Making art more accessible through humour and crap

Making art more accessible through humour and crap

Ryan Cassidy reveals the new Trinketron 6750 for Kazoo! Fest 2016

In 2014, the multinational corporation known as Unicorp commissioned local artist and inventor, Ryan Cassidy, to build the Trinketron, an artificially intelligent machine that creates custom objects using highly sophisticated interfaces and algorithms.

Or at least that’s how the story is told.

In an interview with The Ontarion, Cassidy reveals the truth: “It’s really just me, sitting inside of a box, making things for people.” The concept sounds so simple, but under the guise of complex machinery, the Trinketron 6750 is an imaginative performance piece geared toward making art interactive and accessible to everyone.

Essentially, the Trinketron 6750 is a “vending machine that supplies people with what they want most in a small object,” explains Cassidy. Each item sits at a cost of five dollars, but the customer is able to select what they want based on a series of options, from funny to scary and useful to useless. Based on number of these selections, one might end up with a fashionable pizza brooch or a questionable souvenir of gum once chewed by James Franco. Each object is a one-of-a-kind, handmade treasure aimed to put a smile on your face.

Originally presented as the Trinketron 5000 at Kazoo! Fest in 2014, the new and improved model will be returning to the festival’s visual art program this year with the help of Ed Video Media Arts Centre backing the project. The original model was made from cardboard and required Cassidy to create each unique object in real time. “[Each item] took like twenty minutes,” Cassidy explains, “I had two ovens in there, and I’m making things out of clay and baking them, and trying to control the lights and the sound […] and that was crazy.”

Cassidy was able to learn from the first installment that there are only so many options that people are likely to choose.

“Ninety-nine per cent of people all want the same things,” says Cassidy, noting that, this time around, many of the items can be made in advance based on six common product types. “And that one per cent, you know, the fly in the ointment […] they get a custom object.” These evolutionary findings will help the Trinketron’s transactions run smoother and quicker this year, allowing the artist to focus more on the machine’s theatrics and, more importantly, the engagement with his “human customers.”

The Trinketron 6750 is by no means a high-brow piece of art in the traditional sense. It is meant to be a little goofy, a little quirky, and a whole lot of fun for everyone involved. However, despite Cassidy’s aversion to the perceived “chin-scratching” nature of art academia, there is a deeper level of meaning behind the piece. “There is a sort of subtext or undercurrent of seriousness to it,” he confesses, “like a lot of these goofy products are sort of lighthearted, satirical statements about just the nature of crap-culture in general.”

Cassidy offers his own love-hate relationship with the dollar store as an example of this fascination: “It’s so organized and everything smells like plastic—it’s great. But, I mean, it’s a huge evil […] It’s just terrible stuff.”

As the idea evolves, Cassidy hopes to make the Trinketron into more of a permanent structure that he is able to take around to different venues and events, sharing his work with as many people as possible, and breaking down the barrier between art and crap.