After over 30 years in the industry and many discussions with like-minded institutions and practitioners, we have recognised that extending the life-span and engagement, and ongoing relationships of artistic festivals, exhibitions and events, is an issue shared and explored by the entire cultural sector. Over the last ten years, IMPAKT has made an effort in its programming to rethink and experiment with methods to meaningfully and directly engage with our audiences. We have done so by implementing new methods in our curation through both digital and tangible means.
This included: incorporating direct collaborations with students and educational institutions in our curation, holding unique events that allow our audiences to engage with the more complex issues we explore with relatable and embodied experiences, creating an IMPAKT channel, conducting games, thematic dinners, community embedded projects. Along with programming events that encourage audience participation and engage them interactively, we have recently expanded from a festival to a full-time media centre and using this new venue to hold more consistent events throughout the programming year that takes our audiences further into the thinking and practice surrounding our annual thematic focus.
Background and FOTP
We began using innovative digital technology to enhance and grow our engagement with our audiences. In 2016/17 IMPAKT produced a web-based interactive storytelling project called the Future of the Past. The aim of the Future of the Past was to take the theme and archives of our 2015 IMPAKT festival and extend the life of this once transient art encounter.
The IMPAKT Festival 2015 explored the changes to our conception of personal and collective histories, memory, and predictions of past, present and future that mass data collection is bringing about. During the festival, along with the presentations/panels recorded, IMPAKT filmed a series of interviews with the presenters and artists who contributed to the event. Our contributors were asked a series of questions about the festival topic, themes and their own work. With BEYOND ART we sought to move from our earlier work on archiving with the Future of the Past project to produce our latest attempt to enhance all aspects of our curation and programming, with our Platform BEYOND ART.
With an interactive storytelling app called Klynt, we turned a dormant archive of videos into an immersive digital experience. This not only allowed us to utilise video interviews sitting on our servers, but to importantly to enliven and contemporise the audiences experience with our previous work we linked new academic research and new artistic work that was related to the theme and had been published since the festival in 2015.
This project was our first attempt at using interactive digital technology to extend the afterlife of a temporary event and to increase audience engagement with our curation. We learned a lot from this project and were happy with the end result, but we saw a great deal of potential for how we and other organisations in the cultural sector could take advantage of technology to increase audience engagement with all of our work at all times in our annual programming.
Please click on the image below to visit our previous project The Future of the Past:
In September 2018, DEN and Director Maaike Verberk launched the open call for ideas. In this call DEN was seeking ideas from institutions in the arts sector that want to use innovative digital techniques to help the arts sector in their daily artistic work practice and their relationship with the public.
The call suggested that:
Digital techniques are still rarely used in the field of creating artworks, reaching the public or in education and talent development. Of course, live stream concerts can already be followed, virtual tours are available or digital crowdsource platforms help to create works of art. This is just the beginning. Technology offers many opportunities for the arts; how it evokes reflection, how connections are made with specific groups and how it challenges us to look further at a different way of working. Innovations have the potential to convey artistic experiences and to connect with the public in new ways. We want to explore these new possibilities together with the arts sector.
So, IMPAKT saw the DEN open call for proposals as an incredible opportunity to produce a unique platform that furthered our work on the Future of the Past platform and pursued methods for IMPAKT and other organisations in the cultural sector could take advantage of technology to increase audience engagement with all of our work at all times in our annual programming and this is what our successful pitch to DEN centred around. For our own thinking and to articulate to DEN and potential partners how we could extend the life-span and reach of cultural institutions through digital technologies we started to envisage enhancing our curational practices before, during and after any art event.
With this project we were focussed on creating a robust, versatile and user-friendly mobile and web platform that can be easily and effectively personalised by any art institute. We wanted to create a platform that could provide increased and personalised access for art-lovers, students, academics, art practitioners, art institutions and education institutions. We believe that the problems we were and are still committed to addressing and ultimately solving with BEYOND ART are not unique to IMPAKT, in fact we believe that all of our colleagues in the cultural sector are facing these same issues.
These issues are:
How do we enter into meaningful dialogue with digitally literate audiences in a way they desire, and how do we do so in a way that the complex issues we explore deserve?
How do we in the cultural sector, not get left behind by the tech revolution and use it to promote, enliven and extend the influence of our events?
How can we use these digital formats to connect with a younger generation of audiences that natively and intiutively use this kind of interaction?
We conceptualised these problems arising for both us as art institutions and our audiences: BEFORE, DURING and AFTER every art event.
BEFORE any event our audiences want to know:
What am I going to see?
What should I know before visiting?
Why does this exhibition matter to me?
DURING an event, our audiences want more meaningful information:
They want engagement with the work that enriches their experience.
AFTER an art event our audiences are inspired, intrigued, they want to know:
How can I learn more?
How can I share my experience with others?
What have experts said about the works and the themes in an event or exhibition?
As art institutions, we want to know:
What our audiences thought and want more of?
Who is our audience and who are we not reaching?
How do we build ongoing relationships with our community and leverage off their contacts?
How do we gather data in an ethical, economical and engaging manner?
How can we promote future events?
Our Research Question
Ultimately, this led us to distill our fundamental research question for BEYOND ART to:
How can we meaningfully extend and enhance engagement with art events beyond a single encounter?
IMPAKT, along with TIK TIK and the Performance Technology Lab secured funding for one year from Stichting DEN.
We were funded for our idea BEYOND Art that sought to answer our research question by producing a prototype of the platform for our annual festival in 2019, Speculative Interfaces.