XR: CIIRKES / Extraordinary Circus: Creative Immersive Interdisciplinary Knowledge ExchangeS

Lead Research Organisation: University of Brighton
Department Name: School of Media


Project: XR: Creative Interdisciplinary Immersive Knowledge ExchangeS - XR: CIIRKES/Extraordinary Circus. XR is the term currently used to refer to a wide range of contemporary immersive technologies such as VR/AR & 360 film. In this context we use it for projects that might combine a range of these tools and techniques alongside other technologies involving data and human interaction in the elaboration of novel experiences. The term XR also used to evoke the innovation and experimentation at the heart of this project through allusion to a notion of 'an extraordinary circus'.

The project primarily seeks to address the question of : What innovative creative content and emotionally impactful audience experiences are possible if we bring together academics specialising in haptic, interactive and immersive technologies with circus and street arts directors and performers. A further question will be explored through the collaborative partnership which is to identify the potential national and international market and exhibition possibilities for the resultant work as both live experiences and as digital products.

The project will provide the infrastructure to support a team of academic researchers, technicians and artists in a series of creative co-laboratories - facilitated directive workshops & studios. These laboratories will provide the context within which expertise can be shared in the collaborative exploration of the application of haptic, interactive and immersive technology in circus and street art event design.

Exposure to experimentation with the affordances offered by these new haptic, sonic and visualisation technologies will provide an opportunity for creatives and producers to be given privileged, direct and well-supported access to experimentation with these technologies. This project , will put these tools and techniques in the hands of a diverse curated group of artists that have had limited access or opportunity for engagement thus far. This project will bring together the extraordinary skills, expertise and experience of circus and street artists and producers in to the direct experimentation with these technologies:
Skills such as:
- Manipulating our gaze and emotions with an immersive environment
- Initiating and conducting audience interaction
- Responding to new opportunities and improvising when things go wrong
- An integration of technical equipment within their performance
- A wider realm and range of physical movements including 'flight' through aerial and trapeze work.
Both the spectacular and intimate forms of circus and street arts provide an opportunity for unique and 'never-before-seen' audience views and experiences: for example from the top of a trapeze.

The project partners - leading exhibitors, funders and curators - will collaborate with us on the recruitment and curation of an appropriate spreof artistic skills and expertise to participate in the rapid prototyping process. Participants will work together over a period of 4 months with access to research expertise and technical support to iterate 5 novel acts that will be exhibited in proof of concept format at the final Live Laboratory in the process - a high profile event which we are describing as the "XR: CIIRKES - Cabaret of Curiosities" which will take place at the internationally celebrated Brighton Fringe Festival venue - the Spiegeltent. This will be a public performance of the works-in-progress, in order to understand the audience experience and to further test the technologies of live event capture. The overall project will be underpinned by a robust literature review, project and impact evaluation and visual documentation. The project will also have a further objective to generate awareness and visibility for the potential of this sector and will therefore be accompanied by a series of press releases tailored at building visibility and engagement.

Planned Impact

As set out in the objectives, diversity and inclusivity occupy a central role in the conception and design of this project. As such, one of its key impact goals is to improve access to creative experiences. By providing new pathways to access circus and street theatre, these art forms will be opened up for those who may conventionally struggle to participate. The second key impact goal is to demonstrate the value of these collaborative methodologies for the production and sharing of new skills. This provides a means through which to develop and fully realise the potential of the sector (through innovation) and position it as a world leader.

The project has been designed to deliver collaborative and co-produced research. As such, research stakeholders, users, and beneficiaries will be present from the start and throughout the project. Impact activities will be structured around targeted interventions with three key stakeholders (Public, Policy, Creative Sector), and public engagement.

Public: (including children) will benefit from vivid showcase material that demonstrates the talent and creativity within this sector whilst also providing compelling and emotionally compelling new experiences through the application of new technologies. This will be achieved in the short term firstly through the Live Laboratory in the Spiegeltent in May 2018. A wider audience are likely to be able to explore and experience the materials and case studies through the experimentation and innovations in the capture and dissemination technologies which will showcase and provide direct access to the art works. This will be extended through further exhibition and distribution of the artworks through the partner festival industry and public networks.

Policy: the project will provide an extensive evidence base, from which policy makers can draw. We will ensure that key funders are invited to the dissemination events in order to demonstrate value of the circus/ tech collaboration. This will lead to more effective policies that articulate the value of XR technologies, and specifically the virtues and potentialities of circus and street art. We hope that changes in policy will effect changes in funding, as funding bodies will also be able to draw upon and leverage the evidence base.

Creative Industry: Technology providers will have significant research and development intelligence to showcase the potential scope of devices, tools and techniques in the evolution of novel innovative experiences. Project Partner Driftwood and Co-I (Snook) both have direct access to key providers in this sector (in the UK and internationally) and they will be invited to attend and feedback on the Live Laboratory outcomes.

The project partners each have very broad constituencies of creatives, practitioners, producers, directors amongst whom they will network and amongst whom they will ensure that the learning and insight is generally shared. Legacy will be assured through the production of a website, wider dissemination materials (such as press packs, public reports) and a short documentary. All of these are aimed at ensuring that the learning and innovation that will occur through the process of the creative research collaboration are available for a very diverse range of publics.


