I’ve just come back from a fascinating and inspiring week in Manchester at FutureEverything. Now in its 17th year (how did that happen? that makes me feel very old…) and a sell out, the conference, arts and music programmes were a refreshing perspective on all things arts, technology and society.
In the piece I raise a challenge to the FutureEverything team and state that the arts needed to be embedded in the conference more; I felt the arts process and discourse, and not just its outputs in the form of its commissioned programme, had so much more to offer the theme of ‘future everybody’ that they could have been used for more benefit and impact than the arts programme alone (though Laurence Epps Human Resources and his #littleclaymen has to be one of the most successful – and fun, reflexive and engaging – public art pieces I have seen in a long time, the clay figures pervading Manchester and creating a real buzz.) With the theme was ‘future everybody’ then that includes artists too and it would have been good to hear from, not just see or listen to, artists that are working in true civic participation and revolution.
The definition of the arts for the speakers at least it seemed centred on the commercial creative industries (film, music, publishing) so at times I was left wondering what relevant lessons I could draw for the artists that I work with.
I also felt slight language and practice barriers between artists and technologists; it sometimes seemed that the technologists simply didn’t get what the arts programme was about or why it was there and happily talked to themselves as a group. But maybe the techies felt that we arts people were guilty of the same.
Whilst I came away from the conference with new knowledge and motivated anew and with new ideas for collaborations and projects with arts and technology, I also wondered that for a conference that was so much about making a difference to our society, why we didn’t have an interactive and solution-finding element to our two days at MOSI. Rather than passively sit and listen to talks – as engaging as they were – could we not have got hands on and like the hack and unconference culture we heard so much about, could we not have been set tasks to problem-solve in groups and present back the next day?
I would also like to have seen the arts brought from its exhibition space into the conference space in a way that would help cross the cultural boundary of the arts and technology…to see something live and in the making between an artist and technologist over the two days would have been a great way to see the thinking in action. Or could there have been an artist in residence that recorded the conference and exhibited – or performed, or sang… – their reflections and provocations to us?
Drew, I’ll put my time where my mouth is and I’m happy to talk all things arts and format for FutureEverything 2013!
I look forward to finding out what the 2013 theme is (announced soon I hear!) and can’t wait to be on the train to Manchester next March (20th to 23rd, put the dates in your diaries) to be part of it again. I fear that I come across as critical of a festival that really has added value to my professional practice – but maybe that’s a good thing, it’s got me thinking, its got me questioning my own practice, its got my energy up and its got me inspired.