Wayfarer

    VERSION 1.0

After meeting at the hybrid performance laboratory Time Place Space 3 in Adelaide, 2004, Kate Richards and myself began development of Wayfarer Version 1.0.

The initial thematic referenced post 9/11 paranoia through use of ‘agents’ accessing the internals of an unknown site or building to carry out a rescue of some sort. Live point of view cameras and live mixed audio fed back instantly to large screens. This referenced the US military’s own technological communications from their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wayfarer 1 also co-incided with the popularity of locative technologies like GPS and wifi positioning systems like that employed in Blast Theory‘s Rider Spoke. The locative media elements also drew strongly on Guy Debord and the situationists ideas of psychogeography and derive.

As we began to work with performers and partner Performance Space, the idea of audience control of the agents became appealing to us. In subsequent testing we found that the experience of talking to someone through this technology – the lags, metallic interferences and speed ups created a long distant lunar transmission feeling.

The control of avatars in virtual space also is reminiscent of first person shooter video games which we drew from to fill out the gameplay and competitive elements. The grey corridor-like feeling of Carriageworks added to this flavour. The flipside of an audience using an ‘avatar in virtual space’ was that the avatar was a real person and the virtual space was actual real space.

Within our own gameplay existed ‘failsafes’ for our performers, for example – what would happen if someone asked them to do something illegal, dangerous or compromising? Although these rules were written into the gameplay like backgrounded software none of these scenarios played out. Instead of potential ethical dilemmas, a deep bond was formed between the players and avatars through the experience.

This complex system of technical operation was created using off the shelf technologies hacked together to create the Wayfarer 1 software and hardware. Our software programmer Jon Drummond and hardware/technical producer Mr Snow worked closely together to mesh the different elements together.

The use of simple tasks and basic rules means that the strength of the game is in the quality of the interactions: between the performers, between performers and audience, and between audience members. The collective fulfilment of tasks means that the relationship between performer and audience is equal, making the interactions strong, direct and meaningful. Gail Priest, Realtime 81

Wayfarer was performed over 4 nights – September 5-8, 2007 at Carriageworks.
Artists – Martyn Coutts and Kate Richards
Software Programmer – Jon Drummond
Technical/Hardware Producer – Mr Snow
Supported by New Media and Theatre Boards of Australia Council

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    VERSION 2.0

After unsuccessful attempts to fund a Wayfarer 1 in Melbourne, the artists (Kate Richards and Martyn Coutts partnered with Education at the Arts Centre Melbourne in 2009, with ideas of using the theatres, foyers and office spaces and even the immediate outdoor courtyard spaces.

The artists decided to shift the delivery platform by using the web as an interface rather than a local area network. Research and development into instantaneous video delivery online took us to qik, ustream and livestream as we imagined the 3G network carrying the action through mobile devices.

Also in this new version the role of audience and avatar became merged and became the agent.

In addition, the burgeoning social media take-up became a reference point for the look and feel of the interface. We partnered with Melbourne based web developers and designers Evolution 7 to build this new system.

Building on the psychogeographic lead from Version 1, this new version used the CBD of Melbourne as its new grid. Sectioning off the CBD into 6 zones (Economic, Cultural, Retail, Sport, Green and Port), each team was invited to create an Action within a zone, this action would be related to the zone it was in and a video created at the site.

Once the video was uploaded to Vimeo and tagged to a location on a map then the video would be rated and discussed amongst other teams and citizens who signed up to comment.

Wayfarer 2 (Urban Agents) dealt with the city, intervention as an artistic practice and using social media in a positive way. This version asked of its participants to work quickly, work with the site and deal with public space and with the general public.

The web interface became not only a repository for the actions but also was used as marketing, commentary and community building.

Artists/Producers – Kate Richards and Martyn Coutts
Web Developers – Evolution 7
Education at Arts Centre Producer – Dan West

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    VERSION 3.0

Wayfarer Version 3.0 (Global Agents) was the third and final iteration of the Wayfarer series of works. It saw the evolution of the work to more directly encompass social change elements.

After receiving Vic Health funding we re-imagined Urban Agents to encompass players from any location. In order to facilitate this change we asked questions of the participants. As we were interested in the idea of social media for social change these questions related to enabling real world interventions within local communities.

Subsequently the uploading of actions would then become part of an array of local actions seen in a global context. These questions were kept deliberately open to elicit responses no matter what the differences in the local community each team was from.

Original Concept – Kate Richards and Martyn Coutts
Artist/Producer – Martyn Coutts
Producer – Dan West
Supported by Arts Centre Melbourne and Vic Health

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