Microworld@HOME: live-streaming our way through the lockdown.
As I write this, Nicola is rebuilding the mini TV-studio in our living room for the 18th time since March.
Each Saturday during lock-down we have been broadcasting 2 hours of video, audio and creative coding from our 4×4 metre square space to YouTube, our families and friends and the world beyond. What started out as a way to share what we have been doing as a mini commission for Spare Tyre Theatre, has morphed into a multi-media show with guest live-streamed performances and alternative art education experiments. This is the busiest we have been since working our how to put a multi-screen, 6-month show together for Eureka! in 2018. The technical challenges of what we now call Microworld@HOME and the need to fill 2 hours with art and entertainment every week at 2pm on the dot has meant we have been at full tilt for months. We’ve produced some big new works and dozens of small ones, and worked with several collaborators, including London Group members Stephen Carley, Sandra Crisp, Jockel Liess and David Theobald, to piece together a multi-layered presentation each week.
Pause for breath.
The shows have taken on a life of their own, with different themes from Sci-fi speculations, to esoteric branches of Computer Science, to the latest film director we’ve been consuming – Nicola built a 1:10 scale Japanese ‘Ozu’ house for that one – all the while connecting back to the sea and the thousands of ‘sea people’ enjoying the beach in Margate just outside our blacked-out window. Every week there is a new tech dongle to try out – ah! we can send a single program to two separate projectors using this £10 eBay thingy … we can use this cake display widget to rotate toy projections … what about the 360 degree camera? Various back-of-the-cupboard technologies are being dusted off and added into the mix. Of course, as a result not a week goes by without some technical hiccoughs and our unofficial catch-phrase has become ‘things will fall over’, but the sheer thrill of connecting so much stuff together and it mainly working, sometimes even straight out of the box, has reminded us of how much physical pleasure we get from digital art.
As the months have gone by we have started to work out why we are doing it:
1) We just enjoy mucking around with stuff and sharing our immersive practice – digital art is cool and we like to show it off.
2) We love mashing up other people’s stuff. In the future we will work with groups to turn their art (videos, audio clips, code) into multimedia shows. These can be run as extensions to exhibitions or at digital festivals. We’re always helping people to be creative with computers, to ‘become digital art’ and this is an extension of that. In terms of future commissions, we are professionals, and we don’t want things to fall over too much, so we rebuild and rebuild, trying to get the right configuration.
3) We are developing new works which will form part of future physical shows and we need to think of new engagement strategies as we’re starting to get enquiries about Covid-secure interactives. We can test these out in our show. The digital art world throws up ever more technical and artistic challenges.
4) we are beginning to explore homeostasis, autopilots & automation – eventually we want to just sit back and watch these ‘living’ processes explore themselves. why not put our feet up?
As I finish writing this technical splurge, you can tell that lockdown has been a productive time for us. I guess we are natural troglodytes. Our ‘bat-cave’ has been a relief from the world and live-streaming has allowed us to contact our missing audience, after all, interactive art is nothing without an audience.
Tim Pickup Genetic Moo LG Aug 2020