Phoenix in Leicester is rising to the challenge of a new digital future
A three-year plan to establish Leicester as a major player in digital arts is gathering pace at Phoenix. Nigel Powlson looks at the venue’s ambitions for the city.
PLANS to make Phoenix in Leicester a world class centre for digital arts over the next three years are gaining momentum with each new exhibition.
Digital arts co-ordinator Chris Tyrer admits that Phoenix is a “fairly new player” but one with big ambitions.
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“We are trying to carve our space in that sphere,” he says.
Phoenix began to put Leicester on the digital arts map after securing major funding for a programme of exhibitions and bringing the work of Simon Faithfull to the city earlier this year.
The venue displayed more than 800 drawings, created using an iPhone as a sketchbook, across Leicester and online. The exhibition was an important step, not only because Faithfull is an internationally recognised talent, but also because it was the first in a programme of events supported by funding from Arts Council England.
Chris says: “Simon’s one of the leading contemporary artists in the UK who has come from a traditional background, has moved towards the digital but has still kept the focus on the nature of drawing.
“I think that’s what we are trying to do with the programme. All the shows use technology in some way, but don’t present any barriers. It can be that if people aren’t familiar with digital technology that it is seen as an obstacle to engaging with the work. But we try get beyond that and have a wide interpretation of what it means.”
Equally, Chris believes technology is bring new people to art, whether as practitioners or observers.
“It offers new ways of engaging with art and producing it and that’s why it’s exciting,” he says.”It’s art that can also go beyond the gallery and exist in the virtual world.”
Coming to Phoenix this autumn is the ground-breaking touring exhibition Intuition and Ingenuity. This exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of mathematician Alan Turing, who was also one of the great pioneers of computer technology. It explores the enduring influence of Turing, considered the father of modern computing, on art and contemporary culture. Intuition and Ingenuity takes its name from Turing’s own writing and brings together a number of important artists, from digital art pioneers to emerging contemporary practitioners, including Roman Verostko, William Latham, Ernest Edmonds, Patrick Tresset, Anna Dumitriu and Alex May, with newly commissioned work by boredomresearch and Paul Brown.
Chris says: “The exhibition features a wide range of art works. Some of it is heavy on Turing’s ideas and the technology, some of it more about his life. The exhibition has been very well received and we are excited to be bringing it to Leicester.”
The Intuition and Ingenuity exhibition also represents the latest collaboration with the BCS Computer Arts Society, which has been using Phoenix as a base for it’s Leicester speaker programme this year. Run as part of the British Computer Society, it was established in 1968 and looks to promote the creative uses of computers in the arts and culture generally.
In November, the cafe space at Phoenix will see new work from Ludic Rooms, who after a short residency their in the summer will be bringing an installation to the venue as a result.
Additionally, in the Cube gallery in November, there’s a new exhibition by Leicester-based digital artist Sean Clark and London-based arts group Genetic Moo. “Symbiotic” will feature a new evolving artwork called the “Leicester Homunculus” and two smaller artworks that interact with each other, as well as with their audience. Some people may have seen Genetic Moo’s work in August in the Interact tent at Summer Sundae.
• This article appeared in Culture magazine, which is free with the Leicester Mercury and appears bimonthly. To find out more about being featured in the magazine, email editor Nigel Powlson. Follow Culture mag on Twitter @LeicsCulture