For Hacking Arts 2016, I’m crafting a panel session called ‘Play, Perform, Participate.’ My vision for this panel is based on the research I conduct as a graduate student of media and performance studies. In the Media and Culture Studies department at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where I’m pursuing my M.A., many of us gravitate towards concepts related to play and performance to better explain the cultural significance of interactive forms of spectatorship. In my own research, I investigate technologies and devices—both innovative and historical—that transform spectators into experiencers. I’m also incredibly interested in how artists and technologists work together. The projects I enjoy the most are ones that reflect such collaboration and that change the way we navigate familiar spaces such as museums and city streets.

Because of this, I find the work of ANAGRAM, a creative collective in the UK, to be particularly inspiring. Amy Rose and May Abdalla, two ex-documentary filmmakers now at the core of ANAGRAM, create immersive and interactive experiences which they describe as having the potential be anywhere but are always somewhere. Their show, Nightwatchers is a great example of what they mean by this. Nightwatchers, which takes place at the Tower of London, is an immersive audio thriller about surveillance, and it allows participants to engage with history through a contemporary lens. I’d characterize Nightwaters as being not only playful but also performative because of the extent it makes it implicitly invites participants to consider what it means to be a subject of experience today.

As the panel lead of ‘Play, Perform, Participate,’ I’ve been working to bring together panelists who work to create, curate, and preserve participatory experiences not unlike the ones created by ANAGRAM. I’m very excited to have Rachel Chanoff, the Curator of Performing Arts and Film for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the founder of the independent curator and production company THE OFFICE performing arts + film share some of her insight with the Hacking Arts audience. Rachel has over thirty years of experience in the arts and can speak to how the practices that may interest us now have gained traction over time.

If you attend the panel, you’ll also hear from a range of other amazing practitioners. There will be Theo Watson, an artist, designer, and experimenter whose interactive artworks come alive and invite people to play both indoors and out, Daisy Nam, the assistant director of Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts who can speak to how cultural institutions have worked to document such interactive work, and, finally, Tau Zaman, the head writer of LIMINUS, a pervasive performance that will premier  at Hacking Arts. Make sure to check out our upcoming blog post written by the Nicholas Medvescek, the creative producer of LIMINUS for some inside scoop on the project.

Last but not least, bringing all these voices together will be ‘Play, Perform, Participate’s’ moderator, Nathan Phillips—a creative director, best-selling author, comedian, professional speechwriter, and 2015 Emmy winner for New Approaches to Documentary. Like, Tau, Nicholas, and I, Nathan got his start in the creative industry at Emerson College. The many faces of Nathan’s successful career are great examples of all the opportunities open to us as creative arts entrepreneurs and innovators.

Don't miss my panel 'Play, Perform, Participate' at the MIT Media Lab at 9:45 AM on November 19, 2016. Get your tickets here now!

-- Jess Scarpati, Hacking Arts 2016 Panel Lead

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