Archive for the 'Evaluation' Category

The eleven days of creation


Photo by Otto Saxinger

A short project description and a selection of images from our recent project The eleven days of creation for the Festival of Regions 2011 in Attnang Puchheim has been posted onto the website.

Masterplan – Documentation

A project description for Masterplan, our recent intervention in Graz for the steirischer herbst 2010, has now been uploaded onto the site. Additional documentation and a digital download of the accompanying publication will be added over the next few days.

Infecting The City Festival – Documentation

A project report and selected documentation relating to our work in South Africa for the Infecting the City Festival in Cape Town has now been posted online.

1. Introduction / areas of investigation / project partners
2. The Khoisan take-away
3. Living memorials

Pub-twinning – A short summary of events

Regulars’ is an interactive installation that takes place between two pubs in the Lake District and two pubs located in the rural Bavarian region of Chiemgau. A screen, microphone and camera are installed at each location, a live web-cam that ‘twins’ two pubs together for the duration of the festival; virtual regulars and parallel realities, propping up the bar.

On the 16th of October the experiment ‘regulars’ was officially opened in four pubs, The Old Crown and The Black Swan in Cumbria, and Gasthaus Schellenberg and Gasthof zur Post in Chiemgau. The start of a relationship like this was never going to be easy, what do you say when suddenly placed face to face with a complete stranger who is actually standing over 1000km away, but after the expected awkward beginnings and a few technical hitches the project took off.

After sixteen eventful days the project came to an end, having surpassed and confounded many of the expectations, doubts and reservations that many of us had been having in the run up to the event.

In the end none of the four pubs wanted us to switch the installation off.

The following report offers a summary of some of the events that took place.

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Communication

“Pure communication” “Revolutionary!”
Rita Gonzales, Gasthof zur Post

The video conferencing equipment used in the experiment is not really designed for a pub environment. So people adapted and found alternative ways to communicate with one another over the hubbub of a lively pub. From day one regulars were dancing with each other, using blackboards to write messages and even playing with puppets. When nobody knew quite what to say or do they would simply raise their pint, do a thumbs-up or send a small wave.

“At first you expect it to function like a television, and you get a surprise when people start waving at you! It takes a while before you realise that this is live, that they are also watching you” Markus, Gasthaus Schellenberg

During quieter moments people had the chance to engage in more ‘normal’ conversations with one another, introducing themselves, exchanging small talk, telling stories or even sharing a more intimate, personal moment. One lady, having taken a fancy to somebody in Germany, crouches over the camera to exclaim that, “All English men are bastards!” Some of the locals in England took time to learn a few Bavarian words, and on one occasion a group of language students in Obing went to the pub to brush up on their English conversation skills.

A lot of project related communication also took place away from the installation itself, as Anglo-Germanic relations became a typical topic of conversation between regulars. Connections and memories started to come out of the woodwork. The ‘war’ popped up now and then, but not as much as some had expected.

The closest friendships were inevitably formed between those who worked at the four pubs, a tired drink late at night or a small chat while doing the hoovering. Even the two pub dogs in Hesket Newmarket and Bergen started exchanging the odd bark to form a long distance relationship. Routines and rhythms started to become familiar as regulars started being very matter of fact about their twin pub, and at times even quite protective, as if they had known each other for years.

We had made sure that our encrypted video link was not recorded and could not be viewed by any third party, but one of our biggest questions at the start of the project remained: How intrusive would this technology/form of communication be, when placed within a pub environment?

Being told that everybody seemed to accept the technology actually quite surprised me, especially in the current panoptic climate of surveillance. Maybe this was due to the fact that unlike a surveillance camera this was a two-way interaction, an honest form of voyeurism in which both parties could watch one another. Malcolm at The Old Crown described how the actual technology used in the experiment seemed to disappear or become a non-issue. The screen was simply viewed as a window, and the project was defined more through its humanity than its technology.

Despite hearing that nobody had objected to the installation, you could see that not everybody was entirely comfortable in front of the camera. On a personal level I also found communicating with the device strange and at times a little anti-social. It felt like being in a kind of bubble. I became conscious of my raised voice and of how the screen diverted my focus of attention and concentration away from my immediate environment.

I had thought that the sense of humour in Bavaria and Cumbria would prove quite similar, but this may not always be the case. Robert from the Gasthaus Schellenberg tells me that the Bavarian humour comes across as a bit more ‘raw’, and sometimes seemed to put people off in England, bringing a premature end to the communication.

