The Battle of Camperdown House

camperdown house with SPK

There’s a report in today’s Dundee Courier that the A-listed, neo-classical Camperdown House, centrepiece to Camperdown Park, Dundee is not going to be accessible to the public anytime soon.

I understand the problems that this must bring to Dundee City Council (DCC). So often cultural projects are criticised for being a waste of money in the face of other, more pressing issues. In this particular case DCC are saying Camperdown House is not as important as other things they have planned and therefore not a priority.

camperdown house dome

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes you can’t please any…

However, I have a little insight into why people would want this building accessible. In October 2013 I was one of a small group who were granted access to the building as part of a collaboration between the McManus Youth Action Group (YAG) and SmallPetitKlein (SPK) contemporary dance who were interpreting our contribution to the National Museum of Scotland’s ‘Sense of Place‘ project.

View more Instagram images from the day here (you will need an Instagram account)

The purpose of the day was for YAG to work on a dance sequence with SPK that would be performed at the opening night of the McManus ‘Sense of Place’ exhibition. I can’t remember why Camperdown House was chosen other than us ‘arty’ folk like to be inspired. Given that it has been closed for so long there was definitely a ‘haunted house’ vibe which also contributed to another SPK production ‘Cut’ – see more below.

The ‘Sense of Place‘ session in Camperdown House went so well that, at the end of the day, I was able to direct a piece of film that captured the dance as well as becoming a template for another film shown in the exhibition.

So, if you would like to see inside of Camperdown House I hope that, to some degree, you can be satisfied by what follows. First you will see the camper down film, followed by the final version filmed out-and-about in Dundee. That film is then followed by scenes from our opening night at McManus where the dance was performed live, leading our audience through the museum – a stunning building in its own right.

Links:

SmallPetitKlein’s production, Cut

Dundee Courier Camperdown House article

Instagram Victoriana

victorians - actors

Fun times were had at The McManus, Dundee’s Museum and Art Gallery last Saturday evening (17 May) as we presented Victoriana Dundee as part of the Festival of Museums.

The Museum, opened late for a special evening and, with the help of Artemis Scotland, brought Victorian Dundee to life once more as the various galleries were hosted by local Victorian celebrities – amongst them, Bessie Maxwell and Marie Imandt told us about their ground breaking journalism for DC Thomson seen here:

My job was to ‘channel’ the spirit of Peter Feathers Jnr who just over 100 years ago was a photographer an filmmaker in the city. The Youth Action Group at McManus had found a lot of inspiration through his work for their Sense of Place project (currently on display at The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh).

victoriana props

Above: Victoriana selfie with my Victoriana props. (I’m not quite that portly) This pic was taken with my GoPro super wide angle camera :/

Bringing some of our ideas from the project together for last Saturday’s event we decided to have a Victorian Photo Booth where our visitors could dress up and we would photograph them and post to Instagram. Given that Peter Feathers has been remembered for his films more than photographs I opted to use an app called Vintagio. Equipped with my authentic Victorian clockwork iPad I took 5 second shots – similar to the moving newspaper images seen in the Harry Potter films. You can see the results on the McManus Instagram page or arch a montage of snippets in the Youtube video below.

victoriana - dressing up

We were very busy for the solid two and half hours – the continual posting to twitter (check out the has tag #FoM2012) didn’t go unnoticed:

So, I heartily recommend any opportunity to encourage folks to dress up and have their picture/movie taken – adults and children alike, I’m sure we could have stayed open for another two hours!

Were you at McManus last weekend – or any other Festival of Museums events? Tell us all about it below…

Death of the Selfie?

group NY selfie

Do you remember when taking a selfie meant using the tiny convex silver blob on the back of your phone as a guide?

Well, the ‘selfie’ is so common place now that at the end of 2013 ‘Selfie’ was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries and even the Pope was in on the act.

Such is the fickle world of fame that having reached the pinnacle the only way is down; and, thanks to a gaggle of the movie world’s finest, it may be that last weekend brought about the beginning of the end for the poor old selfie.

Oscars superfly'd

Whereas the Pope came across as obliging and benevolent the Oscars pic has an embarrassing ‘dad dance’ feel to it. And then, with this being the internet, we see the ugly truth – that no one let Liza Minnelli (at the back in the blue dress) push through!

liza minelli Oscars

The one saving grace was that Matt Groening rattled off a spoof…

simpsons selfie

Pop, as they say, will eat itself!

– – – – – – – – – – –

While working on the the Sense of Place project at Dundee’s McManus we were looking at how cinema developed locally in the early 20th century. At a time when only a few dozen people on the planet had access to a movie camera they were filming the most mundane of activities; people coming out of work; trains coming into stations. It took the magician George Melies to spot the entertainment value of the medium.

