Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’
Once upon a time, there were people who liked to dress up as orcs and wizards and things and go out into the woods and shout a bit and play fight dragons with swords. And there were the historical re-enactors, who did similar things, but without the orcs and with authentic chain mail and swords.
People laughed a bit, and saw it as a bit geeky.
There were also the gamers. And first they would stay in their darkened bedrooms that perhaps smelt of Lynx and socks, on their own, or perhaps with friends. And then came the internet, and despite issues of lag, the gamers could play with and talk to anyone in the world, even if it was mostly about lag.
People worried a bit about violence and too much time indoors, and thought it was a bit geeky.
The zombie walk phenomenon has by this time spread throughout the world, with one day a year being dedicated to the celebration of the undead. On this day, people dress like rotting corpses and wander through major cities, horrifying the general public by threatening to eat their brains. The increasing popularity of zombies over the last ten years has undoubtedly been examined far better than I can do here, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see the zombie as a metaphor for the unthinking consumer culture, and the brain-dead powerlessness of the masses against the corruption of media and government.
All of these things were good, and fun.
And then, one day, someone thought, ‘why are we sitting inside being chased by zombies?’
‘Why don’t we all go outside, and play a massive zombie chase game? But without computers, just a map of the city and some fake blood.’
And this was a brilliant idea.
So, that’s what they did. And every year more and more people came to play, and they thought it was brilliant too.
People began to think this is normal.
With igfest, Hide & Seek, Slingshot and others, grown adults running around the streets being chased by other grown-ups has become an acceptable and practically mainstream activity.
I’m part of a generation who doesn’t remember a world without computers. My dad used to programme games for me and my sister on our ZX Spectrum.
It seems that this is part of a wider ‘ludic turn’, where we’ve become much more interested in the idea of play. It’s not just a way of extending ‘kidulthood’, but has wider implications. It’s probably not surprising that ideas of play and game theory are getting into everyday life.
Cold War game theory politics and Cold War military technology are programmed into us and into computer games; the first Gulf War is viewed in night-vision simulation; terrorism obsesses real-life and game-worlds.
So, is this ludic turn just another form of escapism, or could it be used as a powerful tool for collaboration? Technology separates, according to Guy Debord, and prevents any action against the dominant power. Is this a mass detournement where playful situationism becomes part of the everyday? Are games like 2.8 Hours Later a pre-cursor to the gamification of activism?
The Theatre Sandbox Showcase came out of a series of workshops, which around 275 people attended. From this, a competitive process selected six different project proposals to participate in the Theatre Sandbox, funded by the Arts Council and supported by Watershed, iShed, Pervasive Media Studio.
What’s really struck me is that Bristol really seems to be a centre for all things pervasive. I’ve yet to find another central point, or network hub, that has creative links as extensive as those of the Pervasive Media Studio or Watershed. London is just too big and disparate, and few other places are lucky enough to have the facilities, investment, and most importantly, people and ways of connecting through place. UWE are obviously a big part of this too, and play a major part in both attracting and keeping a creative technology community in Bristol.
Interesting thing that Melanie Wilson pointed out: Children aren’t amazed by technology. Grown-ups might think that pervasive media is really interesting, but the kids are only really interested in the unicorns.
The technology is just a tool.
Local children participated in the design of this theatre project, which took place both inside and outside of the theatre, in the local High Street. The children learn that a unicorn has been caught in a huge storm, accidentally transporting it to this world. The children create a narrative through a journey, the aim of which is to send the unicorn back home.
Melanie described the project as challenging, mainly owing to finding ways of making pervasive media technologies achieve the desired effects. Tom Melamed of Calvium collaborated with Melanie and Ed to create the narrative, where bits of story are triggered when a child steps into a WiFi or GPS point in a specific location. A combination of methods was used in order for the parts of the story, like an enormous shadowy projection of a unicorn on a wall, to trigger at exactly the right time. In order for the experience to be truly immersive, the children were given minimal equipment, just headphones. All content was broadcast from a laptop in order for this to work.
Mind the Gap/Contact Manchester/Phil Stenton, Calvium/Theatre Sandbox Advisor
This project used relatively simple technology to achieve its aims, but was incredibly effective. Mid the Gap is a theatre company that gives people with physical and mental disabilities a chance to perform.
The company, with Phil’s help, created a sonic maze using mediascapes. Using the space outside the theatre, groups of five people all had headphones attached to one iPaq. Moving awkwardly and hesitantly, they shuffled about the car park, following audio instructions to move around. For instance, a wrong turn might mean hitting a sonic ‘wall’, and the reactions of the participants to and observer to this is really very funny, as if they had hit a real wall. The real genius of this piece is the emphasis on collaboration according to strengths and weaknesses within the group. Certain obstacles were on the frequency of 15-16 Hz, which meant that anyone over 25 was unable to hear (also, as an aside, a nice two fingers to the idea of the persecution of the young from the Mosquito). Other parts of the Sonic Maze could only be accessed through a sonic loop, requiring a hearing aid user to solve that part of the problem.
Interestingly, the issues in production concerned creativity that came out of misunderstanding. Theatre producers misunderstood the technology, and therefore created things that required Phil to find creative ways of using the technology creatively to achieve these goals.
Give Me Back My Broken Night
Speakman ventures away from the purely audio experience to add a visual dimension to his work in collaboration with Univited Guests. Where UG had previously worked with the Soho Theatre, this was a new experience for Speakman, who finally feels now that perhaps he really definitely actually is a producer of theatre.
The experience is small and intimate, with only a few players participating at any one time. Players are called on their mobiles, and given instructions. They carry tiny projectors around their necks, which project a map of Soho onto a piece of paper in front of them. In a departure from previous works, Speakman and UG are looking towards the future, rather than the past in their urban imaginary, asking their players to imagine what might be on this building site in twenty years time. What would it look like? What else would be there? What has changed?
In response to their descriptions, an artist is listening in on these conversations, drawing according to the players’ ideas. What he draws is visible on the projected map as the player is speaking, a vision of the future city.
The challenges faced during this project were mainly technological. The map idea, according to Speakman, started as a mistaken belief that a very new, thin, flexible material could be experimented with. However, as this was only available to the military, the paper/projection method was suggested instead.
Theatre Sandbox is produced by iShed http://www.ished.net in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic http://www.bristololdvic.org.uk , Soho Theatre http://www.sohotheatre.com , Lyric, Hammersmith http://www.lyric.co.uk, mac http://macarts.co.uk, Contact http://www.contact-theatre.org and The Junction http://junction.co.uk. It is funded by the National Lottery, through Arts Council, England.
These guys are my heros. They create audio-visual narratives projected on to 3D objects, using mapping.
The talk they gave on their work was really interesting. They showcased a piece created for a chateau in Nantes, as well as their up and coming indoor work that will be shown as part of One Dot Zero at the South Bank in London on the 13th November.