Electric Pavilion is an online representation of a modern city overlaid on the real city of Bristol, in the United Kingdom, commissioned for the Creative Bristol celebratory year. The aim was to present the City’s creative talent and energy in all its forms, but also capture the City’s unique character – an intriguing mix of laid-back and edgy, cosmopolitan and introspective, welcoming and uncompromising. Not the city of Bristol in a literal sense – but a re-imagined city seen through the eyes of its creative community.
As a contribution to Creative Bristol – a citywide celebration of creativity – I was invited by Watershed Media Centre to create a portal website that would both host a wide range of artist submissions, and also provide a representation of the city of Bristol in all its diversity.
The original concept was to create a labyrinth-like virtual structure – with a unifying architecture enabling artists and contributing companies to add their own ‘rooms’ to increase the number and range of presentational spaces in a modular fashion. The underlying concept was to encourage visitors to ‘enter by one door, leave by another’. We named the project ‘Electric Pavilion’ (evoking the iconic architectural forms associated with ‘expos’ and other epoch-marking exhibitions. The original Electric Pavilion was built by the Texas Street Railway Company in 1881, an ornate Victorian Gothic edifice within which a fee-paying public could witness the first electric lights in America!)
Through my collaboration with the design company Enable Interactive and artist Luke Jerram, we decided that the Electric Pavilion should be not so much a sideshow or attraction, but more a ‘re-imagined city’. We set out to create a presentational space that looked and felt something like the city of Bristol, with five districts or zones – urban, tranquil, campus, commercial and roots – spaces within which artists’ work could be found in the form of interactive artworks, films, animations, poems etc. The resulting five districts are imaginary landscapes but motion transitions between districts are generated in real time, modelling velocity and perspective of one passing through a city. Sometimes the artist works fit thematically in a particular district, at other times create dissonance or inspire discussion around or a critique of some aspect of the city.
Mysterious fiigures, proportional to the volume of site traffic, appear in each district and express opinions generated by visitor contributions to the ‘Take On Bristol’ section of the site. This mirrors the random snatches of conversation one hears when walking through a city.
The portal site is electricpavilion.org
There are over 300 artist contributions to date, including Heath Bunting’s Sk8Map (using open source software to plot skateboard routes through the city), stanza’s Velocity (which uses live cctv traffic cam images to create sublime landscape paintings) and Sam Woolf’s Visual Tangents (which contains a computer algorithm that automatically generates tangentally related films from text submissions by visitors).
The project is much more than an online showcase of work. We wanted to capture the City’s unique character – an intriguing mix of laid-back and edgy, cosmopolitan and introspective, welcoming and uncompromising. Not Bristol in the literal sense – but a re-imagined Bristol seen through the eyes of its creative community.
- David Drake, Bristol, UK. Writer and producer of films, books, online artworks, programmed events, festivals and exhibitions.