Totems of Dystopia

Interactive 3D printed totem poles of dystopic futurism.

Based on my “Virtual Assemblage” technique of 3D junk sculpture, and building on the mechanics and interactivity of my popular Cathenge “Catolith” Cat Statues (, the “Totems of Dystopia”, would be a set of (3) 10′ tall 3D printed totem poles arrayed in a triangle. Within this array is a zone of intricate interactivity facilitated by the use of LiDAR (as deployed successfully in Cathenge) that triggers a collage of sound samples and lighting effects. The goal is to create an atmosphere of beautifully unsettling discord and majestic suspense that is both fascinating and cathartic to the audience.

The images below are quick 3D sketches that are “for example” and are not the finished design. Potentially, they will be 3 individually different totem poles. Also, the color and finish in the render is only provisional – the finished work would be painted and illuminated differently. The specific details of this project are to be determined, but these images, and the brief text give an idea of the projects style and concept.

Ride ’em Snailboy!!

Lately, in my sparetime I’m working on these “Virtual Assemblages” – preparing these 3D junk sculptures to be 3D printed.

I couldn’t resist doing a new render of this.

Snail Cowboy

Kittoliths Grow Up To Be Catoliths

Refurbished Catoliths with new bases and “KISS” (Kittolith Interactive Sound System) adapted to the Catolith

It’s only natural that cats should have kittens, and plastic cat statues should therefore have their progeny too. The Coven of Catoliths gave birth to a Litter of Kittoliths.

After 5 years of design and production I feel that the Catolith is at last nearing its potential. The newly refurbished Catoliths that were just installed at KALW with their LiDAR based interactivity, battery operation, independent control via Raspberry Pi computer, and lighter more mobile wooden base actually exceed what I imagined for this artwork 5 years ago.

Below is a table showing the progression of techniques from one iteration of Cathenge to the next.

The Vision of Cathenge

From the beginning, the vision of Cathenge and of the Catolith Cat Statue has been exceedingly difficult to realize because it combines lighting effects and interactivity in very specific ways and is dependent on the large format 3D printing to achieve. However, each installation of Cathenge succeeded in communicating this vision in different ways, but never completely to my satisfaction, and that’s why I have continued working on the project.

The goal has been to express the concept of “Holofelinity: Universal Cat Consciousness”. Holofelinity is the magical power of the Ancient Lyran Space Cats to manifest their minds over matter and to transform themselves into any shape. This is expressed in the artwork as “Harmonic Purring” (AKA; “Purrbration of Holofelinity”), an evocation of the capacity of the Space Cats to purr their visions into material form.

Ancient Lyran Space Cat materialized as Bastet idol levitating pyramid using chromatic spectra of the Purrbration of Holofelinity.

The Kittolith

In order to reach this goal, it was instrumental to create a smaller version of the Catolith, the “Kittolith”:

The Kittolith at Miami Art Week

Because the Kittolith presents as a single statue instead of a circle of statues (as in Cathenge) it has been necessary to condense the interactive harmonic purring system into one sculpture. This has been done using LiDAR. People interact with the LiDAR beam extending from the collar of the Kittolith and trigger different frequencies (“Solfeggio Tones”). The infographic below shows how the Kittolith works with the use of Solfeggio sound healing tones:

From Kittolith to Catolith

The “Kittolith Interactive Sound System” (KISS) was adapted for use in the Catolith. The photo gallery below documents our process of creating the New Catolith. Essential to this process was the design and construction of a new wooden base for the Catolith.

CAD drawing of wooden Catolith base

This new, lighter base not only facilitates a wider range of possibilities of exhibitions because of its much reduced weight (compared to the previous concrete bases), but also resolves acoustic issues since the wooden base acts as a ported speaker cabinet for the subwoofer installed in the base. Below is a gallery of photos of the new Catolith and its new base under construction:

Opening Tues. June 11th: The Catoliths at KALW Studio Gallery!!

Group Show featuring:

Exhibition Opening and Live Broadcast Panel discussion with the artists moderated by Ben Trefny:

5 – 7 PM (doors open at 5, discussion at 6)
Tuesday, June 11th
220 Montgomery St., SF, CA 94104
Admission free – All ages

The exhibition will be up through August 1st 2024.

(Eventbrite link at bottom of page to reserve free tix)

Public broadcasting station, KALW, recently moved their radio station’s studios to the heart of San Francisco’s financial district where they reside in the ground floor lobby of the historic Mills Building located at 220 Montgomery (Montgomery and Bush). The spacious lobby provides a new and exciting arts and events space. KALW executive director, Ben Trefny, is curating a series of art exhibits in the lobby.

The KALW lobby space features large storefront windows looking out on busy Montgomery St. which are a perfect place to perch the Catoliths. Two Catoliths will be placed, one in each large window, on either side of the entrance to the radio station where they will be seen by motorists and pedestrians alike, and, of course, by visitors to the station. These Catoliths will feature their hallmark interactive purring (Purrbration of Holofelinity).

For further info about the Catoliths, Cathenge, and the lore of the Lyran Space Cats visit

Cathenge by David Normal
Infinity Box by Matt Elson
Sculpture by Brenden Darby
Painting by Jesse Pemberton

“Hellmouth” – The Gates of “Becab” the Mayan Earth Monster

I am interested in doing other things besides Cathenge (those of you who know me know that I have spent the past six years mostly on Cathenge).  However, over the past 1.5 years I have taken three trips to Mexico and and have been inspired by the Mayan temples and other Meso-American art that I’ve seen there. Especially, the “Becab Gates” that I saw in the temples at Xpujil made an impression on me. 

