Games. Art. 2 podcasts.

Two pertinent podcasts that nudged their way into my awareness within the last 24 hours…

The first is Minkette talking on Shift Run Stop talking about adventures, real people, trains and better ways of augmenting reality.

Shift Run Stop, Episode 55: Minkette (source.)

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The second is artist and Tilt Factor director Mary Flanagan talking on furtherfield on Resonance FM.

I particularly like the phrase “system designs that ask different questions”.

Below is an mp3 of the relevant excerpts, you can listen to the complete broadcast here.

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story for a flow chart

I’d be really interested in hearing more about who you consider your influences or precursors in installation art – I’m vaguely drawing up an enormous Flowchart Of Pervasive Games And Where They Come From And All That Sort Of Thing, which is obviously never going to be even slightly exhaustive but which might be fun to have around. I don’t have much from installation art there – any suggestions?

Holly in the comments for a previous post

I was pretty rubbish for about the first 2 of my 3 years doing A-Level Art and Design, so I’m guessing this happened in about 1996/7, after a certain rollicking from Hillary regarding some lino prints got me thinking more about process and journey.

I got the train up from Southampton to London to Go And Look At Some Art. I think what I did was to rock up, find a newsagents, have a flick through Time Out and see what looked interesting. …and so I ended up in somewhere I think was probably Mile End.

This was a part of London I’d never been to before and it was all pretty scary. When I finally found the address given in Time Out, the building was big, not at all what I was expecting (like an old town house or civic building of some sort) and very locked looking. In fact, very boarded-up looking…

After a bit of hesitation and hopeful looking around for any indication at all that this might have been a gallery, I plucked up the courage to ring the buzzer indicated by a note attached to the door that might have been referring to the art I was seeking. When the door was opened, and the correct place had been confirmed, I was led inside and it became apparent that the building was well on its way to becoming derelict: I was guided around holes in the stairs and there were bare floorboards and bare wires.

A few storeys up, we came to a door with a small wooden chair placed next to it.

I was to go inside and be careful. The man would be waiting for me outside.

The dark room I stepped into was one of those where there would ordinarily have been 3 or 4 steps down from the door to floor level. However, the artist had constructed his own floor that began at door level and then cut through the room sloping both up and away towards the back of the room and also from left to right. The new floor was made of metal grill, so as my eyes became accustomed to the dark I could begin to make out the cables snaking across the original floor below, a couple of vertical columns piercing up through the grill from below and also some faint light associated with those columns.

I slowly made my way across the metal structure, all the while aware of my location in the middle of the room. Approaching and then looking down into one of the columns, it became apparent that there was a monitor at the bottom showing some video. I can’t remember much about the video, except my impression is that it was a blueish monochrome and the images might have been abstracted shots of human bodies. I don’t recall there being a narrative or a soundtrack (although there might have been sound).

…and that was it, really: a wonky floor and a few monitors you could look down on through rectangular tubes. I was in there for so long that the artist sat waiting outside was wondering whether he should come in and check on me!

When I did finally leave the room, I was invited to chat with the artist for a little while. I’m not sure if he and the other artists working in the building were squatting or not, but he was living – for the time being at least – in a small room not much bigger than the mattress on the floor and cooking from a primus type thing in the corner.

We talked for a bit and then I left to continue my day of art-looking.

I don’t remember anything else I saw that day.

I do, however, remember telling the story of seeing that installation over and over again when I got back to college. My tutors were concerned that I had put myself in danger, and in retrospect I probably had. Fortunately though, it had all worked out fine and for the last year of that A-Level my work was predominantly installation-based and so much the better for it.

So, an experience of installation art that had a big influence me. If we’re drawing lines from that day to my thoughts and doings with pervasive games now, it would be tempting to label them thus:

  • Following a scrap of tempting information into the unknown.
  • Pushing beyond the edge of your comfort zone.
  • Putting your trust in strangers.
  • Only you and the other thing.
  • Experiencing with all the senses.
  • Forgotten or overlooked spaces.
  • Because we want to make something.
  • Sharing the story afterwards.

2 degrees of weatherproject

I’ve just got back from Dresden where the weatherproject forms part of the exhibit
2° WEATHER, CLIMATE, MAN at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum until April next year.

