“MARCEL: Multimedia Art Research Centres and Electronic Laboratories” presented by Foresta


Presentation Title:

  • MARCEL: Multimedia Art Research Centres and Electronic Laboratories




  • Multicast is a telecommunication technology allowing symmetrical real-time interactivity
    between several correspondents communicating simultaneously in sound, image and data
    transfer. It is a new communication space already in use in a limited manner, but not yet
    widespread since new models of real-time interactivity have been limited. It is very different
    from the broadcast model of the current network, one to many, which dominates the network
    today and is the preferred commercial model. Multicast has a potential to become a new
    medium of communication and this project will explore its potential, using the network as an
    international online laboratory experimenting with art, science, research and education to
    develop models of true interactivity and developing the tools to make it happen.

    Context: Industry has avoided multicasting or even suppressed it by imposing on it the
    broadcast model principally because people do not see an immediate return, a commercial use
    with instant payback. Rather than experimenting with multicast’s potential in a form of
    fundamental research to see what might be done, main players in industry have favoured
    existing applications rather than understanding what can be done in the long term. That taboo
    has been challenged by the pandemic and broken by Zoom. People have generally recognised
    the importance of the network and well as the drawbacks of the current technologies and
    resistance to multipoint connections has evaporated.

    A multipoint fully interactive space is a new medium of communication with an enormous
    potential for creativity, for developing new uses of the network, radically different kinds of
    programming for art, education, research and culture. Inherently, there would be considerable
    commercial fallout with new products and services becoming available. There are, however,
    important sociological, economic and legal aspects which have to be examined, even invented,
    to move forward in an effective way.

    MARCEL, our response to that challenge, was built through a Performing Arts Fellowship to Don
    Foresta at the Wimbledon School of Art from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. In the
    early 2000’s. It began modestly with experimentation particularly in online artistic
    performance. Many artists and institutions joined MARCEL rapidly but over the first 10 years of
    activity many of them dropped out judging the technology inadequate and not up to the
    imagination of the artists and their artistic ambitions. We recognised very early that we would
    not have the necessary tools for that experimentation from industry since they did not share
    the same objectives and, as mentioned above, actually blocked efforts in that direction.
    MARCEL began with the only multi-point platform existing at the time, Access Grid, and, while
    that proved interesting, it was quickly obvious that its limitations were real. It was obvious by
    the end of the 2000’s we would have to build our own platform for art, responding to artistic
    needs and develop the necessary tools to respond to those needs. Online experimentation with
    multicasting technology in sectors of intellectual and cultural activity is a concrete way to
    advance pushing the technology through responding specifically to creative demands in
    developing to the tools to respond to them.
    [Text taken from Workshop proposal]

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