It was my second trip to the Yucatan in February of 2024. I rented a car at the Cancun airport and drove to Xpujil, a jungle town at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula not too far from the Guatemalan Border. This is certainly the heartland of the Maya and it’s a long drive from Cancun to get to this remote area, but Mexico is working mightily to change that situation with the installment of the epic Maya Train, a train to start in Palenque, Chiapas and encircle the entire Yucatan Peninsula.

Maya Train Construction – Typical Activity – Station in Progress at Xpujil, Campeche

It so happened that my road trip was right in the midst of this enormous infrastructure project and the road was full of an endless procession of work trucks barreling down the highway (to be passed in the – not for the feint of heart – “let’s-play-chicken” style of the Mexican thoroughfares). The armies of Mexican workers are busy carving a long swath through the Yucatan Jungle – the largest New World jungle outside of the Amazon – to encircle the entire Yucatan peninsula with a modern railway system. The Yucatan is basically a vast flat outcropping of limestone, and so these trucks were filled with white chalk that they all seemed to be hauling somewhere – I know not where, but presumably it’s a buyer’s market for limestone in Mexico now. I hadn’t really thought it through that my effort to see these remote ruins before the Maya Train got to them would bring me directly into the most fervent and busy construction and that it would not be pleasant to be around. By the time I got to Xpujil I was exhausted, but eager to make my rounds of the temples.

Gates of Becab at Hormiguero Ruins near Xpujil, Campeche, Mexico
Gate of Becab at Chicanna Ruins near Xpujil, Campeche, Mexico.

My goal was to visit Calakmul – the largest and most remote Mayan Ruins in Mexico, but I got started by visiting a few of the ruins closest to Xpujil. Despite the clamor of construction all around these ancient ruins were utterly tranquil within. First I visited the ruins of Chicanna and had the entire place completely to myself for hours – there simply was no one else there except the custodian at the gate. Then I visited Becan (an extensive site full of tall pyramids to climb!), and by the time I got back to town I could barely walk (due to plantar fasciitis and was exhausted and knew that I was getting sick. I could not make it out of my hotel room until the mid afternoon the next day when I, somewhat deliriously, drove 25+ km into the jungle to visit the ruins called “Hormiguero“.

At Hormiguero I once again had the luxury of solitary communion with the ancient ruins, and it was here that I was impressed with the gaping visage of the Mayan elemental earth deity, The Earth Monster Becab. In my feverishness I photographed for the second time in two days this enigmatic figure of Becab. The possibilities of archaic ritual drama, of dances and sacrifices, enflame even the most tepid imagination when beholding these weird monuments. But it was more than imagination which overtook me in the remote ruins of Hormiguero, it was an atavistic call from this primordial spirit to my peculiarly sensitive nature, capable of hearing and understanding such chthonic voices in telepathic reverie. I knew then that Becab was displeased with the Maya Train wounding and gouging his limestone dominion immemorial, and it was this audience with a displeased and mostly forgotten and ignored old Mayan god that in fact sickened me.

The illness receded long enough for me to make my way back home, through Tulum, to Cancun, Mexico City and back home to San Francisco. Upon my return I became intensely ill with a high fever, and though it was likely Covid 19 (update: it has been recently diagnosed as a prostate infection). Yet I have known that it was more than a mere physical ailment: It is the Curse of Becab! In ancient times I suppose that the sacrifice of a virgin girl might have resolved everything, but that’s not an option for me. To placate Becab I must make a work of art that is inspired by this God of the Underworld. So I resolved to make a “Hellmouth” inspired by the Mayan Architecture.

Detail of The Mouth of Hell, from the book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 1440

Of course a “Hellmouth” is a distinctly Medieval European Christian motif, but I will fuse this idea with the Mayan style, and the spirit of Becab.

In the coming days I will be making some initial 3D visualizations of the “Hellmouth” I wish to make.  This will draw on the basic geometry of the Mayan design, but the decorative embellishments will draw upon more Medieval iconography fused with Pop sensibility.  This eclectic fusion is an example of “Crazyology” and I will overtly tout this project as a work of “Crazyology”. I have it in mind to propose this to one of the Burning Man “regional” festivals that I understand is working with the theme “Underworld”.

3D Printing Lab in West Oakland

Since the end of February, my main priority has been getting the studio in Oakland together.  Getting the 3D printers working reliably has been a major push that my tech, Bill Crashkopf, has helped me with extensively.  The printing room itself didn’t have enough electricity to run all the printers, but Bill finished running (2) 20A circuits this week, so finally (!!) we can begin printing.

Bill Crashkopf finishes wiring electrical for the 7 Creality CR 10 S5 printers installed in my new print lab in West Oakland.

At the moment there is no urgency to print cat parts, and so I’m eager to turn my attention to printing “Virtual Assemblages” based on these models:

As I’ve often said, the big advantage to being in Oakland vs. Stinson Beach is access to other artists/technicians.  The Crucible, for example, is right around the corner from here and once I have a couple of these printed satisfactorily I will bring it to a foundry to see about having these printed in bronze. I’m not aware of anything like the Crucible in West Marin.

Here’s an initial test print of a “Trailer Alien” assemblage:

“Trailer Alien”, WIP – test print of “Virtual Assemblage”

The Trailer Alien is an example of a 3D printed “Virtual Assemblage” (a junk sculpture made from junk 3D models downloaded for free from the web and recombined/remodeled to be 3D printed)