Digital community-engagement with Canadian improvisers

Research Team: Rebecca Caines, James Harley, Michelle Stewart, Helen Pridmore.

Additional artists: Michael Waterman, John Campbell, Holophon Audio Arts

The MultiPLAY project aims to use digital tools to connect isolated regional Canadian sonic, performance and new media artists, who all use improvisation in their work, with each other and with the public; and to find new digital means to support ongoing ethical artist and community collaborations in improvised arts practice. This 2-year project will include workshops, talks, demos and events across Canada, a significant digital presence in online and social media, a variety of public workshops and events, including an artist-run hackathon, and the training and resourcing of a number of partners in digital approaches for creative/social innovation.  

Improvisation is a key art practice across disciplines in the devising and performing stages, and also plays a key role in interactive new media. Improvising arts, however, can be misunderstood by those with a lack of experience, as “elitist”, relying on specialized vocabularies, and at times seeming obscure due to abstract, non-representational outputs (particularly sonic arts and experimental music). Conversely, it can be seen as just “popular entertainment” and not offering any innovation (especially improvised performance, or some forms of interactive media art). Canadian improvisers, however, are world leaders in the field, and are creating innovative and accessible practices. Improvisation is, in fact, a very important community-engagement strategy, being utilized in effective artist and community collaborations in areas as diverse arts in health, disability arts, arts training and education settings, and ground-breaking approaches to public art. Digital strategies are needed to prevent this work being isolated and localized. The lead applicant is part of an international research project investigating improvising arts and research, which repeatedly emphasizes the importance of integrating digital approaches, and new partnerships to allow improvising arts to flourish, and to benefit Canadian communities. She has worked with all of the artists/groups on local projects before, and in learning about their current work, saw a chance to take up the challenge she saw  from the research: to connect and enhance these projects to better digitally equip improvising artists and their partners to make national artistic and social impact.

For more information about Multiplay activities visit the Facebook page

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