With the creation and sharing of photography and video being so ubiquitous and democratised through smart phones and social media we live in a constant avalanche of selfies and dinner plates. But surely it’s the same phenomenon.

It’s interesting that many of the people who complain about the number of people sharing their breakfast on Instagram are also glued to the Great British Bake Off; I’m sure there’s some shared DNA in there somewhere.

And of course the Oscar selfie became the most re-tweeted Tweet of all time with over 2  million RTs before the end of the show.

ancient selfieFinally, my favourite selfie. Apparently the picture on the left dates back to the 1850’s (?). Although it could just be an early iPhone using a grungy Instagram filter. It’s so hard to tell these days.

Exhibition. Reflection. Snacks.

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Tonight (Thursday 6 February) was a reflection evening at the McManus. We were reflecting on the Sense of Place project with our young artists who range from 15 to 18 years old. We hadn’t seen most of them since the show opened so apart from anything else it was just great having them all together again. And there were snacks.

mcmanus feedback 1

I should point out that these young people come outside of school hours. While they have support from school and family, no one is required to come along – they come because they want to.
Tonight in particular demonstrated their enthusiasm because, let’s face it, tonight wasn’t about ‘making and creating’, it was the dull stuff – answering our questions. You could argue they came for the snacks – however, this is not your stereotypical group of 21st century teenagers and they dutifully told us some of what they had learned. The snacks were a mere perk.

Reflection is essential for us as we begin to prepare to think about new projects but it’s extremely rewarding to hear them articulate the impact it has had over the year.

mcmanus feedback 4

So part one of the evening was to answer a series of four questions:

1) What have you learned about your City?
2) What’s the most important thing you learned, or what had the biggest impact on you?
3) Describe a person you met in the City/through the project who made a strong impression on you? (positive or negative)
4) If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

Each question was written on a sheet of A2 paper. The young people divided themselves into four groups; each group sat at each question in turn for four minutes writing bullet-style answers. With the sheets mostly full to bursting (and the snacks already near consumed) we moved on to part two and the final question…

mcmanus feedback 2

Each group took turns to gather in our ‘Electric Theatre’ and spent about five minutes answering the question, “Because of Youth Action Group; Sense of Place, I am…”

These answers are posted here in full. They were aware that we were recording and that we would post them although they hadn’t seen the question until we started recording.

So it’s all here (minus snacks); and not so much an ending but, genuinely, it felt/feels like a new beginning; which is perfect because while everyone was very excited to see their work complete and presented, I don’t think any of us feel so precious that we can’t see past it for the next (BIG) thing. And lets not over look the possibility of more snacks in the future.

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So, if you live near Dundee, ‘Sense of Place’ at The McManus closes tomorrow at 5pm (Friday 7 February) – If you’ve not already been I suggest you hurry up.

 

 

 

My kind of CPD!

McManus CPD Group

The McManus (Dundee’s Museum and Art Gallery) was host to a ‘continuing professional development’ (CPD) session last night. Organised by Angus Arts Co-ordinator Pauline Meikleham, artists and teachers from Angus Council came along to hear about the McManus creative learning programme, the Youth Action Group and the ‘Sense of Place’ project/exhibition (closes Friday, so hurry!).

McManus CPD Feedback

We talked about the practical and digital elements of the project and the connections made between print and digital media.

Sense of Place - McManus

My fascination with the iPad (other tablets and phones are available) is the fact that rather than a Volvo Estate full of ‘stuff’, these days I can capture, edit and share from a device that fits in my inside coat pocket.

mcmanus feedback 2

But all work and no play makes Jon a dull boy (this is ‘Playful’, not ‘Workful’ Communications) so we had a tour of the exhibition scanning a few QR Codes and a little film making session using iMotionHD to make a few stop frame films (they’ll be on the @YagMcManus instagram account later).

It was great to see minds working overtime as ideas formed on the spot – they’re will be a few classrooms across Angus making short, creative films in the coming weeks!

mcmanus feedback 3

On sharing some of these pictures on Instagram later, one of the comments to come back from a teacher not at the session (@andymcginger) was, “My kind of CPD!
So, if this looks like ‘your’ kind of CPD; if you’d like to find out more or have a similar event organised for you then let me know!

Capture. Edit. Share: Film Making on iPad

Over the last few years I’ve been running workshops using iPads; video editing, audio (AudioBoo), animation, image manipulation and more. I can tailor them to young people from 7yrs and up; however I’ve found that there are also a number of adults who would like to know how to use their new devices more creatively. (If as an individual, or member of a group, would like training then drop me a message…)

Perth iMovie Feeback

So, it was great to be back in Perth this week working with ‘Living Communities‘.

I ran a film making workshop (one pupil’s feedback above) with the assistance of two dancers from Space, Dundee College’s Dance Academy. Obviously it’s useful having some form of content to capture, but having the dancers gave us something quite dynamic to film without having to worry about scripts, cues, or plot lines and so on.

