Leeds Creative Labs

Collaborations for Academics & Creative Innovators

Category: The Hepworth 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Fantasy Technology + Everyday Magic

As we started to think about the final series of presentations by the cohort for The Hepworth Wakefield edition of the labs, we wanted to bookend Cory Doctorow’s thrilling provocation from our January launch, with an equally compelling message on the intersections between culture, art and technology.

I’m really excited to confirm that Leila Johnston, founder of Sheffield-based Hack Circus, will be presenting a keynote on Fantasy Technology & Everyday Magic at our closing event tomorrow afternoon.

I first came across Leila at FutureEverything’s Global FUTR Lab earlier this year in Manchester. Her work on Hack Circus is “dedicated to celebrating the entertaining and engaging side of inventive thought, whether that manifests physically with wires and batteries, or conceptually in artistic or philosophical ways.”

Leila’s perspectives seem to be a fitting coda for what we’ve been aiming to achieve with this edition of the labs, in remixing the gallery and discovering new futures for our cultural institutions.

Hepworth Session 4 – Joanne, Louise, Rob, Steve

We roved far and wide in previous meetings, leapfrogging from one idea to the next, careful not to kill anything with even the whiff of goodness. But with the deadline just over a month away, the next two meetings at the School of Music in Leeds were time to focus. As it turned out, four strands emerged quite naturally, each around a certain aspect of the object, its place in the world and its relationship to the gallery and the audience.

  1. The iterative object is about encouraging people to re-work and re-use works of art, to “fork” them (in web parlance) and do their own thing with the original artworks as the basis. Monkey Jesus cropped up. Cecilia Gimenez’s attempt to restore a fresco by Elias Garcia Martinez was derided at first but has become an attraction in itself. What would happen if we provided people with a framework to encourage this kind of behaviour with Hepworth’s sculptures?
  2. The venerated object pokes at barriers – physical and otherwise – which can placed between the viewer and a work of art. Consider an object encased in glass which becomes gradually more opaque as more people look at it. Or even one which would be destroyed if viewed too many times. Taking things to extremes helps to highlight how things are at the moment, to understand the current situation and try to change it. The practical ways we could make this happen – such as electrochromic glass and Sonte glass – also made interesting discussions.
  3. The decontextualised object is crammed with hyped technology such as 3D printing and computer vision, but at heart it’s about trying to bring some of the qualities and affordances of the web to our physical interactions with works of art. Most good gallery and museum websites have ways to explore the collection, placing an artwork in context of its metadata such as artist, country, date, materials, period, etc. Lots of people are already scanning works of art. What would it be like if people could handle 3D prints of works of art and be presented with relevant information projected around it?
  4. The unrealised object plumbs the depths of the Hepworth archives for sketches, notes and other fragments which the artist did not make into sculptures. What if we could bring those works off the page and into the world?

These ideas started to hang together quite nicely. In each case we picked up on stuff which is already happening and tried to create a framework which would encourage that behaviour and help people present it back to the world. The idea of “open source” kept cropping up as a model for collaboration and co-creating. Perhaps an even better one is “view source”. Being able to view source on a HTML page is a vital part of seeing how a webpage is constructed, copy and pasting it and using it yourself. This approach seem to be at the heart of each of our explorations – what would the ability to “view source” look like for sculpture, what behaviours would it encourage, would they be worthwhile? Come along to the Hepworth on 4th June to find out.

Hepworth Session 3 – Joanne, Louise, Rob, Steve


We met at the suitably named Create Cafe building for an afternoon of Hepworth-related chatter. We were missing the priorly engaged Rob, but managed to trundle on through. Perhaps we were somewhat more cryptic about our ideas than other groups, but decided to store and reserve energy for the final ‘reveal’.

Although everyone seems to be working towards some form of prototype, it doesn’t appear necessary. Our group is, however, finding some cohesion through developing practical elements of our conceptualisation. Some form of proof of concept, we feel, provides useful solidification of ideas.

Questions were raised as to the ‘end product’, ‘feedback’ and ‘next steps’, which for us further highlighted the flexibility of the lab’s brief. Perhaps this openness and blue sky trajectory is our answer to the question, “what has your group found most challenging”.  It reminded us to ensure that we were enjoying the freedom and flexibility of exploring as many wild, basic, complex and outrageous conceptual avenues as possible.

