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GYM JAMS review

Stef Bradley came along to GYM JAMS and this is what she saw…

On Saturday 24th September, digital artist collective Re-Dock descended on Howe Bridge Leisure Centre in a high tempo clash of art and sport. Not normally used to exercising much more than my big mouth, I’d not stepped foot in a leisure centre since school trips for an obligatory 10 minute game of squash and the promise of a McDonalds’ drive-through reward on the minibus ride home. It seems that these sports centres have changed a lot in the last decade though. The Disneyland of leisure centres, Howe Bridge is a treasure trove of fun with climbing walls, a skatepark, BMX bowl, an intimidating soft play assault course, retro arcade games and even their own irresistible, cuddly mascot bear! There is definitely an argument that the designers were fans of Fun House and not even the most puny of weaklings could fail to enjoy flexing their triceps here.

howieb-and-oloChallenging notions of art on a pedestal, GYM JAMS is a project designed to engage visitors in artistic experiences outside of traditional arts spaces, raising the question of how a leisure centre could become a place to experience art and exploring how technology can be used to bring together people, creativity and sport- essentially, an experiment in what mayhem ensues when the trusting management of a leisure centre allow a group of artists and technologists to take over. 

Ambitious in design, the day was packed with high-energy creative activities, boasting a drumming and soundbeam workshop with More Than Words, a robot-themed games tournament, choreography from Dance Manchester, as well as a pop-up screening of 80’s dance classic Breakin’ curated by Liverpool Small Cinema’s Sam Meech – dressed the part, like an extra from Michael Jackson’s Bad,in a room doing its best to channel the stage at First Avenue before Morris Day and The Time.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the day was The RoboGames: a competitive tournament of robot-themed activities, which even featured a game of electronic tag in the centre’s BMX bowl.  Here, familiar sports day tropes and playground games were distorted into unfamiliar territory, as participants suited up in large coloured buttons, repurposed from school- issue PE cones, which could then wirelessly register when a participant was tagged by a member of the opposing team. All this was designed to sync up with an animated scoreboard, an arresting visual detail which sadly didn’t make it beyond the makeshift workshop floor we’d staked out behind the reception desk- an occupational hazard, I’m told, when working with an unpredictable medium like digital technology. However, this did not detract from the overall fun of the event as participants still found new and creative ways to make use of their workout space, under the watch of a floating robot named OLO, fashioned from a weather balloon.

Kudos to organisers, Hwa Young Jung and Neil Winterburn, the attention to detail in the planning was impressive, from The RoboGames’ distinctive pixel logos, to the theme music composed by Alex Germains, as well as the energetic sports commentary provided by Dave Mee and Dan Farrimond, dressed in their Match of the Day finest. Not to mention Re-Dock’s roping in of expert pals across Liverpool’s digital community from Does Liverpool to LJMU’s Graphic Arts department. Like any great team sport, this was truly a group effort.

dave-and-danWhen asked about the creation of their art and their focus on encouraging audience collaboration, I’ve once heard these artists remark that their work could be described as “just fancy framing”, a modest comment that doesn’t give due credit for the skill involved in the design of activities like these but one that does reflect their belief in co-creation of work with communities, where- rather than producing artworks in isolation- they act as facilitators of artistic experiences who invite participants to engage as collaborators and co-creators. Put simply, the kind of art that Re-Dock produce is often one that occurs through participation, where technology is not merely functional but can also become art when audiences interact imaginatively with this media.

Though the rise of Fitbits, exercise apps and the increasing use of digital media within competitive sport, many gym users are already comfortable with technical interfaces, so technology is not necessarily out of place within this context. However, through GYM JAMS, Re-Dock have attempted to shift the axis of expectation when visiting a space like a leisure centre, using innovative digital inventions and encouraging community participation to open up creative new ways for visitors to approach exercise and make use of this workout space. A far cry from the vapid squash courts of my youth, the result is a day of creative sports that not even the most seasoned couch potato could resist.

Gym Jams



Happy Birthday RVT

We’re proud to announce that Re-Dock has been awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery to develop a creative research project around the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London.

project that celebrates the Royal Vauxhall Taverns’ historic importance as a site for LGBT culture, innovation in entertainment and influence on wider British popular culture.  Framed around the venue’s 151st birthday, it will enable participants to have the opportunity to share, reflect on and learn about the last 60 years of social change for LGBT people, and how this has affected attitudes and changed lives in the UK.

Through the project, we will be collecting oral histories from a wide range of people with connections to the RVT, making a short film, collaborating with Duckie’s Youth Group on a performance based on the research, and creating a pop-up exhibition mapping key events at the RVT, the Vauxhall community and LGBT history.

We’ll be posting regular updates here as well as on the project website which you can see here.



