Swap Shots was an experimental project that aimed to find out to what degree an open and inclusive participatory project, emanating from Shetland, could use electronic media to generate creative engagement across a variety of national and political contexts; urban and rural cultures and generations. The mobile phone and the medium of film formed the foundation for the process of creative exchange. The project builds on a history of participatory projects since 1990 that I have realised in the UK as well as between Shetland and locations in the UK, Europe and Russia.
The project raises questions about the relationship between the local and the global as well as the nature of participation and creative engagement across cultural, generational and national contexts. Over thirty people from twenty different locations in eight countries, the majority situated at 60º North, created and exchanged films using their mobile phones over a period of approximately ten days in July 2008. Altogether they produced more than 140 films, most of which are six seconds long.
Participants ranged in age from thirteen to sixty years old. Approximately one third of participants were based in Shetland, one third in St Petersburg, Russia and the rest in a mixture of rural and urban locations throughout Australia, America, Germany, Norway, India, England and Scotland. A Weblog tracked the development of the project.
I created the project on the occasion of the 7th International Festival of Experimental Art at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall, St Petersburg, Russia. The opportunity to locate the project within this event offered a pool of potential participants who spoke a different language and lived within a very different cultural and political context to those participants located in my home base, the Shetland Islands. Many of the participants are located at 60º North. The gallery context defined the timescale for the project as well as an artistic and cultural framework. The project generated questions concerning the relationship between locale, new technologies and creative transformation through participation: Do the films reveal the personal and individual characteristics of each place or do they speak of the international? Does this engagement with new technology facilitate human connection and on what level(s) does this operate? What kinds of perspectives have emerged from people living in Shetland? How, within a wider perspective, do collaboration and transformation initiated from Shetland, work in relation to the national, or international, cultural map? How has participation in the project impacted on participants? Who are the participants, what motivated them to take part and what characterises their experience of participation?
The project has attracted interest locally and within similar rural contexts in Scotland and Scandinavia. A compilation film was exhibited at a new projection space in Shetland’s public gallery, The Bonhoga Gallery, as well as in Denmark at ET4U Contemporary Art in Westjutland.
- Roxane Permar Shetland College, UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands), UK