Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist

Label: new media new audiences

November 26, 2008

Chris Elam – dance company and new media

I came across Misnomer Dance Theater when I was looking at arts organisations that are working comfortably with online technology.

Misnomer Dance Theater has made a name for itself as a company that exploits for dance the resources that indie bands and songwriters have successfully utilised to get their work distributed to a wider audience.

For those who were reminded at the New Media, New Audiences? conference yesterday that there won’t be any extra money in Ireland for research and development in this area, it will provoke envy that Misnomer has just received a grant of $1 million to develop its model in to something other arts organisations can follow. The company’s artistic director and choreographer Chris Elam may have had a head start in all of this in that he came to dance while he was studying public policy and computing at university. But that just reminds me that you need people who are connectors and multi-disciplinary to help knowledge to flow from one area of culture to another.

You can read more about their work in a recent New York Times article

I did notice from reading the article that while the company will enjoy having this $1 million in the bank, that money won’t get any work made. The company will still have to fundraise for its artistic programme. And I wonder if it matters how good the communications technology and media are if there isn’t something worthwhile to communicate.

November 26, 2008

New Media, New Audience?

I attended the Arts Council’s New Media, New Audience? conference in Dublin Castle yesterday. Going there and particularly having been invited to be on a panel, I felt a bit of a charlatan since my engagement with online media is this blog, some facebook advertising and youtube – hardly cutting edge. However, in comparison to the majority of arts organisations in Ireland, it appears that this approach is relatively novel.

It was instructive that of the two keynote speakers it wasn’t the utopian Charles Leadbeater whose argument received the most vocal support from the delegates. Instead it was Andrew Keen with his focus on what is lost (mostly traditional authority structures and traditional business models) that drew audience sympathy. Is that because there were more people representing arts organisations there than there were artists? Do organisations have more investment in maintaining control over the traditional means of distribution and traditional relationships with a traditional idea of audiences? In my experience, artists just get on with using whatever resources are available to them and web technology is another set of resources.

I moderated a panel with Peter Fitzpatrick, Trevor Curran, and Conor McGarrigle who were all positive about the opportunities that do exist. Trevor is already involved with producing the online teen drama Aisling’s Diary, Conor has created a body of work online, using GPS technology in particular, and Peter, who works with Microsoft (but confessed to being a Mac user too!) talked about the software and applications that are being developed that the arts sector can start to use.

Even so, I realised that many people in the room weren’t aware of the concept of something like Cloud computing and I wondered how that kind of awareness (which is part of newspaper general culture now rather than specialist knowledge) might be raised. Someone said to me that he was shocked by the level of resistance to ‘new media’ (not new NOW) and thought the sector would be severely hampered by such resistance.

So why do I blog? Because I want to share what I’m thinking about, what influences me, what I’ve learned; by sharing that, I want to help people have a way in to my work, to not just encounter it as a closed product but to see it as something in process, something porous.

However I wonder if my invitation to participate is clear enough. Do I really make it possible or worthwhile for people to engage in dialogue? Or am I more driven by the narcissism that Keen thinks is endemic in this everyone-has-a-voice culture?