A few nights ago, after 3 intense days and nights of working, we installed our collaborative installation at Freemote Utrecht. After all the work, it was up for about 6 hours.
The group I've been working with, V4W, do this a lot - it's all part of the process for them. Turn up with a bunch of equipment, create an artwork onsite during opening hours, and display it on the final night. While we were working, people came over and observed, made comments (and jokes), and asked questions.
Speaking to Gareth and Hayden about it, they say they like the exposure it gives to the subculture of digital artists, musicians and programmers, i.e. us. It's difficult for people to get a handle on what exactly it is we do, unlike say in film, music or painting. Don't get me wrong, there is a world of hidden esoteric knowledge and in-culture in those media, but the difference is that audiences have had a lot longer to figure out their relationship to it.
We did a similar thing at AlphaVille, so this is my second run with V4W. For me personally, I like the challenge. But I'm not sure how convinced I am about working that way regularly - it's hectic. Quick choices have to be made, and with eight people on a short timescale, people can pull in different directions.
In any case, what results is quite nice simply for that reason. It's a Frankenstein of different creative impulses thrown together, each relatively uncensored and forced to mix on equal terms. No hierarchy seemed to develop, and no-one was precious or held the group to ransom. It's probably because they pretty much all know each other and have worked together before, and are an open-minded group.
Actually somebody in the group said that it's because we're all British (and so we have a stereotype to live up to). I'm not sure about that, but with a different mix of people, I could easily see more tension.
So in effect Gareth was more a coordinator than a director. As for my role, I became more a technical consultant and facilitator. Due to some tight deadlines for proposals in the run-up to the trip, I wasn't really able to get into the design discussion until after the concept was concretised. I arrived looking for something to do and found an open niche as Max/MSP developer, helping to create the interactive sound based somewhere between Barney's sound design (mostly musical) and Alex's audio manipulation ideas (mostly noise).
I didn't feel like what we needed was another voice on top of these two, pushing yet another creative direction, so instead I looked for synthesis between them. The two streams proved divergent, and I think in the end we just allowed that to be. There was a music section and an interactive sound section, running at different times, and honestly each were far better without the interference of the other.
The three aspects of the video - the particles, the floor and the balls - all seemed to come together on equal terms, but we'll see how people feel about that in the retrospective we have coming up.
So again, it all points to what it was - a 3 day, open, creative experiment. We created a piece for exhibition, but in the end the exhibition was us, programming, composing, designing and setting up hardware. At least, I think that's what 70% of visitors to the festival will remember from it. But it seems that's what V4W are about - exposing the subculture.
I'm looking forward to (and slightly afraid of) the next time we work together.