A residency with Digital Media Labs

20th Oct 2014

The Royal College of Art branch of the Creative Exchange research hub has been extending its reach through a residency with Digital Media Labs – a programme that aims to create a pool of artists bringing newly developed skills with emergent technologies to a range of digital arts projects.

RCA Creative Exchange PhD candidate Ben Dalton was one of ten digital artists including Sam Meech, Aaron Nielsen, Alex McLean, Lalya Gaye, Emily Briselden-Waters and Victoria Bradbury selected for a Digital Media Lab artist residency at the end of the summer. Organisations including Liverpool arts centre FACT, Sensoria, the National Football Museum and Sound Network were among those to nominate the artists.

The 'lab' residency, which takes the form of participant-led research and provides artists with a platform for experimentation, is the latest opportunity for investigation by RCA researchers into creative exchange processes – processes for enabling knowledge exchange that draw from creative practice. Previously investigated exchange processes have included participatory public workshops, cafe events and sandpits, which bring together researchers from across disciplines for one or more days of intensive discussion on specific topics.

‘The Digital Media Lab format served as an excellent example of collaborative, creative activity, fostered from within by a format developed by Benedict Phillips, Glenn Boulter and Dave Lynch. The success of this residency form for creative exchange is embodied in the work, collaborations and extended networks of activity that emerge from the current and previous Digital Media Labs. I have had the privilege to be involved in two labs, in the first as an invited technical advisor and the second as a nominated artist,' said Dalton.

For the residency, the brief was open but themes of performance and light shaped thinking. One of the questions Dalton centred on was how live events might be digitally archived.

‘This recent lab used a format early in the week of presentation, workshop and structured activity to provide a framework for ideas and collaborations to form. I was aware of how quickly ideas cross-pollinated. Conversations about circuit design, musical structure, local history, projection mapping, storytelling, nuclear power, textiles and laser performance diffracted through each other with ease,’ said Dalton.

Marrying performance and digital archiving techniques, Dalton created a ‘wild man’ character referencing photographer Charles Fréger’s Wildermann series, the Personal Instruments of Krzysztof Wodiczko and the Gothic Futurist work of RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ. ‘During the week, I wanted to explore the way that publishing platforms shape what can be published. I'm particularly interested in anonymity preserving formats,’ said Dalton.

Digital Media Labs is led by artist and curator Benedict Phillips, artist and director Dave Lynch and artist-curator Glenn Boulter – an alumnus of the RCA's Fine Art Printmaking programme. The first residential Digital Media Lab took place in Autumn 2010 and took place as part of NHS Hull's public art programme with funding from Arts Council England. The most recent lab, in August, was hosted by Octopus Collective, an Arts Council funded sound art and new music organisation based in a public park on Cumbria’s Furness Peninsula.

Dalton is building on the Digital Media Lab residency to propose a Creative Exchange hub project on the future of digital publishing.