Exhibition of Colony-related work at Phoenix Square

Phoenix Square programme

Following on from the residency I recently did at the Phoenix Square digital media centre in Leicester, traces of my work are now being exhibited in their public spaces around the foyer and café.

I understand there’s a short gap over this weekend to make way for an animation festival, but other than that my work runs through until Friday the 30th of March.

Phoenix playtesting sessions #2 & #3

Due to low turn-outs, these sessions were more testing than play, however we still had some very big smiles!

By Thursday I’d made some units that communicated with each other via XBee radios. They remain happy whilst still in range, but once separated you have a short grace period in which to link up again. After that an alarm goes off.

For the first of the two playtesting sessions it was the first time the units had been taken outside, so we wanted to get a feel for what sort of maximum range they have. Not until after having experimented with corridors and lifts, first.

Faraday Cage

Faraday Cage: third floor.

Maplin’s carpark wasn’t big enough, so we moved on to the ring road and then the St George’s retail park. You can just make out the person carrying the other unit in the distance…

Full range

Range-testing in the biggest carpark we could find...

For the last session we headed into the city centre and experimented with corners, pillars and mezzanines in various streets, theatres, shopping centres and multistorey carparks. I’m afraid I was so engrossed in what we were doing that I totally forgot to take any photos!

Next step is to expand this out to a group and start working with range information to see how that affects the coalescence of a group moving through the city.

Phoenix playtesting session #1

I’m now approaching the half-way stage of my residency at Phoenix Square, however the last 2 days have been beset by various tech and mech crises so it feels like I’m only just getting started!

Last night was the first of my playtesting sessions in which members of the public have signed up to come along and get hands-on with whatever I’ve made.

Due to the slow start I hadn’t got the radio communication up and running, so we did a few experiments using the old faithful sonar goggles instead. After a gentle start in the empty room next door, we headed down to the public space of the cafe/foyer/cinema area.

Having now had their appetite well and truly whetted, my enthusiastic volunteers then wanted to use the goggles out on the streets!

We tried a range of locations and a range of challenges (including bollard slalom and fountain circumnavigation). This was the first time the goggles had been used in such an uncontrolled environment and I was very impressed as the guys’ willingness to try stuff out. As they said, the bar has now been set very high for the next time they’re used!


Corridor Challenge. The challenge being to not end up in either the cinema or the ladies loos!

Market navigation

Using the goggles to navigate from one side of the market to the other.

The video above shows a snippet from an experiment in moving together as a group: the lead person is using their sonar to navigate from one side of the square to the other, but the person behind has their sonar switched off, so they have to listen to the lead’s bleeps in order to be able to follow them.

My photos and video from the session are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikki_pugh/sets/72157629115638094/detail/

Residency at Phoenix Square, Leicester – participants wanted

23/02/2012: Updated with this eventbrite link.

Next week I’ll be the third and final resident at Phoenix Square in the series that started with Engagement Party and The Institute for Boundary Interactions.

My blurb has yet to make its way onto the website, so here’s the skinny:


Over the next few months, a range of artists will be living, working and creating brand new artworks at Phoenix Square, taking inspiration from this unique cultural building and its surroundings…

Nikki Pugh is evolving technological creatures that affect the way you navigate the cityscape.

Nikki’s project ‘Colony‘ is an ongoing series of experiments in which she is developing a group of creatures that respond in real time to the landscape through which they are being carried.

Having already built prototypes that vibrate differently depending on whether they are in open or confined spaces, Nikki will be using radio communication and biofeedback to investigate aspects of flocking and interconnectedness.

Stay tuned for opportunities to become part of the colony and contribute to the play-testing in and around Phoenix Square.

Nikki Pugh is an artist who investigates issues around interaction: how we interact with spaces and landscapes; how we interact with each other; and how we interact with objects. Her practice is located somewhere in the intersection of people, place, playfulness and technology.

Basically the plan is to do a series of experiments involving radio communication and, I think, galvanic skin response readings. You probably know enough about me by now to know that this will mean going out into the streets and trying stuff out to see what happens.

Since I’m particularly interested in flocking and interconnectedness for this residency, that also means I’ll be needing to muster small groups of volunteers in order to try stuff out and see what happens.

If you’re up for spending some time next week exploring the streets of Leicester whilst carrying a small radio unit and with a few sensors attached to your fingers, you can sign up at this eventbrite page.


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