Dr Paul H Clarke

B.A.(Exon.), M.A., Ph.D.(Bristol)

  • BS8 1UP

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Personal profile

Research interests

Summary

I am a practitioner-researcher exploring the use of digital technologies in participatory and place-based performance, along with creative responses to archives. Over the last 20 years I have directed 25 works with Uninvited Guests, which have shown internationally (USA, Mexico, Australia, China, throughout Europe) and at major UK cultural institutions (Bristol Old Vic, Tate Britain, Southbank Centre, Royal Shakespeare Company). In 2016 I made the international award-winning interactive visitor experience, The Lost Palace, for Historic Royal Palaces, with Lewis Gibson, Chomko and Rosier, Calvium, Limbic Cinema and Fuel. A series of AHRC and JISC-funded research projects with the Theatre Collection contributed to scholarship around the relationship between performance and the archive and led to the co-edited book Artists in the Archive, published by Routledge in 2018. In light of pioneering work with site-specific theatre, interactive performance and emerging technologies, I was awarded a Bristol+Bath Creative R+D Fellowship on the Digital Placemaking Pathfinder.

Performance and Digital Tools for Imagining Preferable Futures

Over the last few years I have been exploring the potential of performance and interactive technologies to enable communities to think critically about futures. I have also been experimenting with approaches to co-creating performance, specifically ways of collaborative sci-fi storytelling and participatory future-making.

In 2018 I developed the Augmented Reality (AR) performance, Billennium, with Uninvited Guests, Duncan Speakman and creative technologists Fenyce. Billennium is a guided tour of the future of a city in which we tell site-specific speculative fictions and you see animated drawings of future architecture appear overlaid onto the contemporary buildings. It ends with an opportunity to imagine a future for the place, see it drawn live using AR and hear what it might sound like. Commissioned by Watershed and Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab for the Layered Realities 5G showcase, Billennium brought together performance and technical innovation, working with ICT researchers from Engineering to explore immersive storytelling and test 5G networks. Billennium was selected for STRP 2019, Eindhoven’s international festival of art and technology and 2019’s Dutch Design Week, the largest design festival in northern Europe.   

I am currently developing Future Places Toolkita set of Augmented Reality (AR) engagement activities for neighbourhood visioning, participatory architectural design and planning consultation. This draws on findings from Billennium and my Digital Placemaking Fellowship. Supported by Bristol+Bath Creative R+D and Bristol’s Research Enterprise Development (RED) Knowledge Exchange Fund, it is being developed and iteratively tested in partnership with architects Stride Treglown, Knowle West Media Centre and community groups.

Future Places Toolkit combines guided conversations and provocations with live AR drawing to facilitate citizen-led conversations about preferable futures for local neighbourhoods. The engaged research explores whether AR, immersive performance and science-fiction storytelling can inspire people to imagine more inclusive futures for their places together and whether these conversations are more effective in situ. 

In 2019 I directed Uninvited Guests' To Those Born Later, which was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and toured to libraries and community centres with Arts Council England support. This interactive performance invites its audience to explore the legacy we are leaving for future generations and asks what we would choose to preserve from our time. Using smartphones, the audience contributes images, objects, sounds, feelings and messages to a digital time capsule to be opened in 150 years.

In February 2021 I ran Design Science Fictions, a workshop for Creative Producers Lab, Lagos 2021, organised by Made Culture and Watershed’s Creative Producers International, funded by the British Council. I also contributed to the panel Reimagining Digital Placemaking: Technology and the Public Realm towards 2030, at TechSPARK’s Bristol Technology Festival 2020. Dreaming Future Places, Uninvited Guests’ PM Studio Friday Lunchtime Talk, was streamed live on Watershed’s YouTube Channel, and is available here.

Responses to COVID: Connecting Through Culture

Many in society are experiencing isolation and loneliness that is accelerated by COVID-19 restrictions and is resulting in increased reliance on digital devices. These same restrictions have had catastrophic impacts on the arts and cultural sector, with venues closed and artists and creatives struggling to find work. I am a co-investigator on Connecting Through Culture As We Age: Digital Innovation for Healthy Ageing, funded by the ESRC ISCF Healthy Ageing: Social, Behavioural and Design Research Programme (2021). This project will tackle the strong demand for digital innovation with a focus on both building audiences for the arts and benefitting socially isolated older people leading to improved wellbeing and quality of life. An interdisciplinary team will work with a community of 60 to 75-year-old co-researchers to understand both their cultural and social values and their experiences of digital exclusion. Our community partners – West of England Centre for Inclusive Living, Knowle West Alliance and Black South West Network – will help us recruit participants from disabled, socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority ethnic backgrounds. Collaborating with cultural and creative technology partners, our multi-generational research team will co-design digital cultural experiences that endeavour to support social connections.

In response to the pandemic, the closure of theatres, the need to shift performance online and provide work for freelancers, Uninvited Guests made an adaptation of our popular performance Love Letters Straight From Your Heart for Zoom. The aim was to bring audiences closer in times of physical distance, to offer something live and made for the medium, rather than video documentation of a stage show. We secured an Arts Council Emergency grant for a virtual international "tour" of Love Letters at Home, including BAM New York, La Teatreria Mexico City, CAP UCLA, ASU Gammage Arizona, and Arts Centre Melbourne. The online performance was shown by 15 UK venues, including by Bristol Old Vic on Bristol Arts Channel, and led to me co-directing a Welsh language version with the company Bara Caws. As well as being programmed internationally, it was also hosted by venues at the heart of their local communities, like The Holbeck/Slung Low in Leeds and First Art in Derbyshire. It was featured in the New York Times, in the Financial Times, and in Lyn Gardner’s article, ‘Theatre has a job to do in the new world’ in The Stage. With Love Letters at Home I was able to make a contribution to approaches to transferring performance online, adapting for Zoom, and to experiment with a more sustainable model for international touring, trialling an approach that will remain relevant after the pandemic.

 

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