Blueness project on Granville Island. It was a fantastic event thanks to everyone's involvement.


The original Build
Machine of Awesome Bright Liquid Blueness.


The Beginning, Again

Much like the Aqua Lauta project, I have begun by putting down chalk drawings. This, after building a scale wood and foam maquette of what was the first version. Now, drawing on home made chalk boards, (yellow chalk paint on board) I have been drawing, to scale, more refined concepts. Once drawn to scale I am able to spend some time with the layout, walking through the experience. 

Vertical version with water unit and 400 LED's

Horizontal version. As above with aluminum frame and curved acrylic.

The vertical version came first and I felt the most strongly about it, however, after an experience freeing a Bee from the studio, the round version was drawn out on the driveway in chalk based on a quick sketch from my note book.

I did not have a chalk board allowing me to draw to scale, but the driveway worked just fine. Round, of course, will be the most complicated to fabricate, however, the circle plays an important role in the meaning behind the work. 


I have begun building maquettes out of card board and wood. The stand-offs to be used to create the positive curve of the face of the sculpture I am fabricating out of aluminum and steel.
Here are a few sketch's of the mock ups. 

Next will be to have CAD drawings made of the entire sculpture frame.


Work on the scale model continues. Once complete, the model will be reverse engineered in order to create all the drawings required for machining each part.

Here the framing for the Haws certified bottling station is fabricated and glued. Each piece is drawn on paper, then transferred to cardboard. The cardboard is trimmed and used as a template for the wood pieces. All these wood elements will be in aluminum.

The side wall, here made in semi-rigid foam, will be water cut 1/4 aluminum plate. The grey matt board represents the aluminum sheet that the LED's will be mounted to. From here, the plumbing, power supply, micro processor positioning will be confirmed.


Here is the interior layout. Everything in wood will be fabricated out of aluminum. The round wood back will be 1/4 aluminum with a series of openings for installation and access to components.

The two grey blocks with the red labels are the 5v power supplies for the 4000 LED's. A separate 12v power supply will is mounted near the top and will power the micro processor, flow meter, speakers, mic.

A detail image showing the Haws water bottle filling unit.

The picture above is of Zeeshan the engineer and machinist extreme along with my scale model of The Machine of Awesome Bright Liquid Blueness. Made of wood and rigid foam, the maquette will allow Zeeshan to reverse engineer all the component parts that need to be fabricated. Each piece with be worked in CAD drawings in order to assemble the frame of the sculpture on the computer.

This is the hold for the drain coming off the bottle filling unit. The factory supplied drain would not fit within the sculpture frame. Clay was used, then layered with resin to form the drain unit. The pipe was used to map out the opening for the drain line.


Cad drawings have been worked through and here is a close to final version.

The curve is essential for several reasons. Shaped like the cornea of our eyes, the curve of the front panel and the LED's produces images that locate themselves outside of the piece.   


The back plate, outer ring, and the curved LED plate are all back from the machine shops. Made from 1/4 aluminum plate, they are heavy duty and will work well as a heat sync for the LED's. Now the three pieces need to be welded and secured together. The LED plate will also be machined down another 1/4" fitting inside the outer ring.

Here the new drain piece for the sculpture is being 3d printed out of ABS. The original drain from the Haws Model 1900 water bottle refilling unit could not be used.
Progress has gone well in fabricating the sculpture frame for The Machine of Awesome Bright Liquid Blueness. Constructed mostly out of 1/4"thick aluminum, the frame also acts as a heat sync for the LED's. The piece is almost 35" in diameter and 7-9" deep.

I want to thank Zeeshan for machining the pieces needed to install the water bottle refilling unit, as well as arranging the water jet cutting of the back plate, outer ring, and the LED curved plate. As well as Mark for finishing off the tig welding. I was able to cut the LED curved plate by hand in order to fit it inside the outer ring and the polycarbonate cover will also be hand moulded and cut.

Next I will start to map and install the plumbing and Tim will be coming in and we will start laying in the strips of 144/meter led strips.


Now that the frame is complete, installation of the LED's is next. 

I cleaned up the Aluminum LED plate by sanding it down with 220 paper and applied a matt clear coat. Above, Tim and I have started to rough in and cut the strips of 144/metre LED lights.

Slowly, we are building from middle up. We started in the middle in order to confirm the LED strips were level. We simply taped down the strips as we went along keep count of the spacing.

The LED plate is so happy.
Tim soldered the bottom few rows allowing us to test our power supplies.

The bottom was built left to right allowing for only one signal wire per strip.
Using the tape meant the strips moved around slightly, we noted that
for final install, special attention needed to be paid to the level and spacing.

Tim now had the fun job of soldering over 700 twenty two gauge wire ends onto the LED strips.
While he did this, I installed the 3d printed drain pieces to the fountain and
began installing the plumbing into the frame. 

New official LED count, 5824!
After roughing in the light strips we had an actual count.
Watch the video below as we permanently install and test 5 strips, or 600 of the 5824.

Tim and I are now in the process of wiring all the LED light strips on the back of the LED plate.

We are doubling up the power and ground wire in order to get the connections down in number. This will allow us to use only 4 bus bars and save space.

We have now removed the temporary wood supports and attached the bus bars to the back of the LED plate of the sculpture.



Yes, we finished wiring and believe it or not, after 3 days of soldering there was only a couple connection issues. We hooked up both power supplies and decided to fire up all the LED's and see how she went.

Actual final count - 5827 LED's

Check the video.

Still some final wiring to be done, but now Tim can really start to concentrate on programming the sculpture. I've begun to plan out the scene's and how the interactive aspects of the sculpture will operate.

Community Outreach

The community outreach aspect of a performance sculpture started here.
Jan 6th 2016:

I made phone contact with Miriam at the CMHC in regards to adding the locations of the drinking water fountains to the hand held Granville Island tourist map. She responded by stating the map was already kind of full, and that they are very busy getting ready for a festival in February. I responded by stating that there was room for some small water drops on the map with the additional information added to the directory. I also let her know I would submit my request in writing and asked her when was a good time to follow up.

I will be following up Feb. 10th to the email below. The email was copied to Sebastian Lippa, MCIP, RPP Project Manager, Planning & Development.

Email sent Jan 6th, 2016:
Thanks for speaking with me earlier.
As discussed, I would like to formally request that the location of the water fountains on Granville Island be added to the hand help island map. I believe as part of your zero waste policy and core principles of putting sustainability into action, that this addition is of significant importance.
I have copied this email to Sebastian for his reference as we spoke last summer regarding my water project at Emily Carr. I hope this is okay.
All the best with the Push Festival. Christopher McLeod

 Feb. 2016
I followed up with Miriam several times and was then transferred to Carrie Nimmo, the Coordinator of Cultural and Events. I was informed Scott Fraser has been hired as the new environmental coordinator. We spoke on the phone regarding my letter and the up coming exhibit in July at the Charles H Scott.

Apr. 2016
I followed up with Carrie and Scott. Carrie informs me that after a management meeting the idea of adding the water fountain icon to the map was approved. They are now developing the icon and it will be a part of the next printing.

May 2016
I am supplied with a copy of the new icon. The icon is now printed on the tourist map, posters, and transit shelters.

waterfountain (1)

The icon is now a part of the interactive element of the sculpture.


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