TOFU (TECHNOLOGY OF FUTURE UTOPIA) currently focuses on artistic intervention into logistics systems and supply chains. Having a strong doubt of the question "Who's your customer?", we are now devising a successful business model without target customers. We call this a contingent business.
Our primary project is Single Container Transport, a novel concept for deep-sea shipping where each vessel only carries a single standard-sized shipping container (1 TEU), instead of stacking them high up to more than 20,000 TEU.
In 2018, we moved a potato mountain by Deliveroo. In 2019, we developed a manual system that allows one person to move a full-scale shipping container.
Customer-based businesses may perhaps produce more waste than contingent businesses.
American artist Tom Sachs said in his NIKECraft booklet in 2012:
The "die broke racing philosophy" (starting with 100% and ending with 0% to save weight and increase speed), is a useful strategy, but can also conflict with sustainability, and compromise long-term strength. Before recycling, there is reuse. Before reuse, there is durability.
Rather than choosing specific people/businesses to serve, contingent businesses harness already-existing externalities to build a supply chain.
Like the Japanese saying 風が吹けば桶屋が儲かる (When the wind blows, the cooper is profitable), seemingly unrelated matters could get connected to cause an unexpected consequence. By utilising ever more accurate geolocation technology and cheap sensors, this probability can be finely adjusted, giving the right amount of contingency.
Single Container Transport
TOFU's current primary project is Single Container Transport, a novel concept for deep-sea shipping. It is the idea of moving standard shipping containers one by one (1 TEU per vessel), instead of stacking them high up to more than 20,000 TEU. The system is independent of traditional fuels, and only harnessing the wind and ocean currents (without even an engine), while fullying utilising ever more accurate geolocation technology and cheap sensors for autonomous shipping.
"Action-based Operatic Prototyping" is chosen as a way of developing Single Container Transport. Unlike traditional technical projects relying on pitch and demo, the development phase consists of the following ACTs:
ACT 1 - Arrival
ACT 2 - Voyage
ACT 3 - Departure
Before ACT 1, Overture: Carrying Power took place. A mountain of potatoes was moved by Deliveroo, the food courier service that normally delivers pre-cooked, relatively light-weight food from restaurants. The experiment was co-developed with The Grey Space in the Middle in The Hague and conducted during TodaysArt festival in fall 2018.
A panel on Single Container Transport was simultaneously held during the same festival. Artist Yoshinari Nishiki was joined by prof. Lóránt Tavasszy from TU Delft, who explores the mode of storage in relation to the physical distances from the living environment, PhD researcher Ali Haseltalab from TU Delft, who develops prototypes of an autonomous inland waterways vessel that carries one container ‘Delfia 1’, and Borre Rosema (Central Innovation District The Hague). The panel discussion was moderated by Inte Gloerich from the Institute of Network Culture.
ACT 1 - Arrival was conducted in the pressupposed condition where Single Container Transport has already done its job and left a 20ft dry container behind. From this point, the last-mile delivery of the container needs to be taken care of on land, also without any emission.
“Panjancontainer” is a zero-emissions container transportation system that can be operated by a single person, completely manually. The name is derived from the never-used WEAPON developed by the British army during WWII, Panjandrum. According to Imperial War Museums:
It consisted of two rocket-propelled wheels, ten feet in diameter, joined by a cylinder filled with explosive. . . . Tests in 1943 and 1944 were a disaster. The rockets attached to the wheels often failed or detached themselves, and the Panjandrum went everywhere except in a straight line. It was never used in action.
Prior to coming across Panjandrum, I visited the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift in central Scotland.
According to the Falkirk Wheel Guide 2012:
The Falkirk Wheel is unique. Not only is it the first boatlift of its type anywhere, but its combination of engineering ingenuity and architectural imagination creates both an eye-catching working sculpture and Scotland's most unusual tourist attraction.
Turning the Wheel involves two simple engineering functions that have been brought together to create an innovative, energy saving combination.
The prime mechanism is a series of hydraulic motors that rotate the four metre diameter central axle and the Wheel's two propeller-shaped arms fixed to it. Helping to keep the gondolas, and the boats inside them, horizontal throughout the operation is the second mechanism - a row of linked cogs that interact as the Wheel turns, but need no power supply.
The 10 hydraulic motors are positioned around a fixed plate behind the axle. As an outer ring of teeth on each motor rotates, it engages with similar teeth on the axle rim, turning the axle and, with it, the entire Wheel.
One half revolution, moving boats between the two canals, takes less than five minutes. Though, with boats loading and unloading, total journey time is around 15 minutes.
As both 50 tonne gondolas contain the same 250 tonne weight of water and boats, the perfectly balanced Wheel needs only 1.5kW hours of electricity - consiting just a few pence - to complete a half turn.
Inspired by the form and speculation of the Falkirk Wheel and Panjandrum, the idea of Panjancontainer was conceived.
Panjancontainer consists of three components: lifting spindles (haacon), a vehicle salvaging inflatable bag (Buitink Technology), and custom-made steel wheels which can be locked into ISO container corners – a gray media object designated by Evil Media Distribution Centre.
The assembly process of the system can be described in the IKEA-style:
A 20ft dry container is standing still
Lifting spindles (made by haacon) are inserted into the bottom-front container corners
and the container is lifted up to 200mm
¾ of the custom-made steel wheels are attached except for the bottom
Vehicle salvaging inflatable bag (made by Buitink Technology) with a manual pump is
inserted under the container
The inflatable bag is pumped up to tilt the container
The container turns upside down
¼ of the steel wheels are attached, Panjancontainer is complete
Panjancontainer is rolled using the inflatable bag
Yoshinari Nishiki (aka Inari Wishiki) is an artist/researcher mainly behind TOFU. Yoshinari is fed up with limitations posed by business as usual, seeking a way to eternally install too good to be true transactions into the real environment. He had long been looking into work/labour as the source of evil, trying to come up with revolutionary positions such as Banana Multiplier, Noodle Advertiser, and Mapo-Man.
While Yoshinari was doing his Masters in London under Graham Harwood and Matthew Fuller (MA in Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice at Goldsmiths, University of London), he got introduced to the film, The Forgotten Space by Allan Sekula & Noël Burch:
The sea is forgotten until disaster strikes. But perhaps the biggest seagoing disaster is the global supply chain, which – maybe in a more fundamental way than financial speculation – leads the world economy to the abyss.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, Yoshinari was part of Interactive Media Design Lab at Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST). Having been involved with three international conferences: ISMAR 2015 in Fukuoka (Guerrilla presentation), SUI 2016 in Tokyo (Web chair), and ACE 2016 in Osaka (Poster presentation), he moved to Rotterdam to pursue the idea of Single Container Transport.
Since 2013 Yoshinari is part of the server collective IRATIONAL.ORG.
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