Carnival is a time when everyday life is suspended – a time when the fool becomes king for a day, when social hierarchies are inverted and the pavement becomes the stage, a time when everyone is equal. There is no audience at a carnival, only carnival-goers.
A single screen video work, by Proboscis, drawing together line animation, visualisation of sensor data and video footage of a live event featuring European carnival characters Mr Punch and The Plague Doctor as they cavort around London in costumes instrumented with environmental sensors.
We have been working on Ears to the Ground for around 3 months now and the phase of being out there talking to people and doing activities is almost over with our energy now being focused into how to condense over 200 voices and quotes into a small publication. We’ve been roving around Hertfordshire meeting young and old, talking to them in groups, in their homes, at events. As well as the many people and groups we have met we have; set up a stall in Watford Market to talk to market goers, set up outside Broxbourne Station to speak to commuters, set up a map outside Stevenage Job Centre and annotated it with post it notes of comments from Centre users and ran a drawing workshop with a youth group. We’ve taken our anarchaeology approach of using informal and creative approaches to excavate layers of meaning and understanding. I’ve enjoyed all the people we met who have been so generous, and as I go through the hours of recorded audio two of my favourite quotes so far have been from the Meriden Comunity Centre Community Bar on the Meriden estate in north Watford, and the list of what young people saw around their Neighbourhood in the Chells area of Stevenage.
In the Meriden community bar we asked: How long have you been here?
1962 I moved onto this estate.
I was going to say half past seven.
I’ve been a member of this club for years since it first opened.
I’ve been here so long I’ve worn a hole in the carpet.
You certainly don’t get any trouble in here fighting or all that, its just all mates really I suppose
Like a big extended family
We come down here to insult each other
Don’t know what we’d do without it, we’d sit indoors and watch telly.
We’re all living round here so we don’t need to drive.
The atmosphere, you know, you come in and you know you’re not going to get into any trouble.
And in Chells Manor Community Center we went for a walk with the youth group and after making a large drawing we asked: What did you see and draw?
I saw a fox
I saw the pub, shops, chip shop
I saw, a cat , a man smoking
I saw a tree and a road and an aeroplane
I saw a red flower, a broken glass
I saw myself
I saw a load of people at the youth club
I saw my house
apparently we saw a train going up a tree
I never saw two men shooting each other
I saw darren
I saw houses, dogs,
I saw the green, football, cricket, cycling down fairlands
The book will be published in December.
As part of our Social Tapestries research programme, Proboscis collaborated with Kevin Harris of Local Level and residents of the Havelock Estate in Southall, west London to explore how communication technologies (such as Urban Tapestries) and creative techniques (such as Bodystorming, StoryCubes & Diffusion eBooks) might enhance democratic engagement at local level by stimulating the habits of participation.
The project encountered significant issues in adoption and engagement due to complex and interwoven social, cultural, economic, linguistic, educational factors – and a key outcome was the ongoing evaluation of these barriers and how we tried to address them. The project’s final report to the Ministry of Justice (April 2007) quickly became Proboscis’ most downloaded publication ever.
Team: Camilla Brueton, Kevin Harris (Local Level), Giles Lane & Orlagh Woods
Partners: Bev Carter (Partners in Change); HIRO (Havelock Independent Residents Organisation)
Funded by the Ministry of Justice (Electoral Policy Division Innovation Award)
Social Tapestries (2004-08) was a five year research programme of projects that grew out of our original Urban Tapestries project. The focus of Social Tapestries was to create a series of experiments in public authoring in challenging environments and with local communities that could begin to reveal the potential for emerging mobile media in enabling change through the mapping and sharing of knowledge and experience in everyday settings. We developed projects with two social housing groups (a residents’ committee and a short-life co-op), schools (a secondary near Hull and a primary in North London), residents/users of London Fields and people who lived and worked in Hoxton.
Team: Alice Angus, Camilla Brueton, Kevin Harris, Giles Lane, Karen Martin, Sarah Thelwall and Orlagh Woods.
Partners & Collaborators: Birkbeck College; London School of Economics; Jenny Hammond Primary School; HIRO (Havelock Independent Residents Organisation); St Marks Housing Co-op, Kingswood High; Getmapping.com;
Urban Tapestries (2002-04) was a ground-breaking project that investigated how the combination of geographic information systems (GIS) and mobile technologies (including ad-hoc WiFi) could enable people to map and share their knowledge and experience, stories and information – public authoring. The transdisciplinary team developing it wove together an action research process bridging programming, ethnography, visual arts, filmmaking, animation, product design, information architecture, concept design, rapid & paper prototyping and creative writing.
The project resulted in numerous events, publications, technologies as well as two public trials of the Urban Tapestries mobile platform for public authoring in December 2003 and June-July 2004.
Team: Alice Angus, Daniel Angus, John Paul Bichard, Katrina Jungnickel, Giles Lane, Rachel Murphy, Roger Silverstone, Zoe Sujon and Nick West.
Partners & Collaborators: London School of Economics, Hewlett-Packard Research Laboratories, Orange, Ordnance Survey, France Telecom R&D UK.
Funded by Department of Trade & Industry, Arts Council England, Fondation Daniel Langlois
Snout investigates how data can be collected from environmental sensors as part of popular social and cultural activities. Proboscis collaborated with inIVA and researchers from Birkbeck College’s Pervasive Computing Lab to design and build two carnival costumes (Mr Punch and the Plague Doctor) that were instrumented with environmental sensors and LED displays. A website was created (using free social software tools) to show the sensor data mapped against other local knowledge (drawn in via RSS feeds) and contextual data (about local health, poverty, education etc) scraped from the Office of National Statistics.
In April 2007 we staged a mock carnival in Shoreditch to collect pollution data and stimulate conversations. The procession started out from the new inIVA building on Rivington Street and weaved a route up Charlotte Road to Hoxton Square, down Hoxton Street and round Shoreditch High Street to finish up with an afternoon public forum at Cargo.
Team: Demetrios Airantzis, Bill Aitchison, Alice Angus, Giles Lane, Jordan Mackenzie, Karen Martin, George Roussos, Jenson Taylor & Orlagh Woods.
Partners: Iniva; Birkbeck College (University of London)
Commissioned by Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts)
Funded by Arts Council England and Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Foundation.
Social Tapestries: public authoring and civil society by Giles Lane