Community Filmmaking Conference

On the 22nd and 23rd Jan I attended a conference at the BFI on community filmmaking, part of a research study aiming to contribute to the debate around community filmmaking and cultural diversity by exploring how cultural diversity intersects with community filmmaking and the results of this intersection in terms of representations and identities as well as practices and innovation. The research is being undertaken by Brunel University, Kings College London and the University of London. It has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. The website for the project is here.

It was intense few days, and for me, interesting, looking at filmmaking practice from a more academic perspective. There were a lot of great speakers and debates and I think the best way to represent them here is for me to note some of the stand out ones that relate to Re-Dock and our work practice.

Taking time out to listen and think about community filmmaking practice in relation to filmmaking and the standard norms and expectations that this brings, was a really useful thing to do. In general, I do what I do, because its enjoyable, fun, creative, collaborative and facilitates learning and sharing. The process of community filmmaking for me is about finding an approach that works in relation to the subject matter. Collaborating on a variety of community stories, facilitates a certain amount of experimentation, which may or may not work, but has the chance to touch upon a spark of something unique, and there’s often a sense of freedom and energy that comes with that. This often conflicts with the standard filmmaking practices, but I don’t think these processes should be any less celebrated.

This thought process featured in many of the presentations, such as from Daniel Ashton who focused on diverse ways of storytelling, using the BBC’s ‘Britain in a Day‘ which offered possibilities of sharing, but not in terms of production expectation, using online tutorials to encourage people to follow established practices, highlighting a tension between the filmmakers and the editor. Where as, the ability the peruse different aesthetics should be celebrated.

David Buckingham, (Loughborough University) put forward an argument that questioned the media revolution, saying that actually what was happening was rather more mundane, asking questions such as who is participating? Is it just the usual suspects? And are there any digital divides? He suggested that everyday users tend to be ignored and that we should defend banality.

He also looked at community media in a broader context, looking at the overlaps between amateur professional community, semi professional and professional filmmaking.

Eileen Leahy (Trinity College,Dublin)
Looked at positives and negatives of community filmmaking and how although having positive aims, often causes of inequality are not addressed and social inclusion terms are ill defined and that films are often made looking through a middle class lense. However, there are some benefits, such as allowing commutes to reclaim physical spaces, bringing different people and communities together, and empowering people through sharing stories and looking at the world in a different way.

Elieen also raised Questions of authorship – films are made in complex ways ad who owns it when it is finished? The community rarely own the film or have a say in how it’s made. It’s the issue of power for community groups to own the films they produce, even if they are not bothered particularly about the end result.

Thinking back, I’ve seen community film projects that have (with all good intentions) been developed by committee, with the end result being worthy and failing to do justice to the subject matter. It’s always a balance, but if you think about something too much, you can always think of a reason not to do it, and in this line of work, there’s a lot to be said for spontaneity and surprise and we shouldn’t loose sight of that. I think the lessons to be learnt here are that many of these arguments are just part of the process of filmmaking and that our approach at Re-Dock should always to keep respect at the forefront of our work.



Exhibition walkthrough – Can You Hear Me? I Can See You!

An 18 minute single shot walk-through of the new Re-Dock exhibition at FACT Liverpool – ‘Can You Hear Me? I Can See You!’. See the space, learn about the works, meet the project team and the artists involved – all in one epic take.

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Up Periscope!

As part of the ‘Can You Hear Me? I Can See You!’ exhibition, I have created a laser-cut periscope to assist in viewing some of the works, namely my own installation, the Skype Advice Portal.

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Can You Hear Me? I Can See You!

Our new exhibition – Can You Hear Me? I Can See You! – will open in the FACT Connects space in the foyer of the building on Light Night, May 17 2013.

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Skype Advice Portal

Skype Advice Portal is an interactive video installation, created for the ‘Can You Hear Me? I Can See You!’ exhibition at FACT Liverpool.

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Moston Small Cinema – Finding its Feet

Feels a good time to write an update about the Moston Small Cinema project – the community screening facility we built in a former miners wash-house in North Manchester.

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The iPad camera as a portal

As part of the PORTAL project, we’ve been working with Tenantspin to deliver workshops supporting sheltered housing residents in using iPads. Our approach to this has been to frame the device as the latest step in a series of technological innovations experienced in the life-times of the residents. We have also been discussing possibilities of telepresence, and the ideas expressed through science fiction literature and film, to question to what extent these devices are now present in our everyday lives.

This week we looked at using the video camera function of the iPad, with a view to recording video messages.

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Knots in our heads

Concept Maps are ‘graphical tools for organising and representing knowledge’ They were developed by Joseph D Novak at Cornell University to help students visualise how their new learning could be assimilated with their existing ‘cognitive structure’. Sowa places them within the context of knowledge visualisation diagrams, alongside Semantic nets and Mind Maps. Read more…



Story of Moston Small Cinema

We recently created A Small Cinema in Moston. Below is a potted history of the project.

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