2020 was definitely a hard year, which feels a pretty repetitive and redundant thing to say at this point. I did try to stay creative, and did create things, but sometimes I just felt like staying still and watching the world crumble around me. At times just getting out of bed before 12:00 felt like enough of an achievement for one day.
When exhibitions or performances did eventually happen, albiet online, it all felt a bit anticlimactic. Sometimes months of work would go into preparing for an online exhibition or performance. After the adrenaline of the event wore off there was no release, no celebration, no friends around to hug or high five. Just a sudden comedown, get your pajamas on and realise that you’ve not travelled more than 50 metres from the kitchen in days. Oh, and the world is still falling apart.
So, with that cheery start here’s most of the things that I got up to in 2020.
As usual not much happened in January. Imagine that, an uneventful month. How I’d wish for that right now…
In early February I made my way to Limerick to attend ICLC and perform at an Algorave with Maria Witek (mxwx). I feel that the academic side of live coding sometimes passes me by, but what I do like about events like these is the critical reflection on the practice and the gathering of artists from all parts of the world. It helps to remind me that live coding is a global thing, not just UK/western world.
I really enjoyed performing with Maria. You can see a bit of our performance from around 03:09:00.
Shortly after that I was in Norwich share some new work for Love Light Norwich. I shared a new video work, Let’s Never Meet.
On 5th March I had the honour of performing at the Algorave at Cafe Oto. I was really nervous as I was making music, not visuals. By this stage I had performed music live a handful of times in venues and online. To then perform at this prestigious venue was daunting but in the end it pushed me to learn and practice more. Here’s a recording of the performance.
Little did I know that this would be my last performance in a venue this year.
On 19th March the year of live streams started. The Eulerroom Equinox took place over three days and featured performances from myself and Alex McLean and one of my favourite performances from myself and mxwx:
This event had been in planning since late 2019 but I think it took on new relevance with the whole world now moving online.
Online group exhibitions and performances dominate my activities from April onward. On of the first was the Well Now WTF? exhibition which launched on April 4th. This exhibition featured over 140 exhibiting gifs and videos that raised the question of what should/can we do now that everything is cancelled. I contributed a gif in the “Wash Your Fucking Hands” room reflecting on the collective loneliness that comes from online parties.
I did a couple more online live coding events, including a performance with Yaxu for Graham Dunning’s Noise Quest series and a performance for Open Data Institute where we got cut off half way through, possibly for copyright violation! Another sign of things to come.
Also In April I did an overview of the Design Yourself project I ran with Barbican is 2019. Working with a select group of their Young Creatives we created artwork that asked what it meant to be human in an age of technology. One of the participants, Tice Cin, wrote a really good summary of the programme. Here’s one of my favourite videos:
As part of the Well Now WTF? exhibition I presented Gifhouseparty, a lockdown party for all the gifs stuck at home. The music was all live coded and features music/code from me and mxwx, and also gifs of people you may recognise.
Perhaps the biggest event of this month was the opening of the Copy Paste exhibition on 22nd May at Piksel in Bergen, Norway. As Curator I had been planning this exhibition for over a year. I had fully expected this exhibition to not go ahead but the lockdown situation in Bergen at the time allowed for events to still go ahead and so it went along, just without me there. A carefully curated online component was added to allow some of the works to be enjoyed online.
I’m of course thankful to Piksel for their work in allowing the exhibition to go ahead, but I still can’t help but feel sad that I wasn’t able to be there to see it in person!
Other events this month include another performance with Yaxu for the Copy Paste exhibition, a presentation and discussion about copyright/copyleft at Photographer’s Gallery and a performance and presentation at Art Meets Radical Openness. The presentation, called Sorry About That, was about the role that copyright plays in online streaming.
This month was kinda quiet. The Copy Paste exhibition continued with events including a presentation from Constant and a workshop from Duncan Poulton. With my skills in audio production getting better I decided to revisit the Wonderland video I made for the Wonder exhibition in 2019 and add a soundtrack.
I did visuals for a mix from Reprezent Radio for Late at Tate Online on 17th July. The video’s no longer online so have a couple of gifs!
On 18th July I did two performances in one day! The first was for Oxidize Global and then later me and mxwx collaborated again for a performance at Network Music Festival. Sadly there’s no recordings of either performance but there will hopefully be rerecordings of the music at some point.
Elsewhere in this month I was interviewed by Thisandthatzine and also did a self portrait for it.
