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Electric Cinema, Birmingham


Last week I went to the Electric Cinema in

Birmingham to attend a seminar on the Digital Funding Partnership – a scheme to allow independent  cinemas to  get on board the ‘digital revolution’. It seemed to me to be both a revolution and an apocalypse, depending if your cinema survived. Either way, it really hit home that in 3-5 yrs the landscape of cinema would be completely different. There would be no new 35mm films made for distribution. The ‘old’ model of cinema is on its way out.



I was there due to my involvement with the local Plaza Cinema but I also used it as a chance to research the Electric Cinema itself as part of our NAN Go And See bursary to explore different models of cinema. The Electric Cinema is in someways the perfect example of a small commercial cinema, that combines traditional aesthetics and values with new technology.

The UK’s ‘oldest working cinema’, the building was bought in 2004 by Tom Lawes,  and renovated it to include a small screen and a studio for his media production work.

Since then , a new screen has been added, as well as  digital projectors and 3D alongside the existing 35mm. It has, in a sense, the best of both worlds that  the Odean  (now owned by the american UCI chain) can’t provide – the traditional british charm of cinema, but with the facility to show the latest films, and build a personal relationship wth the audience.


Tom, who runs the Electric Cinema, is by nature a cinephile, interested in not on film, but the changing landscape of cinema exhibition. He is producing a film on the history of the building, and the people who worked in it. See the trailer below.



Hull Residency


What a brilliant week!

I spent all of last week in Hull taking part in the Digital Media Labs touchscreen residency  along with 9 other artists it was excellent.

This opportunity was mastermided by Benedict Philips who is lead artist for a new NHS health centre in Hull.  There are so many positive things to report back that I think I will have to resort to bullet points:

* most important thing I have taken away – Digital Media Labs was a real ‘LAB’ experience – carefully selected collaborators, genuine open-ended experimentation and terrific support team
* we used really simple tool on the first day – Prezi – so that we could quickly try out ideas on the screens
* a lot of  the artists present, despite never having worked with code before, developed  functioning examples in the Processing language by the end of the week
* there was no pressure to produce a finished piece of work and or to consider wider implications – we were simply trusted to be artists and experiment with the technology.

There’s really no way I can even begin to talk about all of the brilliant work people made here – follow this link to the blog!



Foregrounding Context

Cultural Heritage Network workshop and presentation:

The process of collectively mapping and modelling, memories and ideas forms a core strand of Re-Docks methodology, and, over the past few months we have been contributing to a series of discussions relating to landscapes, memories and cultural practices, co-ordinated by Liverpool University.

A workshop in February aimed to explore possible ways that locative media technologies might provide interactive access to historical data drawn from GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and mapping-related projects in the arts and humanities.  This session was sponsored by the AHRC and British Telecom.

Myself and Tim gained a huge amount of insight into mapping technologies through listening to the various strategies adopted and developed by different practitioners and we shared our panel – Geographical Content in the Digital Arts – with two very interesting speakers: Taylor Nuttall, CEO of Folly and a super-energetic Chris Speed.

Taylor explained the role Folly have played in attempting to broker between physical and digital landscapes, blurring the boundaries.

Various iterations of the Portable Pixel Playground project demonstrate Folly’s commitment to combining aspects of play and technology in a new-media landscape and one of their current initiatives – LoveCulture – attempts to collate and share audience dialogues across cultural organisations through the use of an embedded cultural icon.

Dr Chris Speed, from Edinburgh College of Art, whistled through an impressive array of projects, proposing a nearfuture of augmented reality where everything will be tagged and “everything will know where everything is.”

One pioneering project in this landscape is – Tales of Things – which makes use of freely available QR barcoding to digitally attach stories and memories to inanimate objects via multimedia hyperlinks.

Tales of Things will be launched during the forthcoming FutureEverything festival in Manchester and shoppers at the Oxfam on Oxford Road will be able to record 30 second tales relating to the objects they donate. It will also be possible to scan items in-store, with embeded stories being played over the shops PA system!

Another project – Walking through Time – allows users of smartphones to navigate the city of Edinburgh both geographically AND ALSO temporally, digging down into history and calling into question Sat-Nav’s obsession with ‘NOW!’

During our slot, we shared some of Re-Dock’s ‘hands-on’ approaches to cultural mapping activities, working with simple props and digital metaphors.  We discussed the ways in which physical, lo-tech props, in our experience, reduced barriers to participation, and we also emphasised the way in which each of our projects brings specific (and subjective) local, contexts to the fore.

There was a strong contrast between the lo-fi flavour of the artworks we presented and the more technologically focused projects from the other researchers later in the day and this led to a very stimulating discussion around access: historical data-sets are often tied up in issues of IP and copyright & in terms of new technology – this can still be daunting for many people who feel that they lack technological know-how.

These points (and many more) will be picked up at our next Cultural Heritage Network session, which takes place in Liverpool on the 21st of May 2010.

Notes on all of the talks from Feb 10 can be found here:



Re-Dock Research

Over the coming year we want to make it possible to share more of the things that we discover in the course of our research led practice – our processes, data and source material.

As a starting point for this we have recently begun researching alternative models for cinema screenings in order to establish possible new strategies for A Small Cinema (which is both a cinematic event and a practical investigation).  This research has been made possible through a Go And See bursary from Artists Network.

Follow this link to find out more:



Culture Lab, Newcastle

Between 27th and 29th of November we spent some time at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab, examining our four major projects from 2009 and undertaking a very rigorous end of year review.

We took 3 strands of enquiry:

1.  Collaboration and Collaborative Tools
2.  Organisation, Organisations and Agendas
3.  Art – Inspiration, Doing/Making/ (Re)presentation

These 3 inquiry themes were, in a sense, lenses with which to examine our work.

We wanted to revisit our projects and consider:  – What were the FACTORS which threatened, jeopardised or damaged these projects?  – What STRATEGIES and TACTICS might we adopt as principles to prevent, dodge or limit these factors?

Through careful analysis of this knowledge, we think that it will be possible to build a kind of handbook or RE-DOCK toolkit…

Importantly, we want to make sure that fellow artists, communities and organisations are able to benefit from our activity.  We will be sharing the many outcomes of this evaluation over the course of 2010

***** WATCH THIS SPACE! *****



Where Do You Go?

As part of the Make Your Own Liverpool project myself and John worked on in April, the young people added places that they went in Liverpool. This city-scape lacked a Liver Building, but had no shortage of McDonalds and Primarks.