Marco Savo from Audiovisual City and Kate Rolfe from The Revels Office have never met in person. Theirs is a true digital relationship born of the pandemic.
Audiovisual City is a digital magazine that promotes and supports audiovisual artists and events worldwide. Connecting hundreds of digital artists from across the world, it is the go-to place for inspiration and information when it comes to the application of digital technologies in artistic expression.
The Revels Office is a cultural consultancy who specialises in finding new revenue for the arts, advising organisations on commercial opportunities and uniting them with funding partners who value the unique, high quality content that only the cultural sector can produce. Together with a network of consultants -The Catalyst Network – the team at The Revels Office manage a range of projects at the intersection between arts and commerce.
At a time when the sector is anxiously remodelling their core operations to survive months of low visitor numbers, reduced income through established business lines, and a new, uneasy socially distanced experience, we wanted to investigate what untapped value digital arts might offer.
We share with you here a summary of our findings, designed to inspire you at a critical time, to offer valuable ideas to consider in your re-modelling plans, and to decipher the role that digital can play in a sector based almost entirely on live and tangible experiences…
It is a collective strategy game in which different levels and challenges must be overcome, based on the idea of a labyrinth. Controlled externally by passers-by, Enjambre Celular offers an example of a pandemic-proof artistic installation.
They are invited to have contact virtually within the same image, bringing them together face to face. The head-to-head image created by the software is trying to constantly reduce the proxemic distance between the two people, creating unique and ephemeral meetings with the other and making a connection even when physically apart.
Put simply – do you need to move your live content online for commercial, audience or safety reasons, or do you want to create a new interpretation of your content that will explore your stories in an entirely new way? Neither choice is right or wrong, but it will impact the outcomes you achieve, as well as the process you go through.
“The importance of concept is key; you must start with your concept and then chose the technology to match”Hayley Cantor
No solution is quicker for overcoming an image of being elitist, static or uninteresting than a digital initiative, so long as it is done well, has a clear purpose and audience, and so long as it incorporates some kind of live and/or unique element that ensures the digital is not simply a mimic of the live experience.
While digital design is fantastic for bringing to life educational and historic content, and is arguably simpler for translating to an online platform, where digital arts stands out is in the sensorial, emotive experience that they can create, lasting longer in people’s memories and creating a sense of community and harmony even if you encounter the art alone.
Via a VR headset, the user flies through a 3D data-point cloud formed, visualizing more than 1,700,000 documents present in SALT Research archive collections. Refik Anadol’s installation was displayed as an extension to the artist’s Archive Dreaming project.
The price we have paid for the vast amounts of thrilling, comforting and informative digital content that has been dispersed throughout the global lock-down, is the expectation that digital means free.
In this way there is still value, there are no barriers to audiences engaging with you, and you can use data and reach to collaborate with new funding partners, upsell products and services, and request donations wherever possible.
In this way we have seen a really positive response during the pandemic, with culture-lovers willingly paying for online experiences, seeing this as a charitable donation to save something they love rather than a charge for valuable entertainment. However this has not yet translated into a consistent approach that audiences and funders recognise, or indeed made up the huge gap in revenue that arts organisations face.
Given the high value outlined by option 1, it seems reasonable that – just like the expectation to pay for the cinema or a gig – you will have to pay to participate in digital cultural experiences. This transactional view may not sit well alongside arts experiences that are traditionally free, such as museum-entry, but this demonstrates the opportunity presented by digital arts as opposed to digital design; by creating a new experience on a new platform, arts organisations can create something of value to their audiences (and new ones), one which better warrants a participation charge.
Ultimately this is an argument of supply and demand, but what we endorse is a collective reassessment of how and when to charge for digital experiences, thereby protecting arts organisations and artists from giving away valuable content for free, especially when for a time this might be one of their only viable sources of revenue.
The oldest full dome projection festival has been held virtually for the first time this year due to the pandemic, charging a ticket price for the online experience. A courageous decision from the organisers who decided to go full steam ahead, offering a 360 view of the festival using VR headsets.
Mutek is one of the top audiovisual events worldwide, born in Montreal and then expanded through an international network. The San Francisco edition has been online this year with their ‘Nexus Experience’, hosting live AV performers on two stages, offering digital galleries, online workshops, and ‘viewing party’ film screenings. The event was free and open to donations, with 100% of the festival proceeds going directly to the artists.
For those who want to consider digital as part of their future plans, digital arts producer Steph Clarke shares some considerations:
• Once a digital installation, artwork or exhibition is installed, it can often run 24/7 with minimal staffing and low running costs. Not only can this make valuable budget savings, it also accommodates far higher audience numbers over time, and can easily be adapted to allow for social distancing measures.
• Digital works can easily have their content re-purposed to suit different objectives. Content can be refreshed regularly to suit seasonality, adapted for VIP or stakeholder events, and used for advertising purposes if required.
• It is relatively easy to scale digital work depending upon size of venue or audience size, meaning this approach can be considered for a variety of projects, places and budgets.
• Digital can be used to extend and enhance audience engagement before and after the event/exhibition itself, through engagement online and via apps, creating more touchpoints with your intended audience and opportunities to capture insights and data.
• By digitalising the content for a digital installation, you are simultaneously archiving it too, preserving it for future generations and achieving important cost-savings.
• Given the huge range of digital formats available – apps, projection, light shows, VR, AR – there will always be a format suitable for your budget, timescale and objectives.
As part of the Bahidora 2018 festival, Medusa Lab created a unique experience for Ache Producciones and its client: Mezcal 400 conejos.
This article was written by Kate Rolfe from The Revels Office and Marco Savo from Audiovisual City with contributions from Hayley Cantor (Audiovisual City Creative Director, Multidisciplinary Graphic Designer and VJ), Sean Carroll (Business Improvement Project Manager), Nicola Casperson (Brand Marketing, Events and Place-Making Consultant), Steph Clarke (Digital Arts Producer), Marta Minguell Colomé (New Media Artist, VJ and Photographer), Amy O’Brien (Events Producer), and Mónica Rikic (New Media Artist). Collectively our experience includes roles at the National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Secret Cinema, Battersea Power Station, Westfields, and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra.BUY US A COFFEE?
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Refik Anadol immersive installations allow us to leap into an universe of data, featuring a matrix that swallows everything around until there is nothing left outside of it.
His overwhelming data sculptures foresee a post-digital architectural future in which there are no more non-digital realities. A world where man and machine are embedded within each other.
One of the greatest eighteenth-century English artists William Blake famously said, “if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite.” Infinite Space is a collection of works that revisits Blake’s statement and seeks to cleanse the doors of perception with the tools available to twenty-first-century artists.
The exhibition explores memories and dreams through the mind of a machine by using data sets ranging from human memories, photographs of Mars, cultural archives and sea surface activity as data sculptures and digital paintings.
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