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By Dave Smith on

‘System Overload’ youth project ready for Life Online [open source]

Six months ago, a group of dedicated young people came together to work on the development of a brand new artwork as part of the Life Online project.

Here we are in February and the fruits of their labours have just been installed in the Level 7 gallery, as a piece called System Overload. So, how did we get here?

System Overload

It all began back in September. A month earlier the group had voted to make an animation about net neutrality and with the help of artist Jack Lockhart they embarked on a series of workshops and activities. The aim: to learn how to animate and how to make cool art.

The first thing the group did was create a visual language to use, playing with concepts, ideas and techniques, working out how to represent abstract things like ‘the internet’ as interesting animations. The results were three animation techniques—stop-motion, lightwriting and pixilation—and some ideas about where to go next. The group also researched the idea of net neutrality, started to look at ideas about why it’s an important topic, and figure out what they wanted to say about it.

System Overload structure

The next item on the agenda was to develop a structure for the artwork. As the piece was going in a gallery we didn’t want a projection onto a wall, not when there was the chance to make something more interesting. As the group talked, the idea of using nodes and lines developed, and we combined this with experiments in projecting onto 3D objects like boxes. The result was a pattern, to be cut from wood and hung in the gallery: the animations would be projected on this later on.

With the structure in place we got on with animating. Led by our ‘meme master’ Callum, the group started to create phrases and animations that explored net neutrality in the language of the internet: lolspeak (a language beyond us adults!)

Members of Networked, the Life Online youth project team

The project hasn’t been all slaving over a hot camera: the group took a trip to Liverpool to see work on display at Tate Liverpool and FACT, examining what was good and bad about artworks and how they were displayed (and we’ve also had some great pizza…)

Slowly, the work came together over the autumn and winter and by the end of 2011 we had a bank of animations ready to assemble into one artwork. The final theme and name of the piece (System Overload) and a name for the group (Networked) were all worked out in January and added into the final display you’ll see in the gallery. The last touch was to head to Factory Street Studios to compose a soundtrack to help create the mood we wanted.

Last week was the most exciting so far, as the group, Jack and the technicians gathered in the Level 7 gallery to install the work. There were a couple of little issues but it was a generally smooth process and System Overload is now on the wall and ready to go when the gallery opens to the public on the 30 March 2012.

Later in the afternoon the local press were invited to see the work and meet the group—it was their first press event and, despite having to be photographed from all angles and give soundbites, they did really well.

So, what’s next? The group are going to be spending the next couple of weeks working on some other creative projects, and then the gallery opens. If you want to learn more about the process, come along to our Breakfast with the Artists event, or visit Life Online [open source] from 30 March 2012 to see the work in the gallery.

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