Review of #03 – sensors at the Barbican

Despite the Barbican’s charming warren of tunnels, mezzanines and sneaky entrances, everyone made it to our new home for a feast of the senses and sensors…

Our aim with any theme – sensors, this time around – is not to obsess over the tech, but use it as a lightning rod to pull interesting projects together and generate debate around the collision of artistic, commercial and technical approaches. There follows a quick summary of the night.


Tom, from Flying Object, discussed Tate Sensorium and cutting it fine on opening day: chaos and gaffa tape to the left, and queuing journalists to the right. Despite all the interesting tech they explored, Tom is still in awe of the simple power of sound to augment live experiences.  See his slides here.

Ling, from Umbrellium, took us on a whirlwind tour of the bold and diverse work this studio consistently produces. One notable take-away was the admirable courage their small team show in sticking to their guns; if you don’t like their collaborative, audience-first methodology, then the project is off.  See her slides here.


At the 11th hour we managed to secure not just one but three residents from Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio, a paean of invention and collaboration. Tarim warmed us up with some lovely examples of the simplest sensor-tech – from webcams to GPS trackers – which, when used imaginatively, produce surprisingly sophisticated results. The adage is true: keep it simple, stupid.

On the back table during the break, Bare Conductive bared all, showing a range of simple capacitive-touch examples built with their magic paint and custom Arduino/Pi-like board. Meanwhile, Rosie conjured stories from the depths of time using an Echo Horn (RFID + MiniRig + Raspberry Pi + gorgeous leather housing) and Simon held his breath a lot. In this case, his clever sensor-tech simply turned a light on and off, but it’s quite another thing when players blow through the keyhole of a great door and it swings open, as if by magic.


It was a busy night and the crack team of capturers – Jon Holloway on stills and Joseph Turp on moving image – did a stellar job. Watch this space for the final 90 second edit.

And finally…our fingers are crossed, whisper it gently, but we’re hoping the Barbican’s Fountain Room may yet host Artful Spark again…

A little more on our speakers.

profile-tomTom Pursey, Flying Object

@thomaspursey // @objectingflying

Tom and his fellow co-founder Tim Partridge left Google in 2013 to form Flying Object, a creative team that went on to produce Tate Sensorium. This sell-out show earned international attention by engaging all the senses with selected artworks at Tate Britain and even offering visitors their unique ‘sweat graph’ afterwards. Tom and his team collaborated with experts in sound, taste, scent, touch, lighting and theatre…

profile-lingLing Tan, Umbrellium

@LingQL // @umbrellium

Ling is a designer, maker and coder working at Umbrellium, a studio creating tools to support citizen empowerment and high-impact engagement in cities. Trained as an architect, Ling now builds machines and prototypes that explore how people interact with their surroundings. Linguine is an operating system for public space and Transformer is a game where people compete and cooperate in complete darkness aided by a suit of muscle, light and vibration sensors.

profile-mattMatt Johnson, Bare Conductive


Matt Johnson is a strategist, designer, hardware lover, tutor, entrepreneur, founder and the CEO of Bare Conductive, a London-based hardware startup that has developed an electrically conductive paint and capacitive touch hardware that together are proposing radical new ways to interact with and place electronics in our environment.

profile-tarimTarim, Media Playgrounds


As the Stig was to Top Gear, Tarim is to the dark art of making technology do what it’s told. He’s been wielding his trusty soldering iron since the days when personal computers were bigger than cars and now calls Bristol’s legendary Pervasive Media Studio home. Tarim demo’d a selection of fascinating and bizarre bits of sensor-based tech for public engagement.

profile-rosieRosie Poebright, Splash & Ripple

@Rosiepoes // @SplashandRipple

A Pervasive Media Studio resident, talented designer and Creative Director of Splash & Ripple, architects of extraordinary adventures. Among other mad, marvellous and playful concoctions, Rosie created a Time Radio for Bath’s Holburne Museum and an Echo Horn for Bodiam Castle, which she presented for the Artful Spark crowd.

profile-simionSimon Johnson


A game designer of some pedigree, having launched igfest (the Interesting Games Festival) then Slingshot, the creators of epic street games that re-imagine cities for thousands of players around Britain. Run from zombies in 2.8 Hours Later, run from dogs in Hounded and throw paint against the clock in Rainbow Rain. The kind of mischief maker you need in your life.

This handy Twitter list features all speakers, past and present.


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