Future Art Ecosystems 2 Live: Robin McNicholas

Future Art Ecosystems 2 Live: Robin McNicholas

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Hello, everyone. Welcome to our Future Art Ecosystems 2 Live with Robin McNicholas. My name is Alex Boyes, and I work within the Arts Technologies team as an R&D platform producer at Serpentine Galleries. This conversation this evening is part of our FAE2 live series, where we speak to our contributors that have helped us release a recent publication, Future Art Ecosystems, Future Art Ecosystems 2: Art x Metaverse or FAE2 for short.

And we do this to invite our audiences to gain insight in in terms of the research practice as ordinarily this is a closed research report. And this way, you get to meet our contributors directly. This evening's live welcomes co-founder and creative director Robin McNicholas from experiential Art Collective Marshmallow Laser Feast, or I will be referring it to MLF for short, from now on. MLF are known for their multidisciplinary artworks like Dream, In The Eyes of the Animal, and We Live In An Ocean of Ar among many others. And I hope to politely probe Robin about these in more detail. For info, we post-produce and capture all our Lives and post them via Serpentine YouTube.

So do try to enjoy the conversation and get involved in the chat via Twitch, because you can always pick up on the finer details at a later stage. You can also watch our previous Lives with artists like Sam Rolfes, David Blandy and Larry Achiampong, as well as Amelia Winger-Basken via YouTube. And next week's Live is a Frieze edition Monday 11th of October from 6pm with Maggie Roberts of Orphan Drift on artificial intelligence and interspecies communication. Gosh, I always have to sound that out, specifically octopuses. But, Future Ecosystems 2.

So Future Art Ecosystems or FAE is an annual strategic briefing launched in 2020 that provides concepts, references, language and arguments for 21st century cultural infrastructure. The first version of FAE: Future Art Ecosystems: Arts x Advanced Technologies addressed the implications of artistic engagements with advanced technologies in terms of into interstructural redesign that they enable within and in parallel existing to...and in parallel to existing art ecosystems. Future Art Ecosystems. Art x Metaverse focuses on the larger stakes involved in revamping digital strategy at cultural institutions and the advent of the metaverse, an online always persistent spatial second world that represents a fundamental shift in our notion of digital infrastructure and presence.

And whilst I'm on introductions, I also want to introduce to Tamar Clarke-Brown, our Commission's Producer, who is assisting me this evening, as well as Ralph Pritchard, our Tech Manager, and our lovely BSL assistants, Porigene Kaylee and Karen Green. For those watching at home will be be doing BSL wwaps around 15 minutes throughout the conversation. So just to take notice of that as well. Those that are absent this evening from the Serpentine team include Eva J├Ąger Associate Curator Arts Technologies, Kay Watson Head of Arts Technologies, Ben Vickers Strategist at Large, And Victoria Ivanona R&D Strategic Lead. Also for those who need closed captions this evening.

You need to click the little CC option at the bottom right frame of Twitch to have it activated. And also, please do get involved in the Twitch chat. Tamar will be taking questions to redirect them towards myself and Robin towards the tail end of the conversation.

And a reminder that if you want to participate in that, you'll need a Twitch account. So we'll be dropping instructions for that in the chat as well. It's super quick and easy to sign up and it's free. But back to Robin.

So, Robin, I've stolen this from the Australian International Documentary Conference. I'm biased, I'm Australian, I have to do things like that. This is a short introduction to Robin.

And then afterwards, Robin, I'd really like to ask you, particularly from a non-arts perspective, what you do professionally and the studio at large as well. But to start, Co-Founder and Creative Director of the award winning creative studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, Robin has directed a myriad of VR experiences, large scale installations and live performances. Marshmallow Laser Feast is a London based experiential studio working at the intersection of technology, art and science. Always looking to create experiences that immerse and amaze in unexpected ways, MLF employs a wealth of creative disciplines from photo real virtual reality to robotic performance and real time mapping....to push boundaries, redefine expectations and excite audiences worldwide.

