Marrying Art and Digital with Interactivos!

Back in June I had the pleasure of helping out at Interactivos Birmingham. This was a fortnight-long workshop for people to develop projects that used?new technologies such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino to make art. In particular, these were pieces of art that responded to the world and people around them. The workshop was hosted and supported by Midland Arts Centre and run in partnership by Birmingham City University, Sampad, the BBC and Medialab Prado.

Nearly all of the projects that took part were using free and open software, and were also making the code that they wrote openly available for other people to see, contribute to and reuse. There is a set of repositories on Github for anybody who is interested in getting into the technical details of the projects.

What I really enjoyed about the workshop was the energy and enthusiasm that all of the participants brought with them. At the start of the fortnight I sat down with some of the project leads who, quite frankly, scared me with the scale of the projects they were hoping to deliver. While not everybody achieved all?they set out to do, each project achieved?lots in the relatively short time scales they had.

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You can read all about the individual projects over at the Interactivos Birmingham website, which has loads of different content courtesy of Tim Wilson and BCU social media students.

It was a privilege to work with?the other engineers and artists who supported Interactivos: Chris Sugrue, a?New York based artist and programmer who helped?Divya Kasturi on her Forgot Your Password project; Pablo Ripoll?s?from MediaLab Prado, who helped just about everybody in one way or another with his engineering and programming skills and Katie Day from The Other Way Works who, amongst other things, ran workshops that helped people focus on the artistic intent of their work.

I learnt lots of things over the course of the fortnight. Here are just three of them:

  1. People really will do a lot in just two weeks. There’s a danger that in knowing some of the technical challenges they face I underestimated what they were able to achieve
  2. It is really important to get in touch with people running projects a good while before the start of a workshop like Interactivos! I could have been better prepared to support the artists than I was
  3. Buying kit in the UK at the last minute is *way* more expensive than getting it shipped from the Far East (see 2)

I hope I helped some of the participants with some technical assistance as well as giving them some advice on how to plan their work. I’m certainly hoping to do more of this kind of work in the future as I found the experience so?rewarding. Now, where did I put that Raspberry Pi ……. ?

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