The history of illutron

illutron was created by HalfMachine members in 2007 to create a space for the creation of interactive audience-controlled art installations partly made from recycled materials. Halfmachine started in 2003 and was created by an interdisciplinary group of artists, performers and technology enthusiasts. It was and is inspired by Burning Man's principles of everyone as active co-creative participants, not just spectators. It was an annual two-week event in which the Grey Hall at Christiania was filled with living works and experiments that work with the intersection between technology, art and people. This event was fertile ground for creating the environment around what is today considered ART+Technology in Copenhagen. In this environment, there was a great need to expand to be able to create and work all year round. The ship/Barge was purchased in 2007 to have permanent workshops and ongoing events by, for and with the environment around ART+Tek. The basic principles for the barge were the following:

Apart from this approach being the basic principle for the works created on the barge, it also became a way of approaching the barge itself. The old original systems (such as the crane) were refurbished and explored both on a creative and practical level. In addition, the fact that the barge is a floating workshop on the water was a primary subject for ongoing investigation and experimentation.

The fact that the artists were at sea was both a love of the water and the activities the land-water interface can do, and a comment on the skyrocketing of land prices, glass office buildings and the lack of art in fashionable city centres. The year was 2007; there was a boom, it was before the financial crisis, and the artists were looking for premises to make the Halfmachine event a year-round undertaking. But we couldn't afford it, and what we could almost afford were all short leases in old industrial buildings which, within a very short number of years, had to be demolished to build fine office buildings with mirrored glass facades. They were expensive, but dilapidated and had to be repaired just to be usable, and when you had to move out already in a year, the improvements could not be taken with you.

If there was no room for the artists on land, then we had to stand at sea. It also gave the advantage that improvements could be taken with them, and this gave the opportunity to create activity and life in the port. once the lifeblood of Copenhagen, but at that time only populated by kayakers. A great many works, cultural events and workshops have had water as a focal point.

Photo by Jev Olsen.

You can say that the barge developed from being a platform to work on creating works to being an experiment and work in itself where many stakeholders in and around the tech, performance and art environment have used the platform in interaction with the local environments of which the barge has been a part in its various locations in and around the port of Copenhagen.

Over the last 13 years, this approach to ART+Tech has developed into what is today considered the maker movement and which is institutionally grounded in what is called Fablabs. In addition to the many experiments and works created on the barge, the environment around the barge has grown in step with this development. Many people today sit as innovation developers at larger institutions and cultural centres who had their first fledgling experiments on the barge in experimenting with creative approaches to technology. Innovation's laboratories associated with the following institutions are managed and/or run by current or former members of illutron: IT University labs, Fablabbet at Roskilde University, Karens Minde cultural centre, Parts of Danmarks Radio's development department, Parts of Denmark's Technical Development department, Malmö University Technology Lab. In addition, members have taught or made workshops on, among other things, the following institutions: Art Academy, Music Conservatory, Southern Danish Music Conservatory, Odense Art Academy and Brandt's Klædefabrik. What started as a search for a free space for a few artistic technology activists has developed into a lifeline to support an environment around the creative use of technology in Copenhagen and the surrounding area. A place where people could have space to do the first experiments.

This description is a condensed (and updated) summary of a more extended description that can be found in the chapter "Playing with Fire: Collaborating through Digital Sketching in a Creative Community" by Mads Høbye as part of the book publication "Making Futures: marginal notes on innovation, design, and democracy” (Editors: P Ehn, EM Nilsson, R Topgaard) at MIT Press. Several other research projects and publications have been published based on works from the barge or with the barge as a subject field.

The History of the barge OU6606

Separately from illutron's development as a cultural project, it is also relevant to look at the barge's history. It goes back much further and testifies to how the barge as a platform has been through several eras before it has now ended up as a cultural centre.

The barge was built in 1964 in the Netherlands at Werf Gusto as a mud barge, construction number 483 ( It has served in the Norwegian Navy and helped build the Great Belt Bridge.

24 January 1964: Launching in the Netherlands

The barge comes into the world at the Dutch shipyard Werf Gusto, where it is christened Storhavn and launched on 24 January 1964. Storhavn, which was ordered by the Norwegian Coastal Directorate, was built from the start without a propeller or its own propulsion, and has always had to be towed of a tug - precisely because of this it is technically a barge and not a ship.

1964 - 1994: Dredging vessel in Norway

Built for the harsh and cold climate on Norway's north coast, the barge is towed from Werf Gusto to Honningsvåg - one of the world's northernmost cities, only about 1,000 km from the Arctic Circle. Storhavn worked there for 30 years to deepen harbors to allow access to larger ships. The barge is therefore built with three enormous support legs, so that it can stand firmly on the bottom, as well as a dredging machinery with the capacity to take bucketfuls of 4.5 m3, at depths of up to 10 metres.

