Our first week long Digital Media Lab took place in October 2010 and was a frantic experience. Many artists positively showed contempt for touchscreens by the time we reached the half way point, through works such as ‘How Clean is Your Mouse?’ by Bob Levene and Ellie Harrison who created dirty cooker hobs that you could rub the dirt off, but just when you think you have cleaned the last bit off, it’s dirty again.
The intention was to give the artists 7 days hands on research and development with the support of professional technologists leading to interim exhibition showcasing the results of the lab. The artists were supported by the lab team and technologist, lecturer, artist – Ben Dalton. In addition we had Pete Eyres run a one day workshop on arts and business as sustainable practice.
Today’s professional artists and makers have little time to research and develop new ideas and processes. Typically working on several projects at any one time, freelancers often find themselves having to fall back on their existing ideas to fulfill the demands of modern commissions and residencies, many of which leave little time and budget for original research and experimentation.
From our own experience in managing and creating public art, we felt that artists can easily become overly reliant on what they already know when working on a commission without dedicated research and development time, often to the detriment of their own creative and professional development.
‘Artists sometimes tie themselves in knots. Digital Media Labs was the most fun way imaginable to untie some of those knots.’
Neil Winterburn, participant in Digital Media Labs 2014
This is where Digital Media Labs comes in. We invite practitioners from across a range of disciplines to develop new skills and prototype works in a dedicated environment in order to advance their practice along new lines. Part of our approach at Digital Media Labs is simply about removing the everyday obstacles that sit between focused creativity, multi-media play and new creative works. We primarily work with practitioners specialising in visual arts, sound and moving image but participants have also included makers, musicians and animators.