Leeds Creative Labs

Collaborations for Academics & Creative Innovators

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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?

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.


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Hepworth Creative Labs, Session 1

The Hepworth Edition contains three teams of four, a mix of artists technologists, academics and students. The challenge is to ‘Remix the Gallery’, by exploring new ways in which visitors might interact with collections and the Hepworth as an institution.  The following questions also come under the brief:

What role can technology play in making the institution itself more porous?

How can collaborations between art and technology create spaces and interfaces that challenge both artistic and digital practice?

Is there a connectedness and intimacy that can be explored through openness and architectures of participation?

I am in a group with, John Stell, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing at the University of Leeds; Becs Andrews, an established performance designer and artist, based at the University of York; and Paul Miller, a visual artist, based at East St Arts’ Patrick Studios.

The discussion in out first meeting focused around getting to know each other and addressing the brief. Some initial ideas are included below:

  • Curating the gallery /­ public to have a go at curating:
  • A 3­D visualisation of the galleries in which the public can rearrange existing artworks,
  • add their own artworks, etc
  • Exhibit explanations ­ public can write their own rationale for the exhibition
  • Mapping peoples’ online interaction with the gallery
  • Sonification of different spaces and artworks


Democratising/demystifying the curation process by allowing people outside the gallery system to interact by:

a) bringing their own take on exhibits by replacing or adding to the existing texts describing the works (we discussed the possibility of actually bringing this into the physical gallery using online text input and manifesting it in digital signage or projected text).

b) remixing the content virtually inc swapping exhibits, adding new content inc their own; doing

How would the gallery based stuff feed back to external users?

More recondite: The mapping of users’ behaviours and the suggestion that this could be an artwork… The question then is how this is implemented to promote the interaction with Hepworth beyond its physical space.

Sonifying the gallery space. Issues here are does this approach a narrow demographic of tech savvy people, otherwise is the concept to abstract for too many people. Interested in inclusivity and trying to make interaction really democratic.

This kind of thing might appeal to really switched on gallery goers rather than provide and interface for a wide audience to easily engage with.

Can the two less ‘direct’ concepts can be somehow combined with the more visceral interaction ideas?


Co­curation: allowing visitors to make their own structures and arrangements; to tell their own stories.

Seeing what other visitors are experiencing. Remixing the gallery by allowing everyone to see it through each others’ eyes/minds etc. Of course this gets confusing if you cant tune out some of the experiences so need some way to select what you are aware of and to have an overall map of the space of possible views of the gallery that others have and which you can engage with.

Sonification would be exciting aspect of a map of the gallery but could be challenging to engage with. Maybe it could exist within a more conventional framework.



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Initial thoughts and reflections

Meeting 1- Gallery observation and first meeting with team members

After the project brief from Creative Labs, our team members briefly introduced ourselves and explored the gallery spaces. In the beginning, three spaces that captured my interest were the learning space, gallery exhibition and the outside environment of the Hepworth. When I look around the gallery spaces, there are a lot of young students inside the gallery viewing the Three-dimensional artwork collections, drawing their interpretations of the artwork into two dimensional spaces in their sketchbook. Initially, I came up with the idea of how gallery visitors can create 3 dimensional sculptures using a digital tool that can easily transform two dimensional printed forms. Perhaps, this digital tool can be installed in the learning space as well as downloaded through as a mobile app. Visitors can create their own sculpture inspired by Barbara Hepworth collections and visitors can design and print their own design collections and share their digital artworks globally through social networks or digital market spaces. They can also sell their digital artworks or products in the Hepworth shop and featured artworks can be projected outside the building during the night time. There are some similar approaches that could be available in other galleries, but the most important considerations would be how we can differentiate them and whether the idea would be feasible to the Hepworth.


Meeting 2 & 3- Exploring ideas and understanding of the gallery space and visitors

After a couple of days, I wanted to know more about who the target audiences of the Hepworth are. In fashion marketing, understanding the target audiences is the most crucial part of the design process. Initially my interest was to understand the ‘target audiences’ and identifying who they are and what they care about, and what the main motivations for visiting the Hepworth are.

