A Cyber Femme. SPUTNIKO!


Music, Art, Performance, Media Art, Cyber Feminism, Computer, Fashion, Wakki, Cyber, Science, Flash, Design, Technology, Sputniko!

Tell us about your background.

I’m from a mathematics/computer science background. I studied Mathematics and Computer Science in University, and my parents are both Mathematicians. My uncle’s a mathematician and my grandpa is a physicist so I was raised up in a very Math/Science family. It was strange but fun.

How does it influence your choice of profession?

I think it influenced me in a way that:
I’m always curious about the world and how it all works, and I’m curious about new technology and what will happen in the future – which plays a really big role when I approach my music and art work even though they seem completely different from science!

Also I program thanks to my Maths genes, which gives me a lot of strength when I make my work. That’s the influence I think…! Science and Art – they’re both trying to figure something out about the same world and I’m glad I know both rather well…

Is that why you decided to do flash: a combination of art and science?

Yeah it was a good combination, so I ended up doing a lot of it.

I come to know you through Unit9 and you’re the first female doing flash that I know. Is it a rare thing (not many females in this industry) and how does it feel being one of them?

I find it funny when people are surprised of my gender when I talk to someone over the phone or see someone at the interview but otherwise I don’t find anything weird or different being the rare girl.

I actually REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want more girls to program and be familiar with technology because technology is shaping our future and culture, and it is alarming that so few women are participating in it. WE NEED MORE GIRLS.

In Sputniko! I try to encourage this. I reference girls or feminism a lot and I try to set an example of a girl programmer – ‘cyber femme’ or something like that, hoping more girls think its cool to be programming and rocking out.

What is the response so far in terms of getting more girls interested in technology?

It’s good!! I get nice comments from girls and female artists. Young Hoxton girls too! The Hoxton girls are like – ‘wow, that 3d moving thing, awesome…!’ which is a start – if more girls think its cool to be doing this, more girls might try.

What does Sputniko! mean?

Sputniko! comes from the Russian satellite Sputnik. My nickname in high school was Sputnik because apparently I looked more half Russian than half English because I’m tall and pale – so Sputniko! comes from that. The “!” at the end is important but people forget it all the time. It’s officially Sputniko! – like Neu! the band. I did that just to be silly and cause pain in people’s lives.

What was your first thought when you decided to form Sputniko! ?

It actually happened from my university homework. I was taking music tech classes and I never made music before. I made 5 songs for this course and I tried really hard… because the teacher was hot. My friends seemed to like the songs a lot so they told me to do a gig – they were Ai and Usman. They liked my idea for the armpit instrument so for the first gig we made the armpit instrument too. That’s how it started.

How was it made?

The first version was made using Arduino and Proce55ing. It detected light. I put those under my armpit and moved my armpit up and down. The light coming in the armpit will trigger the sounds. The version I have now is different though.

I now use the Wiimote controller with Flash. I detect the Wiimote’s pitch, roll and yaw (the 3d orientation) to detect my armpit moving up and down. I also detect the acceleration in some cases. The Wiimote is hidden inside Wakki, the armpit monster, which is a knitted monster with 6 long legs. They grab onto your arms nicely, so it’s quite easy to put this instrument on now…

WAKKI is one of your creations, are you proud of him?

YES, VERY! He is my proud boy… and there are new ones being born right now – Wakki’s brothers and sisters. They will be showcased in my next Armpit Symphony Orchestra, where I ask the audience to participate using the new Wakkis other than Wakki.

I Remember You

What is your favourite project so far?

My favourite projects are Bunny Tree and I Remember You. Its hard to choose… hmm. They are both interactive sound pieces, which react to the performer in some ways.

My favourite unrealised project is the computer baby. It’s a way of having babies without having to be biologically pregnant – CODE THEM. I started building the concept because I have IMMENSE period pain and I thought women were going through too much biological sacrifice to leave their genes!

