There are numerous exciting events and ventures to be unveiled this weekend at the all night arts festival Northern Spark. One of those new ventures is a digital platform called Leav created by Six Impossible Things. Joey Kantor and Bobby Maher of Six Impossible Things, along with collaborating artist and MNO Alum Kate Casanova, tell us more about the app, their collaboration and how we can experience Leav at Northern Spark and beyond.
What is Leav and what sparked its inception?
Leav: At its simplest, Leav is a mobile platform intended to reconnect what you experience with your surroundings. For centuries, the experience of art — and content in general — has been highly influenced by where you are, what your surroundings are, etc. With the mobile experience, we’ve all but lost it. We can listen to music anywhere, we can read a poem anywhere, but what Leav does is brings back the idea that there is something beautiful about being exactly where the artist, sender, or creator intended you to be when you experience that piece. When you open the app, you’ll see a map indicating pieces available. You won’t be able to access these pieces unless you are within the bounds of where the artist would like you to be. So you’ll need to navigate yourself to where these pieces are ‘installed.’ Some pieces also take advantage of other factors like time, temperature, direction and/or speed of travel, so that the piece interacts dynamically with your surroundings.
How was the app catered to collaborate with Kate Casanova’s “A Natural History of Chimneys?”
Leav: I spent time over the past year talking with all our artists about how the technology can be used, not for technology’s sake, but to create a unique experience that couldn’t exist otherwise. With Kate, that meant identifying how she wanted people to physically experience her work – should they be encouraged to move around the chimneys to get all of the visual and audio pieces, or is it important that someone can just be still in the space and not miss anything? By making the piece only available around sunset we also try to establish an environment in which the chimney swifts flying in and out of the chimneys should accompany Kate’s wonderful visual collages and audio. With all our artists, however, I really stress starting with the experience you want to create for your audience and then working backward to use the technology to achieve that goal instead of saying “Let’s play with this cool feature.”
Kate, what interested you about collaborating with Leav?
Casanova: I was drawn to the idea that through the locational and time based technology of the app, I could make an artwork that would allow participants to experience an overlooked natural phenomenon in our city. By working with Leav, I was able to create a piece I would not otherwise be able to make.
How does your collaboration with Leav embody “place”?
Casanova: “A Natural History of Chimneys” highlights the interconnected lives of humans and a small bird that roosts exclusively in chimneys called the Chimney Swift. Each location on the map is a chimney that is an active roost. By going to the site a half hour before and after sunset, viewers can witness the ritual of the birds descending into their chimney for the night. Viewers will be also able to access a video and audio collage.
What were the opportunities of working with the app-based program that allowed your artistic process to be pushed or challenged?
Casanova: In this piece, viewers will be engaged both with the video and audio collage on their phone as well as watching the birds descend into the chimney, which is a lot to pay attention to. Creating a work that engages one’s attention while not distracting from the birds was a challenge.
Leav, has working with different artists and their individual visions or processes challenged the programming end or capabilities of the app?
Leav: When we first developed the idea of Leav as a mobile platform for placing, viewing and sharing digital art and using that power of place to connect people to their community and the world around them, we partnered with artists who we thought might all approach this challenge in different ways, and push us to create a tool that could handle the unique requirements of the work.
Like any good tool, we are trying to be responsive to how artists and organizations choose to create with us, and also to how community members experience that work through the app.
Are you planning to collaborate with more artists in the year to come?
Leav: Yes — Thanks to our successful Kickstarter campaign, we’ll be commissioning several other artists including Grant Cutler, HOTTEA, Emily Johnson/Catalyst Dance, Andy Sturdevant and The Roe Family Singers.
Where and when can we find all the Leav launches at Northern Spark?
Leav: It’s simple: All you’ll need to do is download the Leav app in the iPhone App Store, and open the map to see where the different pieces are. Then, just navigate your way to the pieces, and once you’re in the designated location indicated in the app, you can click to enter the piece and listen/watch/read the piece of art.