When the Rundle Lantern was first illuminated back in 2008, my mind boggled at the creative possibility of producing pixel art works for public display on a giant scale. The innovative screen design, a 34 x 21 panel matrix of illuminated metal panels, wraps around the facade of a multi-storey car park at one of Adelaide’s most renown intersections, where it teases and titillates pedestrians with its silent lo-res animations and video each night. Making effective content for such a screen is no mean feat and requires a balance of technical competency, design, timing and conceptual creativity. It is also time consuming (especially for dedicated pixel animators like ourselves). Regardless of these barriers to entry, the initiatives we’ve been involved with to create new artistic content for the Lantern have gone unpaid and largely uncredited. The following is an account of our experiences producing lantern content for display during two major cultural festivals in South Australia.
During Adelaide Fringe back in 2009, Emma Sterling and I were part of the first group of artists offered the opportunity to create and display works made specifically for the lantern. No money was to grace the artists palms- the initiative instead offered artists a waiver of the ‘load-up fee’ the Adelaide City Council and contractor Fusion had worked into the screen’s initial operating business model. Seizing the opportunity, we each produced a new work, and took careful note of the council & Adelaide Fringe’s production guidelines. In order to protect the screen’s integrity as a ‘cultural canvas’, the artists were not permitted to display logos within their work.
As experienced practising artists familiar with the concept of ‘droit morale’ or the ‘moral rights of the artist’ we asked about accreditation for our unpaid productions. We were informed that there would be no accreditation offered to the artists at the site of any kind, despite the works being programmed to loop for the duration of the Adelaide Fringe Festival (which runs for over three weeks). Instead we were offered a credit buried in the bowels of the Adelaide City Council’s website. Again, there was no signage indicating the existence of this website at the Lantern site, which in our opinion rendered the gesture tokenistic and almost entirely pointless.
In light of this oversight on the initiative’s organisational part, as artists we decided to exercise our ‘droit morale’ and add our names as closing credits to our work. The notion of the Moral Rights of the Artist protects the artists right to claim authorship of the work wherever it is displayed (attribution), and with it the right to preserve the integrity of the finished art work (ie, no unauthorised modifications to the work are permitted). At the launch night to our shock and horror our rights had been flaunted on both accounts. The Lantern’s content committee (whose persons remain unknown to us) had edited our work and removed our credits without our permission. While this issue of ‘droit morale’ may cause councillors eyes to glaze over, our right as artists to sign our own works is fundamental, and has been protected by Australian law under the Copyright Act. You can learn more about Moral Rights for artists in Australia at the website of the Attorney General’s Department.
This year, we were offered an opportunity (again without payment) to produce work for the Rundle Lantern. An initiative of the South Australian Living Artists Festival (an event we have been involved with since 2006) the financial model was slightly improved for at least one member of the local artist community. The Helpmann Academy offered a paid commission to one artist recently graduated from a Helpmann Academy school. The commision offered a $2000 fee to produce a new work and lead a workshop of participants in the generation of a wave of (again unpaid) new content from other local artists.
Once again the artists’ ‘droit moral’ has been flaunted by the lantern’s custodians with credits again barred from the exhibited works. To date there is no evidence of physical signage accrediting the artists as producers of the work, despite this being promised weeks in advance. It is now the 16th of August, and the works have been showing without credit to the artists since July 31st. From the public perspective, passers by will have no idea that light displays on the lantern have been created by local artists at all, and stand no chance of being able to identify any of the creative residents responsible. SALA festival concludes on August 22nd.
When a piece of public infrastructure like the Rundle Lantern is constructed and a business model created around it, why should the content creator get the raw deal? Why is it that the contractors should command a ‘load-up fee’ for each video posted and annual maintenance fees while the best artists can hope for is an uncredited display and a free load-up? If the power of this structure as a cultural canvas is to be realised, the Adelaide City Council should look at genuine, sustainable incentives to generate content, not convenient cost-saving measures which benefit the council, break Federal Australian law and stiff the artists in the process.