Do you think you need 9 months to code them?

HAHAHA That might be good!!!!! but after its coded, you can compile as many a day to have lots of babies.

What do you intend to do with them later?

I’m planning to make a simple neural network AI (an artificial intelligence which simulates the brain) for her and have her learn to sing some melodies in my gig. The melodies will be unexpected but a learnt outcome.

How long does it take?

It’s taking me 6 months since I first thought of it!! I think I need a couple more months.
I’m trying to make something simple so that it doesn’t take forever!

Bunny Tree

Tell me more about Bunny Tree and “I remember you”.

Bunny Tree is a 3D soundscape, which means that different sounds are placed in 3D, so if you go near them or move around them, the volume and pan of those sounds change, as if you are hearing them in real 3D space. Also the music structure (chorus/verse/ending, etc) are triggered by the user moving near certain animals in the forest. So it’s music generated by the user moving through the 3D space.

The overall piece is about a bunny lost in the woods, who tries to find her mother. The user explores the forest with her, and talks to different animals, as if s/he is looking for her mother too. It was made based on fears of losing your family, especially your mother. It’s got a grim, mysterious feel.

You sound like you are full of “motherly love” here.

Haha I’m her big fan! She’s a programmer too so she’s a great role model.

Is this how your concept is born – from the feeling of “fear of something”?

Not necessarily fear, but the concept is always personal. I start from what I strongly feel the most that time and then build up the work and technology. I also try to do it different from a lot of interactive works that often try to show off the technology first. The feeling’s the most important for me.

I value the concept and feeling of the work more than what technology it uses or shows off. The technology and the format of the work results from a solid concept I have. I like a lot of interaction design or technology artwork but I felt that there could be more work that are personal or emotionally strong.

It’s not like either is good or bad.

CHINKO NO UTA (The penis song)

Do you have any idols?


Laurie Anderson. She’s the WOMAN. She is someone I look up to and someone I hope to be like.

She’s a performance artist too who used a lot of technology and wrote her songs. She is very intelligent, had very strong messages about politics and feminism, and inspired many people including me. I like her attitude, her ideas, her life – she’s KEWL.

Oh and Perfume, the J-POP Idol. They are fantastically cute and they sing about living inside virtual worlds – awesome. They are so BIG in Japan, very POP.

You are pretty geeky… how about fashion? I saw your performance once in Florence…. totally different dress code than normal (mainly black). Did you put a lot of attention to it? Or are you trying to strike a Sputniko! impression here?

Haha. I don’t spend that much time, but it’s a Sputniko! thing – she likes bright colours and funky costumes. She’s a cyber idol. She likes to wear fun and pretty “Yeah!” things.

Did you make them yourself?

Yep I got a shirt and stuck things on it. I intend to have a “SUPU-RYU (Sputniko Style)” fashion happening in in Japan by 2010. These female magazines would say something like: “SUPU RYU Fashion 7 days!

GET THE SUMMER MUST PROGRAMMER STYLE! “ That’s my realistic goal by 2010. Don’t worry – it’ll happen.

Skype Song

If you had to choose an electrical appliance to represent yourself, what would it be? And why?

HAHAHAHA! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeegh
A pink vibrator with a cute bunny picture on it with rainbows.
If that gets censored, okay, I’ll say a toaster. They’re really interesting things to have conversations with. You put a toast in – wait – it burns a bit and pops it back at you. You can read the burns. Actually i have a relative “Toastgirl“.
She’s a performance artist who performs with a toaster on her head. She’s active in Tokyo.Sputniko! and Toastgirl are sisters.

Do you know her personally?

What’s funny is that she is ACTUALLY my relative. I’ve known her since I was young.

One last question – is there any advantage being half English, half Japanese, cyber, creative, tall and pale – all in ONE package?

Well people can remember me easily because I’m weird, which is great! Muahaha!

Text: Waiming from Unit9

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