Theatre Jukebox is a new way of presenting archive documents. The user takes a document that has been bar code tagged and places into a specific base that reads the tag. A projector above you then makes an image on and around the document you have chosen. Each document triggers its own short video piece with sound that reflects upon or expands its context. Each document becomes part of its own unique animated photomontage with a sound track to match. In its first iteration the Jukebox explored the artists’ own family archive but it is now being further developed to present other kinds of archival materials.
COOKING TIME: 9 months
Being part of a community like the PMStudio helps to make an idea into a reality and to develop working practice. Listening in to lectures and talking to people about their projects is very inspiring. Just knowing a little bit more about new technologies and developments such as AR, AI, RFID, Kinect etc. is likely to affect our work in ways we don’t even know about yet.
Writing proposals and presentations helps develop ideas.
Micro residency at Studio, initially supported by Arts Council, England.
Meet Clare Reddington and hear about residencies at the Pervasive Media Studio.
Attend a workshop run by Tim Kindberg and Rik Lander about using RFID in theatre; an excellent introduction to the potential of pervasive technologies.
Develop ideas by writing a proposal for Theatre Sandbox. Take the opportunity after the interview to look around the studio and meet people who work there. Apply for a micro-residency to develop Theatre Jukebox.
Spend the first couple of weeks as studio residents investigating different types of technology, think about the story and start to develop the aesthetics of the jukebox.
With Dan Williams, PMStudio creative technologist, discuss useful tools for the JukeBOX:
mobile phones: as way to engage with audience, to deliver and trigger content and collect payment;
delivering simultaneous audio tracks in order to direct audience members/give them different experiences, so that they then become the ‘performers’ for each other;
using other senses e.g. scent;
QR codes & image recognition
Think about how content can respond to audience choice and make an experience more personalised, and how voice and hand writing can be captured and re-delivered as content.
Be drawn to overhead projections, for example Tim Kindberg’s video turntable in the studio, and the potential for content to be triggered by interaction with objects.
Decide to use headphones because the JukeBOX audience will listen to the stories in potentially noisy public places: headphones allow the use of binaural audio too.
To house the hardware, design a box based on classic arcade machines but in neutral colours. Use the google app Sketch Up for a 3D view. and a clearer idea of how it would look. Counterbalance the weight of the hardware with a box seat. Invite feedback on the design from as many people as possible.
At the same time develop only one story as it’s a short residency. Fit the story with the technology, but feel as though the project isn’t quite right.
Deliver a work-in-progress talk at the residency halfway point. The process of writing and presenting ideas is constructive and leads to thought-provoking discussion. Go away and reassess.
Does jukeBOX need to be more attractive, perhaps with an end-of-the-pier style, complete with deck-chair inspired awning and a flashing sign like an old penny arcade? How will people know what JukeBOX is and how to use it?
Realise that JukeBOX is a similar beast to a previous project, The Car Show, that also had numerous short stories/ideas/experiences that took place in a car. It is crucial to understand and work within the constraints, the things about the JukeBOX that make it what it is, like the windscreen, radio etc are integral to a car.
Think about how elements can combine to exploit their potential; the main three are audio (binaural or stereo), top-down projection and RFID. Re-evaluating the basics, leads to a new concept: JukeBOX offers a choice of stories, each with a different theme or selected object. Audience members choose from a drawer of items that relate to the themes. For example, you choose a toy animal to hear about animals, choose a book and stories are projected into it.
Each chosen item conceals an RFID tag, so that when placed onto the table top where indicated by the projection, an RFID reader under the table knows which item is there and triggers a particular story/experience. So, in the same way that you make a music choice with a jukebox, this system allows you to choose your story based on the various objects in the drawer.
Each short story is delivered via top down projection and audio and can include further choices or uses of the RFID.
Think about incorporating other end-of-the-pier style tricks and effects such as smoke, bubbles etc.
Find a whole stack of cards, flyers and postcards from your childhood and teenage years which began to spark memories and ideas.
Make a prototype of the JukeBOX in the edit suite at PMStudio. Erect a downwards-facing projector on a tripod over a table and test out a selection of ideas for content, prompted by postcards or photos.
Get to grips with After Effects. Try out the basics of how it will work in terms of how to instruct people as well as writing and devising individual stories.
Learn from Dan (Williams) that the RFID is compatible with a programme that we are already familiar with, Q- Lab. Being able to create the files ourselves makes a big difference as we take the project forwards.
Test with people at the Studio. People prefer each experience to be 3 minutes or under, and are more likely to want to ‘do’ a few short experiences than one long one.
Come back to an idea that was included in the Sandbox proposal: In our family we have an old metal chest containing papers, letters, some books, newspapers and records dating back to the 17th century, if not earlier.
Decide that taking snippets of history and memories from the box fits really well with the concept. With this resource of family history, both mundane and important, we can create connections between the experiences, if they are taken from or inspired by the box and our family.
Using items from the box such as letters and drawings from our great grandfather, Cecil, to his mother in the Boer war and a special edition of LIFE magazine from 1969 containing photos from the Apollo VIII mission. So, rather than just postcards, as we first thought, each story/experience in our first JukeBOX will be prompted by a picture (postcard, photo or otherwise).
Commission a carpenter to build the first proper prototype of the designs in time for a showcase.
Use the showcase to try out the JukeBOX with audiences and get feedback.
Finish the micro residency, but continue to develop the JukeBOX in collaboration with the studio.
Install for one day in the foyer of The Watershed, then a week at Bristol Old Vic as part of Bristol Ferment (artist-development programme). Continue conversations about the future of the project with BOV as well as PMStudio.
Focus on the memories box for more content and continue to add cards to the JukeBOX. This will give users an impression of a story that they construct themselves by layering up connections that they find between the cards.
Explore potential other uses for the JukeBOX; The decision to focus initially on our family history highlights how suited Theatre JukeBOX is to animating archives.
Contact organisations about using it as a way for the public to access their archives, as a tool to teach people about historical periods or events through relevant objects.
Theatre JukeBOX could deliver educational content, or be used in workshops where people build their own experiences, or for advertising.