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TECH_NICKS

Lisa Haskel


In August 2000 a changing bunch of new media-savvy artists and friends took a trip around the UK. Camping out at arts and media organisations for between 6 and 16 days, the point was to make a series of workshops that might expand, invigorate and skill-up the network of new media practitioners working both inside and outside of the UK's media art institutions.

Something between a travelling micro-festival and a band on the road, we spent 16 days in London (The Lux Centre), 10 days in Hull (Hull Time Based Arts), 6 days in Sheffield (Site Gallery and Redundant Technology Initiative) and, to finish off with, a week by the seaside in Dorset with PVA Media Lab.

Our hosts represented quite a broad spectrum of engagement and prior familiarity with networked and new media practice, and also varying amounts of artist involvement in their programming and day to day running. The Lux and Site Gallery, for instance, are fully professionalised public buildings and venues, RTI is primarily an access space that is attempting to build a community of users and producers, HTBA and PVA are artist run resources. What all the organisations have in common, however, is that they all support both production and exhibition. They have a reasonable base of equipment - some computers good enough for digital video editing and streaming, some data projectors, PA, VTR's, and connectivity of at least 128K.
What we wanted to do was to get the production equipment used and visible in their exhibition spaces, and create a programme was cheap and practical, that opened up a hands-on, DIY approach to networks and media but which never quite forgot the politics of the technologies that we were using and abusing.

Media streaming was a big part of our programme, and at each different venue we experimented in different ways. Partly we were guided by our venues' interests and partly by the invited artists and groups, as we had invited our participants to design their own section of the programme, as well as simply be our guests.

In London, r a d i o q u a l i a responded to a heavy demand from a lot of London-based film and video makers to know more about this potential platform for their work. R a d i o q u a l i a and friends from Amsterdam and London did a series of very practical, introductory workshops complemented by discussions on issues such as compression technologies and server access. For after dark, the output of the Frequency Clock made a great spectacle for the window projection system at the Lux.

In Sheffield, the Irational group introduced the Radio 90 scheduling tool at Site Gallery, and true to the spirit of RTI, there we got out the soldering iron and created a micro-radio station in an afternoon.

Hull Time Based Arts is an artist-run organisation which for 15 years has been supporting sound, performance, film and video work, that usually takes a socially aware and mould-breaking attitude to contexts and content. Each year, they also run the "Root" festival, probably the quirky-est and friendliest media art gathering in Europe, and through this had already ventured into the realm of audio/webcast in collaboration with Rachel Baker and their local non-profit radio outfit, Hull Community Radio. In Hull, tech_nicks workshopped the idea of a webTV station, building a live TV studio out of stuff pillaged from the existing video production facilities, moved, reconnected and reconfigured in their project space; all with the guidance of Backspace and Vacuum TV's James Stevens and elab's very own Rasa and Raitis.

Here's our kit-list:

Pentium PC with soundblaster and pinnacle studio PC TV card installed, running real encoder
Video mixing desk with SVHS and analogue component video in and outputs
Hi-8 camera, inputting live
Digital video camera for in-camera edited recordings
VHS player
MiniDV / DV Cam player
Minidisc player
CD player

We made our schedule from pre-recorded film and video material from HTBA staff and members, and live slots which incorporated performances by DJ's , sound artists adn hybrid music-making combos.

Down At PVA we couldn't help noticing that the lab's next-door neighbours were taking the oldest and maybe best approach to distribution. A bunch of DJ's and party organisers called Underground Movement have been broadcasting each weekend to their home-town, Bridport, by opening their windows WIDE and turning it up LOUD. We went over to say hi and pretty soon the outfit were installed at the lab, going out on the net and on FM, and kindly letting the tech_nicks organisers celebrate the ending moments our recruitment drive for new webcasting aficionados with a turn on the decks.