Reflecting on the Residencies: artists’ Q&A

Posted on 13th November 2019

Earlier this year, supported by Arts Council England, Tees Valley Screen teamed up with Creative Factory and The Auxiliary to launch a new artist residency programme aimed at supporting two artists or projects with a screen-based practice to develop new works using experimental technology. As the residencies came to an end, we asked artists Lisa Lovebucket, Alyson Agar and Nick Williams, and Vlogbase team Luke Stephenson and Andy Surtees to reflect on their time collaborating for ‘Teesside Rising’ and ‘The Living Archive’.

Why did you get involved in the project?

Nick John Williams: “This was an opportunity to adopt Vlogbase’s technology so that The Living Archive could be what I always wanted it to be, a searchable non-curatorial archive presentation tool. Secondly, to work with TVS and connect with an organisation that I am very interested in.”

Alyson Agar: “Myself and Nick had previously collaborated on other projects and we were keen to work with one another again. We were incredibly excited to potentially be part of the first Tees Valley Screen residencies and consider our collaboration in terms of screen-based practices.”

Lisa Lovebucket: “When I saw a link to the call-out for this artist residency on social media, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine both my aims of committing fully to my work as an artist and contributing to the cultural ascendency of Teesside. I have a longstanding interest in technology – AI technology in particular – so it was exciting to imagine the possible application of cutting edge technology in the creative arts. All in all, it felt like just the right opportunity at just the right time.”

Nick John Williams at the Invisible Flock workshop as part of the Tees Valley Screen Artist Residency programme.

What was it like collaborating with a tech company and using AI in your work?

AA: “It really galvanised our interest to explore AI and immersive technologies with regards to our practices, respectively. We became really excited by the possibilities of The Living Archive as a system, and the many iterations it can take and its potential for use in different contexts. The opportunity to work with tech companies and organisations including Vlogbase, PROTO and Invisible Flock was the main factor which determined our application for the residency. These relationships have developed, with plans to work together in future.”

NJW: Vlogbase were great collaborators and available every day anytime to field questions and solve problems. The collaboration with Vlogbase will now continue and my collaboration with Alyson will continue. It is my aim that The Living Archive, Aly, Vlogbase and I can continue our relationship with TVS, NFM, ACE and The Auxiliary to develop the Living Archive into its next phase.”

LL: “There was a genuine sense of mutual respect and enthusiasm from all involved – my fellow artists, Vlogbase, The Auxiliary, and all those involved in organising and participating in the Arts Weekender, and Tees Valley Screen/Northern Film + Media. It has been a pleasure to work alongside so many people committed to the creative arts in the Tees Valley. Although I was concerned that the camera would make the face-to-face interactions in my work more stilted than it may have been off-record, it was easy to forget that the camera was there, such was the depth of engagement and, in most cases, conversations extended well beyond the time at which the camera was turned off. It is interesting to reflect that this project, with a focus on human engagement, was facilitated by AI technology.”

Visitors engage with The Living Archive at Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2019.
Photograph: Middlesbrough Art Weekender.

How did Vlogbase find collaborating with artists?

Vlogbase: “Working with the artists allowed us to test the applicability of our software to situations we simply hadn’t envisaged. The development outcomes for our software has been excellent. The core software is better and future products are now in development as a result of the project.”

How did audiences react to your work at Middlesbrough Art Weekender?

NJW: “A huge amount of visitors to The Living Archive that suggested ways that it could be used that I had never thought of was incredible. The Living Archive has many avenues to pursue now, more than I ever thought. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown for the project.”

AA: We also had excellent support from staff and volunteers at MAW, and from the Auxiliary and the wider arts community. Being able to show our work in progress at MAW and attract strong visitor numbers will be very beneficial to the development of the project.”

VB: For Vlogbase, feedback from the public that we received at MAW has been integrated into our work and into our marketing strategy. It has served as a guide for our future development and also increased the visibility of the company.”

