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Cumbria 2014

The second lab expanded upon the idea of building networks for collaboration and mentorship. This included consolidating our remit to working with organisations and artists from across the North, i.e those within approximately two hours travel of each other, centring on Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. Every lab in it’s design and execution is a piece of research into how to run a lab. The Digital Media Labs have had to evolve with each iteration because they are responding to developments in culture and technology and this is an essential part of the make up of the project. This means that we have to constantly be in the process of developing the model and, in a way, that’s the point.

The Digital Media Labs have had to evolve with each iteration because they are responding to developments in culture and technology and this is an essential part of the make up of the project. This means that we have to constantly be in the process of developing the model and, in a way, that’s the point.  The following reflections on the structure, space, time and collaborative environment of the week are by lecturer & artist – Ben Dalton, originally the technical advisor on the first lab in Hull, 2010 and now returns as a nominated artist in 2014.  Please follow the other links to see the artists or lab book.

Time to Think

The residency format, of intense activity over the length of a week is long enough for ideas to be tested and developed, and working ‘prototypes’ to be built. A week leaves time for all those attending to present aspects of their practice. Time to sleep on ideas, and to take conversations in to social time over meals and drinks helps to foster meaningful collaboration and iterative development. Meal times, walking, showering, shopping, exploring, game playing, all of Creative Exchange Ben Dalton 78 these things feature regularly in narratives of how ‘good ideas’ come in to form, and leaving space for these to happen in a schedule proves incredibly productive.

Structures for Thinking

Having constraints to work with and against also seem key to idea development, particularly over short time scales. In the first lab, a medium constraint of touch-screens elicited inventive uses and abuses of the technology. In the second lab, the ‘brief’ was more open, but themes of performance and light shaped thinking. In addition, the second lab used a format early in the week of presentation, workshop and structured activity to provide a framework for ideas and collaborations to form. I was aware of how quickly ideas cross-pollinated.

Space to Work

 Spatially, the residency was set up to allow shared working and personal space, with additional environments (such as a basement for ‘messy’ work). Each participant quickly established their own temporary working contexts, with desks unique to their interests and tools. The Octopus house offered a form of focused isolation positioning the activity within the ‘resources’ of the park, and away from familiar routines and distractions. In a form echoed by the unmonastery retreat, the labs have been sited in cities largely away from the homes of those participating, which acts to create an intensity of collaboration and investment. A digital space, with sufficient internet access and a blogging diary format, aided the processes of notation and documentation of work in progress.

Diversity of People

The nomination process around a residency theme helps to select a range of participants so that expertise and forms of practice are varied, and people have plenty of scope to learn from each other. A range of expertise and arts practice in the participants, often with orthogonal conceptual and systematic approaches created a wealth of perspectives. Conversations about circuit design, musical structure, local history, projection mapping, storytelling, nuclear power, textiles and laser performance diffracted through each other with ease. Some digital media institutions can find themselves replicating entrenched inequalities, but suffer the obvious deficiencies of such lack of diversity. An organisation which is able to ensure a lab with a greater gender balance for 79 example, is less likely to be dysfunctional in other ways too. The hierarchies within the lab were also flattened to a certain extent in productive ways. The lab organisers made sure that they presented their own work along-side the participants. Meals were prepared by fellow artist Alan Pergusey, and were a shared, discursive time. All lab participants shared tasks such as washing up, transporting equipment, and so on. This aspect of communal lab-citizenry has a powerful influence on how ideas are discussed and help is sought and given.

Tools on Hand

The participants who were selected were comfortable with their own technical systems of production, and were asked to bring with them resources not only for themselves, but with the potential to share. Piel House quickly filled with specialist equipment, mixing traditional forms of production with novel software and hardware. Free and opensource licensing of many of the tools used echoed the sense of shared resource in the lab.

Artists

Read more on the artists journey on the archived lab site: Archive Cumbria 2014

Mark Pilkington
Mark Pilkington

Mark Pilkington is a UK based composer and visual artist. Working in the areas of electroacoustic…

Emily Briselden-Waters
Emily Briselden-Waters

I am a freelance graphic designer living and working in Manchester. I enjoy experimenting with…

Neil Winterburn
Neil Winterburn

Neil Winterburn is an artist interested in mind, age and the use of technology to…

Lalya Gaye
Lalya Gaye

Lalya Gaye is is a Swedish-Senegalese-Malian digital media artist and interaction designer based in Newcastle…

Sam Meech
Sam Meech

I work a lot with video, but i tend to be as interested in the…

Victoria Bradbury
Victoria Bradbury

Victoria Bradbury is a visual artist weaving programming code, physical computing, body and object. She…

Aaron Nielsen
Aaron Nielsen

Aaron Nielsen works for oomlout, who make and sell delightfully fun open source products. Read…

Ben Dalton
Ben Dalton

Ben Dalton is currently investigating the theme of ‘design for digital pseudonymity’ at the Royal…

Alex McLean
Alex McLean

Alex McLean is an interdisciplinary researcher working across live coding, pattern in textiles and music,…

Laura Pullig
Laura Pullig

Laura Pullig’s practice explores how we interact with the environment through digital and analogue technologies.…

Nominators

 Lab Book

Read more in the lab book from 2014

If for some reason, you can’t see our book, then please download it here

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