Pleasure to see the entire cohort and organisers.

Rewriting, reaffirming and and realigning our trailing thoughts are deemed suitable next steps.

Creative Lab’s Meet 2 – Katie, Laura, Andrew & Eun Suk’s group

Create Cafe
(photo courtesy of Imran Ali)

A few general notes on the lab experience

All of the groups have had a certain proclivity to subvert curation, take art outside of the walls of the Hepworth and to apply any digital applications somewhat further down the line of the process.

The process is as interesting for where there are conflicting directions as there are synergies.

Balancing the desire to design something that is both challenging and relevant means understanding more of the Hepworth’s drivers and to some degree, making a decision about how much this informs a more objective approach.

There is a difference between feedback on the overall outcomes of this edition of Creative Labs and individual feedback on our ideas. The former is more realistic (I made a point of requesting this!) and the latter being entirely subjective at such an early stage.

And finally, it isn’t often one gets the opportunity to think and work so freely on such a creative brief, with an equally interesting array of people. It is not difficult to hold on to that thought as we progress further.

Katie Brown

Hepworth Session 2 – Joanne, Louise, Rob, Steve

For our second meeting, our team convened at the School of Music at the University of Leeds – Joanne’s Armitage’s crib.  After mastering the technical complexity of the Light Hadron coffee machine, Louise Atkinson, Rob Carroll and I were by joined by my old friend and Joanne’s colleague Dr Kia Ng, co-founder and director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music and an alumnus of the second Creative Lab last year.

We resumed our progress to date for Kia and he told us a little about how the previous team had tackled their brief last year.

Two notable strengths of our team served us well at our first meeting and even better at this one.  Firstly, we really get on with each other and secondly (possibly because of the first), we enjoy developing and expanding upon each other’s thoughts.  This generosity of working meant that when we looked at our whiteboard notes at the end of the session, we were all represented.  The core concepts we had settled on were our joint work.

We don’t, at this stage, want to go into too much detail about our ‘modest proposal’: we’re still developing the means by which our ideas may be expressed.  But our discussions were an evolutionary development of our initial discussions around the relationship between the museum, the object and the audience.  In particular we explored the notion of the ‘authenticity’ of what we termed the ‘venerated object’ and how we might employ ‘inauthentic objects’ and mediated audience interaction with objects to create new audience experiences and relationships with art.  It was all a lot funkier than that description makes it sound, though.

We hope to be able to go into more detail regarding our suite of proposals at the coffee shop event on the 15th.

Hepworth Session 1 – Joanne, Louise, Rob, Steve

The 2015 cohort was selected and invited to attend the first meeting at The Hepworth on 19th March. We’d already been separated into groups and I’d been matched with Steve Manthorp (artist), Rob Carroll (creative technology and information designer) and Joanne Armitage (PhD candidate in Music). As we discussed potential crossovers in our work, it became apparent that we had lots of complementary skills and ideas


As part of remixing the gallery we considered ways of reversing the curatorial or making process in order to make the layers of meaning and decision making more transparent to the audience. Potential methods suggested for this included animation, version control, and the Surrealist game ‘Exquisite Corpse’. We also considered how engagement projects like this had previously been achieved in collaborations such as www.exquisiteforest.com.


Our initial feelings were geared towards preserving iterations of the project in order to show the working process, as a kind of visual palimpsest. These discussions brought to mind writings including Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad and Heidegger’s ontological theories. However, we soon realised that we were repeating the museum process of collecting and conserving, and wondered if we needed to look further at the problems of collecting, including the inevitable need for deaccessioning, and who or what was responsible for deciding what was worth collecting.






Stock photos

Ethics of revealing artistic process?

Too much stuff?

Deaccessioning / destroying



Inspired by galleries

Discussed whether art should be graded by ‘difficulty’

Watched 3D printing teapot installation

Joanne noticed number of signs not allowing photos or touching objects in gallery.


‘folk art’

Knitting sheaths – different according to each Yorkshire Dale

Reverse the making process?

Steve Manthorp

Steve Manthorp

Steve Manthorp shares an artistic co-practice with Shanaz Gulzar as ADEPT, currently developing major commissions for the National Trust and Bradford Science Festival.

