One of the projects that has followed on from the Sound Spaces project in Liverpool has been to undertake a similar creative project, focussed on a particular site, in collaboration with arts and humanities academics, creative businesses, and those associated with this site. In this case: the 14th Century Church of St. Andrew in Heckington, Lincolnshire and the team of parishioners pursuing Heritage Lottery Funding for its preservation and development; my previous collaborators John Bowers, Tim Shaw and Magnus Williamson; and the Liverpool-based creative business Draw & Code and architectural illustrator Allan T. Adams.
The church has exemplary medieval gothic architecture, a rich history, and particular, if not unique, spatial qualities. It is also a place of particular significance to the parishioners we worked with, and somewhere they want to encourage others to engage with and use as a cultural and social resource.
Across two weeks of intensive creative work on-site in Heckington, separated by three months of planning and development in between, my collaborators and I developed several artworks that engage visitors with the site, its history, and the community around it. This culminated in a public exhibition and performance on 29 April, with several artworks remaining in place for the coming few months.
We have only just begun documenting the work:
The exhibition has also attracted some local press attention.
image by Gareth Jones
This is an interactive artwork I made with Tim Shaw and was one of the several pieces that resulted from the Sound Spaces project with John Bowers and Stefan Kazassoglou. Sound Spaces was an investigation, through making, of various intriguing locations across Liverpool in 2015. One of the places we visited was Liverpool’s Old Dock, which is largely unseen to passersby being underground in the foundations of the Liverpool ONE leisure and retail development. Anyone can visit The Old Dock by booking onto one of the free guided tours offered by National Museums Liverpool, but I wondered whether 360-degree spherical photographs, layered with images and sounds evoking the site’s past and present, could engage passersby above ground. I worked with Tim Shaw to create a first prototype, which attracted sponsorship from Liverpool ONE to develop and install the piece for two years. The artwork went live in April 2017, some of the first visitors being a convention of Lord Mayors!
The piece is intended to be viewed on location in Liverpool ONE. But the image below gives a flavour of it.
I visited the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California yesterday – a house with many rooms and many stories. The site is packaged with more than a whiff of the Hollywood haunted house spin. The house designed by spirits. The labyrinth built to confuse evil spirits with doors and staircases to nowhere, winding staircases and secret passages. The house of paranormal phenomena, where you may still feel the presence of Sarah Winchester and those spirits she thought never far behind. And a house where all the explanations given inevitably end in ellipses “we’ll leave you to make your own mind up folks…”
But the Winchester Mystery House has many more layers than this. It is an architectural pattern book of Victorian style. It is a monument to the many labours and crafts that produced it. It is an antidote to rigid design and ‘logical’ buildings (although Sarah Winchester applied different logics in its construction). It is the satisfaction of a previously frustrated architect’s desire to build. It is a physical manifestation of Sarah Winchester’s psyche and how she sought to deal with the tragic deaths of her infant daughter, husband and others close to her. And it is an attempt to make this conundrum engaging to modern visitors through ascribing mystery and intrigue, and the answers we append to all those ellipses.
What is so fascinating, though, is that the house is all these layers and others all at once. And is no different to anywhere else in this respect, simply a vivid example of this layering. I loved it.
Unfortunately photography inside the house is not allowed, but I took several outside.
I’ve just come back from an intensive four-day workshop at FACT in Liverpool, working with Kinicho (a company specialising in kinetic/3D sound engineering), three researcher-practitioner colleagues from Newcastle University (Tim Shaw, John Bowers and Tom Schofield), and several people who signed up for the workshop which was part of FACT’s Build Your Own programme of activities. We visited several fascinating spaces across the city to make various recordings, which we then used to produce several interactive works for public performance and demonstration. During this time I created an interactive, layered, series of spherical panoramic photographs which can be explored here: http://simon-bowen.com/soundlines/ (For extra interaction, use a smart phone or tablet…)
We intend to develop these works further for a public installation towards the end of October.
I visited Selby Abbey last week as part of research I’m involved in on interaction design and heritage sites, and made some spherical panoramic photos:
Norman arch at the main entrance to Selby Abbey
The site has a rich history including being one of the oldest Norman churches in the country (founded in 1069). But whilst I was there I learned that the building has hosted notable events more recently being the venue for Taiwanese superstar and ‘New King of Asian Pop’ Jay Chou’s wedding.
I was at a Skills in Action event in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago delivering a workshop on academic-industry collaborations with my Lancaster colleague, Naomi Jacobs. Whilst there we were there, Times Higher Education spoke to us about the creative and cultural industry collaborations we have been involved in. Read the full article here.
I appear in these videos about improving health and social care services using designerly ways of working. These “Better Services by Design” videos are from a project of the same name I was part of during my work with User-centred Healthcare Design. They explain the opportunities and benefits of using designerly strategies and methods in improving health services, with examples from the two projects we worked with during the project. There are six short videos, beginning with the introduction below (follow this link, to see all six):
Better Services By Design: Introduction from User-centred Healthcare Design on Vimeo.
I’m presenting at the Design Research Society (DRS) conference in Umeå, Sweden. Discussing a quandary of research through design – as a designer-researcher, how can I capture the how/why of my designing (for research into design methods) without interfering with the designing itself.
The paper is now available online, here: http://www.drs2014.org/en/presentations/161/
A key output of my work at User-centred Healthcare Design was an evaluation of participant’s experiences doing service design in the UK National Health Service. The CoDesign journal article reporting our findings is now available on the Taylor and Francis website. Fittingly, it’s open access, too!
I’ve been invited to participate in a live discussion on the Design Research Network website entitled Before and After Critical Design. For more information and to contribute to the discussion, see their website.
I contributed a session topic on Critical Design outside The Gallery.