Here are some photos of the doings (for my Mum) and some thoughts about display (for me, ‘cos one day I’m going to nail the presentation of this piece of work).

Launch event

I’d suspected it was going to be big, but first response on seeing the museum building was something along the lines of “eek”. Other adjectives that came up over the next few days included ‘imposing’ and ‘didactic’. Here’s why:

DHMD front view

I should therefore have guessed it would have been rather more of a formal launch event than I was used to: speeches started at 7 and lasted for close to 2 hours.


After the speeches drew to a close there was a bit of a mass exodus as probably about 500 people descended back down to the main entrance hall and the bar.


DHMD courtyard

Waiting staff periodically emerged bearing trays of cheesy sticks, pretzels and sandwiches etc to be swarmed around by the guests. I wish I’d got some good photos of that!

We eventually made our way to the exhibition halls which were, by now, only fairly rammed rather than being completely rammed! It’s hard to describe the feel of this place: part science museum with interactive bits and pieces; part civic museum with dimmed lights and watchful attendants; part at gallery, part… The best way to get an impression of the mood and the scale is to have a look at the photos on the German-language section of the DHMD website.

Exhibits ranged from the exploded shards of lightning-struck trees through to a small canister of top secret recipe snow-globe snow. Nice.

the weatherproject was in the third room, curated by Novina Göhlsdorf to bring together different cultural responses to the weather. My jars are temporarily hanging about with the likes of one of Her Majesty the Queen’s umbrellas and latex casts of hurricane-flattened homes.


It was quite strange to see a tiny fraction of the entire collection at once looking so small and also so big. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m glad I didn’t have to make that selection of 30 jars from over 10 times as many in the complete collection!


I arrived at the museum not knowing anything about how they were intending to display the jars and record slips. This was intentional because I’ve always struggled to present this work and wanted to give them free reign to see what solutions they came up with with their resources, experience and expertise.

It was really interesting to compare their method of display with the one I used for the threshold exhibition back in 2004. My solution for threshold was to construct an 18′ long table with a folded plastic cover that arched quite snugly over the jars. (the cover is removed in most of the photos at the previous link because of the way it attracted the dust…). At the DHMD, the designers had made a similar cover out of similar materials and of a similar scale with respect to the size of the jars. All much more skilfully executed though! Rather than heating and folding a single strip of polythene/acrylic they had cut and glued individual pieces of much thicker stock to give some really nice clean corners. I’m jealous…


The DHMD installation also paired each jar with its record slip and gave each pairing quite a lot of space. At threshold I had 250 jars and was using the opportunity to get them all out on show en masse as physical objects and so they were a lot closer together. The threshold jars were all closely bunched together and the record slips available digitally at one end of the table.

The DHMD approach had a strange homogenising effect – both through intentional selection of collections made in the standard jar and with no additional labels/contents etc and through the omission of the individual ephemera such as postcards and photos that accompany most of the jars. This and the lighting/mid grey plinth colour led to quite an austere effect. Very different to what had gone before and I suppose made possible by both the exhibition and curator’s distance from the people who had made the contributions.

I can see how this was appropriate to the task in hand here, but the work did lose some of it’s quirkiness that I think is one of it’s strong points. I don’t dislike this format, however, and it may be something I experiment with more in future presentations…


I loitered a bit and watched how people interacted with the display, and have to say that I didn’t see many people do more than look at one or two of the jars. I’m not sure if this is an observation worth basing any theories on seeing as how people were having to zip around quite fast to try and see everything before closing and, well, if there’s a bank of empty jars labelled up in a different language next to an interactive display of snow-globes which one are you going to choose! I know which one I’d go for!

Actually, as it turned out, I got totally drawn in by a black and white film of rain in Amsterdam in the late 1920s. Regen by Joris Ivens and Manus Franken (here with soundtrack, although it was silent at the Dresden exhibition).

Regen, (pluie), joris ivens

Back to the jars…

Another thing I found interesting was watching how people’s engagement with the work shifted. Typically people would glance at one or two jars and then, sometimes, go and read the accompanying text describing the work. That was the hook! If they did this then 9 times out of 10 they’d go back to the jars and have a closer look – often with a smile on their face and usually grabbing whoever they were with and getting them to have a look too!