LL: “For me, the Weekender was a real turning point in seeing how much value a spectrum of people saw in the work I was doing, and the level of enthusiasm expressed – both by those actively involved in the arts and those who would not usually be engaged. Clearly there is a huge wealth of artistic talent in the Tees Valley which should be recognised and nurtured as we work towards the Tees Valley becoming a celebrated centre of creativity and culture, past and present. I have talked to people who have decided to move back to Teesside, people who have been called back to Teesside for personal reasons and chosen to stay, people thinking of moving into the area for the first time and – perhaps most significantly – current students at Teesside University who are seeing a future for themselves in Teesside instead of believing that they must move elsewhere to make a career for themselves in the creative arts. There is a growing sense that the time has come for Teesside to set the record straight – to literally put itself on the map.”

What have been your main achievements through the Tees Valley Screen residencies?

AA: “We gained so much from the experience, particularly in terms of collaboration and skill sharing with other organisations and practitioners. We were able to access expert advice and build relationships for the future; this was due to the support of Tees Valley Screen and Northern Film + Media. I myself have created an archive of still photographs and of moving image from the residency. Together, myself, Nick and Vlogbase have produced a system for the first iteration of The Living Archive, an ongoing body of work of documentary photography and film, the show at MAW, as well as an article in Museums + Heritage Advisor.

NJW: “The TVS residency was crucial to making this happen.”

Artist Lisa Lovebucket with visitors to her interactive exhibition TEESSIDE RISING at Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2019. Photograph: Middlesbrough Art Weekender.

LL: “This commission brought everything into focus. People were encouraged by the interest I showed in their work when I started making impromptu visits, functioning as a random enthusiast without a clear purpose. It became apparent that the simple act of going to see people who were endeavouring to make a difference to the region through the creative arts, and listening to their aims, intentions, ambitions was, in itself, an effective positive act. However, it added a great deal of weight to the undertaking, once it was being done under the auspices of a funded artist residency, and recorded for posterity. Without this residency, and participation in the Middlesbrough Arts Weekender, I would not have secured a unit on Captain Cook Square which gave a public presence for my work. On a personal basis, the residency has opened up many opportunities for me as an artist though it is difficult to foresee all the opportunities that may arise from it. My experience in itself demonstrates the possibilities that are opened up when artists actively seek to collaborate with one another. It has been a source of immense encouragement to see the confidence building alongside the sense of unity. This is certainly a very exciting time to be engaged in the creative Teesside scene.”

About the projects
The Tees Valley Screen Artist Residencies were a collaboration between Northern Film + Media, Creative Factory and The Auxiliary. They were supported by Arts Council England, Tees Valley Combined Authority and the European Regional Development Fund. Works-in-progress were shown as part of Middlesbrough Art Weekender, 26th-29th September 2019.

Teesside Rising (Lisa Lovebucket & Vlogbase)
An interactive audiovisual collage cataloguing the cultural ascendency of Teesside: 10 hours of footage loaded onto computers, with audio and video transcribed by AI developed by Vlogbase, to create the ultimate text-based adventure game of the creative Teesside scene. Featuring interviews, performances and recordings with a wide range of creatives working across the Tees Valley, TEESSIDE RISING explores the hidden connections and silent resonances of the Teesside scene to unveil the correlations which humanity cannot perceive. As people create trails through the footage using keywords according to their individual interests, the AIs will make up their own minds about what CONNECTS – CREATES – INSPIRES the Teesside scene.

The Living Archive (Alyson Agar, Nick John Williams & Vlogbase)
The Living Archive is intended to re-imagine the way in which archives are created, curated, and presented. The Living Archive moves away from a static, highly-curated museum of artefacts into a more chaotic, non-curatorial space. This is not an archive for research or investigation, although it may be that, too. It is instead a space of happenstance, chance, and collision so that it reveals new connections between artifacts, sound and video. The exhibition uses existing archive material and original photography and film. Please search the archive to curate your own experience.

About Tees Valley Screen
Northern Film + Media and the Tees Valley Combined Authority have joined forces to create Tees Valley Screen, an exciting new Tees Valley-wide development programme supporting people and companies across film, television, artist moving image and broader screen industries. The programme provides artists residencies, workshops, socials and opportunities to break into and develop careers within the screen industries for people in the North East. It also generates a more attractive environment within the region for film businesses to stay here and flourish. The project is headquartered in Hartlepool and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Tees Valley Combined Authority and Arts Council England.

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