Posted on Fri 6 Sep 2019
There’s no “I” in team
Lily Green reflects on the bumper car ride that is the studio, with artists, technologists and producers colliding and playing to create and develop all kinds of joyful digital, personal and tangible experiences.
No Bindings is the working name for my hyphenated antics: artist-workshops-publishing-print-audio-community. Like a balloon, I feel it shrink and grow and shrink again as commissions come and go, feeling the joy of working with others and the loud silence of working alone. In contributing to the literary festival Africa Writes Bristol, I worked with a number of studio residents. Thinking about these working relationships, I realised it was a good example of the bumper car ride that is the studio, with artists, technologists and producers colliding and playing to create and develop all kinds of joyful digital, personal and tangible experiences. I thought it’d be interesting to share the histories of these relationships to honour how significant these practitioners have been to No Bindings.
Africa Writes Bristol took place from 28th June – 5th July 2019. The literary festival provided pop ups all over the city and an all-day event at Malcolm X Community Centre, showcasing the BEST in local, national and international literary voices from the African diaspora. The organisers Kate Wallis and Twawangwa Dema, invited No Bindings to get involved. The No Bindings contribution to AWB was centred around Radiobook Rwanda, a multimedia literary imprint that No Bindings co-published with indie publishers Kwani (Kenya) and Huza Press (Rwanda) with support from the British Council East Africa Arts programme. Here’s what happened and who from the Pervasive Media Studio made it a reality.
1. WhatsApp souvenirs
The Brigstow Institute at the University of Bristol funded No Bindings’ investigation into how readers might respond to receiving audible literary works via WhatsApp. What better test material than the gorgeous Radiobook Rwanda series to take festival attendees on a journey from hand bound books to rich, original podcasts, all through WhatsApp. The studio residents making this happen were Tim Kindberg, Jazlyn Pinckney and Will Taylor.
My first interaction with Tim was Tim-as-writer. His poem was selected for Here We Grow, a No Bindings print-audio production about growing older in Bristol, commissioned by Bristol Ageing Better. But Tim is also Tim-the-technologist. And a Network for Creative Enterprise bursary meant I was able to work with him to scope out a suite of digital tools I could use to connect the print and audio elements of No Bindings productions. It’s out of this R+D that the WhatsApp interaction has grown.
Jaz had a huge part to play in the No Bindings journey. When she was the producer at Wyldwood Arts, I met with her and Rachel Adams, the director, to learn more about their intergenerational arts programmes. They ended up asking me to make a print-audio production to document their theatre and poetry programme at Monica Wills House residential home, something they could gift to the group and share to the world – and the first No Bindings commission! Milestone. With her radio making, Bristol Ferry transforming, Moth engaging and creative producing, Jaz has been a real role model for me. So when I was contracting Jaz to be the researcher and producer for this investigation, it was completely surreal! Together we designed branded materials for the investigation (hello stickers and t-shirts) and worked with the challenge of introducing such an early-stage interaction concept.
Zahra Ash-Harper, the studio’s inclusion producer, introduced Will and I to talk through his web-zine project, Two Tone. When it came to concepts of inclusion and engagement, Will and I would end up conversing for hours. I knew he had to be involved in Radiobook Rwanda and step by step he carved out his role as engagement producer, devising workshops, mini think tanks, the book launch itself and radio appearances. It made sense for Will to work alongside Jaz, introducing people to this new WhatsApp-based experience of Radiobook Rwanda, and telling the story of the Radiobook Rwanda production process along the way.
2. A soundscape of stories
You slide away from the vast main hall of the Malcolm X Community Centre into a smaller side room, the Harriet Tubman room. There, you slip on a pair of headphones. You wait by a table, decorated with Radiobook Rwanda books, opened at the beginning of a story. There are others in the room doing the same at other tables. The sound of rain falls around you. And then a voice begins to read the story before you. You listen for a while, following the words on the page, then wander away from the table. You pass through drumming, you pass through the ocean, you pass through chatter and laughter in a bar, you pass through a low, thunderous bass drum and, along the way, you stop at other stories, lured toward the printed pages that are lit up by the glow of soft lamps. This was the installation created by No Bindings and Roomsize at Africa Writes Bristol and it was stunning.
Liam Taylor-West and Emma Hughes
Seeing my face in a brochure for Creative XR Digital Catapult was odd. But it was also how I ended up connecting with Roomsize, founded by composer Liam Taylor-West and produced by Emma Hughes. Emma was one of the younger members of the Wyldwood Arts theatre group at Monica Wills House. After she started working at Limina Immersive, Emma became a studio resident (and we became co-residents of a flat – we’re housemates!). She roped me in to be the face of Roomsize. I loved the Roomsize set up: music that plays with you and around you. So I asked Liam if he’d be interested in “doing a Roomsize” with RadioBook Rwanda. The first iteration was the wintry Radiobook Rwanda launch in November 2018, plagued with the will it/won’t it work of DIY tech, but completely enchanting nonetheless. The second iteration was during the heatwave of Africa Writes Bristol and presented this smooth, ambitious landscape of Radiobook Rwanda stories and sounds - the intore drumming, the thunder rolling, the rain falling – it was beautiful.
There are so many other creative practitioners, studio residents or otherwise, that have been a part of No Bindings. I hope these few examples go some way to argue that artists and makers are as much individuals as they are partnerships, even networks. Without other artists, makers, technologists and creative voices, there would be no No Bindings. I think that’s why I choose to work as No Bindings, it’s not just “me”, it’s “me and”. And as I write this, I realise why I’ve been so unhappy working as No Bindings full time. There is so much loneliness in the gulf between commissions and the teams that come with them. And so begins the search for a partner. Maybe it’s “me and you and”?