Limited edition laser-cut plaques for those who know where to find them.
The Northfield work I was involved with for Ikon Gallery is being showcased over the next few days. Their publicity seems to feature a photo of me pulling a jib rather extensively, but I hope that’s not reflected in the content of the exhibition.
11am–6pm until the 3rd of February
Events Room, Ikon Gallery
Hopefully some of the Mum Signs may leach out into the surrounding area, too…
There will be scaly coats, stilt-walking sculptures, spongy red men, shopping bag costumes, generous plant pots and more, all making their appearances around Birmingham city centre over the next week or two. If you spot one of the happenings, feel free to join in and get involved!
I’ve spent the last week or so in Paris hosted by a gang of wonderful creative people.
At some point after talking about Parisian and Tokyo galleries with Orie, I challenged her to take her work and site it out in the city somewhere rather than waiting for a formal exhibition.
The next morning we set out to do just that, asking ourselves a) where needs some art, b) where would we like to put some art and c) where do we feel we can put some art? Yet again, I was struck by how powerfully having a task to accomplish can frame your experience of place and foreground details within your surroundings.
We were fortunate enough to dodge the rain, but strong winds and bitterly cold temperatures made it hard to work with Orie’s tiny radish seed musical notes and her delicate leaf frogs. We still managed to install a few subtle interventions, though…
I was also amused/bemused by how we could set up with glue, scissors and thread on a major throughfare and not have anyone pay any attention to what we were doing. A laissez faire metroplolitan attitude, or just a blind eye to tourists doing odd things?
I’m interested in how we connect to distant places.
A lot of my work prompts people to consider their immediate surroundings, but what of those places we feel some part of us is in, even when our bodies are elsewhere? Are you homesick? Do you long to travel to a particular place? Are you missing someone you can’t be with right now?
When a GPS Orchestra workshop seeded sleepless imaginations of being able to harness bee power, it got me thinking about the waggle dance bees use to communicate the location of good sources of pollen with other bees back at the hive. Since then I’ve been working on developing an object that signals to you your relative location with these significant places.
I want something that feels special.
Something that feels as precious and as fragile as the emotions and memories the person holding it has invested into the process.
Something that makes you slow down, something that encourages you to be contemplative.
I want a conversation that lets me spend time thinking about the places that are significant to me.
I’m curious about the places that belong to other people. The people that belong to other places.
I want to be stood on the deck of a sailing boat at dawn and have it remind me where home is.
I’ve been going back through my notes from the Guggenheim Lab events and workshops I was involved in last year and following up on various references. Currently I’m digging deeper into triangulation.
A sign of a great place is triangulation. This is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to each other as though they were not.[source]
The video below is an extract from William H. Whyte’s ‘The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces’ and at 42m29s there’s some discussion and examples of triangulation. The whole video’s worth a watch if you’ve time, though…
I’m thinking of some of the urban spaces I encounter on a regular basis and wondering what sort of triangulation + mayor combination it would take to inject some social life into them.
I’ve been tempted before to adopt a non place and make it the subject of my projects until it becomes adopted by a wider community, this film has added fuel to that fire.
What space would you target?
On Monday I attended Museum Camp. As with MuseumNext in 2009 it was a) rather marvellous and b) a stimulating place to discuss ideas that relate directly and indirectly to my practice. Thanks to all involved!
I hadn’t intended to lead a session, but as a spur-of-the-moment decision I offered to instigate a session on ‘interesting digital stuff that doesn’t involve screens’. This was largely from a desire to carry on the conversation that had begun with my recent residency at Coventry Artspace linking in with Heritage Open Days, but also fly the flag for this other face of digital that perhaps institutions aren’t aware of.
I was really happy to see so many people come along to take part in the session. Sitting-on-tables-or-the-floor room only! This post is intended as a reference for those that were in the session and those that weren’t able to join us: pulling out the main areas of discussion and linking to some of the examples mentioned.
I started off by talking a bit about my background and why I was interested in interesting digital stuff that doesn’t involve screens: my journey through gradually more expanded forms of people+place and then influences from pervasive games (I like this definition) and the hackspace/makerspace movement.
I sat on a table and waved my hands a lot as I talked about two recent digital installations that encapsulated a lot of stuff I’m passionate about: making people look up; affecting how people interact with a space; instigating collaboration; making people think and speculate and do experiments to try and find out.
