Aug 112016

Note Attacks - an interactive wooden installation by Chu in the Shangri La field at Glastonbury Festival 2016
This year’s Glastonbury saw the final episode of the public tyranny and protest theme in the South East corner, with their own TV station (SHI.TV), newspaper and the obligatory installations and artwork covering the whole area. In response to the brief, one of my contributions to Shangri-La started with an ambition to invent, and build by hand, a publicly accessible, medieval vandalism machine.

Engineering & design

The first concept involving tubular sytems and the chambers cut out

The first concept involving tubular sytems and the chambers cut out

My first concept involved many cut-outs and pivot rods that would take way too long to machine in time, never mind keep it in budget. I knew there was another way. Standard, low profile supplies were paramount at this stage of the build so there had to be a modular system. A standard 2.44m x 1.22m panel could comfortably house 4 graffiti-scale characters.

The approach to the location where I best desired the piece, 9.8m long

The approach to the location where I best desired the piece, 9.8m long

I rang my pal Aidan from Bristol, who was involved in the build for the famed Block9 area of Glastonbury Festival. His engineering mind lent itself perfectly to assist with the build, he’s worked on many different builds from whole bars to art installations and photoshoot decor. He approached my project with enthusiastic, immediate effect, over a few frantic hours with a notepad in the pub. It wasn’t until we had several telephone conversations and met some time later for a coffee, when Aidan suggested we use hinges to create the ‘flippable’ lozenge. This device had to be built with available off-the-shelf fixings. And a lot of them – 192.

I created a font which resembled a liquid crystal display as seen on calculators and clocks everywhere, with a few alterations. For instance, how to create the M and W with a normal figure 8 calculator display? The answer was add another vertical section to the arrangement, so it appeared more like a quartered window, rather than a figure 8. Then, all the numbers needed to ensure a continual flow for the letters as they flow across from one panel to its neighbouring panel seamlessly.

Then it was, how many letters (or complete 4-letter panels) to use for messaging (got used to calling it programming)? Three standard panels would house 12, but 12 couldn’t even produce “GLASTONBURY2016”. The budget was stretched to limit when the decision was made to go for four panels with 16 characters. So glad it went to 16 as I could write “NOTE ATTACKS BY CHU” in the default (open-hinged) state.

The drawings were completed and refined in time to machine the wooden pieces and for Aidan to kindly drop them to Pilton before we got on site.

The assembly process

It nearly became a disaster as Screwfix ran out of hinges and there was a race against time to find a suitable replacement. I found two Wickes that had the necessary stock and had to recalculate with a biro during the build after creating accurate plans when the original hinges existed on this island. Once on site, all the magnets and other hinges needed finding (thanks Claire), preparing and combining in order could now begin. Damo and I had it down to a fine art after board number 1.

  • Arrange all (384) wooden pieces freehand on the grid
  • Correct the position and alignment with (192) hinges in position
  • Mark the positions
  • Prime all woods
  • 584 x 25mm screws for half of hinge fastening with half lozenge
  • 584 x 12mm screws for open hinge with other, moveable lozenge half
  • Grind off screw ends on reverse
  • Paint black over entire surface
  • Affix magnets and magnet home
  • Install 4 x boards
  • Paint default layout of lit-up lozenges/cell pattern

I will leave it to you to ponder what the first word programmed into the first, four-letter NoteAttacks board…

Examples of use

Also, this shot taken during the very final stages by Hannah Sherlock for The Guardian.
Chu Shangr-la 2016 Weds Thurs day to night © Hannah Sherlock


If it weren’t for Aidan, Damo and Omar, this would’ve been impossible. Those guys helped me so much – Aidan on the forethought, engineering and knowledge of festival builds, Damo and Omar as they graft and don’t have to have the same discussion twice, unless it’s Wizardly.

It would be incorrect to give you the impression that it was all achieved by my own hands. Gotta thank Will for destroying my first, long concept. Not forgetting Danny & George for their stupid pencil support.

Extra special thanks to Kaye Dunning and Simon Vaughn from Shangri-La who shared my vision and saw it through to completion.

Aidan, Damo, Omar, fellow Wizards – I salute you.