Handout.md 8.24 KB

Critical-Kits: Art, technology and distributed participation Wednesday 30th November 2016 10am - 6pm


Welcome to Re-Dock, the Liverpool Small Cinema and Critical-Kits

As we’ve already said, as part of a generation of artists giving equal critical focus to both participation and technology, we think we’ve identified a problem to do with documentation. Much of the documentation we and commissioning entities use often fails to capture the richness, complexity and difficulty of working across contemporary art practice, community engagement and technical cultures

We’ve already sent you some initial questions that we may touch on.

A final recap on terms; we are using the term critical-kits as a shorthand for issues around documenting and sharing participatory artistic practice that uses technology not just projects that use kits. We will refer to not just specific technologies (eg. webapps, microcontrollers, IoT, digital fabrication) but also broader technical and participatory cultures. We are stretching the definitions a little.


Through this symposium we’re trying to understand how we can use ‘critical-kits’ and kit cultures to better communicate the richness and complexity of art that engages with both participation and technology.


Responding to our observations of recent impulses for artists to make ‘kits’, we roughly outlined  3 basic motivations:

  • To better distribute your practice without you being there
  • To explore new kinds of art experiences and practice
  • To make money and be sustainable

What we are doing, is making connections between these impulses and motivations, to some of the problems of documentation in participatory art that uses technology.

Opening Statements

Aspects of ‘kit culture’ offer problems and opportunities that are relevant to the challenge of documenting participatory art.

Document more but filter more: How do we do it, why, when and to who?

By responding to kit cultures, what we are really are trying to focus on is the nature of the   documentation of artists and others’ participatory work with technology. We’ve already sent you a list of questions, some of which are really far reaching and we’ll touch on many of them, but will always be pulling back to it’s implications in terms of documentation.

We are being open as to what this ‘documentation’ could be; We’ve referred to git a version control and project management system from technical/engineering culture quite a bit, but only as an example representative of just how much fine grain of detail can be ‘tracked’ and documented. We are by no means suggesting it as a solution to everything but a model of a way of working taken from technical culture.

There are other forms of documentation of course that we want people to discuss: hand bound books, board games, videos of choreography, blogs, games or text adventures.

Key Questions / Prompts

  • What are the artistic aims of your kit or practice?
  • Constrain the intended audience and use scenario for your kit using Who? What? Where? When? How?
  • What aspects of the process of our participatory arts practice are we not documenting?
  • Artistic and/or critical contexts
  • Artistic aims, What are you trying to do?
  • Motivations?
  • Information about the use context.
  • Implementation: Doing it
  • Facilitation notes, past skills and plans
  • Learning Objectives if there are any (they don’t have to be)
  • Emergency facilitation skills; your critical framework/arduino won’t work in the sports hall: what do you do?
  • Planning & logistical info
  • Reflection
  • Documentation of how the kit has been used
  • Post mortem and de-brief issue list/blog
  • How does your kit relate or use other forms of publication and distribution of art?


‘More data’ is not always useful: once we have everything missing documented, what opportunities are there for filtering this into a clearer more nuanced, fine grained, picture of our practice? The artist’s role is to be that filter for all this and perhaps this is where authorship resides.

Another idea that is often implicit in Maker Culture is that kits can and should be for Everyone. While this promise of unlimited distribution is appealing, especially for social and educational projects, this could have a standardising effect on tone and content of artist kits. So while it’s important that there are art kits that are accessible to e.g. under 10’s, not all our kits have to be created with them in mind.

FInal Outcomes post Symposium

Whatever we discover we will attempt to document it and then point it toward partly answering the following:

How can we best communicate this kind of art practice to the art community and to wider audiences and the public sphere?


Aha! What we’ve been talking about. Here’s a strategy to start with:

  • Filmmaker and artist Tim Brunsden of Re-Dock will livestream film elements of the kit-crits.
  • Ross will add gitlab issues with the label ‘references’ and pinboard bookmarks with the criticalkits tag throughout the day
  • We will be using the twitter Hashtag #CriticalKits for the event but we’d also like to experiment with the idea of using an additional tag #on during our discussions which you use to indicate someone has said something important during a discussion you want to refer to/respond to or document. It refers to and prototypes our idea of A magic button to tag a video stream live
  • A magic button to tag a video stream live:

Make a button maybe with node-red to tag a video stream when someone says something interesting or needs further comment / research / data / response / backing up / confirming / abuse / laughter/ make another conference about it

You can access Ross & Neils pinboard links, issues and the twitter stream from the References tab from the symposium webpage http://criticalkits.re-dock.org{.c12}