So, all in all a method of display that brought along a whole bunch of new things to consider, but also reiterated old hunches too. Hopefully we’re getting closer to the ultimate weatherproject format…

If you happen to be in Dresden over the next few months I can recommend you stop by and check out the exhibition. Take the randomness of the weatherproject and then multiply that by 4 large rooms full of stuff both curious and scientific. There’s a whole range of interesting things all brought together here and you’ll definitely find something that whets your appetite.

And finally…

After the launch had officially ended we found our way to the after-party in seminar room 8. A good time was had by all, despite the strangely prison-like surroundings and the stinky cheese!

I’m going to finish up with these two photos that I really like (party lights and top-end museum security) and, more importantly a big thanks to Family Göhlsdorf et al for making my trip a lot easier than it could have been otherwise.




Flux Concert

Friday 27th June 2008, 5pm – 9pm
Co-curated by a.a.s. and Ensemble Interakt

I really, really, really, really enjoyed this.

the gorgeously simple programme and orchestra awaiting bubbles

Just as the audience started small in number and gradually grew until there were about 40 people peering over the church gallery, the Fluxconcert started with a few simple actions and then grew through soap bubbles being blown from trumpets and naps being taken on tables to a thoroughly absorbing, multi-layered spectacle of sight and sound.


Although the architecture of the venue (St. Paul’s Church, St. Paul’s Square, Birmingham) could have meant that we as audience could have remained very detached from the main action happening below us, enough of the 40 or so scores brought the performers up into the gallery space that the two levels never felt particularly segregated.

There were also scores that required members of the audience to play an active part in their performance. An example of these being Ice Trick:

pass a one pound piece of ice among members of the audience while playing a recording of fire sounds or while having a real fire on stage. The piece ends when the block of ice has melted.Lee Heflin. Date Unknown

which I particularly liked for the way it allowed the audience to participate in a very low-key and intimate way that was almost 1:1 micro-performance with other audience members.

the ice is passed to a member of the audience

ice and instructions are passed on

looking for the next keeper

the ice finds a new guardian

I managed to leave the house without re-charging the batteries for either my camera or my phone so my photography was limited, however, thanks to this man’s marathon ice-holding session, I was able to turn my camera off for long enough for the battery to recover enough to eventually take this image that sums up the event for me:


Even more so perhaps because he then asked me to hold the ice when he could do so no longer. Honourable mention also to David Miller who I ambushed as he first came up to the gallery and gave the ice to him before he’d even had so much as a chance to get a cup of tea and an apple. (Shame though on the entire representative staff of VIVID, none of whom would agree to taking the ice from me before that!)

Being phoneless also meant I was unable to take part in the live-documenting of the event by MMS sent to the Re:Flux Flickr account. It was really interesting to see the performers pausing during the middle of sawing up an electric guitar (for example) to snap a picture and then continue with slicing up the woodwork. I think the flood of incoming photos may have proven a bit to much for the relay to Flickr and the photostream is incomplete, but this is definitively an approach I’d like to play with more in the future.

I’d also like to see the Fluxconcert become a regular event: with permeability in the group of performers and people taking up the challenge of inventing new scores…

In the meantime, here is a slideshow of some of my photos – if you go to the pages on Flickr, the descriptions include the scores for each action shown.

what’s on? (part 2)

Given a nudge by Pete’s link I’ve been looking at the last post and wondering what to make of it all.

My original thoughts were basically a sheet of A4 covered in lists and bullet points that I’d originally thought I might be able to write up into a decent response to these discussions on CiB. Inevitably though, I never seemed to manage to mould them into any sort of coherent argument and it never happened. [so, as to accusations of making heads hurt, I reply “you started it!”]

Yesterday I rediscovered the sheet of notes and decided there was nothing linear to try and latch onto. So I tried mapping it out to see what shape it did have.

In doing so I roughly grouped what I wanted from events listings into 3 different aspects: going to see stuff (consuming/whatever you want to call it); knowing about stuff (for general background awareness or specific research); and me showing stuff (a sort of producer role). Wow, look how point-heavy the showing stuff area of the diagram is (top right-hand corner).

what I want

I’m not going to pretend I’m constantly putting on exhibitions or organising events, but on the occasions that I have done so so far, this has been a real sticking point. Idally I suppose I need to see about a month into the future.

