Ten artists vie for Playable City, Bristol's public art award with a technological twist

By Culture24 Reporter | 17 December 2012
A computerised image with kaleidoscopic shapes floating over a silhouette of a figure.
Fred Deakin's proposal for Playable City is to release an album as a series of immersive installation experiences in locations around the city© Fred Deakin

Playable City, Bristol’s new public art award seeking to push the boundaries between art and technology with a £30,000 bounty for the winner, has announced its shortlist of ten artists.

The award, launched by the city's Watershed arts venue in October 2012, challenges artists to bring together creative technologies, art and play to surprise and engage audiences by bringing a sense of wonder into the city’s public spaces.

It was a brief that elicited a healthy response from artists all around the globe with 93 entries from 24 countries.

Claire Reddington, the Director of Watershed’s multi-disciplinary research lab The Persuasive Media Studio, is chairing the judging panel and says that the award is designed to “show how cities can be fun and easy to play with in a free and open way”.

“The strength and diversity of the applications we received from artists all around the UK and beyond shows that the Playable City has a bright future and one we are very excited about.”

Reddington will be joined by a panel comprising the Creative Director of Creative Google Labs in Sydney, Tom Uglow; musician Imogen Heap and Claire Doherty, the Director of Situations, the commissioning and research programme based at the University of the West of England.

The successful commission will be announced on January 21 2013, with production taking place between March and June 2013. The artwork is due to be installed somewhere in Bristol between July and August 2013.

an illustration of three people beneath a tree
Sing A Little Song, the proposal by Edinburgh's Lucky Frame, is inspired by Ludwig Koch’s classic field recordings of birdsong.© Lucky Frame

The shortlist in full:

The Arc Project:  Ivana Basic, Kyle Macondald, Gabriella Levine, Jack Kalish. New York, USA

A series of 3D scanning booths (reminiscent of 20th century photo booths) will be positioned throughout the city.

Visitors will be able to get their bodies scanned and contribute them to a digital version of the city. Special viewing bubbles will allow anyone to see both themselves and the life size imprints left by those who were there before them.


Balloonometer: Ludic Rooms with Talking Birds and Splash and Ripple. Coventry, UK

A colossal crowd-controlled installation using balloons, microphones and fans.  People will use  phones and microphones to move the balloons into a safe house or a container full of spikes.


Cast: Nicky Kirk and Ed Carter. London, UK

A site-specific interactive pavilion and immersive environment, constructed using 3D scans of personal objects provided by the public, representing the different relationships people have with the city.


The City You Dreamed Of: Laura Kriefman. Bristol, UK

Larger than life building blocks with embedded sensors tumbling out of a tip-up truck touring the city.

People of all ages and backgrounds can pick up the blocks, move them around, colour them in and shape them to build their own city of dreams.


Hello Lamp Post! PAN with Gyorgyi Galik and Tom Artmitage. London, UK

A city-wide conversation taking place through street furniture – bus stops, post boxes, rubbish bins and even lamp posts can talk. Objects are "woken" and chatted to by testing their unique reference and, in the online hub, inhabitants will be able to follow their city’s on-street debates.


Interactive Album: Fred Deakin. London, UK

Icelandic musician Björk caused a sensation when she released her latest album as an iPad app.

The UK's Fred Deakin goes even further, releasing his album as a series of installation experiences in locations around the city, mixing music, light and generative interfaces for a musical experience that is as new as it is immersive.


Jolly Brolly Mystery: Andrea Hasselager and Rune K Drewsen. Copenhagen, Dennmark

The Jolly Brolly Mystery is a fun way to explore Bristol while solving a murder mystery - even on rainy days. Whenever it rains in the city a new clue will appear at an undisclosed location, which can be picked up by a GPS enabled umbrella. There will be a prize for those who solve the mystery.


Playscape: Hide&Seek. London, UK

The modern city is full of display screens. Most show advertising content, some provide public information such as weather or travel updates.

Playscape is a proposal for the first ever infrastructure of public digital displays that provide free public play.

Situated around the city and reactive to weather, time and events, Playscape screens will give passers-by ideas and rules of simple games they can play there and then on the spot.


Robot Runners: Seb Lee-Delisle. Brighton, UK

A massive city-centre spectacle involving up to one hundred robots. Players work together to complete tasks and earn points, controlling the robots via a smartphone app connected to a central server. Each game lasts around 30 minutes, is non-competitive and requires no training.


Sing A Little Song: Lucky Frame. Edinburgh, UK

Inspired by Ludwig Koch’s classic field recordings of birdsong, a number of digital birds will be installed around the city.

Wirelessly connected to the internet, they will emit a range of simple melodies based on tweets and messages sent to them, for example the tweet “#birdsong #castlepark beautiful day” would be interpreted to produce a beautiful melody.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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