The Emergency Artlab’s ’64 Samples’: controlling the seduction of technology


author: Dave Everitt
author: Mike Quantrill
created: 16:19 23may2015
modified: 09:13 26may2015 keywords: uncertainty, collaboration, mapping, data, privacy


  • [n] footnotes are numbered
  • {stuff} to be done
  • word count about 1500 of the 2000 WITHOUT images, so little space left


The Emergency Artlab (e-artlab [1]) emerged within the infrastructure of a research project investigating computer support for creativity, involving a survey of artists using digital technology internationally and a series of artist-in-residence studies conducted with UK-based artists (COSTART [2]). In 1999 Dave Everitt and Mike Quantrill formed the e-artlab as an outlet for their experimental work under COSTART, and involved other artists and collaborators as needed or as opportunities were taken up. The idea was to take collaborative practice-based research in art and computing into the public arena with minimal lead time and with direct participation from audiences. This article covers the background behind the creation of the first public project - '64 Samples' - created and performed over the space of around 3 days with two sound artists (Pip Greasley [3] and Matt Rogalsky [4]), and performed as the Arts Council of England commissioned work at 'Wired and Dangerous' Digital Arts Conference, Leicester UK in 2000.

Background, environment and 'necessary uncertainty'

We began to work together under the COSTART project, which was designed to foster collaboration in an art-science-technology environment. Initially this was a skill share in which Mike would write code and Dave add sound parts, both of us building on an existing practice: Mike as a programmer and artist interested in the process of drawing, while Dave was looking for a technical collaborator to extend his work on a heartbeat-driven mathematical artwork. Our first collaboration involved an infra-red sensor grid that mapped human movement over time, but investigations rapidly expanded into other areas and became intimately bound up with the available technologies, as mentioned in the COSTART interim report:

They worked in collaboration to explore the sensor space. Everitt’s input was to be development of sound. However it quickly became apparent that use of the space involved a much wider collaboration than first envisaged and they ended up working closely together on all aspects of the work during their residency together.

it was both surprising and pleasing that the collaboration... seemed to mirror the struggle to find ways of working with this integrated environment. Much time was spent trying to define the unique properties of the space and at the same time MQ and DE were trying to define their roles and common interests. [...] answers from either one provided insights to the other. [5]

We had clear notions about what was important in our work, but no ontology with which to define it. However, two key themes came together in a complex mingling of ideas: the mapping of human activity without an explicit or visible computer interface, and the issue of harvesting personal data in the public realm.

Again, the COSTART report describes the resulting process w