The format of the day was that the dancers did a presentation in the main hall. They then came up with a shorter piece which they repeated throughout the morning and afternoon. The pupils suggested the locations, found their filming positions and took turns fulfilling the various roles required, filming, clapperboard, extras, etc…
They then had 45mins to edit what they’d captured down to between 60-90 seconds. Finally we had the Fast Film Festival where every group presented their film.

The video below is a summary of the workshop:

Each group was made up of between 2 and four pupils and one iPad. Collaboration and sharing was the team’s responsibility and though we had a very larger group they handled the challenges of filming together really well.

Coincidentally, I recently did some filming with SmallPetitKlein, dance studio in Dundee. This next video is one of the initial rough edits of a collaborative piece for the ‘Sense of Place’ exhibition at McManus. It proved very useful this week as an example of what the pupils in Perth could achieve. (The final outcome that resulted from this film is currently in the exhibition at The McManus, Dundee.)

Sense of Place – part three

electric theatre

I started using QR Codes in 2010 – firstly to see if I could add any value to advertising. I then became more interested in education and developing the ‘game’ element (of what were essentially digital treasure hunts) to engage children in learning activities.

Conveniently, in the middle of this diversion from advertising in education I was asked to create a trail for an eTouirsm PhD Summer School at the School of Computer Science at St Andrews University. One of the lecturers had been watching the NEoN Knights QR Game unfold on Twitter and got in touch.

QR page mini-banner

His brief was for my trail to achieve two things: 1) An example, on day one, of technology enabling tourism that would prompt discussion and encourage the students to design their own ‘products’ throughout the remainder of the week. 2) An ice breaker, an introduction for the students (most of whom would be travelling from across Scotland) to St Andrews and to each other.

The aim of the eTourism trail, from my perspective, was a combination of both advertising and education. For a city like St Andrews those tow things are inseparable because the majority of the tourism is heritage and history.

St Andrews Space Hop

It was also an opportunity to engage with a Twitter/Social Media active community of independent traders across St Andrews who would value the interaction with tourism in a technological way and boast about it through their online channels.

The combination of these three opportunities has prepared me with the experience to create at least two other trails (though their have been more) that both educate and entertain:

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Dighty Water – A vital stretch of water in Dundee’s history; rich with stories that have been gathered and tagged to QR Codes that will be dotted along portions of the walkway that follows the water.

And now:

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Sense of Place (SoP): The McManus, Dundee

The McManus has a fantastic permanent collection, curated under the title of The Making of Modern Dundee (MoMD). This collection is situated down stairs at The McManus includes remnants of the original Tay Bridge that collapsed in 1879, through to video games from the 1980s created in the city. Many of the objects in this collection inspired work created for Sense of Place. Without moving them, we wanted to acknowledge them as part of our exhibition. QR Codes were the simple solution.

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Throughout the SoP exhibition programme visitors will find QR Codes alongside project descriptions. These codes deliver additional content and help visitors understand the connection to MoMD – you may even find a sample hide here…

However, should you wander into MoMD knowing nothing about SoP there are QR Codes on the display cases that point you to the relevant work in our exhibition.

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For me, it is the richest combination of physical and digital artefacts that I have worked on and another accomplishment in the image of the model I established with my Masters ‘Mystery Boxes’ project during 2011.

As if this wasn’t enough, the content behind some of the QR Codes are pieces of work that could constitute an exhibition for themselves. Trips across the Tay Bridge replicating a journey made, captured and shared over 100 years ago. Besides that you can share in the tour of MoMD that we made as a group with Brian Cox and hear him recounting memories of growing up an living in 1950s Dundee.

mcmanus-qr-codes

The thread through all of this is a desire to preserve memories, stories and experiences. While this feels very new, because the technology is so ubiquitous in 2013, we learned that our capturing and sharing activity is no different, in practice, to that of 1897. More people have access to the tools but the majority of them are filming the mundane processes of daily life as the pioneering filmmakers of the late 19th Century had. Train journeys. People at work. Children at school.

So, I am very grateful to ‘Sense of Place’. As I’ve said before, working with the young people was rewarding/entertaining enough. But in addition to that, together we’ve worked on projects that we will talk about for the rest of our lives – Tay Bridge journey, SmallPetitKlein, Brian Cox, the BIG Print, and so on… Finally, the fact that we’ve had the opportunity to bring it all together for the exhibition is the icing on the cake. But not just any old icing. Elaborate, swirly, multicoloured icing with adornments of sweet decorations covering a beautifully hand-made cake. That’s what it’s like.

Go along. Have a look. Let me know what you think.

Thanks :)

Find out more about:

NEoN Knights (Digital Arts Festival) – St Andrews Space Hop (St Andrews Uni PhD Summer School) – Balmullo Primary School (Permanent Heritage Trail)
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