my artistic practice is almost entirely live performance, and most of that takes place online; it's ephemeral, fleeting, transient and notoriously difficult to document. usually i don't even have physical publicity material such as flyers or posters - it's all done digitally, and when it's done sometimes it's hard to believe that it happened, there are so few traces.
this sense of vanishing and forgetting was one of the motivations behind the CyPosium, a one-day online seminar on cyberformance that a group of us organised in 2012. we wanted to remember some of the significant early online performances and experiments, as well as discuss more recent work that built on those almost-forgotten events. especially as mainstream institutions are now, finally, "inventing" net art, we felt it was important to counter their invisibilisation of these pioneering online practices and put a tangible stake in the ground of the field of digital art history. we did that with the CyPosium - it was hugely successful, with more than 100 participants from all around the world engaging in a vibrant and lively event that made it clear we were just scratching the surface of all the work that has taken place online.
and then the CyPosium was over, and again it was a bit like online performance: the digital traces are stronger this time, as all of the presentations were screen recorded and are accessible on the web site, along with chat logs and other documentation. but i wanted more. i wanted the energy of the CyPosium to permeate into the offline world, and one way to do this was to produce a book. so annie abrahams and i decided to do this, and the other organisers of the CyPosium agreed.
producing a book is a long and fraught process. in the end it has taken us almost two years from agreeing to the idea to holding the book in our hands (actually, two years isn't so bad for a book - i have a forthcoming chapter in another book that has been in production since 2007 ...). during this time we have liaised with all the contributors to edit their work, ensure all the necessary permissions are secured, find a publisher, find funding, design and lay out the book, wrestle with images to get the best printed quality, make corrections to the content, make corrections to the layout, learn about how Lulu works, get a proof copy and make more corrections, and finally now ... organise a launch event and publicise the existence of the book. phew. and all of that has been voluntary work, for myself and annie, and all of the contributors. big thanks to all of you! and to Link Editions and La Panacée for publishing it.
CyPosium - the book is lovely, it's beautiful, it has 171 pages and full-colour illustrations and its very own ISBN. it has a wonderful new book smell and the pages move gracefully when you flick through them, making the soft papery sounds of promise and anticipation that a book packed with information and energy should make. the cover is smooth and shiny, the inner pages matt and soft. a breeze of creativity and innovation wafts out as i flick through the pages close to my face. this is a book for reading in the bath, curled up in bed, lying on the beach or in your favourite armchair.
you can have it for free if you want to read the ebook online or download the pdf; but for the real, tactile and multisensory experience i highly recommend going the whole way and buying a hardcopy. i know it's not cheap, we opted for colour images rather than the perhaps more affordable black and white, because it seemed a shame to skimp at that point. we've kept it as cheap as we can, the Lulu.com price is cost only, we don't make any profit from it.
during october - and for a large part of the preceding 4 months - i was busy with a project in manchester called Tales from the Towpath. this was a collaboration with three writers - maya chowdhry, sarah hymas and michelle green - inspired by the history and imagined futures of manchester's canals and waterways. together the four of us wrote a story spanning past, present and future(s), featuring a cast of characters including a clown and a canal shark. and we used a variety of media to tell the story: a live performance on a canal boat, an origami boat, geocaching, zappar codes and micro-projections. it was a truly multi-faceted production!
the project was presented at the Manchester Literature Festival, which meant that our audience was primarily "literary" and some of them found the story trail part of the project (geocaching and zappar codes) a bit technologically challenging. indeed, these aspects of the project had been quite challenging to create. i've been doing geocaching for a while now but this was my first shot at creating and hiding caches, and as for zappar codes - i'd never heard of them before. maya had seen a demo at a festival and was keen to try them out, so we did. there was a lot of learning for us with both of these things, but the results were worth it and included unexpected benefits such as the flood of keen geocachers who discovered the project through that aspect (we also discovered that caches require a lot of maintenance ...). guided story trail tours were held for those who needed technical assistance.
zappar codes are a bit like QR codes in that you scan them with a mobile device & something appears on your screen, but zaps allow you to have augmented reality content: animations that appear as an overlay to what you are seeing through your device's camera. each of the 5 zaps we created has a piece of the story as audio while animations appear over the canal or other view you're looking at. the zaps held the story of the future, while the geocaches contained history and the live performance was, naturally, the present.
as well as learning how to make zaps and hide geocaches, and getting to play with my projector and flexible mirror on a canal boat, this project was a real pleasure because of the collaboration between the four artists. everyone brought different ideas, skills and opinions to the mix and worked together in such a way that no-one could say who wrote which line or what idea belonged to someone - it all came out of the collaborative melting pot.
The project continues in that the story trail will be available until at least the end of the year for those in manchester, and for those elsewhere you can experience the story trail online - click here to explore.