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European Mobility Award Report: Student members of Future Makers Collective (FMC)

Recipients of a European Mobility Award, student members of Future Makers Collective (FMC) travelled to the Tate Exchange at Tate Modern London to present, research, collaborate and make new work with the Digital Maker Collective – a group of students from University of the Arts London - and interact with over 4,000 visiting members of the public at a major UAL/Tate Modern event Arts Work of the Future..


Report:

The students had been exploring information systems and digital practice, working with Andrei Molodkin at Rua Red Gallery to research hidden documents, producing digital work around themes such as data mining and pseudo-voluntary metadata collection, church/state entanglement and women’s health issues. The work they undertook in Tate Modern was an expansion of this to an international collaboration and audience.


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Student work produced there included many collaborations with UAL students and visiting groups. For instance, Tomas Ferris-Meldon worked with a Russian tech/art collective to integrate his work on twitter-bots and loneliness with their AI construct:

I was approached by a Russian group who were attempting to digitise human beings by making our human forms into holograms and turning our mind into A.I. Their A.I. learned based on libraries of text that could be imported as YML files. We had the idea to give the A.I. a large text file that contained all our lonely tweets to see if the bot would essentially get depressed. This fit nicely with their goal for the day of feeding the bot Wittgenstein to see if it would start professing about the limits of language. I thought this was a great idea and I laughed out loud at the thought of making a sadbot, powered by the stray thoughts of thousands of lonely people on twitter.” – Tomas Ferris-Meldon


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Students also worked with Tomas’s twitter-bot text library and UAL students to create a loneliness-themed VR room in Unity – a virtual reality design engine. Similarly, FMC members Emma Kane and Megan Kelly were introduced to concepts in augmented reality by working with UAL MFA students showcasing work in Microsoft Hololens examining the refugee crisis. This was a medium they had never experienced before, and opened up new possibilities of modes of practice:

 “I had the opportunity to experience using a mixed reality headset which I had never done before and I was able to use the software to scan Tom’s head and shoulders and create a 3D obj. file of him. When I was speaking to the man who owned this mixed reality headset he spoke of using it as an artist to create virtual sculptures which he placed in a gallery setting alongside a physical piece of work. I discussed with him the possibilities of 3D printing sculptural pieces rather than physically sculpting with clay and how this can help an artist who might have ideas and concepts involving sculpture but without the necessary skills to create a piece by hand. For instance, there was something in my personal projects that I wanted to do involving making body casts, being able to 3D print a body, this could then be used to create a positive mould. And while this can be done by hand with plaster and so on there is perhaps more room for error and requires some skill and space to complete, that I may not have. Talking about using mixed or virtual reality to create a gallery environment also made me think about how it can be used to combat issues surrounding physical space. These were all things I had never thought about before, so I enjoyed the process of being opened-up to new ways of thinking.” – Emma Kane


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FMC members also engaged with other new technologies such as conductive paint and single board computers, and their possible roles in future creative practice:

The UAL event offered some exciting ideas that could be introduced to our work such as conductive paint that allowed for interaction with objects. One group was using apples to play audio and in discussion with them we discovered that this is possible by conductive paint, which we ourselves hope to implement into our piece allowing for the strings to tell a story or become interactive adding another layer to our piece. We were also discussing about audio in our piece and I found a group who were visualising the audio plastic made when the microphone was pressed against it, but we could use a similar technique to them and visualise the audio of such a journey allowing for a further representation and spanning that of both senses in our piece; sight and sound. It was a great experience to have been given the opportunity to take part in allowing for further development of our work and inspiring us in other ways and mediums to work in that we can now implement into our pieces.” – Marc Carr

As well as collaborating with UAL students and tech/art collectives from around Europe, FMC members worked on several projects of their own, including a receipt-printer sculpture that printed live tweets on women’s rights all through International Women’s Day, data visualisations in Processing using flock movements of migrating birds, and a sound art piece based on the geolocation of major churches in every county in Ireland. All 6 FMC members collaborated on a preliminary iteration of a site specific piece entitled Journeys of the 8th, which eventually led to pieces in their exhibition Data is the New Oil at Rua Red Gallery, and final major pieces for degree show. Arts Work of the Future coincided with International Women’s Day and the announcement of a referendum in Ireland on repeal of the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, something FMC members had been actively canvassing for at home:

As I had been supporting the repeal the 8th movement in Ireland and as a means to raise awareness for the movement I began collaborating with my fellow students on Journeys of the 8th which illustrates the journeys Irish women are forced to take to England as a means to access abortion services that remain illegal in Ireland. As the UAL event lasted a week we decided to break down our statistics of over 4,000 women a year who travel to that of the 87 a week who do, and had pins to correlate this information on a board. This topic was even more topical as the dates of our visit matched the same time the government announced the dates for the referendum which eventually caused a repeal of the 8th amendment, which was announced on international women’s day March 8th. In our work we aimed to bring forward the work of Friedrich and “psychic numbing”, which is where people find it difficult to empathise with large numbers of people. So with our work we aimed to humanise the data by interspersing statistics with personal stories taken from the In Her Shoes, Women of the Eighth Facebook page, which shares stories and experiences of women around the topic of abortion. Back home in Dublin we built a loom to represent the full number of people who made this journey over the course of our residency in the gallery in Rua Red” – Marc Carr


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The students had an exceptional experience on the trip, gaining skills and contacts that would not have been possible in Dublin. This in turn fed and continues to feed their practice at home in Ireland. Future Makers Collective made strong ties with all at UAL and Tate Modern, and we are currently planning a return to London in 2019 to continue the collaboration.

To summarise, most of what I did while I was there was engage in discussions with other makers. Not necessarily about our work. But for me, it allowed for a space for intellectual conversation with people from different disciplines surrounding the role of technology. I think these conversations are important as it gives purpose to the technology as opposed to being tech for the sake of tech. I like to understand why we might use something, and this helped. These are conversations which I don’t often get the chance to have at home or even in college, because we are not around the same types of technology in our course so these types of conversation or debate don’t generally happen, or we only discuss what we know which might be limited to photography or video and so on. These discussions are what allows me to open myself up to new or alternative ways of thinking and appreciate the role of technology in creativity. Being in an environment completely different to our college and seeing technology which we don’t have or use on our course was inspiring. Even with those who I didn’t interact with, you’re constantly generating ideas or becoming more aware of the possibilities of using new technology in our work to enhance it. Not as a way to replace the physical, tangible thing but as a way to add to it. For example, had we not gone there, we would not have discussed the possibilities of making our physical loom/sculptural piece interactive in some way. I think we came with ideas and concepts (as is what our course is about) and some other groups came with technology (that we don’t learn on our course) and this is what was exciting - finding a way to influence each other and marry the two” – Emma Kane


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