Also, just to say such a huge privilege to speak to you Robin, I have been a massive fan of MLF for such a long time. But yes, to start. How do you describe what you do? Robin? And the studio as well, because you do so much. Well, oh, firstly, thank you very much for having me to talk this evening. And I think it's great Serpentine are having these conversations.

In terms of what Marshmallow Laser Feast do. I also refer to as this MLF from here on.out. It's a multidisciplinary, creative collective. We have years gone by, accumulated lots of experience working in the film industry, in the music industry, and lots of passion projects have been bootstrapped by working with museums.

Experiential works have manifested with MLF's name somewhere all over the place. And so what we've really focused on is making sure that there's always a beating heart, which is the passion projects that we create and tour, and they visit all kinds of different cultural and arts organizations. Sometimes festivals, sometimes galleries and sometimes online.

And so we have found ourselves for years being interested in mixed reality and using technology to express ourselves creatively and have found ourselves at this point in time with kind of ratification for stuff like the metaverse being spoken in more kind of mainstream circles. So I'm really interested to chat today about that and how we fit into that and what our interests are. I was going to mention, Robin, because catching up with you last week. What really resonated and stuck out in my mind is how you spoke about your studio operating in a really organic nature and doing research for the report. A lot of my role is sort of proposing who we should interview for Future Art Ecosystems, and for this specific one around the Metaverse.

And I just I wanted you to sort of highlight, if you could, how how MLF distinguishes itself from other sort of collectives or studios using similar technologies. I think what connects us is there's a curiosity and a passion to create new experiences for audiences. And we've realized that using technology, we can engage with audiences in completely new ways and find new storytelling techniques, new experiential processes that allow us to craft environments where you can have control of how a space smells, what it feels like and.

Even though it's relatively overused words these days, but we're very passionate about this sense of immersion, about allowing audiences to lose themselves in the work. I'm sorry, I would add. But it is, it's an organic process as well.

There's lots of interdisciplinary relationships. And the way we realize our work relies heavily on the technical team that we have in the house. And it's hugely collaborative. And that production team also become part of the creative process. I would say that we're not necessarily individualistic in the sense that traditional arts and artists with a central individual focus. Work emerges from a collective effort.

And I think that that is expressed in gaming companies, in film productions, in theater. I'm actually a lot of the art world, of course, is hugely collaborative as well, and expands into the relationship between artists makers and the curators and cultural spaces. Yes. Yes. And I mean, the thing that we're always keenly interested in and the Arts Tech team is sort of at least from a historical perspective, moving away from that master artist framework to sort of the collective and even like within like a collective, collectives Working with each other as well. But on that and this might be a a more institutional worded question, but in terms of like the nuts and bolts of how MLS operates, how is it governed or structured in in terms of decision making? Is there a board? Is there like a CEO? Is there a tribunal of producers? Yeah, there's there's a board. There are shareholders.

We operate as business and we have done it for a number of years. And I think just the nature of the work that we take on and put into the world. It's hugely expensive.

You require really highly technical, skilled individuals. These freelancers often are really expensive. They have huge day rates.

And similarly, the hardware, the software licenses, things like that are also huge barriers in terms of funding MLF purely through the Arts Council, let's say, or other public organizations. So we've bootstrapped the work a lot in the past. We've worked as commercial directors and. Honestly, it does is good because we learn. Within that sector, what we really love and the collaborative environment, it's still as valid.

And it's extraordinary how quick the turnaround like gives you this kind of extraordinary. It just educates you very quickly and but similarly, we've had PhD students come through our doors. We've worked with different public sector organizations a lot. So it's hybridized. And the reason why we still go about hybrid-hybridized work is that, well, the scene is still crystalizing.

