Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramovic support UK platform for digital artists (Wired UK)


The Space
The Space


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The Space will commission renowned artists to
explore new digital methods of creating, and seek out new talent
from across the globe working in fields as seemingly disparate as
coding and sculpting. The launch has already attracted the likes of
David Hockney, commissioned to create an iPad animation
demonstrating his techniques; Marina Abramovic, who will give the
public a sneak peek of her 512 Hours Serpentine exhibit everyday on
The Space at midnight; and Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei,
who is contributing the names of the more than 5,000 students that
died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and whose memories the
government tried to case aside, to a 24 -hour hackathon starting 13
June in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The most exciting part of
the launch? What happens next, when a world of unknowns gets the
chance to be commissioned by The Space. 

Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramovic and David Hockney are just three of the incredible artists that
contributed to the launch of The
Space
today, a platform designed to explore digital art and all
its potential. 

“We are living through the most profound technological shift,”
commented Alex Graham, Chair of The Space, at the platform’s Tate
Modern launch. “Artists have always been at the forefront of major
technological shifts, right from the printing press. And we wanted
to create a space for artists to brave this world.”

The Space is a not-for-profit group founded by the BBC and the
Arts Council of England, with former director of the London 2012
Cultural Olympia Ruth Mackenzie onboard as Launch Director and
content curator. But its latest collaborator, the Open Data
Institute (ODI), is perhaps the most telling addition to this
digital clan hoping to propel new artforms forward. Because, like
the data the London-based team wants to liberate, to be hacked and
moulded into new solutions for the good of everybody, The Space is
not just for the Ai Weiweis and David Hockneys of this world. The
idea behind The Space is to use the foundations of the internet,
designed to democratise information for everyone, to do the same
for art, too long a harbour for elitism.

It’s why there is a second, perhaps more important facet to The
Space than the highbrow commissions that will see Marina Abramovic
taking images from behind closed-doors at midnight during
her 512 Hours Serpentine show (they will be the
only photos from the piece, taken by Abramovic when the public has
left and posted to The Space every night) and Ai Weiwei and Olafur
Eliasson’s The Moon, a web-based artwork the public can
add to, that will be projected in the Turbine Hall 13-14 June. Of
the commissions that will be launched every week from today, there
will be contributions from unknowns that are invited to pitch new
digital works. Anyone, anywhere across the globe aged 18 and over
can submit their ideas up until the noon deadline, 11 July.
Shortlisted candidates will be chosen on 11 August, and they will
then have until 15 September to deliver a more detailed pitch.

“We’re expecting 50 commissions a year and will showcase well
known artists and unknowns from the world of code, technology,
digital or the creative industries,” said Mackenzie. “We believe in
talent in whatever form it may come, from wherever in the
world.”

“The point of this site is that we are experimenting, growing
new ideas and talent. I don’t think every one will succeed. I don’t
think it should. The point is to share that process of
experimentation, to get people to enjoy and debate. And we hope to
find some extraordinary talent.”

This premise will begin — with the support of the ODI and 3beards — with a 24-hour
hackathon opening this evening in the Turbine Hall and ongoing on
14 June. The brief is as open as it gets — “take any data and turn
it into a work of art” — but will make use of data sets provided
by the Tate, the ODI and more.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has contributed a particularly poignant
data set — a list of the names of 5,196 students that
died in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 when schools collapsed,
allegedly because of substandard construction. For years WeiWei
pushed for the government to deliver an explanation and launch an
investigation. It did not. Weiwei launched his own digital hunt for
the truth, and activists joined to track down all the unreleased
names. Today, he has delivered those names, and a haunting audio
track of himself shouting out each of them.

“It will be quite a challenge for our hackers, but what a
brilliant opportunity for them,” said Mackenzie.

Speaking on camera from his Beijing studio, the artist and
activist said: “Thanks to The Space for launching this beautiful
project. I think this is great. It gives another opportunity and a
platform for artists or somebody like me to work with. I believe
many, many young people and students will love it. I also think
many interesting works will come along with this project. Let’s
make an effort: a world with more possibilities and new ways to
communicate and express ourselves.”

For cofounder of the ODI Sir Nigel Shadbolt, the hackathon
and The Space typify what they’ve been working towards since
inception.

“Tim’s vision is to see the web as humanity connected. Where the
values we are trying to achieve are universal and accessible, with
no walled gardens.

“The ODI was founded round the idea that data is often described
as the new oil — but it’s much more interesting than fossil fuel.
It’s a renewable, super abundant source, and it’s about how we
bring our imaginations to bear on using that. We see data as an
essential part of the spirit of creating art.”

ODI CEO Gavin Starks explained the challenge ahead, of grappling
with huge data sets that are set to double each year, and how that
will affect the world.

“It’s about bringing together the different skills to open up
what that means. One of the first things we did when ODI was
founded, was commission artworks — because we need to ask the
cultural questions at the outset. How do we relate to this? Where
is the Banksy of the online world, adding a bit of graffiti on the
wall of a website? How do we stumble upon art in an online place?
It’s fantastic The Space has such a remit to go and play and fail
and succeed.”

“In the 90s we didn’t do a good job of taking society with us
[on the web],” he added. “Now we can include everyone in this
questioning of what the next 25 years of the web is going to look
like.”

Some of the most exciting commissions already granted include a
Google Hangout theatre experiment produced by Elastic Future. It
will involve actors that have never met in real life, but rehearsed
online from their respective homes in London, Barcelona and Lagos.
The production, Longitude, will feature three
20-minute episodes.

“It’s a new way of working,” said Elastic Future director Erin
Gilley. “We’ve experienced all sorts of technical hurdles. We’ve
repurposed Google Hangouts for something it’s not designed to do.
But if more people make work this way, more tools will become
available and maybe it will become more stable, which will allow
for control, expression and nuance.”

“Digital is remaking everything in world, and we want to make
sure theatre is not left behind.”

The public will also be invited to curate John Peel’s archive,
with each addition going into the “Box” (to be unveiled in August).
will.i.am has been asked to create a new score to be played on
an interactive digital musical instrument he has been working on
with Yuri Suzuki for a Barbican exhibit this summer, and there will
also be a piece from the National Theatre of Scotland called
Yes No I Don’t Know Show round this year’s referendum
for independence, which Mackenzie says shows “art can be at the
centre of political debate, a way we can get inspiration”. The ODI
will make its own contribution, a piece of art produced by Julie
Freeman using data from Zooniverse.

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The Space is live here
now.

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13 June 2014 | 1:18 pm – Source: wired.co.uk
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