Katie on our team suggested looking at the behind-the-scenes elements of the Hepworth. We arranged the meeting with the Curator, Sam, and our team got together in Hepworth on Tuesday April 07 2015. Sam kindly explained the new acquisition of artworks in the archive. The meeting was very useful to understand the process of curating artworks and how they conserve and maintain art collections in the Hepworth.

20150407_104557As I am a designer and fashion marketer, I have found there are some similarity between the fashion design process and curating artworks. Fashion companies normally plan and produce new collections around six months in advance to present new collections, and then consumers tend to passively consume pre-designed products. Whilst the curators generally create themes for prospective exhibitions and events, the general public has an opportunity to see pre-arranged artworks that are selected by curators. Although there are some co-creative tools available, this is still an early stage in the design process and the general public tends to passively view artwork. What if the general public can select collections from the gallery achieve and create their gallery spaces in Hepworth? Perhaps, a small virtual space allows people to plan and curate art collections virtually? I have found that there is an existing tool that allows users to create virtual art galleries in 3D spaces. For instance, the Google art project allows users to access and view artworks online using ‘Street View ‘indoor’ technology. Another online tool, ‘Exhibit’ enables users to create a virtual DIY personal gallery and share their artwork globally. Although the Hepworth gallery tries to open the behind-the-scenes archive of the gallery through events like ‘Museums Showoff’ or arranging a meeting with a curator, there are still limitations with the current Hepworth library and artwork archive not being widely open to the general public. How can the unseen gallery space be more actively used by the general public? How can people become more interested in the artwork, and how the technologies and innovative design solutions can maximize public engagement of art and facilitate social conversation?


In the last meeting our team briefly agreed to focus on gallery audiences to understand who they are, how often they come, what they do and why they come to the Hepworth, instead of other places. Our team is primarily interested in alternative ways of accessing knowledge of art, sharing and exchanging knowledge and intangible experiences of artworks in order to create a new networked exchange model. The outcome of the research could be helpful to understand deeper motivations of the gallery users. Perhaps we could divide a broader gallery audience into subsets based on the levels of gallery spaces (e.g. heavy – gallery archive users?), medium – learning and exhibition space users?), Light users-shops?) Maybe a web-interface that allows users to upload their personal story video after the gallery visit? And then they could share their personal experience on impacts of art engagement in their personal life?  What are the challenges and barriers to this process? What are opportunities for the Hepworth? The main consideration of this approach will be whether people are willing to participate in this process and commit their time to it during their busy schedule.

Eunsuk Hur

Initial thoughts…

The Human Algorithm 

“I was interested in art as a carrier of information” Lynda Benglis

What would happen if galleries didn’t have walls and people didn’t go to see art but art came to see them? What knowledge sits within the walls of the Hepworth, how is the narrative of that knowledge shared?

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Is the Hepworth a curation of people and their perspective as much as it is a collection of works? And how does this concept relate to the people who do (and don’t) walk through its doors?

In a time of social media, networks, platforms and digital curation, what if the ‘Gallery remix’ was actually a remixing of narrative, the people and the physical site itself? Here we start, re-imagining these fundaments of the Hepworth as moveable pieces of code – the human algorithm. Our plan is play with these elemental building blocks, re-order, re-write and apply the possible technological vehicle that can drive art as information places it may not necessarily ordinarily have visited.


– Katie Brown


Remix the Gallery?

As a historian I am interested in the process of uncovering, interpreting, and creating. Can the historian can simply walk into an archive and uncover “the truth” of what happened in the past? Or are we actually in the business of creating historical meaning?

When a researcher walks into an archive, they often already know what material they are looking for, what stories they hope to uncover, what narrative they plan to tell, what fits, and what will be excluded.


What do people expect to find in galleries and museums? How does art act as a carrier of information? What stories are told?

