Future Lab Africa is a collaboration between Jepchumba and myself. As enablers and developers in the field, both of us are concerned with sharing details around not only what artists are making, but how these artists make their work in their various contexts. This is in addition to the subjects they focus on and what inspires them to do so.
The start of Future Lab Africa was a proposal from Jepchumba to interview all the artist on the Post African Futures exhibition. The purpose of the podcast was to document representations of digital art practices in Africa through the viewpoint of the artists themselves, thereby giving a more accurate and personalised view of processes and practices. Future Lab is experimental in nature, a form of digital storytelling that involves not only interviews, but also edited episodes mixed with music and digital sound.
Future Lab Africa grew from this initial podcast series and later in October 2015 we produced a series interviewing artists that participated in the Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency.
About the 2015 Series:
Post African Futures series dealt very specifically with the artist’s response to Bristow’s research around African cultures of technology and critical aesthetic practices. All the artists, from across the continent, where interviewed to speak to their particular conceptual and development process and in reflection of the work they produced for Post African Futures. What this did, was allow for a comparison of very diverse practices within a single frame, a frame that is dealt with very differently by each artist.
The second series with artists in the 2015 Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Residency, is very different and yet still speaks to the concerns of art, culture and technology. The 2015 Fak’ugesi residency invited resident artists to explore and create public engagement in response to the theme: “Futurist Visions of Johannesburg: uncovering place and space, physical and virtual responses to ‘now’ for socio-cultural technologies of the future.” In the podcast series there is a focus on this theme as well as the experiences of the artists on a festival residency; a very different mode of working from that of normal studio practice. A festival residency forces individuals to work in reflection of each other’s practices, in a new environment and in a very short period of time. The this case the residency additionally focused on the development of work through public engagement, with particular focus on Johannesburg as a city. The podcast therefore allowed for a reflection of the residency experience; an interrogation of Johannesburg from different perspectives, and most importantly the different approaches to working with the public in the construction of artwork and culturally informed technologies.
Each series therefore allows for very different but comparable experiences. These we believe act to educate other practitioners around the beauty, criticality and concerns of working in the field. The other advantage of working with a podcast series, is that there is no limit to how each series can be styled and the number of episodes is dependant on the number of artists who participated. This means that each artist on a given project can voice the concerns of their own contexts and practices.
At the end of 2015, beginning of 2016 Future Lab Africa was invited to join Creative Disturbances, collection hosted by the Leonardo Initiatives (MIT) of the ArtSciLab at the University of Texas, Dallas (http://creativedisturbance.org). This has given us a small boost into the new year to upgrade our hosting, buy new podcasting software and make a new series.
Future Lab Africa can be accessed with details of each series from www.futurelab.org and listened to on Sound Cloud (soundcloud.com/futurelabafrica) and subscribed to on iTunes (itunes.apple.com/za/podcast/future-lab-africa/).