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Adventures into Digital: The Space projects in the South East

  • Date: 22 June 2012
  • Artform: Dance, Music, Visual arts
  • Area: South East
I'd Hide You, Blast Theory I'd Hide You, Blast Theory, Photo courtesy of Blast Theory

With the launch of Arts Council’s The Space earlier this year, the spotlight is on how arts and culture are harnessing digital technologies.

Digital innovation has been transforming England’s towns and cities, shaping the cultural landscape, as well revitalising the economy. Artists and organisations have been tapping into the potential of these technologies to better engage with audiences, to create new artistic products and sometimes even develop income streams.

We look at a few great examples from the South East in a series of case studies.

The Space

In May, Arts Council England and the BBC launched an experimental new digital channel, which is a digital media service dedicated to an arts and cultural programme available on PCs, smartphones, tablets, internet connected TVs and Freeview HD’s video on demand service.

The channel will feature hundreds of new commissions funded by Arts Council England – including South East organisations Blast Theory, Carousel, I Fagiolini and Turner Contemporary, who were amongst the 53 successful applicants across the country.

The Space channel is part of a larger Arts Council initiative to build the digital expertise amongst the sector in a hands-on and innovative way, with support from the BBC including mentoring, production, training and skills development. The Arts Council supports The Space with £3.5 million in funding from its recently created £20 million Digital innovation fund.

Blast Theory and Turner Contemporary have both launched their new works this May on the channel.

To mark the opening of artist Tracey Emin’s first show at the multiple award-winning Turner Contemporary, the Margate gallery also created a behind-the-scenes film called Behind the Scenes with Tracey Emin. In the film, Emin narrates as she installs her exhibition in Turner’s first floor galleries. You also get to see the works, many of which were created especially for the exhibition over the past eight months and reflect on the themes of love, sex and eroticism.

On Friday 22 June at 8pm, Emin will be interviewed live at the gallery by celebrity - and friend - Stephen Fry, which will be presented on The Space as a live and interactive streaming accompanied by a live Twitter feed.

Emin’s She Lay Down Deep Beneath opened on 26 May and is part of the London 2012 Festival, a 12-week UK-wide festival funded by Arts Council England celebrating London 2012 Cultural Olympiad featuring leading artists from around the world. The exhibition includes new works such as painting, neon, tapestry, and sculpture and also places intimate nude studies by JMW Turner and Auguste Rodin alongside her older works.

Turner Contemporary is an Arts Council England National portfolio organisation.

Blast Theory’s new work I'd Hide You was launched during this year’s FutureEverything conference  in Manchester on 17 May.

For three nights, a team of space age runners captured the streets of Manchester with cameras, which livestreamed footage to the web. Simultaneously, participants online could play a game where they ‘snapped’ photos of the runners using their smartphones, the internet and smart televisions.

The Space film offers viewers the chance to watch the game being played.

BAFTA-nominated Blast Theory is a Brighton-based artists' group and Arts Council England National portfolio organisation who are world renowned for their use of interactive media to create immersive and performance live art.

I'd Hide You was developed in 12 weeks with a team of just three developers.

Matt Adams, Co-director, Blast Theory, said: ‘The launch was fantastic adrenaline pumping fun - as you would expect with such a technically complex project. We had 1,700 players who took over 120,000 'snaps' as part of the game so it was intense, competitive and playful.

‘One of my favourite moments was seeing one of the runners - Niki - get invited into the back of a local bar, get shown a homemade flame thrower and then being sneaked through the kitchen and out a different exit. And a scary one was the drunk who lurched out of a restaurant and threw a punch because he objected to us playing on 'his road'. As to the future, we're planning on doing it again at Glastonbury 2013 in the Shangri La field.’

British solo-voice ensemble I Fagiolini is producing a film of their new joint work with Australian circus company Circa called How Like an Angel. The piece is a stunning renaissance and contemporary music and acrobatic piece created especially for cathedrals as part of the London 2012 Festival.

Kieran Cooper, Executive Producer, I Fagiolini explains: ‘We will be filming in the four cathedrals - Norwich, Ely, Gloucester and Ripon. The architecture is very much an equal partner in the performance and we wanted to make sure we included footage from different venues rather than just concentrating on one place.’

I Fagiolini is also creating a behind-the-scenes documentary and a multi-platform digital application for use on computers, tablets, smartphones, and Android devices.
Kieran Cooper continues: ‘We have had quite a few conversations with our BBC mentor - particularly over getting some archive footage for us. We haven't needed any of the training yet, but it's been extremely good to have them as a sounding board.
‘I think the biggest impact on our digital understanding is producing the proposed online version - partly because of the technical requirements but mostly because it's going to present some interesting challenges in the way we're hoping to combine different layers of material - film, audio, user generated content (UGC) and so on.’

Later this year, Brighton-based leading disability arts organisation Carousel and its Oska Bright International Film Festival will be publishing their interactive art project which shares the work of learning disabled filmmakers on The Space. The project will allow viewers to select digital arts, films and music to watch or listen to in a format of their own choice. The interactive project will feature 20 films from the 2011 festival handpicked by the Oska Bright Committee, along with an explanation on why each film was chosen, plus audio description and subtitled versions of all the films. 

You can watch many of these films on The Space now.

To watch the highlighted projects on The Space, plus hundreds of others, from dance, literature, film, theatre, music, visual arts and more, please see: