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Conservatoire graduate takes inspiration from the digital world for new art installation

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 10 FEBRUARY 2016
Imitation archive

As a major showcase for contemporary art across the West Midlands opens this week, Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus Matt Parker will be the only artist exhibiting across all four participating venues. 

Matt’s audio-visual installation, ‘The Imitation Archive’, traces the history of digital technology from the early computer Colossus at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park to the Cloud technology of today. The audio for this artwork was mastered at Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University.

Birmingham Conservatoire

Birmingham City University

‘The Imitation Archive’ is 34 minutes of computer glitch, crunch, hiss and whir that commemorates 70 years of computing, produced at its birthplace – Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes. The specially made audio-visual edition of the work on display at the West Midlands showcase takes a forensic approach to understanding the mechanics, history and analysis of computers in the UK, visualising the audible properties of The National Museum of Computing’s collection.

‘The Imitation Archive’ goes on display as part of New Art West Midlands. Returning for its fourth edition in 2016, it gives the public the opportunity to view work produced by recent graduates of five West Midlands art schools, with almost half exhibiting graduates from Birmingham City University. This year mac birmingham join Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the Herbert Gallery & Museum, Coventry, in hosting exhibitions.

A significant feature within Matt’s work is the sound of the WITCH computer, the world’s oldest working digital computer and named after it being located in Wolverhampton for many years, (WITCH: Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell). The WITCH is today housed in The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, home to the World War II code breakers, and where Matt was recently artist-in-residence, with support from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts scheme.

As an audio-visual composer and sound designer, Matt finds inspiration in creating revealing and amplifying hidden connections between everyday technology and our environment.

“The support in kind I received from Birmingham Conservatoire allowed me to have the best microphones to capture the space and a great environment in the mastering studio to finish off my work.”

New Art West Midlands is organised by Turning Point West Midlands, a network that works to promote and develop contemporary art in the region, hosted by Birmingham City University. With five universities, four venues and 43 exhibiting artists – including 21 from Birmingham City University – the initiative is the largest partnership of its kind in England.

Wendy Law, Director of Turning Point West Midlands, commented: 

“It is exciting to see just how much New Art West Midlands has grown over the last four years and to be working again with our partners. There is a diverse range of talent and work coming out of our art schools and universities in the West Midlands.

“New Art West Midlands provides an important opportunity at a crucial point in the careers of these artists, enabling them to have their work displayed in highly respected galleries and to be seen and enjoyed by a wide public.”

Matt’s next major project will see him survey the physical locations of ‘the Cloud’ and how our digital data is stored. He will be capturing the unique acoustic footprint of the internet as part of a feature-length documentary. Matt added:;

“It aims to highlight the fact that whilst our smartphones sit silently on our dresser tables as we sleep, somewhere in the world a physical hive of noise, cables and chaos maintains our ‘digital selves’, with real analogue consequences to the surrounding environment.”

While studying for a Masters in Music Technology at Birmingham Conservatoire in 2014, Matt won the Deutsche Bank Creative Prize in Music. Along with support from Birmingham Conservatoire, the prize money from his accolade has allowed Matt to fund his film – ‘The People’s Cloud’.

Since graduating from Birmingham Conservatoire, Matt has worked on various commercial assignments with clients such as Johnson and Johnson, Santander, Science Museum, London and Victoria and Albert Museum. His work ‘The Cloud is More Than Air and Water’, produced at Birmingham City University, was shortlisted for the Aesthetica International Art Prize 2015.

Matt has also released two critically acclaimed albums as part of the electronic band NEDRY, touring the UK, Europe, Japan and the US, including major festivals such as Sonar, Roskilde, Latitude, Airwaves and South by Southwest.

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