The year so far and Leviathan

frowunderworldsI never seem to blog anymore. Thought I’d get things going with some recent news. It’s almost half-way through the year.

The story so far

2015 has been a year of professional anxiety so far, really. I feel like I’ve done nothing but think about Hack Circus, love Hack Circus, worry about Hack Circus, change my mind about things I was certain about five seconds ago, apply for things that might take various decisions out of my hands, etc. It’s about the most privileged imaginable position to be worrying from, I completely appreciate. Loads of truly talented people are doing loads of things to make wonderful stuff with me, and asking for nothing in return. I can’t imagine doing anything else, it’s absolutely amazing, and it’s killing me.

Poor old me, huh. Back in the real world, some very good things have happened.

leaderofthehack2I was profiled in The Independent last month, following the ‘Underworlds’ musical to launch issue 6, which I created with my friend LJ Rich (and of course our fantastic speakers, Ralph, Chris, and Steve). The musical I co-wrote with LJ is an immersive journey to the centre of the Earth in a sound-powered vessel, where various beings, including the subterranean volcano we’re travelling through, must have their needs fulfilled by the morally ambiguous deep sea demon Chthulhu (see image) – a squid-headed digital productivity guru and calamari chef. The final release of the repressed volcano will lead to total destruction for all except those who join Chthulhu’s SEO cookery cult. More about that and links and pics here. Album to be available on public release soon (really).

I was also interviewed for the tech radio show BBC Click that goes out on BBC World Service radio, which was cool. I put pics and links to all this stuff and more on the HC press page.

I’ve recently released two new episodes of the HC podcast – how music manipulates, with composer Heather Fenoughty, and hypnosis with Nick Davies, where you can hear me go into a hypnotic trance on air.

Back in February, I won a place on a British Council/Future Everything/others development programme thing at the Manchester art/tech/culture festival, Future Everything. I haven’t written about it yet and it seems rather late now, but some of the more conscientious participants, e.g. Bhavani, wrote about it on the British Council site. I was interviewed about it for Resonance FM. I had a fantastic week in Manchester with nine young innovators from all around the world, we did workshops and talks and showed off our stuff to loads of people.

I’ve also had a great time speaking at the London RiscOS User Group (it was borderline off-topic for them, but we did have a good chat about Archimedes demos and Jan Vibe), and Lancaster University’s High Wire grad programme in the last couple of months.

This week

We are ‘in design’ with issue 7 this week, looking forward to catching up with designer James tonight and seeing what he’s been up to. Three illustrators and two designers on this one! It’s a doozie.

I hung out with some clever people yesterday and was asked two really good and related questions. One of them was: “Of all the things you’ve created, which are you most proud?” It’s definitely not the books. It’s not most of the writing. It’s categorically not being invited to speak at expensive events, which is not a measure of anything. And, much as I hugely love making myself laugh and surprising myself with new ideas, that kind of auto-entertaining isn’t where pride resides, either. No, for me it’s the fact that some of the people on some of the projects I’ve kicked off have created new work and connections – people better than me, making fantastic things that might not have appeared in the world, at least partly because of something I did. What’s better than that?

The other question was: “Do you care more about your own entertainment than that of your audience?” My first thought was, honestly yeah, I mean – I definitely do these things because I enjoy them rather than as some kind of Mother Theresaish people-pleasing crusade. But, on second thoughts, it’s quite difficult to separate the two. I need the audience, but I treat them as self-selected team members rather than people to serve. My enjoyment, in some way, *is* the enjoyment of the audience. If they’re not having fun, neither am I. Which, crucially, is not to say I’m ever going to do anything differently. And I think this is the guilty, unfashionable, secret of artistic production. You can make everything shareable and flatten all the hierarchies you like, but the end of the line there’s someone who’s unjustifiably, intuitively sure about something. Someone you can’t argue with because the conversation ends with them. Every line of reason and sharing ends with one person’s heart.

On Saturday I’m doing a 10 minute performance for this ‘technology unplugged’ themed art event thing at the Do It Anyway festival organised by Access Space, here in Sheffield. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. It’s Wednesday afternoon but the present moment is infinite. I’m sure I’ll think of something in time.

The future

In early June I’m going to Wakefield to do a closing talk for something called ‘Remix the Gallery‘ at the Hepworth, then heading to Berlin to speak at ‘The School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe’ event.

I have something coming up in the Guardian soon, at least online, I think. And I was chosen as one of the Libertine 100, so next week I’m going to write a 500 word piece for them. I’ve been invited to contribute regularly to Carl’s monthly YouTube Teletext magazine, and will get around to that before long, hopefully, too. There are bound to be other things I’ve promised to do that I can’t recall at the moment…

Just because something’s playful it doesn’t mean it’s for kids

Newspapers and magazines and comics have always been important to me, and being featured in The Independent the other week was an especially exciting because, thanks to a long-term delivery discount in the early 90s, it was my parents’ paper of choice until they remembered to cancel their subscription. What I remember most about that paper is trying not to look at Peter Blegvad’s frightening and surreal cartoon Leviathan. I now suspect it is a work of unsurpassed genius.

Don’t have nightmares.

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