We start, then, with questions. How do museums and galleries act as a vehicle for the exchange of knowledge? How can we remix the gallery to make visits non-linear? What unexpected questions can we ask?

-Laura Harrison



Bricks and Mortar

When we first met up as a group at the Hepworth, we went for a walk round the gallery, and ended up outside to look at the building as a whole as well as the exhibitions.

It’s a substantial presence.

Photo Hufton and Crow, http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/about/architecture/

Photo Hufton and Crow, http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/about/architecture/

On Tuesday we had a look round the behind-the-scenes of the gallery, with curator Sam Lackey.

What struck me was how much infrastructure goes into the preservation of knowledge.

Whether it’s the file system for preserving material from the old Wakefield civic art gallery,

hepworth wakefield creative labs

or the system for using river water to regulate the temperature and humidity of the gallery spaces.

hepworth wakefield creative labs image

Bricks and mortar, and even printed paper, are good at protecting knowledge from being blown away in the wind.

A couple of things jumped out at me from what Sam was saying as we walked round.

The first was the process of making an exhibition happen: research; mapping what might be in the exhibition and looking for a new angle (with the help of printed photos of artworks stuck on the wall); little wooden models of the gallery to decide where things should go;

hepworth wakefield creative labs image

the admin of getting everything on loan from other places, especially verifying its provenance (which is an interesting word), including making sure a work isn’t one stolen by the Nazis; getting and installing works – we learned that you’re often not allowed to tilt big artworks to get them through small doors; preserving the works on display (ie the building temperature) while they are in the safe keeping of the gallery.

All those skills and processes are also an expertise or form of knowledge that bricks and mortar – though less so paper because it won’t be written down – protect from being blown away.

I wonder where else that expertise could go to be used outside a gallery, and where similar processes go on under a different name.

Another thing that struck me was about the amateur art historians, often retired people, who exhaustively research a topic. “They are making connections” Sam said, “but nobody knows what the connections are.”

And where do their outcomes go to? A self published book or a presentation to the gardening society was Sam’s guess.

Knowledge that is not protected by bricks and mortar, and blows away.

hepworth wakefield creative labs

Deep Hanging Out & Human Infrastructure

In commencing the Hepworth Wakefield edition last week, I wanted to frame the meaning, expectations and philosophy of the labs and prepared a short talk for the latest cohort.

Here’s what I said… Continue reading

Introducing the Hepworth Edition cohort

After agonising over applications along with Sue and Natalie, we finally arrived at our selection for the 2015 cohort and The Hepworth Edition of the labs.

Last week we convened our academics, students and technologist to introduce them to each other and our challenge to Remix the Gallery.

Continue reading

Impact in 5

Last November, Erica put together an evening of lightning talks to showcase the impact of various research projects at the University of Leeds, including two which originated in the Creative Labs…

Firstly, Simon Popple and I presented Pararchive and our progress from early conversations brokered by the lab in 2012, to an AHRC-funded 18-month research programme which is coming to an end in a few weeks time with the launch of our storytelling app Yarn.

The second talk showcased the collaboration on Hajj Experiences between Seán, Jo and Tim during the Summer 2014 edition… Continue reading

Cory Doctorow: GLAM and the Free World

When we started to think about the challenge with which we wished to frame the Hepworth Edition of the labs, we had a lot of ideas about culture-as-a-platform which led us to the OpenGLAM principles – good practices for galleries, libraries, archives and museums looking to embrace an open, connected philosophy.

Serendipitously I came across a talk by Cory Doctorow on this very subject and immediately we knew we wanted to have Cory’s ideas at the heart of our project and invited him to share those ideas at our launch event last month.

Cory spoke of the moral, political and democratic freedoms at stake across the galleries, libraries, archives and museums sector and how it could take the lead in ensuring that access to our cultural assets and heritage remain free and open; we’re hoping those ideas provide a compelling backdrop for our next cohort this Spring.

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