In 2005 he was awarded a NESTA Research Fellowship to develop new cultural content and concepts for games technologies.  In 2006 he won a MELT award to develop Earthheart, a game to promote healthy lifestyles in KS2 students.  He has created ‘stealth learning’ PC games for English Heritage, Renaissance Yorkshire and Bradford Museums and Art Galleries.

Steve was Media Arts Officer at Arts Council England -Yorkshire from 1999-02 and Coordinator of Arts Council-West Midlands’ three year Digital Content Development Programme from 2007-2010.

He has spoken at the Museums Association Conference, Art & Architecture Journal Conference on the Moving Image in the Public Environment, Broadcast Asia Conference and the World Investment Conference.

You can find Steve at manthorp.co.uk, ADEPT and on Twitter as @manthorp.

Joanne Armitage

Joanne Armitage

Joanne is a researcher based at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music (ICSRiM), School of Music, University of Leeds working with Kia Ng.

Her research explores performance and communication through technology and has been presented and performed in various European cities.

She is also active as a composer and performer (improviser/live coder) working under several pseudonyms.

Louise Atkinson

Louise Atkinson

Louise Atkinson is an artist, curator, and educator and is currently undertaking a Practice-based PhD in Fine Art at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on crossovers between visual art and ethnography. This has culminated in projects which incorporate aspects of digital humanities, images studies, and gift theory.

Specifically, she is interested in how the audience interacts with the work of art and the factors that mediates the relationship between artist, curator, and audience. Her art practice often incorporates participatory or co-curation elements, which have developed from her use of social media in setting up artist networks.

You can find out more about her research at… a-n.co.uk/blogs/practice-as-research

Hepworth Creative Labs, Session 2

Our second meeting as a group for the Hepworth Wakefield Creative Labs project saw us building on the broad ideas that we discussed in the first week and trying to shape these into a project.

We were looking at way of opening up the gallery experience, trying to remove the physical boundary of the gallery itself in order to put interaction with the artworks themselves at the highest level of priority. Here are some of the key questions that we considered:

Is this project about targeting an audience?


Are we trying to make the gallery more accessible?


How can we find a way to allow people to engage without dumbing down the experience?


To summarise some key points of the meeting, we decided that the gallery itself creates a boundary, and that in order to make the interaction with its contents as universal or non-biased as possible, we needed to try and come away from the idea of a gallery as a physical space, or in other words,  bring the gallery to the people rather than bring the people to the gallery.

We considered exploring the web as a medium in which to do this but decided that the two forms of sensory feedback given by the web (visual and sonic), wouldn’t suffice for the level of interaction that people should have with the collections. The other issue is that a web-based project does not provide a platform for passive interaction.

We decided that aspects of the gallery could be taken to different locations around Wakefield (such as disused shops, shopping centres or outside locations) in a ‘removed form’, whether these be projections of artworks, sounds from the gallery, or tactile objects referencing the textures of artworks. These would incite different types of interaction with aspects of the collections from regular members of the public, meaning that the physical boundary of the gallery could be removed, and that interaction with artworks needn’t be prescriptive (determined by a curator or the shape of a room), but rather could be inclusive.

Importantly, people, in interacting with these removed forms of artwork would complete a loop, where their interactions would be transferred back to the gallery in some form. This information might take the form of audience feedback relating to experiences of the artwork, an abilty to transform the appearance of artworks by virtually drawing on them, or simply metadata about quantity and type of interactions.

Crucially, interaction with these removed artworks would be tiered so those who encounter them can interact as much or as little as they like, from a minimal interaction such as observing something, to a moderate interaction, such as engaging with a game of some sort, to a high level interaction, such as scanning a QR code to find out more information about a collection or artwork.

We also established that game and play is an important element. The sites, be they old shop fronts, or parts of a shopping centre, where people experience the collections in ‘removed form’, must be engaging and playful. There must also be a sense of anarchy, allowing people to challenge the concept of the gallery, and in doing so, help us learn about what galleries are and could or should be.

Below are diagrams of how ‘removed forms’ of the artwork might interact with the people of Wakefield and the gallery, and the feedback loops that this process might create.


IMG_1041IMG_1038 IMG_1039 IMG_1040

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