An Interview with Piotr Marecki of UBU Lab, Poland
Interview by Darren Wershler, Jussi Parikka, and Lori Emerson
Octobter 20, 2017
Interviewers: What is your lab called and where is it?
Piotr Marecki: UBU Lab, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland.
Interviewers: What sorts of projects and activities form the core of your work? Is there a specific temporal or technological focus for your lab?
- Researching creativity in the digital age (e.g., Digital experiments, Demoscene, electronic literature, media art, creative computing, digital genres, DIY approaches to the platform).
- Producing advanced digital works (mostly highly computational works).
- Teaching digital cultures.
Interviewers: Who uses the lab? Is it a space for students, for researchers, for seminars?
Piotr Marecki: The space is primarily meant for collaboration between researchers, artists and programmers. The exception is the creative computing summer school (10 students took part in the first edition.) The lab is also a place for selected classes, on digital genres or digital culture, for example. Lectures are organized on [a] regular basis, and one of the lab’s aims is [to create a] community of scientists, students, artists.
Interviewers: What sorts of knowledge does the lab produce and how is it circulated?
Piotr Marecki: The lab primarily produces digital works that can function in a few fields of the demoscene: electronic literature, video games and media art. Our research focuses on, among other things, local phenomena in the digital media field [such as] strategies for cloning platforms in Central and Eastern Europe (especially the 8-bit computer ZX Spectrum), as well as digital genres and their specific features in Central and Eastern Europe.
Interviewers: Tell us about your infrastructure. Do you have a designated space and how does that work?
Piotr Marecki: Our lab consists of five parts:
- A retro space (with 10 workstations + retro hardware with contemporary peripheral devices: ZX Spectrum 128k Plus + Divide 2k11 + Wonder AY, ZX Spectrum 48k Plus + Divide 2k11 + Wonder AY, Timex 2048 + Divide 2k11 + Wonder AY, ZX Uno, ZX81 + ZXpand interface, ZX Evo 4Mb + Neo GeneralSound + TurboSoundFM + SD, ZX Delta, ZX Spectrum 48k + Divide 2k11 + Wonder AY, Atari 520STE + Ultrasatan, Atari 1200 XL + Side2 Compact Flash Interface, Atari 130XE + diskdrive, Atari 65 XE + SIO2SD (SD/SDHC), Atari Falcon 030 + GOTEK HXC-2001, Amiga 500 1Mb + GOTEK HXC-2001, Amiga 1200 +Blizzard 1260, 2 x Commodore C-64 + 1541 Ultimate, Amstrad CPC + GOTEK HXC-200, Apple II, Macintosh SE, Apple PowerMac)
- A VR space (with a cave + 2 workstations, HTC Vive VR headset with VR ready PC workstation and Lenovo Phab 2 Plus augmented reality (Tango Project) smartphone.)
- A workshop area (10 workstations)
- A games corner (couch, consoles, coffee maker, consoles Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum Vega, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Pegasus—Nintendo NES / Famicom clone, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation Portable [PSP], Soviet portable games Электроника [Elektronika], Sega GameGear)
- An office (2 workstations)
Interviewers: What sorts of support does the lab receive?
Piotr Marecki: The lab is financed by the program of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education's "National Programme for the Development of Humanities" for the years 2016–19. Our hardware and the lab's library [is] also supported by the programme Ars Docendi, financed by the President of the Jagiellonian University, as well as Austria-based The Patterns Lectures project.
Interviewers: What are your major theoretical touchstones?
Piotr Marecki: One of the most important approaches [we apply] is Platform Studies, [which takes] into account the role of material platforms in the digital media field. This methodology is very helpful in the area of creative works done in the lab, as well as [for] research projects that focus on studying original approaches to platform, especially cloning the original platforms and researching the demoscene or digital genres. [Our] research can be also seen in the context of the Decentering Digital Media trend present in today’s digital media.
Interviewers: What would you say is the lab’s most significant accomplishment to date?
Piotr Marecki: The lab's most significant accomplishments are probably the following: our pioneering research on the demoscene; research on the ZX Spectrum platform and its clones using the Platform Studies approach; the selected works produced by the lab, e.g. "Platform game Mysterious Dimensions" by the demosceners Yerzmyey and Hellboj for the ZX Spectrum 128K & ZX Spectrum 48K, AGD, Assembler platforms; or the iPeiper application by Jan K. Argasiński and Piotr Marecki, created thanks to the iBeacon technology in the Java SQLite programming languages presented at the Electronic Literature Organization Conference in Portugal 2017.
Interviewers: Could you briefly describe your plans for the lab over the next 3–5 years?
Piotr Marecki: [We will be] producing digital works and technical reports [as well as] doing research projects with the help of collected tools. [We will also equip our] lab with [necessary] hardware (local consoles, platforms), [and build our] software archives.
Interviewers: What makes your lab a lab?
Piotr Marecki: People, space, [and] a lot of hardware and experiments!