And, you know, there's various attempts to put business models behind it and and create ticketed experiences that are the soul kind of driving force behind what we do. But honestly, the scene is is still in its infancy. And with stuff like the pandemic in the mix as well, it just slightly delays the crystallization of that scene. And Robin, on that sort of I'm going to say I'm going to steal your words of non-linear. I think what really comes out consistently in FAE2 is we call it sort of non passive spectatorship.

But I wanted to know from in your own words, because you're just talking about hybridization, and I know you come from more of a performance background, even though obviously you're working in visual arts as well. But when you when MLF says non-linear storytelling, what to you? What does that mean? I think it means nontraditional storytelling. And obviously. Well, I would I would start by saying that traditional storytelling, in terms of printed books and theater and film, are set institutions that of course, within the different silos are so varied and diverse in the way in which stories are told. But some of the new technologies and you know. The fact that. The surge of digital literacy as more and more people online engage in social interactions and cultural interactions with connected devices.

There's new literacy and there's new experiences to be had and different ways audiences are spending time. And we feel strongly that our role within the arts and culture space is to present our work to those audiences that digitally literate and potentially those who are not. That might be interested.

Yeah, it's I find what's really intriguing and it's interesting about MLF is the way that you approach storytelling and then the ways in which that storytelling appears. When we interviewed you the first time, we spoke quite in a lot of detail around Dream. That was part of that, Audiences of the Future Challenge. But then I know more recently you've got a project on, and I want to do a quick shout out to PHI Centre in Montreal, because we just we were speaking about that with Larry Achiampong during our previous Live interview. But MLF has a project on at Phi Centre in Montreal at the moment, isn't.

That's correct, right.? That's right. We've really over the moon to be showing, We Live In An Oceaon of Air.

But and let me get the dates right....2020...2019, we were showing it at Saatchi Gallery in London and these places, venues, organizations like the PHI Centre that are really a beacon of hope for the experiential scene, the XR scene. And yeah, that's showing until January next year. And we're just really pleased to be bringing that to audiences. But I think going back to the previous question, we're interested in experiential storytelling.

You know, there's an element of wordlessness and discovery that you can hand over in an interactive work and in real time work that is created in the game's engine, that allows for the role of the audience member to be different to that of the passive audience sitting in the seats, watching a screen, a screen or a broadcast of some sort. And that's quite nuanced ways to engage and and handover. In an interactive work like We Live In An Ocean Of Air, that uses lots of technology, but the whole point of it is to allow that technology to completely disappear. We use sensors in We Live In An Ocean Of Air, heart rate monitors and breath sensors, as well as VR headsets and scent, and a whole rig of fans that are situated above the audience's heads.

And all of these work together to engage the audience in a different way. And there is a sense of wordlessness of a shared experience that. We're only beginning to discover how powerful that is and lift the lid on the potential of it. I had the privilege of saying We Live In An Ocean of Air when I was doing some sort of R&D work for the Francis Crick Institute. They were really interested in how to effectively implement VR for science communication. But what was so striking, I mean, apart from the the the artwork itself, the smell thing for me was really exciting, but a really important part of it was the invigiliation.

Your invigilators on that particular artwork. They were so caring and the attention to detail with the onboarding, particularly like there was audience members that I was watching it as people were going in as well. There was audience members that hadn't done VR before. There were audience members that need it needed extra guidance because their mobility wasn't the same. But every single audience member coming out of that really loved that. My question to you is, with this work in sort of like a post pandemic context, how how did it shift or change? Was the visitor throughput edited in any capacity? Because I mean, the thing about this artwork is it was people coming in.

It was very tactile and hands on, etc. I was just very interested to know what the format is looking like now, at the PHI Centre in Montreal. Yeah, we, the process of watching the performance of visitors engage in the work was really. We treated it very carefully. It was really moving. And the you're right, it was hugely important.

The invigilation was a very sensitive area. We wanted to limit the amount of dialog. We wanted to make sure that people felt like they were in safe hands. And, you know, obviously different audiences have got different levels of experience, especially when it comes to wearing VR headsets and just generally, you know, wearing a VR headset in a communal space with other potential strangers. Is.

