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Meet Nathan Damen of Atltvhead

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathan Damen.

Nathan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Atltvhead started when many of my friends had recently left Atlanta. I started exploring communication and how to create fun interactions with strangers both on and offline. Seemingly spontaneous encounters can be disarming and allow for people to channel their inner play. Eventually, the questions needing to be answered started to solidify. How to do I facilitate these fun, spontaneous interactions? How do I create dialogue between two different people? How to do I bridge an online community to a physical one?

Taking inspiration from a number of different comics, cartoons, and musicians, I decided the way I will help to create these moments is by using the image of a television, on my head. Televisions are a staple in American culture, for better or worse. We have childhood memories of our favorite shows, have been able to peak into a fantasy world through, and have learned from television (I am looking at you Bill Nye the Science Guy). What better way to express all of these ideas and cultural references around the television, then by wearing one on my head.

I found a 1960’s era RCA Victor television, that I fell in love with. I gutted, cleaned, and installed my own display using LEDs on the screen. The screen is programmed to be controlled by an online chat community, as well as myself.

The community that controls the screen of Atltvhead is hosted on Twitch.tv, an online streaming community (usually used for video games). Anyone can join for free and manipulate my tv screen when I am walking in the city! This communication allows for those people online to interact with individuals physically around me. The online world can send messages of inspiration, kindness, and empathy to anyone I meet while walking with the tv. They can directly see the impact and peoples surprise as my screen comes to life and those physically around me can share their experiences and culture with those online.

I am constantly blown away by getting to interact and have such a fun time with people out in Atlanta! I hope to see you soon!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
If there were no challenges, would it be worth doing?

I love learning, exploring, and expanding the world around. There were quite a few parts of building tv head where I had to learn something completely new, such as coding my own chatbot, how to communicate to the internet, and how I do safely clean out a 50-year-old television. These types of challenges are fun for me, they allow for the growth of my skill set. However, there are other challenges that are not so straightforward.

The most challenging moment is how to change the interaction when someone would rather disparage my effort, than join the conversation. Often a person in passing will crack a joke, which is all in good fun (I am wearing a tv after all), but a few times I have had people actually seem disgusted with my presence. I wish I knew a way to help those people have fun the most, but I am still trying to figure those moments out. At the least, I’ll just walk by. At most I’ll offer a sticker as an olive branch.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Atltvhead – what should we know?
My art is mainly a mixture of programming, 3d printing, and interactivity. Everything centers around having genuine interactions with those around you. I have a small art television, about the size of a guinea pig, that displays a positive word to mediate for each day of the year.

It also generates a few images based on math equations that the user can change. I have a few more tv like objects that react to when people touch them or when people interact with each other in front of them. As you may have guessed, I love working on interactive pieces, Atltvhead being my most encompassing project.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Having a human interaction with a singular person, regardless of our ideals. If I am not genuine or get wrapped up in my own ego, I will never be able to connect with someone the way I want to.

Contact Info:

       
Image Credit:

Kaya Faery, Michelle Khouri, Karen Anderson, Alex Atkins, Krista Jones, Jessica Anderson

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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