Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I come from a really mixed background before I ended up in art and research, but it’s always been about crossing boundaries and collaborating with different kinds of people. I did a PhD at Cambridge University helping robots to see shapes. I loved talking to mathematicians about how they describe shapes and turning that into pictures I could see on the computer so I could understand them better.
I then went to Edinburgh University where I helped set up the Edinburgh Virtual Environment Centre. We had all kinds of technology to capture 3D models of objects, places and people. Once we scanned a knight in armour on a tomb and brought him to life with motion capture of a real swordsman. I then worked between Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University on all sorts of interesting projects with artists, designers, architects and dancers developing new forms of creative technology. My research interest is how these collaborations can be made to happen and how we can help people to us digital technology to explore and change the world around them for themselves.
How did you get involved with FACT, and now FACTLab?
I arrived in Liverpool about 18 months ago to take up an exciting post between FACT and Liverpool School of Art and Design at John Moore’s University. It is one of three ‘Inspire’ posts, the others being with Tate Liverpool and Liverpool Biennial. The idea is to make a new way of working between a University and an arts organisation, which is very close. We split our time 50-50 in the University and the arts organization and so can really get involved deeply at a practical level. FACTLab comes out of new ideas of how arts organisations can work with the public and create art in new ways.
What do you hope the project will achieve?
FACTLab is a pilot project. It’s a short practically-focused trial of new way of working with the public and making art in-house. We want people to see how artists work and talk to them. We also want to give people a chance to get involved and learn how to use these technologies for themselves, even if they have no prior experience. Another important goal is to build a grass roots community of artists, developers and public that are interested in this space.
What do you think will be the most exciting part of the project for visitors?
The most exciting bit for visitors is you can see stuff going on and, if you want, get involved! Its not just a bunch of stuff in a room. Its about seeing the process and talking to the artists and maybe even having a go doing something like a workshop.
What's different about FACTLab - have any other organisations attempted anything like this before?
There is a very interesting change going on across the world where arts organisations are moving from a model of just showing art in white rooms to acting as centres for action, exploration and innovation. FACT is right at the forefront of this change and FACTLab is our way of exploring this space. FACT and LJMU are recognized as leaders in this new approach, spreading the best practice of what we have learnt. FACT, aided by LJMU, is unique in combining an embedded researcher with in-house artist/developers, world class artists and deep and authentic community engagement.
What's next - will FACTLab continue after Build Your Own?
Yes it will continue. In the short term we will have a look at how things went in this small trial and see what lessons that can be learned. Physically, FACTLab will stay on in different spaces and become mobile so we can take it outside. Longer term we look at the bigger picture of how ideas like FACTLab can demonstrate and enhance the key importance of the arts sector as a site of creativity, insight, innovation and contact with the public.
FACTLab is part of Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing and will be open from 4 June. With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union