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It’s been a peculiar year

It’s been a peculiar year, 2023. To be honest, I’ll be glad to see the back of it. Despite the challenges we and many others have faced, our team has been privileged to be part of some great projects, meet new people, and catch up with old friends.

We have been diligently working on our Trans*Feminist Counter Cloud Action Plan. This plan offers ways to get the most from a hyperscaledown and learn about slow feminist and queer server practices, including storage, videoconferencing, collaborative working, low-power graphics, and related practices within the field of (digital) art practices and community organising. On the 8th of March, 2023, we once again called for a Counter Cloud Action Day. On this day, we abstained from using, feeding, or caring for The Big Tech Cloud.

We had the great opportunity to collaborate with arebyte Gallery on their Hotel Generation Open Call. This skills-focused program gives young UK-based digital artists firsthand experience in developing an exhibition proposal in collaboration with a gallery team. The program culminates in a solo exhibition at arebyte Gallery for the winning candidate selected by a panel of esteemed judges in the digital art sector.

NEoN supported, via Amps Creative Dundee, the Dundee Guerrilla Film Festival — a grassroots, creative project aiming to challenge the unethical, capitalistic restraints around the sharing of art and cinema and promote connection, inspiration, and exchange within Dundee’s artistic community. One of its founders, R. Mudaliar, wrote a blog about cinema and community spirit.

One significant milestone was Art Night in Dundee. After two years of development and negotiation, Art Night realised ten new major commissions and delivered an eclectic program across various venues in the city. NEoN had the honour to work with Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley and co-commission an ambitious new work with Serpentine: The Lack. With this commission, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley drew attention to meteoric gulfs in the world as we know it. Presented at the historic Arthurstone Library in Stobswell, Brathwaite-Shirley introduced an art video game that allowed audiences to interact and perform with the work. The decisions taken by participants influenced every element of the world being created.

E-waste robot sculptures

The NEoN team also ran a year-long program of workshops for Rosebank Primary School on e-waste. Working towards climate-ready classrooms, the NEoN team explored with the children how to build robots out of dismantled computers, published a zine, created fluffy counter clouds, and much more. This was complemented by our contribution to the Festival of the Future (University of Dundee) with the screening of Wall-E and additional e-waste workshops.

To round off the year, we premiered “Mammary Mountain,” a new work by Tara Baoth Mooney, Maf’j Alvarez, and Camille Baker. “Mammary Mountain” is an intimate performative VR experience that explores dis-ease within the body through the experience of breast cancer. This interactive experience tells the stories of women’s healthcare struggles, particularly the hidden experiences of breast cancer treatment. Women’s lived experiences have informed the work’s evolution and contain stories that often go unheard.

Artists testing VR headset

Coming in 2024

With a new venue move on the horizon, early 2024 promises to be an exciting time as we make preparations to establish a fresh community cultural provision in the city centre. Several creative community organisations are joining forces to create a versatile space for well-being, creativity, gaming, co-working, and, of course, enjoying some cake. While I can’t provide more details at the moment, this exciting initiative will be officially announced in early 2024.

Cotton wool with googly eyes - looks like a cloud

This new venture will enable us to expand our offerings, including more focused counter cloud workshops. Expect digital detox sessions, break-up letters to Facebook, e-waste robots, and jewellery-making. Through this extended program, we will delve into the realm of digital inclusion. We are delighted to lead a project guided by SCVO. Using a place-based approach to digital inclusion, a consortium of like-minded groups and organisations will examine this issue through the lens of women in Dundee and explore how digital exclusion impacts their lives. Our goal is to take a creative approach, facilitating hands-on experiences to truly make a difference.

Alongside artists, technologists, and other creative minds, we eagerly anticipate creative interventions, commissions, and interactive experiences. These endeavours aim to navigate the complexities of our lives while envisioning environmentally and socially ‘just’ digital practices. This is integral to our broader commitment to rethinking our public commitment.

Stay safe, stand together, support one another, and let’s welcome 2024 with vigour and love. Here’s to a year of shared resilience and joy.

Best Donna

Director of NEoN Digital Arts

Image credit: All photos taken by me