Lightwaves is an annual light festival held at Salford Quays, right on the doorstep of Salford Eagle Lab. This year, Salford’s creative community came together to produce something special. James Medd, lab technician at The Landing, talks us through the project…
“The story begins just before Quays Culture’s Lightwaves 2017 festival, when the organisers approached Salford Eagle Lab as a location for artist Naifei Wu to build robots for her piece, ’The Storyteller’. Whilst visiting the lab, the Quays Culture team spotted that we’d been working on number of different projects – including the original incarnation of Sonic Pixels – eventually prompting them to invite The Landing and Eagle Labs to contribute to 2018’s festival.
From a personal perspective, I’ve been keen to engage the wider Salford community as much as possible with activities happening in our lab. With so many contributors to the festival coming from outside of the region – and some from outside of the UK – I thought the festival would be a marvellous opportunity for Salford and Greater Manchester-based artists to collaborate and contribute to a project that would sit side-by-side with internationally–commissioned works.
Salford Eagle Lab has always had a varied set of users since it opened its doors in December 2016. We’ve supported SMEs based in The Landing and beyond, created world-firsts for our local NHS trust, and also supported a variety creative practitioners. These practitioners frequently come up with some of the most exciting and inventive uses of technology we get to see. From analog-to-digital punchcard readers to modular synthesiser kits, creative technologists and artists using our space remind us that emerging technology has incredible creative potential.
With all of that in mind, the best approach to Quays Culture’s invitation seemed to be to bring together a group of some of our most regular lab-users to collaborate on a single installation. As well as creating something new, the artists all agreed to develop and run skills-sharing sessions with arts groups and schools around Salford, giving local people the opportunity to learn some ways in which technology can be deployed creatively.
Over the course of a few weeks, contributing artists One Five West (Anna Horton Cremin and Sophie Bullock), Gemma May Latham, Callum Kirkwood, and Lewis Sykes all planned a set of workshops demonstrating creative coding, 3D modelling, electronics, craft, and more, whilst also creating the various parts of a piece that would be installed as part of the festival.
The resulting installation is called ‘Illuminim’, a interactive work comprising a set of buoy-like lanterns sat on the water, which respond to rhythms input via a web application. A varied set of on-screen prompts ask the user to tap on their phone or tablet in a particular rhythm, all of which get added to an ever-growing collection of rhythms collated throughout the festival. Once in the system, these rhythms get played back by the lanterns, with their colours changing in time with the audience’s input.
The project doesn’t end here. Once the lanterns come in from the cold, they’ll be modified and upgraded to ensure that they can go out and be used for other events in Quays Culture’s calendar. We’re even working on an online gallery to display all of the rhythms in the system in one place!"
Check back here later for a deeper dive into the technology that powers Illuminim.