The SPRING Group: Creative collaboration, innovative production and public exhibition, set at the interface of art and science
In 2005, Professor Charlie Hooker began to develop digital links between the performance, art and design disciplines based within the University of Brighton using a variety of digital (computer-based) and analogue (hands-on material based) processes associated with science and technology. He invited a number of interested parties to meet and instigate what has become the ‘Spring Group’, a broad and interdisciplinary group of academics and partners in industry.
All of the group believe that lateral thinking and creative experimentation are fundamental tools to ensure the progression of their subject and creativity as-a-whole. Through the development of its networking activity, the group intends to set up the following strategically timetabled events:
The group’s overall goal is to share its initial inroads into areas of creative thinking and promote creativity within as wide a field of education and industry as possible.
Professor Charlie Hooker writes:
"Four years ago, with an FRSF award, I began making regular visits to the University of Reading with the main aim of developing the ‘hard science’ behind the art/science sculptures and installations that I had been producing. I was fascinated by the instruments and structures situated in the on-campus meteorological field site and began making contact with the scientists responsible for this intriguing installation.
"I had experience of this type of interdisciplinary research in other institutions and was wary, as I had sometimes sensed the feeling of being a little sidelined by scientists who, occasionally, had tended to see their work as ‘serious’ and art linked to science as potentially ‘less siignificant’.
"I am pleased to say that my experience at Reading was very positive. Maarten Ambaum was given the responsibility of introducing me to the Department of Meteorology laboratories and the wide range of specialists working there. After a series of many conversations, it became apparent that the potential for collaborative projects was immense and that, if I could find a way for other artists and designers to join me, there might be scope to enable the research and production of a number of artworks and approaches to scientific investigation and dissemination.
"In January 2005, I wrote to a collection of people from Brighton and Reading who I thought might be interested in this type of activity. I invited them to an all-day meeting in my studio to discuss possibilities, and the Spring Group was born.
"The structure for our meetings and method of production is fairly simple. Where possible, each meeting takes an ‘awayday’ format in an inspirational environment, away from the normal workplace. We each bring examples of the research we are carrying out and demonstrate it to the group as a form of peer review. Since the very first meeting these have been minuted and a general text to record each event has been produced. This process has continued, with sub-groups gradually forming to develop projects in partnership.
"In 2006, I received the ‘Nature of Creativity’ Networking Scheme grant. This enabled us to buy some equipment to help research and dissemination, has funded awayday meetings and the work-in-progress interim presentation, and enabled us to employ a part-time research assistant and admin assistant. The grant will end in January/February 2009, when an exhibition of our completed work will be held.
"I have networked primarily with David Stephenson and Giles Harrison and my main external link has been with The Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen. My main research, involving cosmic rays, was instigated through conversations with them both, resulting in an artwork which has had a very enthusiastic response from an international conference of leading meteorologists and will hopefully result in portable sound or light-emitting devices which can assist Giles` fieldwork. I have been greatly assisted in the technical bridge between science and art by Wayne Adams. Robin Boult - providing a link with the music industry - organised a sponsorship meeting with Yamaha regarding a large-scale cosmic ray-controlled audio work using electronic grand pianos. Unfortunately, the sponsorship proposal was unsuccessful.
"Although I am finding the whole Spring Group activity immensely rewarding, I have experienced some problems in trying to bring everyone together on a regular basis as we are all extremely busy with university work and other subject-based research. Emailing and blogging regarding ideas does not really work. My feeling is that I need social engagement, face-to-face contact and tangible things to examine and experiment with in order to be able to get my hands dirty, get excited and be creative.
"I am looking forward to seeing how things develop over the next year and how we will bring everything together to make a coherent exhibition. It is a wonderful experience attempting to chair a meeting for ten, or so, creative people with different subject specialisms, all speaking a slightly different technical language. For instance, as an artist, the word ‘installation’ triggers a series of thoughts and images for me which are very different to what it might trigger for an engineer or physicist.
"For me, an important part of the group`s activity has involved finding ways through subject-specific linguistic, historical and psychological boundaries. As long as you can do that, you are able to experience ideas from a different perspective and question your research in new and unexpected ways."
The Spring Group is supported by AHRC, Arts Council England, DTI and ESRC through the Nature of Creativity scheme
Breathing City at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities
Temperamental Equations at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities
Horizons at University of Brighton, College of Arts and Humanities