Plink Jet, developed by Lesley Flanigan and Andrew Doro, is a robotic musical instrument made from scavenged ink jet printers. The mechanical parts of four printers are diverted from their original function, re-contextualizing the relatively high-tech mechanisms of this typically banal appliance into a ludic musical performance. Motorized, sliding ink cartridges and plucking mechanisms play four guitar strings by manipulating both pitch and strumming patterns like human hands fingering, fretting, and strumming a guitar. Plink Jet is designed to play itself, be played, or both. The result is an optionally collaborative performance between both the user and Plink Jet, with the user choosing varying levels of manual control over the different cartridges (fretting) and string plucking speeds (strumming).
The repurposing of consumer technology is a growing trend for artists and technologists in the DIY genre exploring circuit bending, hardware hacking and retro-engineering. Artists who have used the mechanics of printers for producing sound include Paul Slocum with his dot matrix printer and Eric Singer’s scanner-inspired musical instrument, GuitarBot. Inside an ordinary ink jet printer are the same toy-like, clockwork mechanisms that have delighted people and sparked imaginations for centuries. In the creation of Plink Jet, Flanigan and Doro have investigated how human improvisation can interact with these mechanical forms. Plink Jet transforms the predicable function of a printer into a unique and irreproducible performance.