Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your practice as an artist?
I’m Thiago, I’m from Brazil. I studied computer engineering in Pittsburgh (in the US), but have been working on different educational and community projects for the last five years. I spend a lot of time between Brazil, the US, and now Mexico, where I’m part of an art+tech+activism collective called Astrovandalistas.
Generally speaking, my work deals with communication, and the tools that we use to mediate our affections. It’s not always art; I just spent two years working in a design studio in California, prototyping robotic toys for autism therapy research, which I think is related to my more personal practice of apps, installations and public interventions. And because I see my practice as a form of communication or interface, most of my projects involve workshops, or some other kind of collective process.
How did you get involved with FACT?
I’ve always heard good things about FACT from friends that have done projects here. I was in Brazil last November participating in one of the Connecting Cities events, and for some reason I was talking to a group of people about the San Francisco tech scene, and how absurd it has become, where everything is an app or a startup or an incubator (or all three).... There was a person in the group who kept saying I should move to Liverpool and start an art startup. I thought he was making fun of me, but the more we talked, the more we noticed that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. That was Mike (Stubbs, Director at FACT). Eventually he introduced me to Roger, Mark and Ana (FACT's Research, Innovation and Exhibitions team) and they told me about FACT’s plan/dream/vision for FACTLab.
What is FACTLab (in your own words?)
It’s NOT a startup (despite my previous answer of how I got involved with FACT!
FACTLab will probably be many things throughout its various incarnations and experimental phases, but to me, right now, it’s an opportunity to create a public face for some of the creative processes that already happen at FACT. FACT is known for connecting artists and communities, for promoting good innovative work, and for using art to explore certain aspects of society. In some ways the lab will be a physical place where we’ll be able to host some of these activities and create ways for people to engage with projects throughout their development. It will also be a place where people can go to learn about art and technology. Hopefully it will act as a catalyst for the greater creative community, and FACT can become known as a place where art is made, and not just shown.
What aspect of the 'lab' are you most excited about?
The people and the communities that will grow out of it. I think it’s exciting to have a place where people can get together to exchange ideas and experience.
What do you hope to gain as an artist through being involved in this pilot programme?
It’s my first time working in the UK, and I think being in residency in the lab, in an open space, will be a good opportunity to get to know people and the culture. You never know how that might influence your work and practice.
What can visitors expect when they enter the 'lab'?
FACTLab will be a pretty dynamic space, with a working area, and a more social space. We will host a series of artists and residents in the working area, who will be developing different kinds of projects, from video installations, to audio technologies and robotics. The social area will be a bit more multi-purpose. This is where we will have lectures, classes, workshops, and sometimes showcase some of the things being worked on in the lab and at FACT in general. It can also be used as a work space for people just passing through.
The Build Your Own exhibition is all about making processes through collaboration. What skills do you hope to share with visitors to the space?
We’re hosting “Hack Nights” throughout the entire summer, twice a week, for about 12 weeks. These Hack Nights will be a sort of guided study group for introductory topics in electronics, programming and 3D design, because as expressive and creative as these skills can be, they’re still technical and there’s still a bit of a learning curve for getting started. We want to create a space where people feel comfortable learning these things in a group, and hopefully also have some fun. People who already know about the basics can also drop in to work on their projects or collaborate with other participants.
Tell us more about your project with Radamés Ajna, memememe - I hear that self-obsessed mobile phones play a part!
It started when we had this realization that, today, phones are probably having more fun than we are when we use them to communicate. They have so much going on when we touch them: GPS, BlueTooth, WiFi, NFC, accelerometers, compass, etc, Where for us, the physical experience is very limited: thumb-on-glass. memememe is a research project and a framework for exploring these computer-computer interactions, and how they reflect aspects of our culture and affection.
Part of it involves giving the phones the ability to develop richer, more physical ways of interacting with each other through movement and sounds. We’re teaching them to learn, and for now they’re pretty dumb and self-absorbed. They’re only capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors, and when they do, of course they take a selfie and post it on tumblr.
What's next for you following your residency at FACT?
An art startup! It will be bigger than the Beatles…
FACTLab will open on 4 June, find out more and see and our programme of events here.
With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union