Anyway, leaving that particular can of worms for now…

So, I now have some sort of checklist of the sort of information and resources the three of me want to be able to tap into. I also made a quick list of the places I tend to use most to try and get these. It was clear that no one source provided everything I want… and quite possibly that’s the way it should be.

What I’ve done today is thought about 4 of the places I listed and looked at what aspects of my wish-list they provide for. I opted for a really quick, intuitive approach because it’s a bit of an apples and oranges situation and I’m not really sure how you’d start to make a rigorous comparison. What follows is probably more useful if you regard the 4 as different models rather than as specific instances. As ever this post comes with the warning that I’m just writing as things occur to me because this site is basically my sketchbook. Don’t anyone else get too bogged-down by the details either.

It seems fair to look at Created in Birmingham first:

what I want, CiB

Pretty much got the community aspect of it nailed I’d say. Pete’s posts cover a wide range of things and there’s usually some discussion on hand to add more details and/or opinions. Probably should have highlighted the “knowledge in” point there too.

I don’t really know who these people are, but I get the feeling that the people who comment are often “industry specific” if I can call it that. At this stage I don’t know how to define that industry/community (creative practitioners? bloggers? people interested in Birmingham?). Whatever. Just that it feels like a well-defined undefined community and that’s a) why it works and b) why the “normal people” point didn’t get marked up.

Great for knowing what’s happening now in a breaking news kind of way; not the sort of thing you can use to plan ahead (just ‘cos it’s simply not that sort of thing).

Next comes Midwest: the other Midlands-centric resource.

what I want, Midwest

Another resource with a strong community aspect. Events calendar, articles, message board, profile pages for the members and an active programme of events in the real world. I knew a core group of regular contributors and a fair few of the people who added occasional posts. There was a time when loads of stuff was being posted to the calendar, ranging from independent events to exhibitions from larger organisations. This was the first place I’d come to if I was organizing stuff: both for the planning and the marketing stages.

Past tense not because it doesn’t exist any more (it does, at least for a few more months) but because activity on the message board and calendar has gradually dropped off to the point where it’s no longer as useful as it was. The diagram above is marked up for my perception of the Midwest site from about a year ago.

Again, I think this is another closed community type affair. Probably communities bearing in mind the nature of the Birmingham art scene(s). Bonus marks for encompassing a wide range of art people, and I don’t feel that the non-marking-up of the normal people point is a negative thing. (There’s another can of worms about whether all art activity should be directed at, or inclusive of, a non-art audience. Moving swiftly on…)

What else do I want to say about the Midwest model? Nice range of local, regional and international stuff but a nightmare to try and search for stuff not near the top of the pile. Some useful implementations of syndication feeds for a few things, but not all.

Next ArtRabbit.

what I want, Art Rabbit

Ostensibly a UK-wide listings site, but I eventually had to unsubscribe to the rss because each morning I’d have at least 20 listings for galleries in London I had no chance of getting to. There’s patchy representation for stuff in the Midlands, so I’m not sure how much use a region-specific rss feed would be right now but I did email them and request it as a feature. For me, it’s probably more use to use as a sort of magazine to browse through before a trip down to the capital.

The front page does some filtering based on date and popularity. There’s commenting and favouriting going on which is useful, but I’m too distanced to properly regard this as a community because I’m not part of it. There’s quite a few gaps in the showing stuff area of the diagram, but I accept this is probably in part due to my own ignorance.

Searching looks good on the diagram, but I actually find this aspect of the site quite frustrating. Doesn’t quite work for me and that’s a problem because I need to filter stuff to find what’s relevant to me.

How would this model work if it was region specific outside of London. Would there be enough events and community to support it? Would this strengthen the community that used it?

Last, but by no means least Tokyo Art Beat.

what I want, Tokyo Art Beat

I love this site but it’s on the wrong damn continent.

Here’s how they introduce themselves:

TAB is Tokyo’s bilingual art & design events guide.

Offering event listings, reviews and creative jobs, the site is updated daily and lists more than 350 current & upcoming art events, at any moment.

