Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Culture Blog Interview

This is a live blog of the Art of Digital London event at Sadler’s Wells, London.  If you spot any errors or inaccuracies, please leave us a comment.  Either way, please join the conversation!

Panel Discussion between Bill Thompson, Charlotte Higgins and Ekow Eshun about participatory arts projects in the Manchester International Festival.

The crux is creating places that artists and audiences are immersed. 

Charlotte comments that she is not a critic, you have to ‘pay more to hear my opinion’.  Speaks ‘pidgin Digital’ at best.

As a journalist, you do engage, you do Facebook and a blog and that provides a whole new way of engaging with your readers.

It can be very tough.  Potential for negative comments.

How do you deal with that? Bill Thompson says. 

There’s parallels with the issues arts organisations are dealing with. 

Poetic justice in a sense, journalists quite often the ones writing.  You take the sane comments and ignore the bad.

There isn’t a need for ‘specialist’ skills, it’s more about learning that there are others better at doing certain things.

Bill adds that it is now about being able to take in wisdom from the wider world. 

Ekow Eshun: It’s not about online or offline, they are all the same thing.  You are a fool for not paying attention to the ‘online world’.  Case in point, though there are bloggers in here, we are all in the same room.

Bill now asks how Charlotte how she lived with the last 10 years of massive change at the Guardian as it transitioned from being just a newspaper to having a web presence.

Charlotte says that it is more work, she has gone for writing 2 or 3 articles a week to writing a blog post a day and Twittering as well.

Hard work but a huge opportunity.

Ekow Eshun adds:
Spend less time watching what people do and more time watching how people organise themselves.  There’s more currency, more space for ideas.  If we operated like 60 years ago when the ICA was formed, just providing exhibitions we’d cease to provide value to the public.

The real driver for change is fear of being left behind.  You can’t claim to be a contemporary space and have relevance to your audience without connecting in this way.

Technology is an access point to deeper engagement.  The question is how you use those to engage with the public.

Questions from the floor:

Q: Someone asked why Ekow Eshun closed the Live Media department and sacked the digital curator. 

A: Ekow Eshun says having a department called Media Arts held back the process.  Anything that related to some of the issues being discussed here was being diverted to this one department.  He felt it should not be this way, digital should be embraced by the ICA as a whole.

He took the decision by taking the long term view for the ICA.  He decided not to ghetto-ise the way ICA worked by leaving all the digital development to one department.

Q: How did Ekow specify that his particular audience wanted a less fixed schedule.

A: Ekow adds that all these things are on a scale.   There are still exhibitions and film screenings but the recent ‘Talk show’ mixed everything up. 

Manchester International Festival set a new bar to how arts organisations collaborate. 

Q: Discussing the notion of ‘free-ness’ and its influence on the behaviour of the organisation. 
Bill paraphrases this to: does Free inevitably corrupt you?

A: Ekow answers: we decided to get rid of our entry free, without looking to replace it.  We now have more people coming through the door.  As a public institution, we have a responsibility to engage with our public. The over-riding aim is to forge a relationship with our audience.

Charlotte adds, all these things are interconnected.  Much of the services in the country are not really ‘free’.  The Plinth could only have happened here.

Q: It’s about Power in relation to this medium.  We’ve spent a lot of time this morning not addressing technology as a power.

A: Ekow says that a lot of this debate is not about neutrality.   We are talking about what happens when a lot of people have access.

We have been talking about it.

Next up: Social Media and the arts


2 responses to “Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Culture Blog Interview

  1. Pingback: Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Comment is Free « The Amb:IT:ion Roadshow Blog

  2. Weird that Ekow wants to integrate the digital into the rest of the programme as closed the department and made the curator redundant stating that the programme didn’t fit in with the ICA’s strategy and the ICA wouldn’t be doing any Media Arts because it lacked cultural urgency.

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