It’s been great being a part of the maturation of Tomorrow Studio, South Australia’s first ever digital media business incubator, as its first birthday officially rolls by. From launching a bold idea brimming with promise, the SA Government’s Department of Trade and Economic Development can now take pride in the the tangible outcomes for start-up businesses they’ve helped facilitate. South Australia’s digital media sector is indebted to you.
When we moved danimations into the Tomorrow Studio in Adelaide back in June last year, we could not have predicted how attached to the initiative (and the community growing inside of it) we would become. As one of the original wave of tenants, we’ve seen businesses come and go, but more importantly, we’ve seen our own attraction to the place shift from the dangling carrot of Government-subsidized rent to the more valuable ready access to business partnerships and opportunities to learn and grow.
Entering the Tomorrow Studio (and enjoying the low overheads) allowed danimations to tool up to offer new services, and position ourselves well in the emerging market of online video service providers. It also provided us with a very attractive and functional premises in which to hold meetings and generally operate. As months went by, we got to know our fellow tenants and built trusting relationships with the more compatible businesses. As you would expect in a space populated with businesses in start-up mode, not all collaborative projects have had happy endings. From our own successes and failures, and those of others, we have identified and realized present and future business opportunities that we simply would not have been exposed to otherwise. We’ve also made some wonderful, new, creative friends in the process.
Moving into the incubator dragged Emma Sterling and I out of our home-office, and into the beginnings what has become a burgeoning and vibrant digital media community. Our commercial collaborations really fired up after we presented a workshop to fellow tenants on the merits of developing a video showreel to promote your business. Intelligent Software Development then contracted us to deliver a promotional video for them, in under a week.
The delivered product attracted our next job, for a start-up engineering firm WirebyClick. We worked with Extra Artists’ (now Soda Cube) on the Wirebyclick video incorporating 3D animation for the first time, satisfying another client and developing a collaborative workflow with our studio neighbours.
Fellow neighbours Proactive then saw our work and contracted us to deliver a video to help them market their product, Proactive Vue. Again, we delivered on spec, on budget and on time and in the process developed some new production techniques.
Since then, we have included the skills of SodaCube and those of Awesome Fighter Animation in several more commercial tenders. On a more exciting front, we are also embarking on some speculative ventures with Boomerang Books and Cresell IT independently. Another great thrust of creative energy has already been invested in the Triple Threat Animation project, along with fellow artists Awesome Fighter Animation and games developer I Love Biscuits. With a focus on developing entertainment-based intellectual property designed for online commercialization, you can find out more about that project after it officially launches at AVCON on the 23rd of July. What do you know? Adelaide’s premiere video games and anime event is a studio tenant too.
The experience of calling an industry-specific business incubator home for the past twelve months has been (for the most part) overwhelmingly positive. We’ve grown and developed faster, and with better integration into the digital media community here in SA than we possibly could have while working from our home. I sincerely hope that news of the Tomorrow Studio’s many virtues and success stories spreads far and wide, and that the model is transposed to benefit emerging business and cultural communities in other sectors in the future.
Locals in my hometown of Adelaide, South Australia will recognise that we’re in the early stages of an unusually wet winter. Since we’re placed in one of the less fortunate corners of this arid continent of ours, I never view rain as a curse and instead take great delight in seeing the foliage and watercourses flourish in times like these. In the past fortnight I’ve also taken pleasure in catching another symptom of the season, the awe-inspiring rainbow, on several occasions- recording them with whatever devices I had handy at the time. After proving popular on Twitter, I thought I’d break the Creativity Base blog-post format, and post this triptych of recent rainbows for your enjoyment. Of course, we have the divine science of refraction to thank for these gifts, and if you’d like to read some more on rainbows, Wikipedia provides a pretty good catch-all for the curious.
Shot on Emma Sterling’s cellphone, I tweaked the saturation to bring up the rainbow colour intensity in the above image.
You’ll notice in the above double rainbow, the colour band order is reversed in the outer, feinter rainbow.
This one was snapped through the windscreen on my cellphone while driving. At the rate cellphone cameras are improving, i won’t be bothering with a digital point n’ shoot by the last quarter of 2010… but that’s another blog post! Enjoy the rainbow season, everyone!