‘This new digital art experience will connect with people emotionally and physically’

Microworld: Amelia is a new exhibition running over the summer months, every day until September 3. It is an immersive show that encourages interaction, experimentation and collaboration, and also teaches visitors about the consequences of our actions. Here the cultural space’s exhibitions officer, Edward Liddle, tells Eileen Leahy more about this intriguing creative concept and why it will appeal to people of all ages…


So Edward, can you briefly tell us what Microworld: Amelia is all about?

Our latest exhibition at The Amelia is really exciting. Created by artist-collective Genetic Moo, Microworlds are fully interactive digital ecosystems. Sensors in the exhibition space search for changes in movement and help create an ever-changing collaborative artwork. Not only can visitors change the digital environment through their movements, but they can also create their own digital creatures, release them into the digital worlds and then see how these creatures respond to one another and to the movements of other visitors.

Where does the name ‘Microworld’ come from?

The name Microworld was inspired by the 2012 BBC nature documentary Nature’s Microworlds, which explored the intricate ecosystems found in nature and the importance of keystone species. Similarly, the artworks in Microworld: Amelia collectively form a digital ecosystem where actions and reactions cascade from one piece to another. The digital ecosystem of the Microworld exhibition is affected by changes to its environment, much like the ecosystems found in the natural world. Through play, discovery, and experimentation, Microworld encourages visitors to reflect on the consequences of our actions and inaction on ecosystems found in the natural world. How are ecosystems affected by human presence? What happens when the balance of an ecosystem is changed or altered by us?

What made you decide to commission this show for The Amelia?

As explored in our previous exhibition, Leviathan by Kelly Richardson, Tunbridge Wells has strong links to early conservation of the natural world. Microworld: Amelia therefore felt like a great fit for the exhibition programme to allow us to continue to explore ideas of nature and conservation in a different way. Our summer exhibitions at The Amelia are also a reflection of our visitors; summer is a time for play, exploration and getting hands-on. Following the success of Cabaret Mechanical Marvels last summer, I wanted to build on the idea of interactivity and give visitors another opportunity to come to an exhibition and be part of the artwork.

The exhibition is a unique and engaging experience for families this summer, but I also wanted to ensure that adults have the chance to play. Microworld: Amelia is perfect for encouraging everyone to access their inner child, to explore, experiment and ultimately to enjoy themselves through art.

Has it toured elsewhere in the country and if so, where?

Genetic Moo have been running Microworld since 2012, and to date there have been 16 Microworlds around the world, however each exhibition is different. For every Microworld exhibition the artists develop and create more artworks and creatures which they add to their ever-evolving creation. We are delighted to have a world exclusive first at The Amelia, as the artists worked closely with the Collections Team to create new interactive artworks that featured objects from the collection of The Amelia. The artists have never done this before, and we are delighted that they were able to add another layer of research to the exhibition. The artists were fascinated by many of the objects in our collection and spent time
digitally scanning, photographing or recording them.

What pieces from The Amelia’s collection might visitors recognise?

The Microworld artists used a range of objects including snail shells, Tunbridge Ware and everybody’s favourite stuffed dog, Minnie the Lulu Terrier! It’s been fascinating reimagining these much-loved objects and giving them a new digital life. Listen out to hear the sound of the hog-pounders’ bells, included in an exhibition for the very first time.

What do you think audiences are enjoying most about it?

Digital art experiences are currently having their moment in the spotlight. However, too often they are quite passive with visitors simply watching a light show or a video happening around them. Microworld: Amelia is fundamentally different and is forever evolving. Audiences are clever, discerning and looking for new innovative exhibition experiences. Digital exhibitions therefore need to work on many levels. The technology needs to work, the artwork needs to be well-thought-out and made to a high standard. The exhibition experience also needs to connect with people emotionally. Microworld: Amelia manages to achieve these things and the artists spent lots of time developing, tweaking and playing with the artworks
in The Amelia exhibition space.

I have already received positive feedback about visitors’ experience in the exhibition. One visitor spent 90 minutes in the exhibition last week!


Are people engaging with Microworld: Amelia and if so, how?

It’s been really intriguing seeing how visitors are interacting with the artworks in the exhibition. Everyone does something different. We’ve had visitors moving slowly at first and then gaining confidence and after five minutes they are dancing in front of the artwork to see what happens. We’ve had others making music using some of the sounds in the artworks. It’s a fun experience being with other people in the exhibition space too. Everyone approaches the artworks in their own unique way, so it’s enjoyable to sit in the space and simply watch what everyone else is doing, learning from their interactions and then having a go yourself.


How popular has the show been?

So far, we’ve had a really positive and busy response to the exhibition. I’m closely watching the visitor figures, but I think it is reasonable to say that this will be our most popular exhibition to date! It’s fun and engaging to enter a space and suddenly notice that everything around you is changing due to your presence. And that is something that the artists worked hard on achieving. Each of the individual artworks in the exhibition also feeds off each other, therefore there is always something slightly different about the exhibition when visitors return.

Open daily and entry is free. For more information head to: theamelia.co.uk

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