There's a duty of care, I suppose, but there's also a really beautiful performance that plays out, but I think. Is...it enhances the experience and becomes part of the work as well. And at the PHI Centre in Montreal. No, we haven't had to adapt the throughput. We have, of course, had to be really majorly vigilant about the health and safety. You know, fortunately, when it comes to the PHI Centre, they've had an experience that they have put called The Infinite, which is made by Felix and Paul Studios.

That takes people on to the ISS, the International Space Station, and that's for huge numbers of visitors, and they had to really perfect the art of sanitization headsets and reassurance. And, you know, in terms of visitor care. You know, you or I would expect it, at very least for a sanitized, safe VR headset, if you're going to engage in any kind of communal, VR work. And fortunately, with people like the PHI Centre they've got that covered, and we can get on with focusing on the experience itself and just making sure that people have people feel empowered, you know, and people can take out of it.

We had lots of repeat visitors. We had lots of people sobbing, which was a weird kind of unexpected reaction to what the piece presents. And of course, that's one of the driving factors when we when we get a sense that it's emotionally engaging audiences and it's a lovely thing and just drives us to allow for people to experience that kind of work and take from it what they want in a kind of in in a safe and hopefully artistically engaging space.

It must be exciting to sort of as it becomes live and you get audience responses, seeing the variation in audiences geographically. But also I've got to see page PHI page/the PHi page open. My accent kills everything. I've got to open at the moment.

And it has that visualization of the breath and breathing like it was, such as breathing. And the lungs were such a topic of sort of the Covid era. But this is quite exciting to see. And in a post pandemic era, like we should be celebrating, breathing as well in a new creative capacity through the work as well I think that's it's important for us to lift the veil and allow the technology to reveal some of these processes that you know, and to expose the human being as a living organism and ask questions like where the human body begins and where it ends. And, you know,

I think that there are some wonderful possibilities presenting themselves that for future experiences like this, that the level of detail, the kind of cinematic qualities skirting around that production values, but they are just improving and getting lighter and more comfortable and things like that. I try and distance myself from getting to kind of tech Zeit Geist heavy, because I think even in the blurb you read at the start, you know, there's a lot when it whenever creative practitioners are engaging in technology, that's lots of a narrative of pushing the boundaries. Yeah, I think we're at a stage now where we're like, you know what, we're comfortable with these boundaries and we're just going to refine and focus in on what we want people to feel in a space as well. I kind of feel like artist bio are quite than artwork in themselves, but always great to start off an interview. Robin, from a more practical perspective.

This is a touring artwork. I wanted to know how important is touring from MLF perspective and when it comes to producing an artwork, are you thinking about touring from the onset of the artwork being conceived, or is is it something that I mean, in terms of We Live In An Ocean Of Air...Yeah. Was it seeded at the start? Did it come about as happenstance or an intervention from speaking to a potential collaborator? How does MLF approach touring within its its business model? Yeah, we do.

We think about touring as a kind of central driving factor. We have a wonderful human being called Andrew Stone, who was previously at the Science Museum, whose focus is just touring. He was in Montreal with We Live In An Ocean Of Air recently. And yes, it's hugely important because of these types of because of the way we fund our work. Sometimes we get investment, sometimes we bootstrapped.

Sometimes it's funded through cultural entities or hybridized. It really varies. But there is a touring aspect. And whenever a work can tour with us.

But that's a better thing. And we've learned the hard way. We've created things like we have a laser forest that weighs tonness and takes days to install and is not necessarily tolerable. Similarly, project called A Colossal Wave.

If we had to close roads, hire cranes and erect huge shipping containers to exhibit the work. And, you know, there are there are opportunities to to take those works places, but. I think more than anything. Where we're going and what. What we've realized and have been mindful of for a number of years now is this the fact that our work is adaptable and the fact that our work can. Take shape in very different forms.

