When TaikaBox moved from Cardiff, Wales to Oulu, Finland in 2015, we had a dream to set up a dance/tech studio where artists could experiment with the relationship between movement and technology. We’re still on that journey to having a permanent studio, and in the meantime, have found ways to work with artists from all round the world, introducing them to our methods of cross-media collaboration.
In 2016, we launched Oulu Dance Hack with a 3-day intensive hosted by EduLAB and the Dance Department at Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OAMK). 12 artists were selected from an open call process, and travelled to Oulu in August, spending the time with TaikaBox and a small selection of dance and media students.
We invited local tech businesses to come on board and gave the artists opportunities to work with a robot arm and multifunction sensors as well as the TaikaBox toolkit and the EVE environment at OAMK.
After a day of introductions and experiments with various sensors, the artists split into groups and headed off to their respective studios to get hacking. With support from TaikaBox and some peer sharing sessions, they created short dance works that were shared at the end of the project, inviting an audience to tour the studios to see what had been created.
The structure of the project was repeated in 2017, with a different robot arm, a drone, IR camera/floor projection and the addition of two local musicians to support the visiting artists.
In 2018, the Hack was again extended by a day and the artists had access to a 360 camera, 3D tracking with multiple kinects and floor projection, and MYO movement sensors triggering a sound/projection environment. After the sharing at OAMK, we moved into Oulu Museum of Art and showed the work there in the evening.
That was the year we started collaborating with Studio Siilo at Kulttuurivoimala. They run a media workshop that works with young people who have been out of work for a long time, teaching them how to make films and documentaries. They sent a camera crew into the studios throughout the Hack to document the process. We also added morning classes to the programme.
In 2019 we shifted the Hack week to later in the year and integrated it into LUMO – Oulu Light Festival. This meant that we were unable to use the studios at OAMK, so started the week in City Dance and then moved up to Oulu Museum of Art. To connect with the LUMO festival, we incorporated streetlights, flexible LED strips and moving head lights into the project, setting up a programme of performances that was seen by hundreds of visitors over the festival weekend. The collaboration with LUMO, plus funding from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation enabled us to bring in more mentors and cover the visiting artists’ travel and accommodation costs.
Due to Coronavirus restrictions, 2020’s Oulu Dance Hack was canceled and the situation impacted the 2021 Hack – but in a good way. In Autumn 2020 we were able to rent a studio in Pikisaari for 8 months and set it up with camera, computer and speedy internet to be able to connect with studios elsewhere. (the story of our Connected Studio System is here)
We worked with the system during the Moving Barents – Out of Urgency project, but felt that it would benefit from some deeper research into the nature of connecting two studios, so ODH21 was a collaboration between us and Central Europe Dance Theatre in Budapest. Because of Corona regulations, we could only invite three independent artists into our studio to work with three dancers from CEDT on stage in Bethlen Theatre. The results were fascinating and the project has paved the way for future collaborations.
The City of Oulu will become the European Capital of Culture in 2026. Oulu Dance Hack is part of the Cool Contrasts project. Over the next few years we will begin to connect with other European cities, running a programme of Hacks with likeminded organisations and commissioning a series of works to form the basis of Finland’s first Festival of Augmented Dance in 2026.