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I live in the very brilliant Coventry which is full of exciting creativeness. On 10th June 2016 a lovely man by the name of Dom arranged a symposium all about digital in art followed by a micro festival the following day. Although I’m not a digital artist and a little scared of the idea of digital I thought I should go along, learn and enjoy. What a brilliant day it was, I am still slightly scared of digital but totally up for using it in mine and Sarah’s work. Prepare your selves, this could be quite a long blog..

Juneau Project @juneauprojects

The Juneau Project was a great way to start the day as it was a little silly but of course still very serious. Ben and Phil began talking about their first project, breaking technology and recording it; drowning a walkman, throwing logs at technology, deer hunting cameras and shooting them, drilling CD’s while their playing. These project got great audience interaction, I can see why! Who wouldn’t want to through logs at TV’s.

Now for the more serious bit. They aren’t enjoying being attached to tech all of the time, in the phone bubble, not looking out at the world. To transpose this into a positive they are now working on bringing people together through their tech.

This can only bring a smile to your face. They made mini instruments which squirrels played and they filmed in their gardens (sounds easier than it was!). They also made life sized instruments that humans played in the exhibition space, them playing activated screens that showed the squirrels playing, human and squirrel now playing together. Totally bonkers! Linking people through technology to nature.

Juneau Project are also musicians and during a residency they made their own futuristic instruments to play. The idea being that all tech has broken down and you had to create your own tech, this is where their instruments came from. After learning to play them they’ve created a band, Swoomptheeng, here’s a video of them I’m in it with my good friend Sally. I think you’ll agree its totally bonkers!

I loved Juneau projects as they’re good fun, they don’t take them selves too seriously and come up with fun tech that engages audiences.

Tattoo, teens and tech. Melissa Mean. Knowle West Media Centre @knowlewestmedia 

Melissa is the manager at Knowle West Media Centre, the centre bring communities to technology using art. Melissa talked through Knowle West Media Centre’s recent projects with tips for each area, although KWMC is tech based they are really get tips that I think apply to all areas of working with audiences.

Go to the participatory setting

Where are the people all ready? Go to where they are.

She’s been running pop up performances which have been really successful like, Tattoo. I Will Always Have You. This is a mobile tattoo parlour that went around collecting images of people’s tattoos and collecting the stories that went with them. From the images an artist created products like wall paper and handbags giving the project a legacy.

Value what all ready exists.

Reveal the richest the is all ready there.

The University of What is Already There collected local knowledge and made a website of full of the local knowledge. I really like this idea, as a society we really value university education but not so much local knowledge, collecting and keeping it safe for others to see feels really important to me. This echo’s my Discover: Chedham’s Stories project at work were we’ve had Kel Elliott & her Three Man Orchestra collecting local stories about Chedham’s blacksmithing yard. With the stories Kel’s writing and producing songs which will then be put into a mobile audio trail for visiting to enjoy.

Start with people and not the tech.

Bring the tech in slowly. What happens at the end? What does it do?

The question ‘What does it do?’ was asked a few times of our Big Knitting, with the answer being ‘it’ doesn’t do anything, you play and enjoy and experience art in a new way. I think our next piece needs to consider this, what does it do? I feel we need to create a reward for their playing, maybe this is tech, changing lights or sound, of course we need to start with the people.

First step very simply

Participate. Don’t expect everyone to participate in the same way. Think about it this way 100 take part, 90 are just looking, 9 and involved a little bit and just 1 is really involved. Different people do different things, they all need each other.

Put the means of production in the hands of the people.

In Bristol a green business park was built, for the park their was no furniture contract yet. They applied for the furniture contract using a disused youth centre and a small arts commission, they got the contract, employed local people and made 500 pieces of furniture in 4 months. Now they are a permanent business making furniture.

There isn’t affordable housing in Bristol, I know this first hand from my friend Ross who lives there, he knows people who live in vans. Houses are meant to be built, the usual box houses. They can build furniture, can they build housing?

Create disruptive spaces for new rules and relationships.

For the section Melissa showed us a truly inspiring video of Nightwalks. This project took teenagers and adults on a night walk together. This broke the adult’s negative precessions of teenagers, they said it had been one of the most fun nights of their lives. It stopped teenagers being on the streets and broke anti social behaviour patterns. I’d really advise watching the video, it is very inspiring

Melissa’s talk was full of great approaches to working practise. I will certainly look back at these artistically and for community work.

Physical Digital Landscape. Matt Johnson. Bare Conductive. @BareConductive

Bare Conductive is a electrically conductive paint, it’s texture is like poster paint and it’s water soluble, suddenly digital doesn’t seem so tricky, I can paint. It works like a switch, you paint it, join it up to a touch board with a speaker or light attached and then touch your paint and the sound or light will turn off and on.

The possibilities are amazing, an artist (I’ve not noted his name down, sorry) has used it within his paintings, when you touch them it makes music, there’s interactive walk paper by Alexandre Echasseriau and my absolute favourite is Polyphonic Playground by Studio PSK. They’ve created a playground that plays music as people play, here’s another much watch video

You could have a play with the paint, here’s my little try..

This has got me thinking. How can Sarah and I use this paint to make our work interactive?

How to get involved with digital

This section was presentations from artists who were working with digital. Julia O’Connel textile artist and performer created The Visible Maker. Using her 1919 Singer sewing machine she created a performance piece using people, stories and collecting. She had digitalised her machines peddle when she pushed the peddle to sew randomised voices and sounds would play.

Dan Hett is a creative technologist. He does live coding in night clubs along to DJ sets. This creates a build up of pattern and imagery shown on screens within the night club. Visually its really exciting and of course very interactive, the coding is beyond my understanding but after Dan’s talk I feel I could approach it.

The Random String symposium was a great day as it opened up the possibilities of digital for all. I certainly want to consider how Sarah and I can use digital in our work to make it more interactive. I will certainly be reading over my notes from Melissa Mean’s talk again and sharing these.

Micro Festival

On Sat 11th June Sally and I went along to the Micro Festival (this was a full day of festivals for us, we began with the food festival, then the Micro Festival and then a beer festival!). Firstly we enjoyed Swoomptheeng. We popped into Fab Lab where Permutations a weaving by Theo Wright, it felt amazing, it was based on permutations. For our final visit we went into City Arcade where there was Entropic where building hexagon shapes using wire and straws, this built a small installation that you could stand under. When your head touched the hexagon it activated lights creating a glow above you.