1994: Acquired by Dansk Dykker Enterprise in Denmark

In September 1994, Storhavn is registered in the Danish Ship Register when Dansk Dykker Enterprise buys the barge and has it towed from Norway to Svendborg. They make significant changes to the construction: among many things, the entire digging machinery and the three support legs are removed, while the superstructure is shortened by about a third. With the shortening of the building, the barge gets a larger working deck, where a large hydraulic crane is also installed - a crane that illutron continues to use today.

1998: The Great Belt Bridge

In the summer of 1998, Storhavn is on its biggest task for Dansk Dykker Enterprise, as the barge contributes to the construction of the Great Belt Bridge. Here it is used to lay a 20 km long cable on the seabed. As far as is known, this cable was put into use in 2006 as the "Global Connect III" connection.

2007: Kunstnergruppe buys the barge and illutron is born

The group behind the annual art event Half Machine is in 2007 in search of a workshop with space to build large installation art. After a long time in vain, one of the members finds Storhavn, which was for sale at the time in Knudshoved Ferry Port. The group succeeds in finding financing to buy the barge, which was towed to Teglholmen in Copenhagen, where By & Havn provides a harbor space while the area matures for residential development.

2009: illutron on tour in the capital's surrounding municipalities

The barge illutron spend 14 days in Helsingør as a base for the art event "Helsing Øre + Øjne" and then a month in Køge with the project "Køge Søger Havn". Both projects as part of the LYSLYD project, which has 10 partner municipalities behind it.

2014: illutron moves to Refshaleøen

Due to the expansion of Teglholmen in Copenhagen's South Harbor, illutron moved on 13 July 2014 from its home quay on Teglholmen to Refshaleøen, where it has had at home since.

2017: The association illutron becomes sole owner of the barge

The last ownership shares of the barge are bought by the original depositors, to ensure that all members of the association have equal ownership of the barge. Three years later, in May 2020, the last installment of the bank debt is paid, and the association illutron has since then been the debt-free and sole owner of the barge.

Another order from Scandinavia (rough translation)

We are increasingly allowed to look northwards, to the Scandinavian countries, from which a number of orders have been received in recent years. This time it is a dipper dredger for Norway, which will take shape at our partners Werf Gusto and Conrad-Stork under construction number CO 482.

Perhaps during this construction, we will also succeed in finding a proper Dutch word for this type of dredging equipment. So far, no one has made it further than the ugly Dutch-German word "lepelbagger". As a baptismal name, the name Hapjanus has been given to all such a vessel. When looking more closely at the printed drawing, the thought comes to mind that the inventor of that name has done quite well. The main dimensions of the pontoon are 3 x 11.60 x 3 m, the maximum dredging depth is 10 m and, the bucket volume is 4.6 m°.

The drive is diesel-electric; the installed diesel engine has a power of 660 hp. Whether or not endowed with a new, good Dutch confirmation, the CO 482 will undertake the journey to Norway in May 1964. We had to get there a little early, because the customer had indicated that he wanted to see the launch filmed.

Our cameraman looked very sad when, in Slikkerveer, near Gusto de Storhavn, heling saw. The pontoon of this spoon dredger off Norway did its utmost to make it look a bit brighter, but that is not easy at all in a cold mist on a dark winter morning.

The cameraman mumbled: "full aperture, almost no depth of field.". To our concerned question if there is still any would end up sounding a hum of "well, we'll see". While this born pessimist, who always comes out with fine films, was unpacking and setting up his things, we saw Mr A. J. Lemson walking up.

He was greeted with a cheer by his colleagues, and he was asked again and again if he wanted to clap his hands. But Lemson was wiser. In his hands, he carried the champagne bottle surrounded by fresh flowers. For Your Hexagon Editor si Lemson a familiar figure. If there is a launch at Gusto, you can call on this specialist to break champagne bottles. almost always meet. And he is a specialist because in recent years the bottle at Gusto always pops on the first try! For this purpose, the bottle is attached to a kind of bracket above a rail at the bow attached to the ship. The bracket is held up by a cord. When the baptismal lady breaks this cord, the bottle falls and shatters into hundreds of pieces. The baptismal ceremony is completed, and then the ship is launched. That baptism went very smoothly on, Friday 24 January. The charming godmother Mrs. Kr. Sund performed her task with a steady hand. But the ship did not immediately want to go down the slope. We afterwards asked L e m o n what was wrong with it; maybe the latch got stuck? No, it went smoothly, maybe "fat was a bit hard or there was something here and there between. After all, it was pontoon still very light. After a few minutes, the Storhavn slid down royally and, wailing and whistling loudly, the tugboats grabbed the ship firmly and again a few minutes later the spoon dredger-in-progress was lying along the outfitting quay to be completed.

Our guests had meanwhile waved goodbye, waved their hats and shook hands. The Gustoharmony played both national anthems and. happened again. Under a spirited march, Norwegians and Dutchmen walked to the reception hall, where a hot cup of coffee might have been more welcome than the traditional champagne. Peace returned to the yard. The normal noises of work drowned out the festivities. A couple of Slikkerveerders, about six years old, picked some carnations and tulips from the decorations of the entrance path and took them to their mother. Gusto had a party again.