Interactive art studio Invisible Flock awarded ACE grant

Leeds-based interactive art studio, Invisible Flock, is one of 46 recipients of the Arts Council England Capital: Small Grants programme, which will allow them to invest in cutting edge digital tools, residencies, workshops and partnerships, and continue to innovate in their creation of interactive art that creates a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Invisible Flock have worked at the intersection of technology and art for over 10 years, exploring the practical difficulties around access to innovation. “As new technologies shape everything in our society, from healthcare to democracy, it is essential that artists have the language, tools and skills to operate and lead in the digital space”, says Victoria Pratt, Creative Director, Invisible Flock. “Cutting edge technical equipment remains extremely costly and at arms-length for the majority of artists. Project budgets leave little room for experimentation, iteration or innovation with tools, beyond their *off the shelf use. There is a serious socio-economic barrier to innovation in the cost of new technologies that particularly restricts artists at early stages of their career and means that new methods and models of storytelling lie in the hands of a select few.”

Invisible Flock have experienced first-hand how R&D can become restrictive when hire costs of digital tools, cost in the tens of thousands. Through investing equipment and giving artists access for R&D purposes at low to no cost allows multiple artists access at early stages of a process. Removing the risky cost of “is this the right tech for my project” means experimentation can be undertaken without the majority of a budget disappearing or the more common reality of the technical R&D period not being possible at all.

The project crucially interrogates the environmental cost of operating at the edge of technical innovation. “Artists are best equipped to lead a discussion on how the “stuff” of technology has one of the highest impacts of all industries”, Victoria continues. “When we talk of digital innovations we cannot do so without also talking of environmental sustainability.  As our societies and economies are increasingly driven by technology, we need to explore how as a sector we have a voice within a digital ecosystem without unnecessarily adding to the destruction of the planet's natural resources, this seems like an impossible task, but it is essential we find solutions.”

Invisible Flock will create modular systems of technologies that can be used across multiple platforms, reducing e-waste, maximising equipment’s life cycle and use, while working closely with ethical suppliers; prioritising quality over durability and cost.

As the sector becomes more digitally literate, issues of access to technology need to be addressed to actively prevent a culture where only the narratives of those that can afford it are heard. Removing financial barriers is essential to escalate this culture shift to create greater equality and diversity in technology driven art.

“Our approach to using these digital assets will be about collaboration, and bringing together a pool of partners and artists to use and iterate with the tools, the lessons of one practitioner influencing and becoming tools for another. Together we will strive to reach a wide cross section of artists operating in this space working together as industry leaders in the development of creative technology practices.”

Invisible Flock is known for creating technically ambitious large-scale artworks that engage mass audiences in the UK and internationally.  This grant will give them the time and the network to push the boundaries of the quality of their work and develop content and aesthetics and ways of experiencing art in new and engaging ways for audiences.

Pete Massey, Director North at Arts Council England said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Invisible Flock with our Small Capital Grants programme, which allows organisations to develop their infrastructure and sustainability. Invisible Flock is a fantastic organisation which continues to explore the realms of digital art and technology, inviting more and more audiences to discover and experience art in new and exciting ways. This award will help give them access to advanced digital equipment which will allow them to further their reach and to develop the sector’s practice in creative media.”

The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed
- William Gibson

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