In their short time on the York scene, York charity New Visuality have reinvented the relationship between inclusivity and innovation. Whether its 3D prints of the front door keys people who have recently experienced homelessness have designed for their new houses, or young people who use wheel chairs designing wheel chair wheel covers via CAD files to raise awareness of Disability Access day, the charity have prioritised the use of cutting edge digital techniques to help enhance the experiences of some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
Now their latest project, the Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts funded ‘Text: Technology, Disability, and Art’ is well underway, it seems a perfect time to sit down with New Visuality director Greg McGee and light installation artist Nick Walters and see how things are shaping up for annual festival, ‘Illuminating York’.
Says Greg, “Grants for the Arts only fund excellent programmes, and ‘Text’ is built on a network of top of the tree providers, so in reality the work that is coming out of it can’t help but be game changing stuff. The building blocks are Blueberry Academy, The Print Project, the University of York’s ‘Interactive Media’ Department, Sheffield’s ‘Llama Digital’, and of course us, so when we’re all shoulder to shoulder the initial premise of ‘Text’, that it can bring seamless inclusivity to marginalised people, giving them ownership of the online conversation about York’s latest chapter, is up and running before we know it.
There have been tweets, slogans, soundbites, all of them written via an algorithm based programme created in collaboration with University of York interns. People are making their voices heard, and we’re exhibiting these voices as letterpress posters. The most exciting part for us is when Nick (Walters) steps in and writes each tweets in light, projected through semi transparent screens for our Illuminating York tenure. Nick’s the real deal. He’s worked at Glastonbury, and Rotterdam, he’s transformed our window at the According to McGee for the last 9 years for Illuminating York. With ‘Text’ all the planets have lined up, allowing Nick to really dive in with some far reaching ideas. ‘Illuminating York’ provides the ideal platform for an experimental artist of this calibre, which such solid material.”
Nick Walters returns to New Visuality for the tenth Illuminating York at According to McGee’s fringe event. Fondly remembered for his lit from within umbrella dome and sliding text installation based on Rowntree’s ‘Seebohm’, he is this year looking forward to unpacking more specific, innovative based ideas. Says Nick, “Tweets are a fascinating aspect of modern life. I like the idea that the twittersphere is reminiscent of birdsong, something normally associated with beauty. With that in mind, I fashioned a birdcage that is set to hang from the ceiling of the According to McGee gallery. The bird cage is made from scrap and re-used materials, kindly provided by The Bike Rescue Project in York. The video projections are a mixture of found footage, 3D computer generated animation, 2D stills, and footage from a series of New Visuality workshops. The text that I’ll be projecting comes from this workshop, as well as from the twitter conversations based around York’s current status as a UNESCO city. Fascinatingly, the opinions of those people previously marginalised stand out as just as solid and unique.
The video footage will be projected through the birdcage and onto the screens, and then cameras capture the distorted projected images and re-project them.” Nick has been ably assisted by Matt Shepherd, New Visuality co-curator and York College alumni.
Says Matt, "I enjoyed the challenge of co-curating the show alongside Nick Walters and New Visuality manager Jess Crichton. As a young local artist, I am inspired by the beautiful historic buildings of York so I am looking forward to experiencing the range of illuminating York installations across the city. Looking at the finished tweets, and how they slide across the walls and into the dark street outside, it really feels that we’ve done something game-changing."