One of the goals of Maker Faire is to blur and break down the boundaries between ‘art’ and ‘technology’ – to us, and to many of our Makers, the two fields are complimentary rather than mutually exclusive. When you combine the traditional theory and practice of art with opportunities and ideas introduced by new technology, magical things happen: knitting robots, musical ping-pong tables, 3D printed sculptures – all are a result of technology plus art.
So it’s delightful to see the incorporation of science and technology into respected and popular works in the traditional art world. This weekend marks the end of the annual Brighton Festival – an internationally renowned arts and culture festival – and this year’s program featured some intriguing and hugely enjoyable interactive works which were created at the intersection of science and art.
Two of the featured artists rely on audience participation to bring their installations to life. William Forsythe’s Nowhere and Everywhere At the Same Time No. 2 is both the most expansive and the most physically engaging work on display at the festival: a huge derelict warehouse is filled with hundreds of steel pendulums hanging from the ceiling which participants walk through and between, dancing and dodging to avoid getting bashed by swinging pendulums or entangled in their strings. It’s a sublime mixture of physics and performance art (with the participants as the performers) and as fun for young kids as it is for cultured art-lovers.
The other participatory installations, by Jacob Dahlgren and installed at the Fabrica contemporary art gallery, use commonplace man-made objects to highlight the pervasive influence of mass-production technology in our everyday lives, and to encourage us to look for new ways of repurposing and interacting with everyday items. In The Wonderful World of Abstraction participants walk across a huge square of floorspace covered in over 700 sets of identical multicoloured bathroom scales, while in Heaven is a Place on Earth they walk through a space filled by thousands of metres of ribbon hung from the ceiling, getting lost and trapped in an area of pure colour and tactility created from an innocuous everyday item.
Zimoun’s Sound in Motion is another installation which repurposes everyday objects into engaging audience experiences – two pieces on display at the University of Brighton Gallery use hundreds of DC motors (a favourite component of Makers and hardware hackers) to create immersive sound installations out of nothing but cardboard boxes, cotton balls and pieces of wire. This video will give you a better idea of how effective such a simple application of technology can be:
The Brighton Mini Maker Faire is part of the Brighton Digital Festival – the other major cultural festival in Brighton which takes place annually in September, at the opposite end of the events calendar to the arts-focussed Brighton Festival. Although the Brighton Digital Festival is primarily a celebration of digital culture, there is also a huge number of events which also blend technology with traditional arts (including the Brighton Mini Maker Faire itself). The amount of crossover between these two big events in the Brighton festival calendar is an encouraging sign of the increasing lack of division between art and technology, and also promises to facilitate the discussion and understanding of how each inherently influences the other: a fact which becomes increasingly more important in today’s digital culture, especially for young people who have the potential to become the artists and technologists (and artist/technologists) of tomorrow.