Monday 14 July 2014

Ruth Mackenzie: A space for The Space

The Space, a destination for digital art with originally-commissioned work, formally launched earlier this year. Created by the BBC and Arts Council England, the £8.6m project's Launch Director is Ruth Mackenzie. We put your questions to Ruth.

What's your vision for The Space?

RM: The Space is a free website for artists and audiences to create and explore exciting new art, commissioned by us and shared around the Web. If The Space is lucky with the artists it discovers and commissions over the next few years, we might help to show that digital art could be as important on the twenty first century as the invention of cinema was in the twentieth century.


What "gap" does The Space occupy that is not, or cannot, be filled by other platforms/services elsewhere - whether publicly or commercially-funded?

RM: The Space commissions artists to make new digital art - encouraging artists from the worlds of tech, code, digital industries and creative industries as well as cultural and arts. We have regular Open Calls, accessible to any artist over 18 or organisations anywhere in the World. We hope to find new talent and to encourage existing talent to experiment and create exciting new work.

It is free to visit The Space and we encourage people from anywhere in the world to come, and for artists, The Space offers a space to express themselves freely. We think this fills a gap, but if there are other websites doing similar things, we would be delighted to work with them.


Do you think that the first iteration of The Space, which was quietly shelved, is something which could have been avoided as it created a negative perception in the audience's mindset which has since been difficult to shift?

RM: The Space pilot in 2012 had many successes. For example, over 43% of the visitors came from outside the UK, which has inspired us to invite international artists, build partnerships with cultural organisations and creative industries from round the world, and aim to build relationships with international audiences.


How will The Space "open itself out" to a wider audience? How will it help to build knowledge of digital art in the public?

RM: The Space will work with partners and co-commissioners to syndicate and distribute commissions to reach out to the widest audiences. it will use social media, traditional media and the power of digital word of mouth to build participation in the commissions and artists.


With launch events such as Hack The Space, is there a danger that The Space will reflect a specific London creative/tech axis over what's happening elsewhere?

RM: We plan to do a series of events all over the UK in the next three years, and we are aware that we need to serve communities of artists in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and all the regions of England, as well as serving international artists and audiences.


How will The Space connect with grassroots art endeavours?

RM: We hope that the Open Call will attract all sorts of artists and organisations - many of us, me for example, worked for years in grassroots organisations and we are committed to artists working in all fields. The Space is a community interest company; a form of not-for-profit company, and we see job as being to serve communities of artists and audiences all over the UK and around the world.


Ruth Mackenzie is @ruthmackenzie on Twitter. The Space is at

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