You wonder if this kind of twinning between different public localities will become commonplace in the future, as similar technologies become more affordable and possibly more popular. Could this be utilised as a beneficial communicative tool, or would the continued presence of such devices only serve to disrupt (or redefine) the way in which we interact with one another in social situations?
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Exchange

“Like throwing a pebble in a pond”
Malcolm Hawksworth, The Old Crown

We had tried our best to get the project off to a good start, organising an exchange of locally brewed ales and providing each pub with some basic information about the region and pub they would soon be twinning with. Once the project got underway the pubs started to take things into their own hands, initiating and participating in additional ‚exchanges’, staging events, sharing pub traditions and starting to build up a relationship with their twin pub.

Pubs were decorated with Bavarian or English flags and plastered with pictures, information and announcements and the sound of local musicians was streamed across cyberspace into partner pubs. An international pub quiz at The Black Swan and Gasthof zur Post went down so well that pub quizzes may become a regular fixture in Bavaria, cake was flown in from Bavaria and shared out to the regulars in Cumbria, sausages headed in the other direction. The Black Swan offered Bavarian ‚Spätzle’ to their guests, using a machine sent by John and Rita in Germany, while guests at Gasthaus Schellenberg may be the first people in Germany to learn the unique 7-nail game from The Old Crown. Guests in Gasthof zur Post took pleasure in commenting on the fact that they could still smoke at the bar, while in England the regulars would have to stand outside.

How long this young relationship between two pub communities will last remains to be seen, though people from all locations have already made plans to visit one another in the near future. At the very least the project has added another small chapter to each pubs history.

The other form of exchange took place between two conceptual artists and four rural communities. The project (and festival) inevitably encountered a variety of reactions, generating discussions about the disputed value of this kind of work, about how we might define art, and about the relationship between money and creating art. It’s not a bad exercise trying to justify your existence!.

Generations

One interesting and unexpected development was the revelation that older people, at least in Gasthaus Schellenberg, had interacted more with the technology and seemed more interested and intrigued by the project than younger visitors to the pub. Has the project served to create a bridge of understanding and interest between an older generation, who were more likely to view the video link as a small wonder, and a younger generation who may already be using this form of communication on a regular basis? Has placing this technology in a social environment made it more accessible, or perhaps simply more playful?
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Media interest

A collection of press cuttings can be found here
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Thanks

We were very lucky to work with four fantastic pubs. Each pub put a lot of energy, time and resources into the project, bringing the relationship to life in their own individual ways. Without people like Malcolm, Pat, Louise, Laura, Alan, Robert, Markus, Rita and John (and many more), a project like this may would not have worked out the way it did.

Special thanks go to Tandberg Communications for their support installing the equipment and for being truly wonderful project partners, to Armistead European for transporting the beer to and from Germany, and of course to the FRED Festival for commissioning the project in the first place.

Taking a story for a walk

Writing a story into the city, 23.07.08, Stuttgart

I bought ‘The Invisible Cities’ by Italo Calvinho and set off from just outside the bookshop, in front of the art museum in Stuttgart. I wanted to write all of these short stories into the city, and made it as far as the 8th chapter. Perhaps the most interesting encounter came when somebody told me that my actions were legal, as long as the city officially recognised them as art.

The event was enacted in parallel with Kinga Araya who was similtaneously walking the Berlin Wall.

1 book, 7 cities, 8 chapters, 21 pages
5 kilos of chalk in my backpack and a camera
9 and 1/2 hours of writing
(interspersed by a variety of very welcome conversations)
Between 1km and 2 km of text
1 pizza
1 ginger beer
2 beautiful portraits
20 Euros stuffed in my pocket
1 heart cut from a dress
39 types of concrete
147 pieces of chalk worn down
4 young illustrators in the park
At least 40 conversations, 2 of which are not friendly
Well wishers, paparazzi, mockers, readers, wanderers, watchers
Give one packet of chalk to a family
Come back with about 3.15 kilos of chalk
and 170 pages remaining
2 numb feet

A detailed report regarding some of the specific encounters and experiences I made will be posted here after I’ve recovered!

A few extra images

Homezone – Erlangen 06.08


Photo: Kaspar (Rubbing a circle of scent into Erlangen)

Homezone, an area defined by mobile telephone networks and based on my residential address.

For the ARENA Festival in Erlangen I agreed to document and interact with the ‘Festival Homezone‘. For three days I invited people entering our Homezone to a nice cup of tea, mapped out an interlocking network of resident’s Homezones, conducted interviews on the streets, and led a group expedition around the perimeters of this virtual boundary.

