Because of our focus on interaction, technology has been a key driver, enabler and determinant of the work we make. Despite starting with no technical skills we have developed a practice that engages deeply with developers and researchers. Through these partnerships we generally develop bespoke software for our projects. Our research is usually tightly tied to the development of a particular work or series or works. We have focused on the intersection between technology and culture, with a specific focus on Human Computer Interaction.
Right from Gunmen Kill Three in 1991 we have explored the role of technology in live performance. That performance included a hacked video projector and a live video cut up of the audiences’ faces. Our developing interest in how technology might shape society and the possibilities for interactive work led us to work more closely with designers and developers. Nat Hunter, Simon Grosser and Dan Salmon were among the first graduates of the MA in Interactive Multimedia at the Royal College of Art and their deep creative contribution to projects such as Stampede, Something American and Desert Rain left a lasting imprint on our work.
Since 1997, we have worked with the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham. To our knowledge, this is one of the longest and deepest collaborations between an artists’ group and a university in the world. The collaboration began with the creation of Desert Rain in 1999 and has continued through projects such as Can You See Me Now?, Uncle Roy All Around You, Day Of The Figurines, Rider Spoke, Ulrike And Eamon Compliant, a href=”https://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/flypad/”>Flypad, I’d Hide You, Karen, and Gift. It has yielded a range of awards and over a dozen published papers. It is hard to imagine our work since then without the deep and long lasting relationships with brilliant, open minded, creative researchers such as Steve Benford, Martin Flintham and Chris Greenhalgh who have worked with us since the late 90s. And at various times we have worked with their colleagues Rob Anastasi, Patrick Brundell, Mauricio Capra, Alan Chamberlain, Andy Crabtree, Adam Drozd, Tony Glover, Jonathon Green, Boriana Koleva, Neil Madden, Joe Marshall, Derek McAuley, Richard Mortier, Leif Opperman, Dominic Price, Stuart Reeves, Tom Rodden, Holger Schnadelbach, Ian ‘Filthy’ Taylor and Peter Tolmie.
With their support we have made work in Collaborative Virtual Environments (Desert Rain), in Mixed Reality (Can You See Me Now?, Uncle Roy All Around You, I Like Frank, I’d Hide You), using context aware mobile phones (Prof Tanda’s Guess-A-Ware), Global Position Systems (Can You See Me Now?), WiFi finger printing (Rider Spoke) and Augmented Reality (Flypad).
Largely through the support of the Mixed Reality Lab we have developed a range of strong relationships with research organisations in the UK and the EU. We have worked with research organisations such as IT University Copenhagen, the Swedish Institute of Computer Science, the Fraunhofer Institute, Microsoft Research in Cambridge and the Universities of Bath, Exeter and Sheffield. We have worked with companies such as Europeana, Culture 24, British Telecom, the BBC, Nokia, Sony and Somethin’ Else. These collaborations have usually been within multi-year research projects such as the Integrated Project on Pervasive Games, Participate, Physical and Alternate Reality Narratives, Outside Broadcast and GIFT (which is both the name of the project and the work we created within it).
Much of our collaborative research is considered in Mixed Reality Performance by Steve Benford and Gabriella Giannachi (MIT Press). The book examines interdisciplinary research between artists and scientists. It explores in depth the consequences of work that is interactive and distributed and mixes the virtual with live performance.
See our research papers list for a selection of material about our work or are co-authored by Matt, Ju or Nick.