Virtueel Platform Research | BLAST THEORY

Published on January 2nd, 2011


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The artist group Blast Theory from the UK (established in the early 1990s) is an exemplary model for examining a transdisciplinary working process. With partners in various fields, including academic-based science and technology research, industry partners, large funding bodies and cultural institutions such as museums and science centres, Blast Theory has continued to develop an extensive conceptual understanding of who they are as a group, and how they relate and work both internally and with external partners. Furthermore, Blast Theory is innovative not only in terms of the conceptual and technological depth of their projects, but also in terms of their working methods and strategies.

BLAST THEORY

Annet Dekker with Rachel Somers-Miles, edited by Rachel Feuchtwang
Amsterdam: Virtueel Platform 2011

CONTENTS

1. Blast Theory
• Blast Theory Projects
• Selecting the Case Study
• Uncle Roy All Around You

2. Blast Theory Practice
• Conceptual Phase
• Methodology
• Oral Communication
• Tools
• Testings
• Audience

3. The (Transdisciplinary) Working Process
• The (transdicsiplinary) Working Process: Internal
• Group Formation: Roles
• Group Dynamics
• The (transdisciplinary) Working Process: External
• Learning Through Technology
• Funding

4. Keeping the Past for the Future: Documentation and Archiving
• Open Source / Openness
• The Documentation and Archiving of Blast Theory Work

5. Points of Interest & Bibliography

INTRODUCTION

How can creative working processes that connect people, institutes, organisations and industry members be documented, contextualised, analysed, and ultimately understood and used in the context of the larger cultural field? Virtueel Platform initiated the Virtueel Platform Research series in 2009, to analyse a select number of case studies with the intent of revealing and understanding particular creative practices occupied with innovative and transdisciplinary working processes. For many such organisations there is often insufficient time or resources to allow constructive self-analysis of processes as the need and pressure for continuing new projects and pursuits takes higher priority and economic urgency. Projects are seldom examined within their own context to be thoroughly self-reflexive, and require the distance of time and objectivity to allow a fuller assessment. In line with the first Virtueel Platform Research study on the Patching Zone (http://www.virtueelplatform.nl/patchingzone). Virtueel Platform selected the UK artist group Blast Theory, with the intention of offering best practices to the cultural sector in the Netherlands through exploring to what extent the group’s innovation takes place in relation to their transdisciplinary working process and how their working methods are transferable and useful to other practices. In this way Virtueel Platform establishes links between various different projects and e-culture practices as a way of fostering knowledge exchange between disciplines and sectors.

The artist group Blast Theory from the UK (established in the early 1990s) is an exemplary model for examining a transdisciplinary working process. With partners in various fields, including academic-based science and technology research, industry partners, large funding bodies and cultural institutions such as museums and science centres, Blast Theory has continued to develop an extensive conceptual understanding of who they are as a group, and how they relate and work both internally and with external partners. Furthermore, Blast Theory is innovative not only in terms of the conceptual and technological depth of their projects, but also in terms of their working methods and strategies. The research and context for this case study focusses on Blast Theory as a group and their own experience of collaboration with partners, including their ongoing relationship with the Mixed Reality Lab (MRL) at the University of Nottingham. This Project Observatory study was made in parallel with Liesbeth Huybrechts’ research for BAM in Belgium.[1] BAM is the Flemish institute for visual, audiovisual and media art. It functions as an independent organisation that provides information, and encourages development and networking – both within the visual arts fields and crossing boundaries into other disciplines.[2] Huybrechts interest was foremost in the participatory nature of Blast Theory’s projects and her main focus was on their use of cross-over practice and critical tools in the process of creating an artefact and/or experience. As our goals were covering common ground and in order to make best use of Blast Theory’s time we decided to collaborate on the interviews; Huybrechts had simultaneously developed an interesting interview and mapping method that would also benefit our research.[3] Two extensive face-to-face interviews were conducted, from which a large portion of the information for this report was composed. Along side the interviews we analysed existing literature and research articles on Blast Theory and used information from their website. The interview sessions shed light on their history, projects, and their internal and external working processes.

The first interview took place with Matt Adams of Blast Theory on December 7, 2009 at Virtueel Platform in Amsterdam, with Cathy Brickwood (Virtueel Platform), Annet Dekker (Virtueel Platform) and Liesbeth Huybrechts (BAM). The second interview took place at Blast Theory’s workspace in Brighton, UK on February 5, 2010. Dekker and Huybrechts spoke with Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj, the three core members of Blast Theory. Priscilla Machils was also present and assisted with the mapping methodology.[4] Unless stated otherwise this case study is based on these two interview sessions.

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1] Liesbeth Huybrechts works for the research group Social Spaces at the Media, Arts and Design Faculty in Genk, Belgium http://www.socialspaces.be (accessed January 2011).

2] http://www.bamart.be/home/index/en/BAM (accessed August 2010).

3] For more informa tion see http://www.interface-our-space.be/ (accessed 13 January 2011).

4] Priscilla Machils worked at the time for the research group Social Spaces at the Media, Arts and Design Faculty in Genk, Belgium http://www.socialspaces.be (accessed January 2011).


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