During my time with the BBC Public Space Broadcasting Project, which saw the implementation (not without controversy) of multiple giant video screens in major hubs and cities across the UK (the only such project in the world to run with accompanying audio, and without any form of commercial advertising), I was manager of both the BBC Big Screen Liverpool and BBC Big Screen Edinburgh, but also oversaw the implementation, curation and when possible, commission, of creative projects, interactive applications and cultural, curated content. It was an opportunity like no other to experiment, and so – much to the mixed confusion and delight of passers-by – I did. I’m especially fond of the series of themed packages, some including site-specific, responsive technology, outlined below. Thanks to all those artists who understood we were attempting this without a budget, and when we did scrape some cash together, kudos to those artists and imagineers who worked above and beyond the value of a small paycheque in order to break new ground in outdoor presentation and, crucially, innovative methods of public participation.
In response to the lingering perception of outdoor screens as giant TVs, I took a step further by magnifying the miniature and everyday while simultaneously shrinking the grandiose down to size. Featuring The Model City, a new commission for the Big Screen Liverpool by artist Sam Meech, starring a B-movie invasion of super-sized insects that stalk, crawl and ooze amongst the city streets. Including 99¢ Travelogue (Molly Schwartz), Little Deaths 2 and Clockwork Protest Films: St Petersburg (Alex Pearl), In Places (Erik Olofsen), Dwelling (Hiraki Sawa), The Model City (Sam Meech), Winter’s Veil (Eva Lee) and Open My Glade (Pipilotti Rist).
Beneath A Cloudless Sky
The UK port city of Liverpool in 2008: European Capital of Culture. During the bid period a competition to design a new cultural landmark was awarded to architect Will Alsop who proposed a multi-faceted, jewel-like building held aloft upon stilts, dubbed ‘The Cloud’. For a brief moment the city prepared to make a dramatic break from tradition… only for the project to be cancelled. Beneath a Cloudless Sky in association with the School of Architecture – University of Liverpool and BBC Big Screen Liverpool attempted to reignite a sense of wonder, unrestricted by build costs, planning approval or viability. Incorporating short film, video art and free postcards offering alternative views of the city to visitors and residents both. Including Liverpool Re-Generated: Surreal Images of an Alternative Future (University of Liverpool School of Architecture), Pulsate (Tom Wall), World’s Fair (Paul Amitai), Post Barnsley (Squint/Opera), RMB City (Cao Fei).
Curated by Richard Koeck, Felipe Hernández & Bren O’Callaghan
George, Meet Dragon
As the 2008 Beijing Olympics loomed into view, so do the reports, retrospectives and images of China today, cementing stereotypes and offering little in the way of a fresh approach. Everywhere, images of the dragon proliferate, an oft-used signifier and crudely scribbled cliché stripped of meaning through overuse. In the East, it represents a creature steeped in wisdom and knowledge, but to Western audiences, a storybook monster to be fought and vanquished. This difference in belief mirrors the sense of cultural ‘otherness’ between the two societies; a misconception based upon unfamiliarity. Presented in association with Chinese Arts Centre (Manchester), Filming East Festival (Oxford) and including the work of Jia Zhangke, Zhang Yuan, Zhang Jizhong, Wang Wangwang, Cui Zien, Xiao Jiang, Guo Xiaolu, Zhang Fan and Sun Xiaoxiao.
New interactive commission for the BBC Big Screen network created by ICDC: International Centre for Digital Content (Liverpool).
Concrete Cannot Stop Them
In association with the BBC Radio 3 Festival of Free Thinking, the Big Screen Liverpool presents an international selection of video and interactive work that responds to pervasive surveillance. Hail the rise of the all-seeing eye. Central to the programme was The Spectral Children by artist and filmmaker Manu Luksch – using CCTV images obtained over a 4-year period under the UK Data Protection Act, the artist and filmmaker replaces regular cameras with these preinstalled surveillance devices, a film crew with the data controllers, and a script with the law. An abridged interpretation of the feature-length project, Faceless, narrated by Tilda Swinton. Also including Camouflage #1 (Penelope Cain), Afterglow (Katy Connor), Birds Over The White House (Michael Bell-Smith) and Massive Attack’s music video for Protection (Dir. Michel Gondry).
ICDC: International Centre for Digital Content, Liverpool, developed two new interactive installations, making use of the motion-sensitive camera and mirrored video feed installed on top of the screen itself. Are we really free? profiled 24 hour CCTV and vast databases of ‘customer profiles’ being compiled about everyone in Britain, asking do we realise just how much information is stored about us? This interactive big screen display highlighted some surprising details of the data captured in today’s surveillance society. Big Screen Vote enabled the public to make their opinions known by interacting with the Big Screen and voting on Free Thinking topics, such as the perception of freedom and civil liberties in the UK, live in Clayton Square.