Magicians in Residence

Stuart Nolan's ideobird

"Of course, we aren’t the first people to play with this area: from age-old tricks like Pepper’s Ghost (which required a specially-built theatre to house it) to Houdini’s radio illusion, there is a long tradition of magicians making and appropriating new technology within their acts.  However, apart from a few exceptions, magic has been slow to respond to more recent emerging technology areas, like the internet of things. Creating time and space to explore how technology could produce new experiences, stories, tricks or products, seemed like a good investment to us." Clare Reddington, Director of iShed and Pervasive Media Studio

In Autumn 2013 Watershed teamed up with the University of Bristol to disrupt normal artist residency service and invite a magician to explore creative ideas that blend technology, interaction design, magic and illusion.

The wealth of applications meant that two magicians were selected to share the residency, and in October 2013 Keiron Kirkland and Stuart Nolan were welcomed to Watershed.

Kieron Kirkland is a professional magician, technologist, theatre practitioner and researcher with a significant performing history including close-up and stage (Globe Theatre, Tobacco Factory, Punchdrunk, Stand and Stare). He has also worked as ASM for Derren Brown. He is an experienced researcher working with innovative applications of current and emerging digital technologies (researcher at Futurelab, and currently Development Research Manager for Nominet Trust). 

During the residency Kieron researched the synergies and opportunities between magic and the maker movement. At what point, and why, did magicians give up their role on the cutting edge of technology? To encourage experimentation Kieron ran the world's first Magic Hack, and began developing the concept of 'open source magic'.Read more about Kieron's project here, and watch a short documentary about his progress here.

Stuart Nolan is an applied magician with a background in performance, cell biology, interactive media, experience design, programming, technology development, academic research, playful and performative facilitation, and education. Since a NESTA Fellowship in 2002, he has collaborated with others to apply techniques, tools, and insights from the arts of performance magic to a variety of other creative fields including installation art, architecture, visual design, game design, software design, media, sport, and performance arts.

During the residency Stuart explored how to track subconscious muscle responses to create a friendly mind-reading robot, the IdeoBird. As the residency progressed the IdeoBird grew and he went on to invent the OuijaBird, who detects your Ideomotor Quotient (ImQ), reads your personality, and tells your fortune. Find out more about Stuart's project here, and watch a short documentary about his progress here.

Read about the interview process for this unusual call, their talk at Pervasive Media Studio and, for more details, you can read the original brief here.

The Magicians in Residence were co-hosted by Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio and The Bristol Interaction and Graphics Group in the Computer Science Department of the University of Bristol.

Ended in November 2013