Innovation in Digital and Electronic Art

IDEA has a number of assosicatede artists who are coming to Bulgaria torun workshops. My background is in visual art and installation, and I will be talking about my own work on Monday. I have had a flexible relationship with IDEA, I work when Idea needs me, and Idea lets me leave to do my own work when I need to.

IDEA was established in 1996 by a group of local people involved in Arts, Business, Media and Education. IDEA was started in order to develope and serve a the local community in Manchester. Manchester as a city has 4 universities and many students who learn digital skills, art, and design, however when they leave education many of them move away to London because that is where the jobs are. Idea wanted to help develope and suppoort small businesses in Manchester so that this talent would not have to leave the city. Manchester was at the beginning of this century an industrial city with many Factories and Mills. This industrial base has dwindled, leaving the city with high unemployment. There has been alot of talk in Manchester about replacing that lost industry with new creative digital industries. There are many other organisations in Manchester and the North West of England that are supporting this regeneration, and Idea is one of them.

We are also very aware that difficulties with access to digital media creates a new class system, or replaces the old ones, not only between richer and poorer countries, but also between rich and poor people at a local level. Our contribution to helping reduce this gap begins at a local level but we are also involved in wider projects such as VR and CFront and last year in ISEA. We are also involved in national projects such as art transpennine.

It is very exciting for me to be here as an extension of the courses we usually run at home in Manchester. We hope we can make some new links with other individuals and organisations whith whom we can collaborate in the future.

Ideas main activity is training. We also have a specific aim to support research, production and exhibition of digital and electronic arts.

We also have many associated artists and other associates who work with us, and who teach on our courses to maintain strong links with learning and the CREATIVE application of multimedia and web authoring not simply the technical skills

Our courses began with the GO course. This is a course called 'Getting Online' which is still the foundation of our training. We have had several thousand trainees through this training course. Most of the trainees are from small businesses, are artists or are unemployed. We give all trainees a free modem, free internet access and most importantly free training and support. Through this course we take trainee throught het first setps to gaining and using web access. \ After one face to face meeting the whole course is delivered on line. This core course give trainees the skills and tools to continue learning themselves and many do. The next set of courses we run are the multi media modules, in which we give access to computers and training in short, free and accessible courses. This emphasis on accessiblility allows the widest range of people to come to our trianing. We schedule courses for weekends and evenings for working people, and select the hours of training to fit in with people who have children, and many other aspects of organisation are tailored to fit in with most peoples schedules. These courses in various different software and languages are atended by small businesses moving into web work, unemployed people who are aiming to get work in new media. We also help existing small businesses keep up with the rapidly changing world of creative technology. Our trianees return regularly to new courses to gain access to emerging technology. We also have a scheme called "Digital Sampler" in which trainees can become apprentices in small companies, and we pay their wage whilst they leanr how to apply their skills within a real business.

As this talk is about the artistic application of our trianing i should point out that the training we provide is very flexible allowing for many different ways of learning, and artists participate in all our areas of trianing depending on their needs. We are a very flexible company in that we can tailor training to many different neds, this flexibility is very important not only because technology is changing so rapidly that we need to be able to change our trianing methods when needed, but also because funding is also irregular but not least becasue artists are always unpredicatable!

Within the building that we occupy we have 6 subsidised studios for new media artists, these workspaces are a combination of clean office spaces with ISDN links for free web access, but also seperate spaces for dusty work.

These kinds of trianing I have outlined fulfill some of the aims IDEA had when it started out. We were aiming to provide very basic access to internet training and technology for a very wide range of people and businesses in the north west of england, we were also aiming to provide intensive training in multimedia and creative technologies. We are currently looking at new buildings in which we will provide not only workspace, but training and access to facilties.

Our other building is where we run digital arts projects.

Other associates will talk in depth about projects such as 36MC which happened in 1997, in which we took over a whole building for a very intense period of trianing which culminated in a 36 hour marathon lock in in which we created work, and an exhibition of multimedia and installation work. We then made a CD rom inspired by that whole process. There is also an interactive audio CD rom project form 1998, and our current project entitled "split/shift" which incorporates both web audio project and an installation project.

We recruit for these projects from the local area, usually these people are artists in the widest sense of the word to include writers, creative thinkers, musicians, dancers etc. All that we aask is that people can dedicate themselves to the project for its duration. Throughout the projects we are not only exploring innovative and new approaches to new media and collaboration, but also to old media. We also try to develope links between digital and physical worlds. These projects entail a huge amount of discussion and guilding of links and friendships between artists which is a very important part of the project. This part of the project is the most difficult to plan for and to talk about because it happens in a different way each time. These digital arts projects are always chaotic in contrast to our formal mutlimedia training to allow for a whole range of possibilites to be followed more freely and in greater length.

Because participatin artists are artists in their own right we try to give them training mostly in the technologies that they need to use, and access to equipment and discussion of current throretical issues in new media.

We are now developing a new digital arts centre in one of the buildings we use, it is a building that has housed many projects, including facilitating VR in manchester, a project called Revolting which took place during ISEA last year, and other events and exhibits.

This cenre will continue to train and facilitate local artists but will also provide money and facilities for artists residencies open to national and international artists. We will also develope ouor series of artists talks, workshops and discussions, and we will have a high bandwidth web link. The digital arts world seems