So, for example, the project In The Eyes of The Animal originally was a commission by Abandon Normal Devices, a festival where we exhibited in Grizedale Forest, where we dangled VR headsets. Well, they'd be VR headsets encased in these helmets that were covered in bark and moss and different foliage in a forest for people to discover. And that's one way of engaging in the work. The piece is still touring. It's been all over the world now, and some of it is shown on Ron Arad's curtain.

The large cylindrical screen that was created as a full dome version, that we took on new tech. A gear VR app version... Not many people crack open the gear VR app these days, but the point is that practitioners within our space are able to create story worlds. And that's what we do.

We create story webs, and there are different windows into that world, into those worlds, so they can be projection screens or VR headset or AR/Web browsers. And I think in that way we can communicate in very, very varied ways, but in diverse and versatile ways that kind of erode some of the barriers. So they're more accessible. But there are tradeoffs that you can author a work that say We Live In An Ocean Of Air.

We have complete control. It's a black box. And we can really refine the experience down to the feeling on your feet and the smell in the environment at that time. But on the complete opposite side of things is a project like Dream that was browser based. And you can obviously reach many more people if you are creating a story world that is accessible through a browser. I was just as bringing up footage of in the eyes of the animal that I was.

As you were talking, it's one of my favorite works of yours. But when we interviewed you, the first time dream was sort of the focus because it was part of the Audiences Of The Future Challenge. I was hoping I've got I've got a brief outline of a description of the project here, but I don't think it does it service. I'm going to read it out, but I'd love for you to describe it in more detail, and in particular, the amount of project partners that were involved with that because it's quite remarkable in that sense.

But Dream, an online production set in a virtual midsummer forest performed live from Portsmouth Guildhall, in March 2021. Dream is the culmination of a major piece of research and development within the Audience of the Future program, exploring how future audiences will experience live performance. It was, and it was mental. It was an exhausting, hugely adventurous deep dive into a place that I don't think anyone was. Everybody on the project was out of their comfort zone, which is really the perfect distraction for a pandemic.

But also, we learned a heck of a lot in that project. In essence, it was a live motion capture production. And we were. We were essentially developing an experience for a live found space and had just recorded the music. The Philharmonic Orchestra had recorded a number of pieces in the Alexandra Palace. And I think the day after the recording lockdown kicked in. And so we had to completely shut down the location based experience, the bricks and mortar productions. That

wasn't anything like the digital pivot that was shared in March of this year. And what was shared was effectively a production that meant Marshmallow Laser Feast. And me as a director, working incredibly closely with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Manchester International Festival, we brought Nick Cave in. There was a huge, extraordinary cast who some who had never done any motion capture before.

There was a huge experiment and there were loads of risks along the way. And ultimately, we had seven by seven meters to present this life work to the Internet. We were really, really happy with how many people over from March 8th to March 20th. We we managed to draw in 65000 people, more than 65000 people, which I mean, compared to what the numbers that we were getting through at the Saatchi Gallery were so much higher, you know, and so for us as an organization to lift the lid on future potential of reaching audiences, that was quite interesting. I would say the most exciting aspect of Dream was creating this story world in Unreal Engine Epic Games, who make Fortnite one of the partners on the production. And we we created a whole forest.

There was seven kilometers by seven kilometers. And we were able to. Just express our interests in the natural world through the filter of Shakespeare, in that we were able to craft characters that. Effectively took the kind of Tinkerbelle element away and introduced the wonders of the natural world. That's what at least we were attempting to do with that particular project and start to expose, explore a virtual forest, take people into the mycelial networks and into the canopy of trees that were all informed by the original Midsummer Night's Dream text But. The forest that was created.

In itself was a character who was versatile because it was real time and we were developing this production in a real time context, we could craft it and we'd done previous motion capture productions. But they were all kind of painting by number productions. Productions where you'd have to plan ahead, get the performers into their ping-pong-ball suits to do their thing, and then on a timer just blasted out and then clean it all up.

