Artist Interview: Randy Sarafan

Randy Sarafan is an Eyebeam Alum who was in residence in 2007.

The work of Randy Sarafan embodies the spirit of Eyebeam at its most whimsical. Now a content creator for Instructables, he develops projects that subvert traditional ways of looking at everyday objects. These projects include a robotic bed, a clap-off bra, and an energy-saving lamp that shuts off whenever you blink. Eyebeam was able to catch up with him in the following interview.

Eyebeam: One of your projects at Eyebeam was a collaborative, Rube Goldberg-like “Ticket Machine.” Can you speak a little more about your time at Eyebeam? What projects did you work on?

Randy Sarafan: The “Ticket Machine” project was actually not mine. I just got roped into working on it a little bit when I visited some friends who were building it at the San Jose biennial. I honestly didn’t complete too many projects while at Eyebeam. My time there was an episode of much failure and dead ends. However, Eyebeam gave me the space and resources to try new things and experiment. Even though I did not complete much, I learned a lot about what not to do which influenced later work. I also made a lot of connections with other artists which led to future collaborations and changed my work in unforeseen ways. The only ‘success’ I have to show from my time there is a side-project I worked on called the Breathalyzer Microphone.

Breathalyzer Microphone
Breathalyzer Microphone by Randy Sarafan

Eyebeam: Could you describe how you came to be involved with Instructables?

RS: A friend (from Eyebeam) told me about Instructables after they posted about LED Throwies (project by Eyebeam alum Evan Roth and James Powderly as the Graffiti Research Lab). I began to use it as a resource for posting my own projects. Around this time I moved to San Francisco and noticed the Instructables office was both located nearby and hiring. So… I applied. I think what got me in the door was a USB–Powered Apple I made for their high tech Thanksgiving Contest. I was really – really – trying to win an Instructables T-shirt. 

Eyebeam: Your creations are a diverse mix – from bots to a clap-off bra to a taxidermied butterfly-cockroach hybrid. Could you describe your process for developing a project?

RS: Well you mention butterflies… My process is a bit like chasing butterflies. I start by going after the most colorful and convenient idea that flutters by. Sometimes I catch it. Sometimes it sits unfinished on a shelf for many years before I go back to it. I have more ideas than I know what to do with and I’m typically working on at least three things at once. By my count, I currently have 5 things actively underway.

Eyebeam: Your projects “Teeth Candy” and the “Energy Saving Light” are playfully tongue-in-cheek – what place does humor have in your role as a creator?

RS: Humor makes the work approachable for a larger audience than the typical media art / fine art audience. Comedy also creates a safe way to engage people with complex or controversial subjects. When something is presented as a joke, we don’t take it too seriously and have less of a stake in keeping our defenses up. As they say, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Also, presenting work in a satirical way forces people to stop and reconcile with its questionable logic and fosters discussion. At the very least, with the way this world is headed, we could all use a little more laughter in our lives.  

Eyebeam: Where do you see your work moving in the future?

RS: It is my desire to find space to make work that is much larger. Honestly, it is my dream to build more things such as Bedfellow, my robotic queen-sized bed. If anyone reading this is interested in sponsoring the creation of very large art robots in some way, I would love to talk! 🙂

More information about Randy Sarafan’s work can be found on his website.

Article by Communications Intern Colin Lodewick and edited by Leandro Huerto. All photos courtesy of the artist.

Header gif: Bedfellow by Randy Sarafan.