Connector Oven


This work was created as part of ‘Companion Project’ and is an ephemeral sculpture and performance. With this work I created a website host powered through the heat involved in cooking a loaf of bread. The site would only be available for about 10 minutes during this process when the oven was hot enough. When this was a link to the website would appear on the Companion Project site and would display the recipe I was making.

The inspiration for this piece came from the research and methods involved in creating a online works and the many ways these can be created, connected and distributed. At the time I was exploring what it meant to share, especially online when everything feels so immediate and constantly accessible. I took a lot of inspiration from the works such as ‘Low Tech Magazine and ‘Keep Alive’ by Aram Bartholl and how they too explored these themes of sharing, hosting and ephemerality in online works. I was really intrigued by their ideas around the energy involved in making and sharing a website. At the time I was trying many different bread recipes throughout my research and work on other areas of ‘Companion Project. I always felt like I wasted a lot of energy while making bread with the oven constantly on and wanted to try to use this within the work and make it more than just a by-product of the work.

This work had two outcomes: the hosted recipe and a manual of how I made this work for people to attempt to recreate this project. With this piece I wanted to make something that felt performative without a physical install. To give the sense that I am there interacting and making this performing this work even though you could not physically see me.

This work raised a lot of questions around the internet, what it means to be connected and how can this be done. I really enjoyed combining these processes and ideas into a piece tha is physical and can be seen and interacted with, something which I feel isn't very common when we think about the internet and what makes it work. The research and experimentation that was put into this work was something I really enjoyed and feel like I can continue in different avenues in my work.

An example of the live site with the recipe I was currently making

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Solar Powered Website - Low Tech Magazine

In a discussion in college the idea of a solar powered website came up. I really liked how this website was presented showing the amount of energy the solar paneled had stored. As well as the graphics created and text and assets that used less energy. I thought that this idea could be used for creating a website run of the energy used for making bread. Such as the heat from the oven and hotpress as this is often energy that is not fully used and lost

Keep Alive - Aram Bartholl

This Solar Powered site is similar to the work of Aram Bartholl who uses heat from the fire to heat the rock and create electricity using a thermal generator. This electricity then powered a Wi-fi router which you could then connect to and read a large selection of manuals. I really love the thought process behind this piece. I liked the idea of hosting and genertaing ways to access and shre information.

DIY Kiln - Simone Bodmer Turner

Batholl’s piece reminded me a lot of these images I had seen from a ceramic artist social media. I felt this set up to obtain heat and to heat up something was really interesting and was something that I was excited to explore.

How To Turn Code Into Art - Aram Bartholl

The idea of thermal printing came up as a result of a conversation about my ideas around this work. I felt it would be interesting to link the two actions if possible. Using heat to create energy that will then power a printer.

Connector Oven - My Own Work

I began to research the practicality of this idea and found I could get a small peltier plate that would be placed beside heat and create a current. This would then charge a battery. I wanted to then test that this energy from the battery could be used to charge a raspberry pi. With this plan I could use heat from making bread, charge a raspberry pi and use this to host a website. I felt like this could be quite performative. An ephemeral act that relied on people to view the online work and interact with it for the amount of time it was available.

Peltier module

Connector Oven - My Own Work

To start I ordered a few peltier modules to experiment with. I then attached them to an aluminum sheet to lie against the door of the oven to take the heat and generate electricity. I got about 2 volts out of this. This would increase when I included cold water on the opposite side of the plate as it created a bigger difference on each side of the module and as a resul made more energy. I however realised that I would need a much hotter source of heat. I started to look for a second hand oven which I could dismantle and access much hotter parts of the oven which would generate a much larger amount of power. I also tested that a raspberry pi could be powered externally with a power supply. For this I got a voltage regulator that would control and make sure the Raspberry Pi was only receiving 5 volts even if more power was generated to prevent breaking the Raspberry Pi.

Measuring the amount of energy that can be made from the heat of an oven

Connector Oven - My Own Work

I was able to find a built in oven on Adverts that I could take apart. With this I would be able to place the peltier modules on a heated surface much closer to the temperature of the oven while the bread was baking.

Oven manual

Oven ad

Connector Oven - My Own Work

I really enjoyed the planning and experimentation involved in this part as it included a lot of interaction from members of my family. My dad who is an electrician, my sister who is an engineer and her partner who is also and engineer as well as my own research and ideas on how best this would work. I started to realise that this project was becoming a system of interactions. A collection of shared experiences in which I was practicing, researching and discussing sharing. It felt that this project was moving into the creation of an archive of these interactions to share with others as a result of trying to bring people together through food.

Connector Oven - My Own Work

The best ideas and solution resulted in taking off most of the casing of the oven down to the insulation. Removing pieces of the insulation to sit the peltier modules on the metal of the oven. And placing aluminum trays on top to hold the water as aluminum is a bad heat conductor so would keep the water colder for a longer amount of time. This started to work really well and produced 9 volts of power at 146 degrees. 54 degrees cooler then I would actually be using for baking the bread.

Placing the peltier directly on the oven

Measuring the electricity generated by this

Connector Oven - My Own Work

While I was able to generate 9 volts I could never get the Raspberry Pi to stay on. Even after adding more modules to create more power it became clear that the initial booting of the Raspberry Pi was using too much power causing it to turn off and boot again in an endless cycle that there was just not enough power for. I had used Arduino’s a lot in my work throughout the years and decided to look into if they would work for website hosting. I plugged a small arduino into the supply of power while the oven was still hot and this remained in power so this felt like the best route to take.

Testing the power to the raspberry pi

Testing the power to the Ethernet shield

Connector Oven - My Own Work

I found that by attaching an Ethernet shield to the arduino I could this to host a website. As an Arduino is less advanced than a Raspberry Pi it resulted in having to write the website in a much more basic way. This was actually something I felt added to the piece making it more structural and experimental as a work.

Trying out how to make a simple website

Connector Oven - My Own Work

When it came to making visuals of the oven I felt that 3D models of the oven would work really nice in giving an overview of the oven. However, with the low tech feel to the website hosted by the Arduino I felt that these would not compliment each other. I had come across the use of Ascii art in older sites which is images created from text. With this I could also use these visuals on the site as they did not need to be large file sizes. I also felt that this imagery was more appropriate to the work.

3D model of oven

Ascii image of oven

Connector Oven - My Own Work

My lecturers had suggested making a manual or guide about how the oven worked to explain the process to viewers. I started to create visuals and styles for how this would look and what it would communicate.

Test layouts for the manual

Without Interference - Michelle Doyle

I looked into artists working with manuals and text heavy work. I really liked how simple the imagery and text was in this piece by Michelle Doyle and felt it would compliment the style of the site which would be hosted by the oven.

Home Instruction Manual - Jan McCullough

I also went back through artist work that I had looked at in earlier researcg as I had played around with the idea of artist made manuals and guides.

Whole Earth Guide - Stewart Brand

The visuals and style of Whole Earth Guides came up and I really felt that the visuals, themes and aimof the Whole Earth Guides suited and complimented the context and medium of the work.

Connector Oven - My Own Work

The final layout included simple page layouts with ascii images. While I really liked the busy pages with the different diagrams etc I felt this approach worked a lot better. It was clearer, easier to read and I liked the finished look of the work.

Final layout for the manual