Rebecca Shelley took some comprehensive notes on the conversation that followed as has been kind enough to share them, so here’s where we went from there…
But how much does it cost and is it something we can realistically implement?
Your local hackspace as a resource for know-how and possibly people with skills looking for an interesting project to use them on:
Hackerspaces wiki (includes a listing of active spaces around the world)
Hackspace Foundation has a UK list
Not got a local hackspace? Why not host one?
Museum 2.0 post
At the time of MuseumNext 2009 The Life Science Centre in Newcastle had got a long way towards planning to host one, not sure how far they got with implementing it.
Arduino is the platform I use: a small computer but also a community that shares a massive amount of information. A standard board costs about £25 and a lot of the sensors are available now as things aimed at a hobbyist market. It’s probably people’s time that’ll be the main expense.
Sensors include distance-measurers, motion sensors, noise detectors, humidity sensors… You can link up sensor inputs to a variety of different outputs, with some decision-making in between if the result is this, then do this.
Later on we reminded ourselves that the behaviour or effect we wanted to induce should lead the design, rather than the technology.
Use what you have in terms of resources and the space.
Low-tech is as valid as high tech.
Other technologies you can harness
Magic vests, silly hats and balloons.
Secrets, missions, games, small groups of people who are in-the-know and pantomine (as seen with the Secret Police Disco as people who had found it tried to enable others to make the discovery too).
How do you set/stage the space?
How you describe what’s going on and the process by which people enter that activity (or not).
Do I see it as performance? No – mostly because the idea would terrify me! – but I do see it as performative sometimes, and I’m interested in spectacle and different types of audiences that observe it.
I tend not to emphasise art (it’s scary to a lot of people!)
I tend not to emphasise technology (it’s scary to a lot of people!)
Can you pique people’s curiosity? Reward those that seek out the hidden things?
The Heritage Open Day event that Trapeze Monkey and the Secret Police Disco were a part of had a short paragraph and the end of the heritage-orientated handout that said I’d been in residence and things were ‘available for discovery’.
Question from Nikki: How does this sit with pedagogical aims of institutions? Does it matter if only a small number of people make the discovery?
How do you connect these experiences with the outside?
One participant talked about experience using gamification, linking in to people’s online social networks and harnessing the technology people carried in their pockets.
Another reminded us that not everyone has smart phones and I reminded us this was a session about non-screen-based approaches!
We then talked about the urge to share stories/experiences and possibly also how to close the feedback loop and do something useful with the contributions coming in from social media (or I might be conflating that with later discussions).
Education and fun
I noticed a few undertones that seemed to suggest these two are mutually exclusive…
Flows of visitors
Institutions are aware that visitors tend to stay in the areas that are more populated. Can we use interactive installations to draw people into the less well-trodden areas?
We talked about conferring agency, and how this brings people back if they can see their actions are having a direct effect on the space.
Someone talked about the audio piece Shhh… at the Victoria and Albert Museum and how it had enabled things like men transgressing into the ladies loos.
Can I give some examples of exemplary projects?
Um, this threw me a little as I think this is what I’m trying to move towards understanding through getting more of the museums’ points of views. I fell back on describing things I had encountered that had resulted in me having a powerful experience.
Ran on blindfolds, binaural recordings and the gentlest of touches leading you down the rabbit hole.
We talked again about spectacle, and returning to see what things look like from the outside. Also buying in to an activity and submitting to the experience.
Reminded me to say that things will go wrong. Embrace it! (And design for it!)
This linked us back to an open approach and fostering a sense of agency and ownership – you can playtest your prototypes and people will appreciate it, it doesn’t matter if it’s not polished and flawless.
Hide&Seek’s Sandpit approach (and use of low tech).
I also mentioned the previous week’s Heritage Sandbox showcase and the Ghosts in the Garden project at the Holburne Museum. Smartphone technology wrapped up in an intriguing interface and an engaging narrative.
Worried about a lack of budget? Cardboard props are great because they flag up that this is something running on imagination-power and you can do anything with that!
As part of my application for the current Artspace Research Commission, I was asked to consider how I “would share the project/involve others via social media etc”.
Beyond Flickr and Vimeo etc I don’t really use any social media platforms, but the prompt (and the expectations wrapped up within it) got me thinking: what if the building did the tweeting? What interesting questions might that highlight.
So, for the last couple of days I’ve been wiring different sensors into a room at Artspace that is, I understand, usually kept as a space reserved for the studio members (think staff room crossed with meeting room crossed with common room).
