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Culture Bytes: science, technology and art in the South East

  • Date: 29 May 2013
  • Artform: All, Combined arts, Dance, Literature, Music, Theatre, Visual arts
  • Area: South East
Digital fireworks. Pixelpyros, Seb Lee-Delisle, Brighton Digital Festival, 2012 Digital fireworks. Pixelpyros, Seb Lee-Delisle, Brighton Digital Festival, 2012, Daniel Yanez Gonzalez

Several South East arts and cultural organisations are leading the way in using science and technology to create and share their work - some of which are coming soon to a screen near you.

Few creative tools offer a greater opportunity to extend the reach of the arts than digital technology. Jon Pratty, our Relationship Manager, Digital and Creative Economy, believes that an important new strategic project has the potential to 'burst through barriers to engagement' like never before.

Oxford Contemporary Music

National portfolio organisation Oxford Contemporary Music (OCM) is synonymous with the use of innovation in music making and sound art, which naturally leads them to working with technology. This year's annual Oxford Audiograft festival, co-promoted by OCM and supported with a £9,860 Arts Council England Grants for the arts award, brought audiences face to face (or should that be ear to ear) with the fascinating and sometimes challenging work of Oxford Brookes University's Sonic Art Research Unit (SARU).

You can listen to some of the work of one of SARU's collaborators and Audiograft contributors, sonic artist Ray Lee, in an Arts Council podcast, in which he explains the impetus and ideas behind his award-winning work The Ethometric Museum.

More recently, OCM took its experimental sound art to Brighton audiences, co-commissioned by Brighton Festival and Without Walls as part of the 2013 Brighton Festival. Now on tour, Audible Forces is an Aeolian wind-powered musical installation featuring new musical instruments designed by seven contemporary sonic artists.

Ben Lane, Relationship Manager, Music went along: 'Music and the way we listen to music is changing. While some audiences will always enjoy the concert hall experience, others are looking beyond traditional settings to engage. Audible Forces is a good example of this approach as it combines natural forces with technological innovation to produce a unique and stunning experience.'

South Hill Park

South Hill Park in Berkshire, is reaching new audiences via its Grants for the arts funded SHPLive initiative using live streaming technology and challenging the way we experience art in the process.

Martin Franklin, Manager, South Hill Park Digital Media and Programme Manager, SHP Live! explains: 'SHPLive emerged from the idea that arts organisations are becoming cultural broadcasters.

'At South Hill Park, we had already grown a large global listenership to our Gene Pool digital culture podcast, so our live web broadcasts builds on this work and allows us now to target specific audience groups who may not even be able to reach our building.'

South Hill Park's latest offering is a nocturn dance co-commission with West Berkshire Council. Billed as 'dark and emotionally charged' Dare You Watch will be streamed as an interactive dance piece over 18 hours during 31 May to 1 June.

Entering into 'transmedia storytelling' territory, the project uses Facebook as its main storytelling tool. In the build-up to the performances, choreographer John Darvell has created online personae for the five main characters using a viral Facebook campaign, which has won more than 6,097 likes.

SHPLive's Co-Producer Emma Donald adds: 'Where social media works so well is that you can observe these interesting characters - all of whom clearly have 'issues' of one form or another - from the safety of your own home. It gives you the opportunity to experience something completely different vicariously while still being able to retreat back to your individual safety zone.'

The live experience will feature young, older and professional dancers during the two days in a work that South Hill Park estimates will reach 9,000 online viewers and 200 others attending the venue.

Brighton Digital Festival 2013

Meanwhile, this year's Brighton Digital Festival, the September-long celebration of digital culture supported with more than £200,000 in Grants for the arts funding, is building up a head of steam. With a full programme launch coming up in July, Festival Manager Tom Bailey gave us a taste of what we can expect.

Tom says: 'The really exciting thing about the festival is that it serves as an open-source platform for Brighton's creative and cultural communities to showcase the fantastic things which go on here in a digital context, so the programme is community-led right from the start.

'The result is a broad and varied event schedule including established design conferences like Reasons to be Creative, dConstruct, the UK's fastest growing Mini Maker Faire, a high profile exhibition in the Phoenix Gallery presented with University of Brighton, and a month-long programme of Digital Media Art hosted by Clearleft. These are just an early flavour of things, and many many more performances, workshops, demonstrations, discussions and installations will emerge over the coming months.'

To find out more about the Arts Council's support for artists and arts and cultural organisations using digital in their work, visit the Digital innovation section of our website.