XR: Creative Interdisciplinary Immersive Knowledge ExchangeS

  • Kennedy, Helen (PI)
  • Close, Donna (CoI)

    Project Details


    XR is the term currently used to refer to a wide range of contemporary immersive technologies such as VR/AR & 360 film. In this context we use it for projects that might combine a range of these tools and techniques alongside other technologies involving data and human interaction in the elaboration of novel experiences. 

    The term XR is also used to evoke the innovation and experimentation at the heart of this project through allusion to a notion of 'an extraordinary circus'.The project primarily seeks to address the question of : What innovative creative content and emotionally impactful audience experiences are possible if we bring together academics specialising in haptic, interactive and immersive technologies with circus and street arts directors and performers?

    A further question was explored through the collaborative partnership which is to identify the potential national and international market and exhibition possibilities for the resultant work as both live experiences and as digital products. 
    The project provided the infrastructure to support a team of academic researchers, technicians and artists in a series of creative co-laboratories - facilitated directive workshops & studios. These laboratories provided the context within which expertise can be shared in the collaborative exploration of the application of haptic, interactive and immersive technology in circus and street art event design. 

    Exposure to experimentation with the affordances offered by these new haptic, sonic and visualisation technologies provided an opportunity for creatives and producers to be given privileged, direct and well-supported access to experimentation with these technologies. This project put these tools and techniques in the hands of a diverse curated group of artists that have had limited access or opportunity for engagement thus far. 

    XR Circus brought together the extraordinary skills, expertise and experience of circus and street artists and producers in to the direct experimentation with these technologies: 

    Skills such as: - Manipulating our gaze and emotions with an immersive environment- Initiating and conducting audience interaction- Responding to new opportunities and improvising when things go wrong- An integration of technical equipment within their performance - A wider realm and range of physical movements including 'flight' through aerial and trapeze work.Both the spectacular and intimate forms of circus and street arts provide an opportunity for unique and 'never-before-seen' audience views and experiences: for example from the top of a trapeze.

    The project partners - leading exhibitors, funders and curators - collaborated with us on the recruitment and curation of an appropriate spreof artistic skills and expertise to participate in the rapid prototyping process. Participants worked together over a period of 4 months with access to research expertise and technical support to iterate 5 novel acts that will be exhibited in proof of concept format at the final Live Laboratory in the process - a high profile event which we are describing as the "XR: CIIRKES - Cabaret of Curiosities" which took place at the internationally celebrated Brighton Fringe Festival venue - the Spiegeltent. This was a public performance of the works-in-progress, in order to understand the audience experience and to further test the technologies of live event capture. 

    The overall project was underpinned by a robust literature review, project and impact evaluation and visual documentation. It had a further objective to generate awareness and visibility for the potential of this sector and was accompanied by a series of press releases tailored at building visibility and engagement.

    Key findings

    As set out in the objectives, diversity and inclusivity occupy a central role in the conception and design of this project. As such, one of its key impact goals was to improve access to creative experiences. By providing new pathways to access circus and street theatre, these art forms were opened up for those who may conventionally struggle to participate. The second key impact goal was to demonstrate the value of these collaborative methodologies for the production and sharing of new skills. This provided a means through which to develop and fully realise the potential of the sector (through innovation) and position it as a world leader.

    The project had been designed to deliver collaborative and co-produced research. As such, research stakeholders, users, and beneficiaries were present from the start and throughout the project. Impact activities were structured around targeted interventions with three key stakeholders (Public, Policy, Creative Sector), and public engagement.

    Public: (including children) benefited from vivid showcase material that demonstrates the talent and creativity within this sector whilst also providing compelling and emotionally compelling new experiences through the application of new technologies. This will be achieved in the short term firstly through the Live Laboratory in the Spiegeltent in May 2018.

    A wider audience were able to explore and experience the materials and case studies through the experimentation and innovations in the capture and dissemination technologies which showcased and provided direct access to the art works. This was extended through further exhibition and distribution of the artworks through the partner festival industry and public networks.

    Policy: the project provided an extensive evidence base, from which policy makers can draw. We ensured that key funders were invited to the dissemination events in order to demonstrate value of the circus/ tech collaboration. This led to more effective policies that articulate the value of XR technologies, and specifically the virtues and potentialities of circus and street art. We hoped that changes in policy would effect changes in funding, as funding bodies would also be able to draw upon and leverage the evidence base.

    Creative Industry: Technology providers had significant research and development intelligence to showcase the potential scope of devices, tools and techniques in the evolution of novel innovative experiences. Project Partner Driftwood and Co-I (Snook) both have direct access to key providers in this sector (in the UK and internationally) and they will be invited to attend and feedback on the Live Laboratory outcomes.

    The project partners each had very broad constituencies of creatives, practitioners, producers, directors amongst whom they could network and amongst whom they ensured that the learning and insight was generally shared. Web materials further aimed at ensuring that the learning and innovation that will occur through the process of the creative research collaboration are available for a very diverse range of publics.

    On 21 May 2018 XR Circus reached an important milestone: four months on from the first set of workshops our five groups of artist-practitioners presented works-in-progress in the Brighton Spiegeltent. Their exploratory work was made possible by a collaborative research project that brought technologists, practitioners, researchers and industry partners together. Funded by the AHRC and EPSRC research councils, this University of Brighton and Kings College London project was supported by Driftwood 360, Without Walls, Seachange Arts, Freedom Festival Arts Trust and Lighthouse Arts.

    This evening of entertainments was the culmination of a series of intensive workshops, creative encounters, collaborations and development activities. A process that exposed our selected artists to the very latest technologies, allowing them to expand their ideas of how new technologies might augment their practice. Importantly, this event put their prototypes and creative experiments in contact with the last vital component: an audience. As audience experience was a major research question that drove the project, the responses gathered as part of this evening will be vital for the future direction of the individual works and research project as a whole.

    Vicki Amedume from Upswing Arts introduced her presentation by discussing the value of the XR Circus project to the company she leads. The work Upswing produce is about telling stories in interesting and creative ways and the technologies they explored as part of the project clearly held future potential. The fragment Vicki and, aerialist, Alfa Marks presented used a projection of water rippling as a backdrop. At the core of this experimentation was a watery audio soundscape that provided a poetic and expressive aural illustration of a rope artist who appeared to swim through water and gasp for breath. Vicki highlighted that the binaural experience was best experienced via headphones, offering the invitation to the audience to enjoy the audio later via headphones and in the private seclusion of a watery environment, such as a bath.

    This was followed by Carolyn Watt*, who presented a romanticised version of an aerialist as she climbed silks whilst displaying her body. Rather than being one immaculate body in the live performance space, this representation of an aerialist was disrupted by different perspectives of her body refracted across media: a camera mounted within her glittering feathered headdress replayed her perspective against the screen behind her, whilst this was live-streamed again as video 360 on Facebook. Another iteration presented separately later saw Carolyn provide individuals with their own VR video 360 experience of being ‘her body’ in the air. This rooted them in both the real and virtual worlds through holding the silks she climbed. Both experiences sought to empower audiences by giving them different experiences and insights into an aerialist’s body.
    Short titleXR Circus
    Effective start/end date1/12/1730/06/18


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