Guests from Designers Republic, EIDOS and Pictoplasma among highlights of NEoN 2010
Return of North East of North arts festival secures Scotland's reputation as a centre of digital excellence
Henry Northmore looks to Dundee as digital arts festival NEoN returns for its second year
Not for nothing does The List frequently refer to Scotland as a centre of digital excellence: the success of games developers, including Rockstar, institutions such as Abertay University and now the return of digital arts festival NEoN, all show a nation in rude technological health. NEoN (North East of North) is a week-long Dundee event that aims to take discussion beyond just the city’s hugely successful games developers and look at how technology can be used across the arts. The festival’s 2010 theme is ‘character’, and a series of talks, workshops, exhibitions, commissions, screenings and performance will take place across Dundee to explore how this idea can be realised through digital means.
‘Last year’s event set the bar very high, with some inspirational speakers and guests,’ says Donna Holford-Lovell, Chair of the NEoN organising group. ‘This year we have moved up several gears, to create something wholly new which incorporates even more content and a much wider variety of topics.’ Guests include EIDOS’ Ian Livingston, Designers Republic’s Ian Anderson, animation and special effects guru Dr Ken Perlin and the first solo UK exhibition by acclaimed Japanese artist Akinori Oishi, creator of a series of enchantingly simple micro games and films. ‘I’m excited to experience how British people are thinking about digital media at the NEoN festival,’ says Oishi. ‘The most interesting thing about participating in a festival is communicating with friendly people and native audiences.’
The inclusion of Peter Thaler and Lars Denicke from contemporary character design organisation Pictoplasma is a masterstroke. ‘It’s an open project with a network behind it that is dedicated to character design,’ explains Thaler from their Berlin studio. ‘We will give a little speech talking about where we think these characters that are very much reduced to the bare essentials get their power; how we perceive them and what gives them the uncanny impression of being alive in a certain way.’ Alongside a screening, Pictoplasma’s characters will also be invading Dundee ‘guerrilla style’ as their latest project working with costumes steps out and onto the streets.
NEoN festival is very much about breaking down barriers and proving that digital art influences all aspects of our modern lives. ‘Bringing together people who are creative in the arts, often has an incredibly strong impact,’ says Thaler. ‘These people often have a very strong relationship with their characters and it becomes very personal, often the characters are like family members to them.’ The convergence of the real and digital is liable to produce something special in Dundee. Keep your mind open to the possibilities.
NEoN runs across Dundee, Mon 8–Sun 14 Nov. www.northeastofnorth.com