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STARTS Collaborations at POSTCITY

Research Associate Jason Crouch talks at Ars Electronica 2018

Author: Jason Crouch

How can an artist-led approach create opportunities to consider and challenge how we use new technologies in unusual ways?

In this short video, Research Associate, Jason Crouch, extols the virtues of creative conversation, collaboration and new communities at STARTS Day, Ars Electronica 2018.

You can find a full written transcript, along with links to the projects mentioned, below this video.


Hi Everyone,

I’m Jason, and this is my first time at ARS Electronica. I’m here with a team from FutureEverything.

You may already know us as a festival and cultural lab based in Manchester, in the UK. Yesterday we did some work next door at the Trust in Invisible Agents Roundtable, which I’ll sum up at the end of this talk.

First off, thanks to STARTS and Ars Electronica for giving me the opportunity to speak at this event, to talk a little about how we collide technology, arts and culture to discover possible futures.

Before joining the FutureEverything team, I’d been going to the festival and conference for many years. It had the advantage of being just around the corner, in my hometown. Maybe that’s why I first went, but that’s not why I kept going.

The festival makes visible the threads that tie together arts, technology and culture.

Domains that oftentimes seem quite far apart.

It would give direction to much of my own work, in research and in arts making, and lead me through a PhD which brought together technology and one-to-one, intimate performance.

Discovering humanity through the network.

The festival is a space where individuals can find their tribe but also see people and practice that is, to them, both novel and surprising. I found not only that new technologies could be turned to performance and art practice, but in fact that this is simply the beginnings of a rich feedback loop.

Art and the artist are perfectly positioned to challenge and investigate technology itself.

FutureEverything has a well documented history of using the crucible of the festival to catalyse cross-pollination and to explode echo chambers, creating the method ‘festival as lab’.

The festival is home to intersecting communities of coders, environmentalists, technologists, musicians, performance artists, critical thinkers, bioware tricksters, punks and twitterers.

(Some might be all of this in the same person)

Experiencing this community of ideas myself twisted my own career through multiple versions of itself. Drawing and re-drawing a map to other vibrant and vital communities across the world, eventually bringing me here.

And isn’t what’s here incredible?
every conversation an opportunity for collaboration, a new community around every corner.

This is my first time at ARS and to be honest I didn’t expect my first time to be stood on this stage representing FutureEverything. I thought instead I would be able to hide out in the crowd, or sit at the back of the room, maybe tinkering with a raspberry pi.

But not today.

Today I’d like to share with you some of the work of two of our artists. Artists FutureEverything are connected with, through Vertigo STARTS, and also through our own artist commissioning programme Fault Lines. For the last two decades FutureEverything has applied an artist-led approach to investigate how new technologies impact citizens, end users, businesses, governments and society.

Why artist-led?

Using an artist-led approach there is always an opportunity to consider and challenge how we use new technologies in unusual ways, or at least in ways that are not necessarily what their creators might have intended.

Award winning artist and theatre maker Tim Etchells, recounts a story of his woodwork instructor teaching him the value of the right tool for the job, he turns this on its head stating instead that ‘the most interesting results in the work are reached by using the wrong tool for the job’.

Artists and arts practice is able to explore the unknown unknowns in technology development. Artists might work deep in the detail but they also connect to the sublime, their tools are both gut feeling and deeply researched nuance. Now that we find ourselves saturated by constant flows of stimulus, more than ever do we need better tools to read the state of the world.

To find pathways through complexity.

Artist and thinker James Bridle recently tweeted: “The fear generated by our inability to comprehend complexity is a feedback loop, generating simplistic worldviews whose only response to difference is violence”.

Art has always helped us grasp ideas that might otherwise be just out of reach.

Fault Lines artist Naho Matsuda’s work Every Thing, Every Time takes as its input the data from more than five hundred sensors from Newcastle University’s real-time monitoring matrix the Urban Observatory.

Sensors measuring the flow of traffic, throws of the dice, sunrise and rainfall.

Through algorithmic coding, and the artists powerful talent with written language, sensor inputs are majicked into eloquent poetry which is presented in a mechanically driven display.

Poems conjured from data, data as a map of the lived city,

written as moving sculpture and returned to the public as theirs.

This is one way in which art practice is able to capture huge ideas and complex data and distill them into a human shape.

Still retaining and expanding meaning.

Embracing difference and complexity as surprise, wonder and delight.

Error as opportunity.

Every Thing, Every Time was constructed with the assistance of two other Fault Lines artists, Dan Hett and Peter Evans, who worked as coders, fabricators, as additional eyes and ears.

Art making assembles temporary communities driven by discovery and play.

Kasia Molga’s Human Sensor measures the nature of the air its wearer breathes and wraps this data around their body.

This activated suit re-presents the complexity of sensor readings as viceral imagery through shimmering colour. The red of warning present in the colouring of poisonous berries or the glow of the stop sign, here signals an unseen predator, the dust and debris of the city given form – walking the streets with you.


The Human Sensor makes the complex tangible, and positions us as humans at the centre, as the axis / not the acted upon. Human Sensor is on show in the exhibition here at ARS, in the fashion and wearables section. I urge you to seek it out.

Yesterday we held a roundtable discussion, round the corner in the Workshop Space.

Our objective was to co-create a manifesto for artistic intervention in the IoT.

The roundtable is part of Future Sessions, which puts into practice our action research method ‘festival as lab’ – a series of conversations, workshops and events designed to explore the collision between the art and tech sectors

The manifesto we shared yesterday on twitter was the result of one such collision: Artists and representatives of the EU Large Scale Pilots working together with other citizen stakeholders to conjure up a way of doing things better.

To distil proud aspirations, inclusive thinking and revolutionary ideas for the future.

Embracing the transformative power of arts practice.

The manifesto is a first draft, we invite you to alpha test it with us.

In the making of art we change ourselves.

In the doing of art we understand more of who we are and who we want to be.

Arts practice in the IoT presents not only a way to develop better products, or to reach a wider market, it also offers an opportunity to think about who we are, what we mean to make and do, and how we might become better ourselves.

Thanks to the team at FutureEverything and all of our expert participants and panelists.

Thank you all for listening.

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