But the prospect of bringing performance live performance, capture it out into the world. It was really. Exciting because of the creative potential, the possibilities of allowing actors, performers to bring their voice in in real time context. Unlike the painting by numbers, traditional model of creating a motion capture work we were able to allow. The performers in the space to to contribute and I would say my relationship with Pippa Hill. As a creative symbiosis, it was just great because she brought so much expertise, as Head of Literary and as a dramaturg was just extraordinary in and guiding me, whilst at the same time, I hope that because I suspect I'm more digitally literate, I'm certainly more digitally literate and exposed to different working practices with games, engines with DMX lighting and all of the kind of elaborate behind the scenes show stuff. We were able to work together and craft that kind of characters and environment that we wanted.

Of course, there's a huge musical avenue to it as well. So big a big project. It's still streaming on Dream dot online. And yeah, I feel very privileged and very kind of grateful to the generous Audiences of the Furture consortium because I got so much out of it. Mad!

Yeah, it was I mean, such a remarkable project. I guess what I find really fascinating is sort of this contrast between Dream, which is pivoted to more of a like an online life performance format. And just to clarify to when I was experiencing it, my cousin had the VR, the VR one on, and I was sort of watching it without the VR. But our experiences, it was we're still we were both amazed at what was happening when I watched it the first time. But comparing that to it, We Live In An Ocean of Air.

I was kind of interested from a producer perspective and particularly because your your specialty is live performance Robin. Which one of these formats you most excited by or which which one do you gravitate more towards in terms of creating the story world? Is it the immersive sort of on location access point for a visitor, or is it the more virtual element? It was something that we're really interested in when interrogated. I don't want to say advocating, but interrogating the theory of the metaverse because it is that persistent online world, but it is a bit of a dystopian ideal in some capacities. But these worlds are not dystopian in any in any way, shape or form.

They're creating new opportunities for storytelling and new ways of accessing different story worlds. Yeah, I see them as two of the same thing. I see, you know, there's a persistent physical world that is augmented by a digital layer. And I think that.

Sure enough, the opportunity to craft and refine physical bricks and mortar space. Because we've seen firsthand the impact that can have on audiences. Even though those audiences have limits, that audiences are limited in terms of throughput, we prefer that because we. You can't guarantee what a person at home and the way a person is engaging in. Our work through a mobile phone or a browser or a dodgy Internet connection, you know. And so to craft and refine the environment allows us to present that story world in the desired way.

As artists, we want to present it. However. That they are one of the same, I think that the pre during and post this this persistence is just a shift in mindset and there's an opportunity. It's not really an opportunity, it's just to cut some of the tethers of the past that have been dictated by the absence of technology, the absence of networks and affordability and. There's just just

new opportunities to iterate as well and to improve on the work, and so to erode models such as in a previous conversation, we talked about, you know, traditional film models where you shoot film, you edit it, you distribute it, stream it or put it on Blu ray. They're still putting Blu rays out and. On our side, we are creating work in a completely different way. In fact, the Premiere of the work is great because no one's seen it before. But I think that that pomp and pageantry of the red carpet experience is, you know, it's it's a thing that society presents in terms of the work that we're creating. We learn it and iterate and build on the experiences once they are introduced to the world.

And technology improves as well. So hardware and software and literacy and all of those things coexist and coevolved and allow our work to improve over time as well. I think that's a really positive thing that creative practitioners like us are bringing into the space, the fact that, you know, In The Eyes Of The Animal can tour and we can improve it, we can incrementally improve the production values and sound quality and and refine the invigilation and based on how the work is presented and adapt that work as well, according to what kind of audiences it's being presented to. Yeah, we definitely share similar sentiments for attitude.

