Up on the screen, filing cabinets open and close in a rhythmic throb that sounds like a garbage truck.
A dozen audience members sit below the stage, silenced on the edge of their plastic chairs, while a bespectacled couple in the back row snicker at the sight of what looks like office furniture having a fit.
Once the clip ends, Istvan Kantor takes the stage to explain how the drawers are programmed to pulse on their own. "They're hooked up to aluminum rods, pneumatic cylinders," said the Governor-General's Award-winning artist to a crowd in the basement of InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre in Toronto last week. "It works with air pressure; the whole system is controlled through software called MAX."
On a day-to-day basis, most of us simply flick on our laptops, cellphones or iPods and use them as they're intended, but a growing number of multimedia artists such as Mr. Kantor tear those gizmos apart to make a new breed of Franken-technology - and present them onstage at a monthly tech show-and-tell called Dorkbot.With 76 chapters worldwide and 24 more in the works, the Dorkbot movement is on the rise, launching in cities from Goteborg and Singapore to Istanbul and Barrie.
Though each chapter is vastly different from the next - some have question-and-answer sessions, others lean toward workshops - they all stick to Dorkbot's tagline: "People doing strange things with electricity."
Part classroom, part science fair, it's hardly your run-of-the-mill lecture.
"It's less formalized and casual and fuzzier," said Douglas Repetto, who founded Dorkbot in New York seven years ago as a way to meet like-minded folks.
"I thought, hey, why not put out an open call to people who want to share what they're doing in a no-pressure, casual, friendly context."
Casual, indeed. After Mr. Kantor's presentation, Liav Koren, the host of Dorkbot Toronto, took to the stage, while still eating his dinner of couscous from a Tupperware container, to introduce the next presenter.
"It's all very ad hoc, but that's a part of what makes it all fun," said Mr. Repetto, who is an artist and director of research at Columbia University's Computer Music Center. "When you're in school, it's normal to share things that you're doing. When you leave those options disappear."
But unlike school, nobody here is sweating over grades - and it's all pro bono. Every organizer or gizmo geek who takes part in Dorkbot does so voluntarily.
Presenters are plucked by the host (unless a random call is sent out) and meetings are typically promoted through e-lists. The gatherings are free and usually held in tech-savvy art galleries after hours, with anywhere from a handful to a hundred attendees showing up.
At the most recent New York Dorkbot, one artist showed a video system that senses earthquakes in California, and another demonstrated how a Game Boy can be turned into a musical instrument.
The Montreal chapter makes an effort to recycle defunct electronic parts, appliances and hardware, transforming them into new creations. One pair of artists reprogrammed an industrial printer into an "abstract painter" or machine that spouts blotches of spray paint in random patterns all on its own, Another artist turned a Nintendo Power Glove into a battery-powered musical synthesizer - you can slip it on and strike different notes with each fingertip.
Dorkbot Regina, on the other hand, is more of a workshop. Ryan Hill, the 27-year-old artist who carved out the chapter this summer, dubs it a "multimedia jam."
"I just wanted people gathering with electronics and strange art supplies for an open-ended workshop," he said, noting there is nothing else like it in his hometown. "I've looked for it for quite a while."
On the last Saturday of every month, a group will gather in the Soil Digital lab in Neutral Ground, an artist-run centre and gallery in Regina, splay out newspapers on the tables and pull out keyboards, laptops and soldering guns to make new creations.
At the gathering in July, someone brought a toy car to the table. They hollowed out its body and turned it into an audio mixer.
"It's studio time to help each other out," Mr. Hill said. "A more formal classroom environment would intimidate people."
Mr. Kantor sees Dorkbot as a way of logging off and living life - with technology. "It's not just staring at your computer screen," he said. "It's exploring cheap technology. There's lots of playfulness."