The collaboration between me and mxwx finally got a name! We’re now known as Bad Circulation and you can find our music here. At the moment it’s just live recordings and rehearsals. We’re working on an EP. In the meantime here’s one of my favourite recordings.
I was also on the selection panel for Hyperlink from Test Card. Congrats to those that were successful!
The online component of Copy Paste was included in Ars Electronica. This included the online exhibition as well as a Curator’s tour, an rebroadcast of Constant’s presentation and the performance from me and Yaxu.
I also published a blog post about it being 10 years since the first GLI.TC/H happened in Chicago. It had quite an impact on me in many ways so I felt it right to mark the occasion somehow.
All the way back in February I was on the selection panel for Ten Acres of Sound,
“a festival of noise, sound, sonic art, music, performance, whatever located within Stirchley, Birmingham”. I’m glad it managed to happen as it was postponed from earlier in the year.
Back in July I was undertaking a “Stay at Home” residency with New Art Gallery Walsall:
In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, The New Art Gallery Walsall initiated a series of remote residencies to support artists to produce work from their homes. Departing from the Gallery’s usual emphasis on making and sharing work within the context of the Gallery’s purpose-built studio space, artists were encouraged to find creative approaches to developing their practice amid imposed national restrictions and, in particular, to explore the benefits and possibilities of engaging with an online audience.
I challenged myself to learn more about film making and make a video using only what I already have at home. Here’s my video called Windows Explorer:
I took part in another online group exhibition (this time featuring 50 artists) called The Archive to Come. For this I made a gif/video reflecting on the tearing down of statues and the Black Lives Matter protests. Here’s a lower resolution gif version:
I also (finally) took part in DA Z. This event was cancelled back in March as was a related event in September, and though I wasn’t able to be physically present in Switzerland I was still happy to be part of it.
November was unusually busy. Since July I was working behind the scenes with Open Data Institute to curate Rules of Engagement, an online programme of artworks that make a case for ethical practices when working with data.
The commissioned artists were Nick Briz, Everest Pipkin, and A.M. Darke. The artworks were launched at ODI’s annual Summit and are still available online to view now. It was a lot of work to get the programme together but it was a pleasure to commission new work from some great artists!
It’s the first time I’ve been commissioned to make a piece of music (I did make the visuals as well though) and I really enjoyed making it.
Sticking with music, in November the Compassion Through Algorithms Vol. II compilation was released. The compilation is raising funds for Young Minds Together and was created in response the Black Lives Matter protests, and the general recognition that live coding/electronic music is still heavily dominated by White men. I made a track for it called Pulse.
I also did a short blog post about how I made it. It’s still on sale so go buy it!
Back in September I was a judge for the second year running for the Koestler Arts Digital Art category. In November their annual exhibition, this time called No Lockdown of the Imagination launched. Lockdown prevented me from seeing the works in London in person but they have an app you can use to view all of the works.
In other selection panel/judging activities, I was on the selection panel for the MADE IT graduate exhibition which features around 50 artists. The selection process took place between September – October but the online exhibition launched in November. Congrats to all those selected!
A fairly quiet month. From 7th – I did a takeover of the Minorities in STEM twitter account. Each week on that account a different person talks about their experiences of being, well, a minority working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). Though my work does use all of those there’s also the Art side (sometimes called STEAM) so I used some of 3700 words to talk about how al of these overlap. I also talked about how in my experiences of learning about digital art there was never any talk of Black people or anyone other than mainly White men. Things have gotten better since I was in education but there’s still so much work to do to recognise the contributions of Black people in (digital) art. You can read each of the daily threads here:
- Monday – how I got into working in art+tech, with a focus on setting up the fizzPOP makerspace
- Tuesday – glitch art and early experiments in making generative art using code
- Wednesday – realising that the history of Black people working in art + technology is often overlooked
- Thursday – demonstrated live coding and talked about Algorave
- Friday – covered a handful of the organisations in the UK that are helping to make art and technology more diverse
I ended the year with a performance at the Eulerroom Winter Solstice. I combined live coding using Tidal Cycles with a couple of Korg Volca synths. No video yet but I’ll update when it becomes available.
And so ends a crappy year. That sense of community from being part of group exhibitions and performances definitely helped keep me sane and connected but I really need human contact again. Anything that isn’t a Zoom window… I of course hope that 2021 will be better, but I think we’ll need to fight to keep our galleries, museums, venues and other institutions open. Time and time again our government has shown that they don’t value the arts, and I fear that so many of the places I love will be lost next year. Did I also mention that there’s a pandemic still going on?