I mean, between visual arts as the exhibition model and moving away from this attitude of its a fixed production, then it's done and you move on to the next element. Whereas within this type of work, in this type of production, the value comes more from that iterative process of the content but then also with your collaboration partners, too, because it can shrink and expand and take on a life of its own as your projects have been doing. But with that in mind, Robin and I know this is heavily tied to research and development. I might start with the bigger question of from a content perspective or production perspective, what does success mean to MLF? And then after you've answered that shift to more audience perspectives. But yeah, I mean, given everything that we're talking about, talked about Robin, how does MLF measure success or what do you deem is successful in terms of this type of work, given its strong emphasis on iteration and relationship building? There are different tiers in terms of success, and the metrics are not necessarily attached to kind of analytics. You know, we haven't got a clipboard of immersed individuals and a quota of people who've been through.

I think on a personal level, the. We measure success in our internal organization internally, our own kind of there's a critical entity within MLF that just allows us to push and pull and nurture the productions and and I think whenever a production tours and a new location, a new date in the calendar is in. Of course, that is seen as a positive. Well, less bothered about press, though, mindful of the fact that it's required. And I think that on the whole.

Because there's always a new project being developed in house. But, for instance, my primary focus the last three years has been developing a number of different projects, but I've been developing a project with the BFI, and I think that the similar level of success is being in the seat where we are actively developing these new works that are at. In the catch, you get in the category of new forms and scrutinizing how to execute the work to the highest kind of standards whilst maintaining some kind of cultural relevance as well. And. And I feel myself skirting around the question, which is, how do you measure success? I don't think financial success is I don't think audience numbers is, you know, we have lots of friends in the music industry who put gig on at the Brixton Academy and they're like ding, OK! That's done! There's easier ways to gain audiences.

But I think that we're fortunate that the community that we're involved in is relatively small. It's it's hugely collaborative. And as an organization, MLF is always collaborating with other individuals as well. And generally that really high end experts in this case of Pippa Hill who is Head of Literary at the RSC. It just enriches us as an organization.

Similarly, with the Fraunhofer Institute that we just made a project that we took to Cannes, it's a medical science visualization institute in Germany that had provided this with all these kind of this treasure trove of CT scans that we that we use. And so I think that. If our lives are being enriched by exposure to these extraordinary individuals that are just doing such amazing things with their lives, then it then it has this kind of ripple effect and feedback loop for for our team. Yeah, and Robin, do you have any. I remember asking you this question the first time, but I loved it when I ask you again, are there any standout audience reactions in your mind from previous projects? Because I've seen it in person.

When people say this stuff and the effect that it has on them, it's great. Yeah, but it's just the unexpected reactions when you when you design an environment that is nothing without being populated by human beings, visitors. And when that springs to life and you start to see authentic reactions to the work, it's it's really rewarding. And that can be people crawling around on the floor. In the case of Grizedale Forest, it was the authenticity, the authenticity of some of the. It wasn't, in fact, the Abandon Normal Devices visitors, it was the random hikers that would stumble upon a headset in the forest and.

Provide us with. Just the most raw and honest, real time expression of what they felt about the piece at that moment, and that's really encouraging. Similarly, in Hull we once had a somewhat in complete hysterics who was bent over in hysterics and we couldn't kind of prize them out of this Gidi loop. And it's just, you know, in the film, in the film world, I imagine people. Sneaking into a cinema and catching raw, raw reactions or in a gallery.

But in the in this particular scene. I don't know there's something about the immersive work, regardless of whether it's MLF, or whoever's. There's because there's no set model, it almost offers permission for audience members to create their own their own ways of engaging in the work. And I think that's really beautiful, because that becomes part crystallization process.

Speaking of engagement, Robin, we're running out of time and I'm eating it all up selfishly. So I wanted to hand over to my colleague to Tamar because we've got some questions from our live audience members. Oh, great. Hey. Hello. Hi. It's been such a great conversation

and I feel bad interrupting, but we do have some questions. Some people have been whispering them to me throughout the throughout the time. The first question is an unreal engine or unity. What are the pros and cons of both from your perspective? Very specific. Well, you can throw VVVVV into that conversation as well.

