Olympic event CODE Live exhibits the Mondo Spider
There was no shortage of art and culture to take in during the Olympic break. From jamming yourself into one of the free Cultural Olympiad shows to simply walking downtown on Granville and seeing all the sculptures that had been erected, the art was everywhere. Slightly more out of the way, but no less interesting (and no less free) was the CODE Live 1 site on the Great Northern Way Campus of BCIT. A giant warehouse filled with interactive art pieces relating to technology, the space was a conceptually minded adult’s version of Science World.

In addition to potted plants that would sing when you touched them, a jungle of light bulbs and a half-dozen other exhibits, eatART's Mondo Spider was certainly an intriguing exhibition to gawk at. An eight-legged walking vehicle, the spider was originally powered by gasoline and internal combustion engines. Participation in CODE Live, however, made it possible for the Mondo Spider to be converted into the world's first zero-emission walking machine.

"Converting the Spider to electric had been a goal of ours for a long time," says engineer and eatART director Leigh Christie. "But it was going to be very expensive to we submitted a budget and they responded by giving us $5000." They raised the rest of the money themselves and managed turned the Mondo Spider into an indoor, electrically powered exhibition. 

The first time the Mondo Spider was conceived, in fact, it was actually made out of wood. Less an art project and more of a friendly competition to create a walking machine, Leigh Christie and a group of his friends entered the Vancouver Junkyard Wars in 2005. Their wooden Mondo Spider only made it 12 steps before breaking, but the group resolved that they were going to build a real version of the spider, "Something [that] could actually walk, that was going to look nice and was going to be a work of art." says Christie. They came together and formed the Mondo Spider crew, and set out to build what they call a kinetic sculpture.

The Mondo Spider is a partner project with eatART (Energy Awareness Through Art), a Vancouver-based non-profit art lab that focuses on trying to rethink energy through kinetic sculptures and other forms of art as well as educating people about the role energy plays in our lives. They don't specify sustainable energy, though the Spider leaves no carbon footprint. "It's not our job to tell people how to live their lives. We simply want to show the world what is possible." Leigh Christie explains.

As the Mondo Spider was part of the ECO ART section of CODE Live, the sustainable energy source was certainly emphasized in that setting, though Christie appreciates that "It gives people the opportunity to think about energy in a non-preachy environment without an environmentalist telling them what to do". Also in the ECO ART section of CODE Live was a miniature indoor greenhouse hosting an orchid, an interactive installation piece about water consumption, and the above-mentioned singing plants.

In addition to the funding from CODE Live, the Mondo Spider team also received a sponsorship from Day4 Energy so that the Spider could be run on solar power. They haven't finished all the panels yet, but they're about 50% complete.

That’s right. Eventually there will be a walking spider machine that eats sunlight.

//Sarah Vitet
assistant arts editor

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