Posted 2014-06-22 by dpmfollow

A two week arts event in Birmingham sees digital devices beating like hearts, dancers working with holograms and secret network devices hidden across the city.

All of the projects form part of ? Birmingham – a programme which aims to bring together artists and new digital technology.

Based at mac Birmingham in Cannon Hill Park, the event features a seminar, workshops and seven projects with artists and digital experts creating new work. And members of the public are invited to join in the experience.

With participants from Brazil, Germany, Spain, Austria and the UK, including Birmingham, ? launched on June 17.

It is the first time the programme has come to the UK. Created by Spanish cutting edge arts and digital technology centre Medialab Prado, ? has held previous workshops in Mexico, Peru, Ireland, Spain and Slovenia. In Birmingham it brings together the expertise of Birmingham City University, Sampad South Asian Arts, mac Birmingham and BBC Birmingham with support from Arts Council England.

It was Sampad's operations manager Clayton Shaw who was keen to introduce ? to the city after he attended a Medialab Prado workshop and recognised its potential.
"Birmingham has such a strong industrial heritage and has always been at the forefront of technology," he says. "We're now in a new era of industrialisation and it's good that Birmingham is still at the forefront.
"? is really about looking at skills development for artists and finding new models to develop artistic practice with digital technology.
"One of the UK artists, Divya Kasturi is a South Asian dance artist and she is a really good example of someone who might be able to look at how she can blend her experience of Kathak and Bharatanatyam and digital systems.
"One of the aspects she will be looking at in her piece Forgot Your Password? is gesture recognition and how we could use holographic technology in dance."

An open call has gone out for collaborators who will then be partnered with the artists and other experts to develop each piece at mac.
"We want to engage people to come along and talk to the different people involved in the different projects," says Clayton. "It is a chance for those involved in the projects to test assumptions of how the public engage.
"And we want this to be a springboard. We want to go on to build a community of people, both nationally and internationally, who artists can access and be connected to."

For Birmingham City University, ? is part of its ongoing work looking at cross pollination with the arts and future technology.
"It is about multi-disciplinary opportunities to bring people together for co-creation and to break down barriers," says Alexa Torlo, BCU project and business manager in the Research, Innovation and Enterprise department.
"It is about inviting people to come along and look at how they can work with other people and not be an island.
"It is fantastic that we were able to bring it to Birmingham. ? will give Birmingham recognition across the world as it is bringing people together from a range of different disciplines and countries. As a modern university this really complements what we are doing in terms of research and collaboration with other groups and businesses in society."

The partners worked together to design the programme and decide the final projects which include music, dance and photography.
"We had 37 projects apply and needed to choose seven so all of the partners, with the input from technical experts from the university, then considered the projects," says Alexa. "We had to lean towards projects which were manageable within the timespace. But we are keen for all of the people behind the other projects to be involved so we have asked them to come back as collaborators. This is an example of how this project is nurturing relationships."

The university hopes to build on the experience.
"The next question is 'where do we go next?' and we really want to continue with this," says Alexa. "We hope there will be a series of events afterwards which will continue to build these communities who can work together into the future. And for the university it is about embedding cross innovation into education and allowing students and academics to engage."

Birmingham's mac is the ideal venue to host ? because the arts centre is a meeting point for cross-pollination of ideas, says mac's Producer for Learning and Participation Pat Dawson.
"We are very committed to digital media and, being a hub for people to come together and develop new work, this sits very well with our ideas of reaching out to different people and communities," she says.
"One of the big advantages of mac is our footfall. We do get a lot of people who come for specific events but we also get a lot of people who would not necessarily go into a traditional art gallery but come here to the café and then see an exhibition."

The centre in Cannon Hill Park is hoping visitors will become involved in ?
"We will have an exhibition downstairs which will feature two interactive installations from previous ? events and people will also be able to visit the collaborative working as it is going on," says Pat. "We also want to involve some of our Next Generation groups. They are all young people who are interested in the arts and they tend to be very keyed into technology so will have an interest in ?"

And mac is also ensuring the event has a legacy.
"We hope this event will help us to continue to build ongoing links with the next generation," adds Pat.

For the BBC in Birmingham, ? is part of a strategy aiming to ensure the company is at the forefront of digital media. The company's BBC Comedy executive producer Will Saunders, who has been at the centre of developing the BBC's strategy for comedy, is a speaker at the seminar and other staff will be involved throughout the event.
"The BBC's brand can be a catalyst for something like ?" says BBC Birmingham's Head of Business Development Tommy Nagra. "We are looking to develop our partnerships with other organisations to develop digital media and we want to take our audiences with us."

The project fits into a much larger digital brief for the BBC in Birmingham which is to include an Academy for in-house and industry training, the formation of a Digital Innovation Unit in Digbeth and the move of the company's digital arts partnership with Arts Council England, The Space, to Birmingham.
"The industry is changing at such a rapid pace and it is difficult to predict what will happen next," adds Tommy. "Traditional television is still alive and well but being involved in these partnerships and working together we can look to the future and embrace it."

For more on ? see and

67765 - 2023-01-26 01:25:00


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