Computer Arts: Tell us about FOUND: who are you and what do you do?
Tommy Perman: FOUND are an arts collective / band from Edinburgh, Scotland. Our members include Ziggy Campbell, Simon Kirby, Kev Sim and me, Tommy Perman. We produce gallery-based installations, play live gigs and release albums on Glasgow record label Chemikal Underground.
CA: You’re a collective - how did you get together?
TP: Me and Ziggy and Kev all went to Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen. We started working together in our final year and have been working together ever since. We started out as a loose art collective doing gallery based stuff, and then formed a band within that to actually play music at exhibition openings so we didn’t have to speak to people and mingle.
CA: So avoiding events like this...
TP: [Laughs] We’ve tried to get better at doing things like this but it’s taken a long time. Ziggy started working at the University of Edinburgh as a sound technician and met Simon, and then we started working with Simon around about five-six years ago. We’ve been working together ever since on more and more ambitious projects. We never set out to get to the stage where we could be talking at an event like this, which is why it all feels so odd. There wasn’t any kind of plan - it was just we were feeling our way through projects that we were interested in doing.
Simon Kirby: It’s funny for me, because when it started I had the job that I do and the research that I do, and I thought initially it had nothing to do with that: this is a nice hobby and an interesting creative outlet. But over the years the two have started to merge together. The great thing about the institution I work in - the University of Edinburgh - is that they are completely open to this. They want to help, even thought it’s not part of my job description to do this kind of thing. And one of the stories we’re going to hopefully bring out tomorrow in our talk is why there might be ways of connecting these two different worlds. I think it’s moving gradually from something that’s a hobby into something else - I’m not quite sure what that is yet. But talking in front of 2,000 people is a bit of a surprise.
CA: How would you describe your work/style?
TP: A lot of our work combines experimental, new technology with traditional materials and techniques. We've become known for producing interactive sound installations. We try to hide the technology that makes them work as we think it makes for a more magical, entertaining experience for visitors to our exhibitions.
CA: What motivates you?
TP: I think it's really nice to be part of a collective as we tend to motivate each other. We've come up with the ideas for a lot of our projects in response to funding opportunities. We've found that funding criteria can serve as really good stimulus for creative thinking.
We seem to enjoy challenges and over the last few years we've been writing increasingly ambitious proposals, often involving technologies that we have very little knowledge of. Once a project has been approved we realise 'Shit, we're actually going to have to build this thing!' – which can be pretty daunting, but I think we relish a bit of problem-solving. There's also a healthy amount of competition between us to see who can solve a problem in the most ingenious (or ridiculous) way.
CA: How do you stay fresh?
TP: I shower once a day. It's hardly ever hot in Scotland so sometimes I don't even need to shower that frequently.
CA: What was your 'I've made it' moment?
TP: Cybraphon (our celebrity-obsessed, emotional robot band we made in 2009) has probably been a landmark in our career so far. It became something of an internet phenomenon - it won a BAFTA and was featured in newspapers all over the globe, and is definitely more famous than its creators. I suppose we've been trying to claw back some of its fame ever since.
CA: What has been your favourite project to work on so far - and why?
TP: That's a tough question to answer as we've done so many different things, but I reckon it might be our most recent project #UNRAVEL We wrote the proposal for #UNRAVEL in response to Creative Scotland's Vital Spark funding award. One of the conditions of this fund was we had to collaborate with someone we've never worked with before, preferably someone who works in a different field. We chose to work with Aidan Moffat - a musician and writer who's famous for being one-half of Scottish indie band Arab Strap.
Our intention with #UNRAVEL was to explore the reliability of memory through an interactive sound and storytelling installation. I think it's my favourite project because it incorporates so many different elements: storytelling, music, design, interactivity… Technically it was our biggest challenge yet and I'm amazed (and quite proud) that we pulled it off.
CA: If you could collaborate with any other creative/designer/person in the world, who would it be and why?
TP: I'd really like to collaborate with Maywa Denki / Novmichi Tosa because I love the playful sense of humour and ingenuity in his work.
CA: What can we expect to see from you in the coming months?
TP: We're working on a live concert and iPad app version of #UNRAVEL. FOUND will also be doing a fair bit of touring as a band later in the year, including a tour of China with fellow Scots King Creosote and The Pictish Trail, which I'm really excited about.
CA: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at OFFF, and why?
TP: The schedule is great and I'm going to try and catch as much of it as possible, but in particular I'd like to see Jessica Hische, Memo Akten, Joshua Davis and Jonathan Harris as I'm interested to learn more about their work.
CA: How important is it to come to events like OFFF?
TP: This will be the first event of this kind that I've been to and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to tell more people about what FOUND do and to meet other folk who make cool things.
CA: How are you finding the event so far?
TP: It’s been great and I had no idea what to expect. The only thing similar we’ve done is South by SouthWest Interactive - it’s similar but at the same time so different because it encompass so many different things, whereas this is really focused on art and design - and for us a lot more relevant. It’s been really inspirational to watch some of the talks. I think Simon and me have found it quite intimidating the amount of work that most people seem to have produced in the same timescale that we’ve been working. But maybe we’re not realising these people are teams of 20 people, whereas we’re just three half people, because we all have other pursuits - day jobs and such like. But I’ve really enjoyed it some really great talks.
SK: Part of the experience is trying to figure out what the conference is about, so it’s really interesting that there are some people who are talking mainly about art they’re working on, and others about clients - about working with clients and brands and so on - and then there are some people who, in their own talks, feel like they’re struggling with the two halves of both aspects, and are there talking about the struggle. That’s kind of interesting because we’ve never been approached by a client. [laughter] so that struggle has yet to bother us. But certainly I’ve personally been very much drawn to people who seem to be expressing something internally to themselves. Lucy Mcrae yesterday was amazing and today Memo Atken today was brilliant - really breath-taking.
CA: What are you looking forward to seeing next?
SK: At the moment I’m looking forward to the moment where we walk off the stage - that’s pretty much all I’m thinking about right now. I’m really excited about talking to the audience - what a great audience; really responsive. The other thing I think that’s interesting about this, compared to any other event I’ve been to, is that the audience seem to be pretty critically engaged, so they’ll clap at stuff they think is good and they will be politely quiet at other stuff. I’ve never seen an audience like that - that’s actually engaged with what’s going on, and that’s great. And also the back-chat on Twitter is quite interesting. People are being brutally honest. I think we might not look at Twitter tomorrow.
CA: How are you holding up before your talk? Have the nerves got the better of you yet?
Ziggy Campbell: I’m becoming more nervous as I see all the different talks. I actually thought when we first arrived and it started that I felt quite cocksure, but since then I’m actually pretty nervous and I’m getting more nervous! It’s not the act of talking, it’s the quality of some of the work that’s been shown. We were actually not sure if maybe we’d been booked as a mistake - we thought that maybe they thought we were Found magazine or something like that, and didn’t want to back out once they had booked the rooms for us and the flights!
CA: What does Computer Arts mean to you?
TP: Computer Arts means different things to me. I do a lot of digital drawings so that's probably the first thing that comes to mind, but I also think of computer arts as being a medium with a great deal of potential for producing genuinely new work. Before the advent of the internet I think it was incredibly difficult to come up with ideas for artwork that hadn't already been done many times over. But my opinion is that digital technologies have given us new avenues for creativity and it's a really exciting time to be producing artwork.
CA: If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be?
TP: A flying fox.
CA: And finally, is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?
TP: If you have an iPad you can download our free iBook