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Smash Palace Fund supports arts-science

Smash Palace Fund supports arts-science collaborations

Three projects involving collaborations between New Zealand artists and scientists have received funding through a one-off Smash Palace Collaborations Fund, set up by Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. A total of $88,000 will support the three projects, which involve a virtual reality children’s picture book, a web-based performance venue and a work portraying social and environmental interconnections in the Motueka River catchment.

Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Elizabeth Kerr says the Smash Palace Collaborations Fund is an initiative developed through a partnership between the two government organisations.

In March last year, Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology brought together 80 artists, scientists, technologists, designers and policymakers to take part in a one-day Smash Palace forum.

The term “Smash Palace” refers to the panelbeater’s shop in the New Zealand film of the same name. The two organisations chose the title because they wanted to convey the fact that both artists and scientists are passionate people, who bring their own dreams and expectations to the collaborative process.

“The aim of this partnership is to help foster an environment where the arts and sciences can connect, collide and collaborate,” Miss Kerr says. “Participants at the forum felt that the best way we could foster those connections was to support some pilot collaborative projects.”

In October last year, the one-off $100,000 Smash Palace Collaborations Fund was announced and twenty-one projects seeking more than $700,000 applied for funding. A four-member panel met in March to discuss the applications and three projects were selected. The three projects supported are:

Exploring the future of reading: This project is a collaboration between children’s writer/illustrator Gavin Bishop and staff and students at the Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab NZ in Christchurch. The project involves transforming Bishop’s picture book, Giant Jimmy Jones, into the HIT Lab NZ’s MagicBook format. The MagicBook software enables readers to see three-dimensional virtual imagery popping out of real book pages and gives a glimpse of one possible future of reading. The results will be installed in the Canterbury Public Library for the public to experience. A one-week workshop teaching children how to build MagicBook content will be followed by an exhibition of the children’s work based on the Giant Jimmy Jones MagicBook. Mountains to the sea: This Nelson-based project involves a team led by agricultural scientist Andrew Fenemor and visual artist Maggie Atkinson. Its aim is to develop a work that will help Landcare Research New Zealand increase community understanding about Integrated Catchment Management - the social and environmental interconnections within the Motueka River catchment. The seeds for this collaboration were sown in October 2002 when Landcare Research hosted a workshop in which artists and scientists discussed their views on land, river, coastal and community linkages within the Motueka catchment.

UpStage: This cutting-edge project involves theatre and new technology artists Helen Varley Jamieson and Vicki Smith collaborating with technologist Douglas Bagnall and MediaLab South Pacific, a national research company based in Wellington. Their aim is to develop purpose-built software and create an online web-based performance venue in which audience members and performers can interact in real time. The project builds on the artists’ cyberformance work, developed over the past three years and presented both in New Zealand and at several international festivals.

James Buwalda, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, says that talking about convergence and collaboration between the arts and science is easy. Doing something about it requires commitment, consultation and action.

“Smash Palace is an exciting concept,” Mr Buwalda says. “By setting up the Fund and supporting some collaborative projects, we’ll be able to see tangible outcomes and identify what each partner gets out of the relationship.”

The balance of the Smash Palace Collaborations Fund will be used to organise a second forum, to be held once the three projects are completed. Mr Buwalda says members of the science and arts communities will be able to hear about the experiences of the collaborative teams. They will also be able to discuss ways to foster further creative and innovative collaborations between the two disciplines.

Elizabeth Kerr says that the Smash Palace Collaborations Fund provided a spur for the New Zealand arts and science communities to explore collaborative opportunities.

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