Easy to use for all type of users, neophytes, casual art-goers or art professionals.
Smart data organisation with events sorted by media, schedules, and location, as well as event lists like Closing soon, Most popular, Open late, and Free.
Available via any PC or mobile phone.
User-generated reviews and recommendations and much more

If I was charged with having to build a listings site, this is the model I’d look at first. So far I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can offer, but look how many of my wish-list points it’s hitting.

I’d love to go into lots more detail, but if you’ve read this far I’ll assume you’re interested enough to have a poke around and have a look for yourself.

Some general points to take away though…

Look at the staff list. There must be some sort of revenue being generated here – there’s no Arts Council in Japan.

Kansai Art Beat has appeared at some stage over the last year. Someone else must think this model works and now they’re applying it to the Kansai region.

The only gripe I have so far with TAB is that I sometimes find the classification for art forms a bit limiting. Maybe that’s just because the sort of stuff I’m into isn’t very mainstream in Japan though. I’m not sure if a sculptor would come up with the same problem. Maybe a tagging system for keywords would help?

On the other hand, look at the range of syndication feeds you can choose from. Perhaps pigeonhole-ing has its benefits.

A nice blend of functional listings, community and hugely customizable so I can tailor it to my own needs. You can also easily hop from one listing to others that are related by medium or location and it goes without saying that each entry is fully linked-up to the relevant websites and maps. Priceless.

Posting an event seems to involve first emailing the organisers. I don’t know if there are hoops to jump through after that or what percentage of submissions are accepted. Does some sort of relationship develop between venues and TAB over time? Can you set up an account or something so you can be responsible for your own listings later? Is moderation a good thing or are there hidden agendas at work? Who knows – maybe I’ll find out for myself one day.

what I wants

So, there you go. 4 different approaches and and introduction to what aspects of them work for me.

What can we learn from this?

update: In the absence of comments here, Pete’s offered a space for discussion over on CiB.

what’s on?

What I want:

what I want

What I have:

(in no particular order)

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision (Luke Jerram and Dan Jones as part of Architecture Week) had it’s strong and weak points for me.

I like the fact that it happened at all enormously, but I felt that it was really two separate things. I’d have liked to have seen either no sculptural stuff or a whole lot more that spilled out and around the different niches in the walls.

Guess there’d have been a Health and Safety officer with something to say about that…

I felt the end section where we were walking down the darkened tunnel with the sound and light was the most powerful element. Givien the choice I wouldn’t have shared the experience with 30 other people at the same time, although it did make for an interesting snippet of video (here slowed down to half speed)

Pub Conversations: Miles Thurlow & Carmen Cebreros Urzaiz

The second of the Self Service Pub Conversations has been uploaded, giving me a good opportunity to try out the podcasting doobry for this website.

Since I missed the event itself ‘cos I was in Japan, I suppose I could also listen to it too!

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Miles Thurlow is an artist based in Gateshead and co-director of Workplace Gallery (with Paul Moss). Recent exhibitions include Legacies of Dissolution, Colony, Birmingham, Formal Dining, Hales Gallery, London, Blue Star Red Wedge, Glasgow International 2006 and You Shall Know Our Velocity, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

His guest, Carmen Cebreros Urzaiz (Mexico City, 1977) graduated in Visual Arts at the National School of Fine Arts-UNAM (Mexico), and the MA in Curating at Goldsmiths College. She has curated the exhibitions The Taming Power of the Small’ (Mexico City, 2003), Stages and Transfers (Mexico City, 2005), and recently an Audioguide for Sir John Soane’s Museum (London, 2006) constituted by the commentaries of international sound, performance and visual artists, architects, historians, and philosophers.

Pub Conversations is an ongoing series of events. If you want to subscribe directly to the Pub Conversations feed, paste the link below into your feed reader (eg Bloglines or iTunes)

artists in pubs

As the Winter nights draw in, Birmingham’s artists seem to keep finding reasons to hold events down the pub.

Pub Conversations with James Hyde and the latest in the 100 Verses for 3 Estates project.

Pub Conversations

Renga in the pub

Or is it just Gavin masterminding the whole thing?

Kanagawa Prefecture Exhibition of Fine Art

Last weekend I was invited to the awards ceremony for the 42nd Kanagawa Prefecture Exhibition of Fine Art.


A lot of people, a lot of art and a lot of speeches…


Congratulations to those who received awards.


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