To celebrate 20 years collaborating with the University of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab (MRL), we’re taking a look back on some of the works we’ve made together.
Up next is Uncle Roy All Around You (2003), our third collaboration made with the MRL, following 2001’s Can You See Me Now?. Artist Matt Adams explains how this work came about and unexpected audience connections made through the work:
“Uncle Roy All Around You was the first time we put members on the public out on the street. In Can You See Me Now?it was very deliberate that we were the performers running around because it’s so technically difficult to get the GPS working, there are so many technical challenges. With Uncle Roy, it’s like we’re gonna put people online andpeople in the street. It’s going to be public in both places so how can we make a game out of that?’
We became fascinated to explore what it’s like to create a situation where you have to trust people online and you explore what it means to trust people or not trust people, with that ultimate contract that at the end of Uncle Roy All Around You, you’re asked ‘would you be willing to make a contract with a stranger, that you’ll be there for them if they need support over the next 12 months?’
It was a social experiment, we wondered if people would do it and we wondered what would happen so we made a decision really early on that we wouldn’t track those relationships. We thought it was really important that they were private and that people did with them in whatever way they wanted. So it’s especially exciting when – even years later – I hear about people who had powerful connections with their allocated stranger. I met someone at Sheffield Doc/Fest whose father died within a couple of weeks of taking part in Uncle Roy; they struck up an email dialogue with their stranger to help her through her grieving process that lasted months.
It’s of course worth mentioning that this was before Facebook even existed and it’s still in the days where online you were genuinely anonymous rather than identifiable by your real name. You just chose a name and off you go: so it’s deliberately playing around with identity, it’s quite slippery.”
Uncle Roy All Around You was winner of the Innovation award at the Arts and Humanities Research Board, 2005, nominated for the Net Art Award at The Webby Awards and nominated for the Interactive Arts and Technical & Social Innovation awards at BAFTA, 2002.
Re-discover the project here.