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After thinking about the role of digital and other new technologies in arts and culture I decided to attend Gallery Camp. As the Gallery Camp website explains: “The aim of Gallery Camp is to create a legacy of new collaborations, opportunities and products, inform current and future policy programming and services and across the arts and cultural sector, with hot topic areas including: Getting arts organisations to embrace digital art form; Programming to get the public closer and more hands-on to art (including children and young people/older generations); Sharing art, enabling access for those unable to reach venues; Open data, crowd-led engagement and the implications for IP; Digital opportunities for arts into health.”

History of Gallery Camp
Gallery Camp was founded in 2013 by Birmingham-based innovators Dan Slee and Tim Wilson. The first event was held at the New Art Gallery in Walsall on 9th September 2013 and was supported by Arts Council England, Futuregov, and IEWM. Developed as an open conference format, sessions were pitched on the day, and included demonstrations of new technologies including Leapmotion, and discussions around other forms of gestural and interactive technology.

Other contributions had included presentations about the importance of 3D printing in galleries, the role of digital in improving access to galleries, and how museum professionals can better work with crowd sourced interpretation and community archives. After running their first meet up, the Gallery Camp team discussed possibilities for development, and organised a making event at Birmingham City University in order to capitalise on new connections, ideas and collaborations developed at the previous conference.

This year’s annual unconference was held at Derby Quad on 23rd September 2014, and invited artists, curators, producers, technologists and others interested in engaging with technological innovation in the arts sector. For Gallery Camp 14, the organisers combined the discussion and making activities and participants chose which sessions they wanted to attend. I decided to focus on the practical activities as they had organised some MakeyMakey sessions and I was keen to get to grips with the technology after writing about it in my artist blog last year.

The MakeyMakey sessions were delivered by Ashley James Brown, a Computer Scientist who works as a creative coder, technologist and sound artist. His biography describes his practice as producing memorable playful experiences through “creating interactive objects and environments, hacking and repurposing devices, crafting code and working at the intersection between art, technology and design to uncover and reveal new potential I have been making audio compositions, games, experiences, data visualisations, exploring contextual awareness, understanding artificial intelligence, working with electronics, pervasive media, mobile applications, challenging data/privacy and crafting beautiful (and not so) objects that makes people smile.”

The MakeyMakey sessions began with a basic introduction to the technology, which consists of a simple arduino board which works by plugging into a computer. For smaller or more portable versions, it can can also be used with Raspberry Pi. The system is designed to create an interface between the physical and the digital by producing a circuit between organic materials. This means that any conductive object can become a control pad to produce a digital effect. ie. bananas used as piano keys to make sounds on a computer.

Obviously, this can have some drawbacks when wanting to produce longer term installations so other materials can be use to complete the circuit such as metal tape or conductive paint. I was particularly interested in the possibilities for conductive paint as it can be used to create wall-painted ‘wires’ which can be painted over allowing people to touch particular parts of the wall to produce an effect. I am interested to see what might be possible through printing with conductive paint as this could also produce interesting possibilities for interactive objects.

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