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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

 

 

 

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Sense of Place – part three

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Mystery – the forgotten ‘capturing’ device

So often we hear how difficult it is for celebrities to maintain their privacy and yet two of the biggest stories of the last few months would suggest that it is possible to manage your affairs while avoiding unwanted (and unnecessary) media attention…

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Back in October 2012 George Lucas managed to surprise the world with the bombshell news conference that saw him sell his Lucasfilm company to Disney… and while speculation has since been rife on the internet, the news that JJ Abrams was to direct ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ remained secret until 24 hours before the official announcement.

Then in the past few weeks we’ve seen David Bowie, one of the single most famous people in the world, release a single and announce an album that not even his record company knew about until a few days before…

Now, I’m not so naive as to believe that certain media companies and distributors are above ‘leaking’ their own content… and besides cheap efforts at publicity some have even used that method to great viral effect! But artists such as Bowie and Abrams, I believe, have an interest, not only in the creation of the work but, how it is best enjoyed. And that’s not to say they aren’t interested in the financial success of their products; after all they both work within the music ‘business’ and movie ‘business’ respectively. The point is they both appear to understand the ‘user experience’ and are masters in the use of ‘secrecy’ to create ‘mystery’.

The moment we become aware of a ‘gap’ in a story (news or otherwise) the instinct to fill it with speculative content generated by our own minds kicks in. It’s called imagination… and  while many in the entertainment business don’t trust us to use it, there are those who understand ‘imagination’ is ‘captured’ to great effect through carefully managed mystery… and that sometimes, it’s what you don’t see, or didn’t say, which is most important!