And we feel as though. Diversity helps with resilience, and so we've taken an approach where we embrace unity as a tool, VVVV as a tool, as well as unreal engine and.... A lot of the time it's down to the developers that are available to us. The in-house team were blessed with a technical team who can attend one, two or three, which is certainly rare. And so I suppose one of their kind of aspects of what we've accumulated over the years in terms of our organization's culture, of just being mindful that, you know, each have got their strengths, certainly in terms of the cinematic production values, unreal engine, a certainly going full on into virtual production. But. It's it's not binary by any means.

And I think that's better for the work and the emotion, and you can get there as long as you can get the idea across It doesn't necessarily matter. And they're all going to be updated next year and the year after. So as soon as you've learnt one, there's a new update. We have to just start...

They're iterating as much as we are. That actually links on to another question in the chat, which is asking how you keep up to date and trained up with the latest developments in tech and gaming? Is this usually through R&D or do you have like formal training? It's through R&D, but lots of the team are formally trained as well. There's 24 MLF people, so developers as well as producers and people involved in the touring. And so there's quite a lot of us. Three creative directors, which is pretty heavy in terms of just how how we are.

I can't remember what the question was, though. Just asking how you keep up to date. Yeah. So keeping up to date through R&D as well.

R&D are so essential. We've always got an aspect of R&D going on. And that's one of the great things about the commercial work as well. Forces this speed R&D process, some R&D that we haven't talked about.

For example, that was part of the Dream, Audiences of the Future research was how we make the metaverse tactile. So tracking deformable objects, asking questions like why is this trackpad steel or aluminum trackpad or glass, iPad, the things that you interact with, why can't you squidge it? Why can't they be organic and tactile and warm and fuzzy or flexible? And the way we've explored that a lot and I think in the background, carrying out those, just exploring those questions and allowing us to pick up unreal engine, or pickup unity and just try and push and pull it, it's weird. It enriches the organization in very strange ways. One of the R&D aspects that we've done over the pandemic was project trying to well, a project streaming motion, motion capture, skeletal data and.

One aspect of that we cherry picked, and that gives on a whole swathe of new projects as well, so R&D. The kind of the river that flows and helps us as an organization and it enriches us and in many different ways. Also to interrupt, I forgot to touch upon Robin, but the learnings from that particular Dream project will be shared later in the year as well, which I mean, Serpentine Arts Technologies are incredibly interested in learning more because it was such a huge R&D project.

But I guess also from our perspective, too. And we do so much, as you said, R&D, so valuable through that adjacency, working with other collaborators. You pick up these skills and teach each other all the time. You do in the case of the findings from the Audience of the Future project. We are showing that towards the end of the year. And there are loads of really niche subjects covered.

So, art direction producing for XR. Things like, sound design or sound production, games engine, engine optimization for streaming, really kind of, hopefully useful to people interested. That's really generous, and one of the things that we're really passionate about, too, is like sharing our skills, sharing our knowledge. So it's really empowering that you're doing that. Thank you, Robin.

We're basically at time now, so I just wanted to say thank you so much for speaking with us. And once again, major fan girl moment for me because I've been an admirer of MLF before, even been moving to the UK from Australia. It's been absolute privilege speaking to you. So thank you so much. And of course, thank you for being a FAE2 contributor. And we're eagerly awaiting this learnings report later in the year.

It's very exciting. Well, brilliant. And as I said, I really value your time. And thank you. I am a huge fan of the Serpentine organisation as well and so. Yeah. And I really

look forward to the next talk. Absolutely. We've got FAE3 to organize. We'll have to get you involved. And thank you to our audience as well.

This is officially our last FAE2 Live, but we have extra ones coming up in the future connected to our broader Arts Technologies program, like the one for Frieze next Monday. So thank you. See you all next time.

2021-11-23 18:14

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