That private space is now publishing messages to Twitter whenever the photocopier lid is lifted, the kettle boiled or the table clunked. As I type, my glamorous assistant Reece is working away on one of our other interactive devices, so the table monitor is being triggered quite a lot!
See @ArtspaceMonitor for the feed.
Objects updating status messages onto the Twitter platform is by no means a new idea and the occurrences I’m logging are not particularly dramatic, but I think it raises some interesting points for discussion. (Like when Reece goes to lunch!)
The pool of message texts it selects from are not very extensive, so it’ll be interesting to see how followers of the account respond to the inevitable repetition.
It was also very interesting to sit down and try to imagine what voice the room would use and how it might perceive the activities taking place. What I really needed there was a team of 4-year-olds on the case, as I’m sure they would have found the task a lot easier!
Anyway, we have a demonstration up and working and you’re invited to have a glimpse at the things going on within the Members’ Room. Here on the inside we’ll be watching carefully to see if people end up changing their behaviour once they know echoes of it are being heard outside the walls…
Again, the Twitter stream is at @ArtspaceMonitor.
So, first job with the Artspace residency was to have a good ol’ look at the building and seek out the spaces that have potential.
For me this turned out to mean seeking out the non spaces. Also the liminal spaces between more obvious locations.
Here are some of the places that caught my eye:
From these (or maybe some others) I’ve shortlisted the sites I’d like to work with and identified the sorts of questions I’d like to ask through the devices I’ll be making. (Sorry, can’t tell you too much or it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?!)
I’ve ordered motion sensors, sonar range finders, an ethernet shield and various other goodies. Hoping tomorrow will be a Good Post Day.
On Monday we start making.
Next week I’ll be based at Coventry Artspace as the recipient of one of their 5 Artspace Research Commissions (ARC).
I’m HIJACK; tasked with making architectural interventions in the Artspace building, hijacking its usual purposes to create an unusual find for a public event.
My unusual finds will be in the form of small interactive interventions. Using a variety of sensors such as proximity, motion, heat and humidity sensors, mechanisms will move, shake, rattle, roll, reveal, hide, strike, ping, scrape, dangle and waft as people move into their awareness.
In the best of research traditions, we don’t know what will come out of this work, but we’re curious to find out.
My proposal is based around the Heritage Open Day weekend coming up on the 8th and 9th of September and the question “how does it flip our assumptions for Heritage Open Days if, rather than people going to look at the building, the building is looking at the people?”
Now I’ve had a chance to delve a little deeper, it might perhaps be more accurate to say the residency will aim to instigate conversations responding to the next wave of questions that arise after you ask the one above.
- Should the devices be integral – of the existing structure – or superficial – new additions placed onto surfaces?
- Does the building communicate with us?
- If so, about what? In what sort of voice?
- Can we affect the flows of people around the building?
- Would we want to make people uncomfortable?
- If so, how uncomfortable would we be comfortable making them?
- What might the devices reveal about the building …or about the people?
The Artspace building has a rich history to draw from, but time is limited, so it’ll be interesting to find out which of its many stories bubble up to the surface in that time.
I’m also curious to find out what the research reveals of me and my practice.
Back in July I attended the Interactive Architecture day at MADE. I went into it thinking “yeah, spaces and sensors and that: this is totally what I do”, but soon found out I was really struggling with the shift from putting the tech on the people to putting the tech on the architecture.
Here’s where I start to question what I want from interactive architecture.
If you’d like to see how far I’ve managed to explore in a week, please do come along on either Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September between 11am and 4pm to find out.
It’s free, there are other tours and stuff happening as well, and we’ve already decided we don’t want to make people too uncomfortable. Probably…
Coventry Artspace, 16 Lower Holyhead Road, Coventry, CV1 3AU [map]
As a follow-on from yesterday’s GPS Orchestra workshop, artist Jen Southern and I today spent some time refining code, dreaming up new devices and generally prodding things with vibrating pager motors to see what interesting noises we could make.
The results were a few quick prototypes taken to Morecambe for some testing along the seafront in a surprise spell of sunny weather. We made a tapping box that indicates when it is being carried at different speeds (we haven’t quite got it right yet) and a tinned assortment of pager motors that responds to what direction you’re moving in (we tried it on foot at Morecambe and also in the car back to Lancaster – nice!).
It was really interesting to see what we could achieve with a handful of components: not only in terms of producing the device and its behaviour, but also thinking about how to effectively communicate changes to the person carrying the noise.