What drew you to creating an interactive projection piece?
Gwyn: It was an idea hatched from watching other people playing around with this technology and being curious to try it out for ourselves. We had explored using live performance in our work previously but the challenge to try out using new technology was really appealing. This idea of creating an interactive projection felt the most achievable, something we could explore and get creative with, as well as produce to a high quality in the time we had to develop it.
Emma: I find it difficult committing to using a particular medium, I love exploring interactive art using different mediums and tech, and this project gave me the scope to explore a vast range within it. At University, the few interactive projects I’d done used physical mediums, involving collaborative storytelling and prompt-based feedback. This was an exciting project to explore and bridge the gap between digital artwork and physical interaction.
There are lots of different age ranges represented in this piece, why is representation important to show through your art?
Emma: For myself as a disabled person, looking historically at the exclusion of disabled people from the arts sphere, from access to galleries, to the curation of an exhibition, I found out that disabled people make up 22% of the population but only represent 1 in 100 artists (it might even be less than this). I think there is an importance for everybody to see themselves represented, especially people that are usually completely ignored in these spaces and I want to be a part of this push in making change. The art world nowadays is looking towards making spaces that are equitable to everybody. This is as a result of the hard changes people have pushed and still continue to push.
Gwyn: It is really important to see yourself represented and see yourself with other people around you, it reminds everyone we are all in this community together. When you come across an interactive space and see yourself or people like you represented, you are much more likely to take part yourself and enjoy the experience of taking part.
Emma: We looked at DanceEast’s offerings, and saw they had a wide range of courses and workshops for different ages. I really wanted to reflect this community building across age boundaries through the work we were creating. We wanted to make sure that it was at the heart of the piece.
The abstract motions projected represent the relationship between the digital and the physical. What do you think the future of digital technology in arts spaces looks like?
Gwyn: This is the big debate right now, it happens whenever new innovations become more readily available. It happened with the invention of the camera for example. It is a pandora’s box, there are hang ups which come with it. How much have you created if you’ve allowed a computer to do work for you? There are so many opportunities to be explored though. We need to be open to finding out what we get out of this technology. The soul isn’t in the tool, it’s in what you put in whilst using the tool.
Emma: Digital facilities can be useful for the arts and another route to making art spaces more accessible. Something I got into on my fine art degree was the concept of digital curation. I’ve never had a lot of disposable income and the concept of curation is usually a very expensive one. One thing I found fascinating, especially as I was in the second year of my degree during lockdown and having to adapt, there was this sudden boom in the uptake of digital gallery spaces. It is an interesting concept and root into various industries from a point you might not be able to access otherwise. Curation requires resources, including space and equipment, but with digital art spaces there is a lot more fluidity with what you can do with digital art. There is such a range of capacities it gives artists as a tool.
Do you think digitalising art makes is more accessible?
Emma: Yes and no, there are two sides. The most recent ethics conversations around the digitalisation of art is the problem with people trawling art websites to add artworks to databases, training artificial intelligence (AI’s) to replicate digital art. It is become a real problem that makes it less accessible for disabled artists, people I know are actively seeing dips in engagement with their work, because of AI attempts to replicate what they’re doing at a much lower quality through algorithmically produced art. On the other side, the variation in the amount of things you can do with digital art work does lend itself to accessibility. Providing of course, you are using tools with accessibility features. Digital art is more of a genre, it depends on what branch of digital art you are working with.
Gwyn: Experiencing art digitally is going to give you a different experience from experiencing it physically. It opens so many more new ways to engage with it too. It’s not a perfect one to one replacement to the physical experience, but part of a way you might experience something if you weren’t able to get to a venue and experience it any other way, so that’s definitely good.
Can you talk through some of the technology used in creating Movementus?
Gwyn: Touch designer was the main software used. It’s an open tool, which takes any form of data (audio, photos etc) turning it into code and mixes it with other data to reorganise it. We created a method to record just the motion of the participants. After that, we can apply different effects to it, such as exploring applying colour. Working with Collusion and their programmes was great, as they helped us access new and innovative tech, including Kinect Azure.
Emma: We also explored placing cameras at different angles around the studio, being able to remove the camera from the dancers direct eyeline, making it more comfortable for the performers to interact and perform more naturally.
What did you learn from collaborating with Collusion?
Gwyn: I had come over from games, we have a tendency to make big storyboards of ideas and you have to stick to a plan. There isn’t room to experiment, so what was really nice about Collision was they enabled me to come up with an idea, a base concept, then explore this freely and creatively. I really enjoyed having that freedom to explore ideas.
Emma: After recently gradating, there was an emphasis on us leading the project and it was really nice for my ideas to be treated as professional and they were able to help fill in gaps in my experience. They were really supportive; I’d love to work with them again.
Why was it beneficial to work with a movement director, Laura Williamson Biggs?
Emma: We knew what we wanted to do in terms of the visual outcome, but as we don’t have backgrounds in dance, it was helpful to work with Laura as a translating point. It was a great way to bridge the gap. She came up with some fantastic sequences that worked well in the piece. We tried not to go into the studio with directions, we wanted the dancers to explore their movement in the moment and Laura helped them to do that.
How does working together enable you to inspire each other as artists?
Gwyn: We have different aspects to our practises; I love the joy of creating bits and Emma is good at helping find the link and the end point for these projects. Emma gives me that reassurance to keep following ideas and we put trust in each other so we can support each other with elements of a project.
Emma: It’s nice to have someone that holds you accountable and encourages you. I trust that Gwyn would give me an honest opinion with my work. We do our own individual work quite a lot but see each other’s practise even if we are not involved. I have chronic fatigue so my energy levels vary, however if my health issues are playing up or I’ve mismanaged time, I know I can reach out to Gwyn for the support.
What was the most rewarding part of the project for you?
Gwyn: For me, it was seeing the projection set up in the DanceEast foyer for the first time properly. It was during the holidays, there were people of all ages coming into the building so people were walking by and interacting with it, with no idea we were there watching people interact with something we’ve created – that was cool!
Explore and interact with Emma and Gwyn’s projection Movementus in the DanceEast foyer. Find out more about the Digital Commissions here.