Group expedition
27.06.08

The Erlangen Festival Homezone has a diameter of 1,7km, and happens to run along the old city walls, though this is perhaps not surprising, given that the Theatre is next to the old town square. My first walk around the Erlangen Homezone took place on Wednesday the 25th of June, shortly after the Euro 2008 semi-final between Germany and Turkey. The sight of people pissing along the boundaries of our Homezone helped me decide what exercise I would like to conduct as a group activity.

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Writing and reading a line into the city; a border; a boundary:

We armed ourselves with lemons, nutmegs, ginger, garlic, vinegar, oranges and lavender. We rubbed a ring of scent into the streets of Erlangen. Like dogs leaving a scent or marking out their territory.

We let other stories, associations and coincidences cross, join or interact with our line/journey. We looked for other territorial markings or references.

Could we perceive a difference between the outside and inside of our zone, outsiders and insiders? How do our territorial actions affect these perceptions? Are we informing or mis-informing ourselves? Place as a place of perception.

What is it like if you come into this space as a guest? What kind of host are we walking through?
Vodpod videos no longer available.
I wasn’t sure how much the walk would also function as a drift (reading into the city), partly due to the task we had to complete (writing into the city), and partly due to the way in which we were doing this as a group rather than a solitary activity.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear of the many varied accounts from the four returning expeditions (each group scenting a quarter of the line to complete the circle). Alongside the playful mis-perceptions towards outsiders and insiders, there was a greater emphasis on the political reading of the activity than I perhaps expected, including the possible implications of such commercial and technologically defined boundaries within our living environment.

On a personal note, I found myself becoming less ‘aware’ of some of the contradictions and coincidences that the city was offering me, and more engrossed on the task in hand. I also found myself becoming increasingly territorial/aggressive, rubbing garlic provocatively in front of doorways or at nose height, breaking certain social acceptance barriers and having fun doing it.

One older participant encountered an elderly resident who objected to the apparent waste of food used to conduct the activity, leading to a debate between the participating group and the offended party. To a post-war perspective that takes food as a matter of survival, a potentially offensive and flippant game. I don’t know exactly how this debate was resolved.

ARENA Festival – Documentation/Report
ARENA Festival – Rubbing a circle of scent – Review
Homezone – Full project description

Homezone – Erlangen 06.08 – Review

An article about a Homezone event, written by Alina Bongk and Linda Vogt, and translated by Nora Vogt, for the independant ARENA Festival magazine.

,,02 can do!”

Kaspar has invited us to his homezone. We meet at three o’clock in the afternoon and are asked to take a seat. The table is full of oranges, lemon, ginger, garlic, vinegar, nutmeg … O.K, it’s obviously going to be about scent, but what has this got to do with Kaspar’s homezone? We wait for an explanation.

Kaspar wants to explore the spaces that are defined by mobile telephone networks. O2 ‚homezones’. He came to Erlangen to explore these invisible borders, taking the Markgrafen Theatre as the centre-point for the ARENA Festival Homezone (for further information about the exact extension of these zones just check the O2 homepage).

A recent experience seems to have influenced the project. After the European Championship semi-final he had to witness the city-centre of Erlangen being transformed into a huge public toilet. So he declared that drawing territorial lines based on scent would be the basic principle of this event.

Now it’s time to act: Four groups are formed. Each group is given a map, on which is drawn a circle, indicating the borders of the festival homezone. Each group is allocated a quarter of this circular route, along which they are asked to create a border using the different materials. This is basically the only instruction – what matters is the individual exploration of this newly defined space; What differences do the group perceive between the inside and the outside of their home zone? What thoughts are going through our minds as we draw the line, claiming territory and by doing so making the home zone our personal property?

Two hours later we meet again, full of new experiences and impressions. Senses have been sharpened and the issue of boundaries in public space have been considered. People we met on our journey were asked to spontaneously take a family portrait with us – after all they were at “our place”. Are there private places within the public realm? How would this influence an individual’s behaviour?

The project can be seen as a product of our time: 02’s conception of home zones redefines space and border in a new way, by using modern technologies. Place is constructed by invisible barriers. The difference between public and private space is no longer perceptible.

Kaspar takes interest in public spaces, encounters between people and the interactions between the individual and space. In Stuttgart Kaspar walks around his original homezone, talking to people and observing his environment. When doing so he does not define himself as a performer, but as an artist initiating interaction. Jury member Serge Boulier uses a metaphor to describe Kaspar’s work: The participants are Kaspar’s brush, and the city is his canvas.

Indeed, something has been created today. We observed, interacted and left traces. An amazing experience.




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