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Title Circus in a Bottle 
Description Circus in a Bottle The Barker travels from town to town, trying to make meaning from his circus past - with only a suitcase, his stories and a rather curious companion. The Barker comes from a long line of circus folk, yet has none of their skill. He grew up touring the big top around the world with his grandiose father. He witnessed acts that defied logic, defined generations and underlined the majesty of those that entered the sawdust ring. But now the great names of circus have passed into history. Through the modern day magic of Augmented Reality, The Barker and his miniature assistant recreate these oft-forgotten stories of circus before your very eyes. Tales such as that of Zazel, the first human cannonball, and Blondin who pushed a ferocious lion across a tightrope in a wheelbarrow. Once told, the stories are packed away in the suitcase until next time. Our first version of Circus in a Bottle was created for the XR Circus project - a programme of workshops, made possible by the Arts and Humanities Research Council's fund for the Next Generation of Immersive Experiences. The resulting prototype skewed scale, in order to bring the big top to a small space, and was presented at the Brighton Spiegeltent at the conclusion of the XR Circus project in June 2018. Work and public showings of Circus in a Bottle have continued since then. The most recent, an online version of the show, presented in November of 2020. The Circus in a Bottle has just been showing at the Vaults Festival Tuesday 28th February -Sunday 5th March 2023. Updated URL: https://trajectorytheatre.com/circus/ 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Trajectory Theatre have significantly advanced their engagement with augmented reality as an outcome of their work on this project and through the development of this artistic work. 
URL https://trajectorytheatre.com/circus/
Description We have advanced the grammar and audio/visual storytelling palette of immersive experiences through technological and creative experimentation. The project did this through working with those advancing the innovative potentials of technology alongside artists experienced in physical and creative risk-taking.
We have advanced interdisciplinary collaboration through the creation of a series of intensive environments through which to nurture this highly experimental fusion. This was underpinned by the further advancement of the creative co-laboratory methodology for rapid innovation which includes critical curation to engineer impact.
We have significantly diversified the practices and peoples in order to maximise access to the expressive potential of immersive storytelling.
Five artistic teams have been introduced to new techniques and technologies and are currently using these to significantly advance their practice.
We are currently developing application for further funding to further extend these findings and are also currently writing up the report and the relevant academic outputs from the project.
Exploitation Route The findings are informing a follow on funding grant in order to extend the insights to more in depth development of specific artistic innovations.
The findings have informed the development of new partnerships.
The creative co-laboratory methodology can be taken forward by others as a tool for values driven rapid innovation
The method and the insight in to the creative potentials of XR have informed other collaborations such as working with Lisa Brook from Live Cinema UK on an Innovate UK project bringing artists to create experimental work in a VR dome.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/xrcircus/
Description The findings have been used to inform the artistic development and professional trajectory of participating artists and artistic teams. This is ongoing and will be more fully recorded in due course. Now in 2021, I have reported that the method used in this project is now at the centre of a report which has been published - The Creative Collaboratory Method https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/the-creative-collaboratory-method(14133ed5-ec01-42cc-b5d8-efb7dec07b21).html The method and approach to working with artists is now at the heart of the ERDF funded project Live Experiential and Digital Diversification now launched in Nottingham. The latter is knowledge exchange project designed to support SMEs and artists in their engagement with immersive technology. Donna Close the Senior Research Fellow on this project has also gained further funding to complete another KE/Impact led project working with artists and emergent capabilities of 5G. The ERDF grant mentioned above which deploys and extends the methods developed in this award has now supported more than 20 SMEs in their engagement with Immersive Technologies such as VR/AR and more recently the possibilities of volumetric capture.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description 5G: Fusing the Istanbul theatre and games sectors for a more sustainable, productive and connected future
Amount £37,615 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/V003828/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 01/2021
Description Live Experiential and Digital Diversification
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 08R20S04177 
Organisation European Commission 
Department European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2021 
End 06/2023
Description Small Research Grants
Amount £9,981 (GBP)
Funding ID SRG21\211097 
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2021 
End 12/2022
Title Creative Co-Laboratory Toolkit 
Description This is a methodology for cross-sector collaborations that target equity and inclusion challenges - in either artistic, policy or research terms. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This research methodology/toolkit was cited within the Creative Diversity APPG - What works report: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural/resources/reports/creative-majority-report-v2.pdf The method is also being used to develop policy guidelines in support of women working in the television industry. 
URL https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/the-creative-collaboratory-method(14133ed5-ec01-42c...
Description Or/And 
Organisation Omnibus Theatre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The methodology for rapid innovation that was used in this project will be used in the development of a performance by Omnibus. They were also influenced by the experimental possibilities of sonic augmentation to a live theatre performance and the Spiegeltent showcase of the potentials for further immersion through auditory enhancements and audience interaction.
Collaborator Contribution Omnibus Theatre are bringing performance and staging expertise - they have a long track record of work in this area.
Impact These are still in development.
Start Year 2018
Description Cabaret of Curiosities, Spiegeltent, May, Brighton 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact On 21 May 2018 XR Circus reached an important milestone: four months on from the first set of workshops our five groups of artist-practitioners presented works-in-progress in the Brighton Spiegeltent. This evening event was the culmination of a series of intensive workshops, creative encounters, collaborations and development activities. A process that exposed our selected artists to the very latest technologies, allowing them to expand their ideas of how new technologies might augment their practice. Importantly, this event put their prototypes and creative experiments in contact with the last vital component: an audience. As audience experience was a major research question that drove the project, the responses gathered as part of this evening will be vital for the future direction of the individual works and research project as a whole.
Throughout the evening each individual artist or group spoke about their XR Circus experience. They described a process of learning and development that suggested XR Circus had provided new experiences and tools, whether that was new technology or an introduction to another performance medium.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/xrcircus/2018/05/25/an-xr-circus-cabinet-of-curiosities/