Happenstance: making things so we can make more things

The Happenstance project is almost over. We’re doing our TEDx talk next week, then we have our final ‘Open House’ event the following Thursday. And that’s it. Job, such as it was, done. What happens next is a hugely exciting question, because I’ll be emerging from this as a different sort of maker to the one that went in. To mark the changes, here are some things I’ve been thinking about that you might find useful, too:

We make things so we can make more things. Making is not just a necessary evil that helps us to scratch itches, or to get problems to go away. Over the last couple of months I’ve met artists and technologists and everything in between, and have been programming arduinos and Kinects with no query at all, because that’s just what you do, when you’re me and you’re in Sheffield. In fact, not a day has gone by when I haven’t found myself wanting to do something ‘technical’ – and while I’ve missed writing at times, I can’t help wondering if that was just about needing to build things – if that’s all that was ever about.

Technology is naked without the clothing of stories. Soon after this project ends, Duncan and I are off to Dublin in July for the Maker Faire, with some work that’s relatively low-tech – but a storytelling challenge. I’ve never been great at storytelling, which is precisely why I feel the need to think and talk so much about it. The atomic parts, I can do. The big picture stuff – the threads, the arcs, the tedious empathy – that’s a problem. So before this year is out, I’ve decided I’m going try to do some kind of storytelling training. I want to get better at it. I wonder if that’s possible? I’m still making things fast. In fact, never have so many almost-working things been made in such a short space of time. But learning things fast takes you even further.

Watch your inputs, and your outputs will look after themselves. One of the great pleasures of Happenstance has been the learning, something I’ve done very little of in recent years, and if my reports are to be believed, something I didn’t do much of at school, either. Knowledge gives you tremendous creative power – it’s everything. But learning doesn’t stand a chance without the motivation to shape it and put it in context (again, my problem with school). I’d like to learn more about radio and more about C and storytelling and robotics and electricity, because I can already imagine the things I’d like to achieve.

New mountains present themselves when the time is right. Someone said to me recently, “Leila, you should just open a gallery of all this techy art stuff you love so much,” and I realised that they were quite right, I both should and could. Sheffield is like a suitcase that can’t be closed because it’s overflowing with ideas and creations, and I think this year I’d like to host an exhibition of my friends’ (and my?) tech-art stuff, somewhere here. How does that sound?

One thought on “Happenstance: making things so we can make more things

  1. Pete Hindle

    YES! You should totally open an art gallery focused on techie stuff.

    As far as I know, there hasn’t been a gallery mainly concerned with new media/techy stuff since the Zone Gallery of Newcastle closed down in the mid-nineties. Sometimes temporary galleries open up, such as Kinetica, but they always seem to be quite removed from the sheer enthusiasm you display towards technology.

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