Building creatures with lives of their own. Engaging with audiences. Building works that interact with each other and then teaching would-be creature builders just how to do this. That’s what Genetic Moo is all about. It’s exciting to see the work of this incredible duo currently dazzling audiences in Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in Halifax Yorkshire with their magic.
Also known as Tim Pickup and Nicola Schauerman, Lumen has commissioned them to be part of a number of opportunities since they were chosen for the very first Lumen Founder’s Award in 2013. It’s been a fruitful partnership and, as they have back-to-back shows with Lumen this spring and summer, it seemed a good time to sit down and ask a few questions about their show, Microworld.
When was Microworld invented and how is it evolving?
We had the idea for Microworld in 2012 after watching a BBC nature documentary about ecosystems and thinking about how our individual interactive artworks could be brought together into a single space, with artworks feeding other artworks and the ensuing struggle for survival. The audience would then be immersed in this living space.
Our first Microworld was in 2013 following a period of experimentation with systems artist, Sean Clark (who shared a 2016 Lumen Award with Esther Rollinson), which culminated in an exhibition of ‘connected’ digital artworks at Phoenix Leicester. The artworks responded to the space, the visitors and each other. We considered the artworks as creatures, each with a set of senses and behavioural responses. Microworlds explore digital life as it could be. They are creative and experimental spaces. In the past, we’ve invited artists to add works into the mix and over the last two years we have been running creative coding workshops within the Microworld, providing participants with the tech and skills to create works to be fed into the exhibition. This makes Microworlds dynamic and ever-changing and participants instant digital artists.
To date we have run eight Microworlds in the UK and abroad. We ran our first international as part of Lumen’s Hong Kong Prize winners’ exhibition – which was our first time visiting Hong Kong!
We have been adding new works into this model with a range of different types of interaction and a clash of digital and animal aesthetics. As technologies come and go we are moving towards a single unifying browser-based interface – the idea being that the Microworld is as simple as possible to install and run, and could be done by people in remote places with various display technologies.
How has partnering with Lumen worked out for you – from a practice perspective and as artists?
We’ve enjoyed working with Lumen and their flexible and dynamic approach to exhibiting digital art. As our practise has grown it has been stimulating to watch Lumen grow and to a point where it is now taking on some seriously ambitious and exciting projects. The Lumen team have a great mix of nous and technical know-how, and are really getting to grips with engaging the public in all the potentials of digital art, from incredibly advanced and sometimes huge technical pieces, to the world touring and the passing on of digital art history and the inspiring of the next generation of digital artists. We’ve been lucky enough to cross the world from Hong Kong to Caerphilly with Lumen and have run several workshops with kids as young as 7 getting stuck into creative coding. We’re also pleased to be on the first-round judging panel – the International Selectors’ Committee, which has given us a real insight into what is out there.
How has bringing your art to the National Children’s Museum in Halifax been different from other locations?
We consider this show to be our most complex and complete Microworld yet, with 5 projectors, 3 monitors, 5 sensors and 7 computers. Despite the long tech list, this is the first time we haven’t had to climb a ladder to install a range of equipment. Lumen, working closely with the Eureka! technical team, took on this challenge and then we just rolled up and installed the software, which was great. Making sure the works are robust and simple to run has been an important learning curve for us. Our current show in Halifax is expected to reach an audience of 150,000 people, which as interactive artists is what it is all about.
Happily, Eureka! has a large staff and an army of enablers which we have been working with on the story-telling possibilities of the space. Microworld is a natural for this and the enablers have been engaging with the audience and helping them to dynamically alter the room. Eureka! has already told us that the work is much richer than they had imagined, which is really cool. Finally we’ve been blown away by how expressive the Microworld itself is – we have been watching it for hours and there are always new thrills around the corner and new ways to interact – so thank you, Lumen & Eureka!
What are you looking forward to in bringing the show to Brecon?
In show at the Andrew Lamont Gallery in Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon, Wales (May 28 – June 22), the focus will be on working with the local community to help them to design their own digital art which will then run throughout the show. We will be dropping our own creatures into the mix, in a fluid contemplative space. This show will be less about interaction and more about simulating the rhythms of life. We’ll be using coloured gels on the windows overlooking the canal and experimenting with RGB lighting to change the feel of the space, then adding in multiple projections over that. We’re interested in bringing digital art to Brecon, to people who may not have experienced much digital art before, and look forward to seeing what they make of it.
Microworld at Eureka! will run to June 3 and will be part of a larger show opening June 9, featuring 8 Lumen Prize artists, in the Museum’s Spark Gallery, with a Private View on June 14th.
We have a limited number of free tickets for this event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.