It’s an Extraordinary Circus

A new research project exploring the use of digital to enhance live performances has been launched by the University of Brighton.Called ‘XR Circus: Extraordinary Circus’ the project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Circus, cabaret and outdoor arts makers and performers have been invited to be part of a period of intensive research into how immersive technologies can be used to augment and or to capture live performances.

There will be a launch event on 20 February, 6–8pm, at Lighthouse Arts in Kensington Street, Brighton entitled XR Circus: Hidden Histories and Future Visions. Professor Vanessa Toulmin from the University of Sheffield, and Professor Ron Beadle from Northumbria University will present and the selected artists will be introduced.

The University is working with King’s College London, Freedom Festival Arts Trust (Hull), Seachange Arts (Great Yarmouth), Without Walls, Driftwood and Lighthouse Arts to support what will be an intensive lab experience for selected circus artists from across the UK.

The action-research will match the creative and technical expertise of academics and technicians from the University to support the creation of five new ‘immersive experiences’ using state-of-the-art video, virtual reality, haptic (recreating the sense of touch by applying forces) and data-driven technology to enhance and augment live circus and interactive performance which will be tested with a live industry audience in Brighton Spiegeltent on 21 May.  The work will be developed in creation spaces and labs in Brighton and Great Yarmouth.

Helen Kennedy, Head of the University’s School of Media, said: “Circus is one of the most immersive live art-forms that is able to engage and manipulate our senses in extraordinary ways.  It has become both a global art-form and a creative industry created and sustained over the centuries by a diverse range of talented performers and producers who build mobile communities where art, technology and commerce converge.

“2018 is the 250th year of the birth of circus in the UK and to celebrate this, and to launch our project we have invited our partners and artists to join in our public launch event where we will hear from leading experts in the history and practices of circus as an engine of innovation and creative diversity.”

The University will host a series of developmental laboratories for participating artists led by leading scientists and technicians including Professor Kelly Snook, former NASA scientist and co-founder of the Mi Mu collective of specialist musicians, artists, scientists and technologists developing cutting-edge wearable technology for the performance and composition of music ( and co-inventor of the Mi Mu gloves which have been used by Imogen Heap, Arianna Grande, and Chagall amongst others; Marley Cole, award winning sound designer specialising in spatilaised and surround sound design and Jeremiah Ambrose, expert in gaze controlled VR and 360 film and Unity programmer.

Other experts will be brought in as required to support artist ideas. All artists will receive appropriate mentorship, advice, support and access to equipment during the intervening times between the workshops.

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