Degree Show 2018

NEoN blogger Ana Hine checked out the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design Degree Show 2018 in recognition of the Year of the Young People.

The best digital art pieces at this year’s degree show at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design were incredibly simple, deceptively so. Take Catriona Beckett’s two-screen piece ‘Balances in Tandem: Harmonic Opposites’ on level six of the Crawford Building; a relaxing combination of sound, video, animation, and painting that looked like a memory of an Escher staircase. The constantly shifting folded paper move to a light, refined tonal soundscape of electric piano. The Art & Philosophy student wrote and performed the musical accompaniment to the piece herself, and describes the works as being: “continually embedded with new meanings as they are co-authored; letting them exist by re-generating imaginatively within the space.”

This focus on sound and atmosphere is also present in Laura Stubbings’ work, available to view immediately upon entering the lower foyer of the Cooper Gallery. Her immersive installation piece, ‘Ego Death’, involves the viewer putting on a pair of headphones and stepping into a small cylindrical room, which at first looks completely black. As your eyes adjust the walls are revealed to be covered in round lights the size of a two-pound piece that fade on and off in time to the peaceful, almost meditative music. Stubbings writes that the piece is an attempt to: “take the viewer out of their own mind, to quieten their ego, if even just for a moment… the darkness allows you to become one with the space.” The effect was similar to being in a sensory deprivation tank, and while it wouldn’t be something to recommend to people who struggle in claustrophobic spaces it was a highlight of the show.

Calming light was also used in Andrew Shearer’s prototype lamp in the Product Design display on level five of the Matthew Building. His design responds to weather patterns and increases the level of blue light in response to a dull cloudy day or a day with fewer daylight hours. The idea is to combat seasonal affective disorder, which can affect a large proportion of adults in northern countries. He explains: “The Sun Assisted Daylight (S.A.D.) lamp adjusts its brightness depending on the live weather being recorded, and therefore it should help steady anybody’s circadian rhythm very subtly.”

Back on level six of the Crawford Building, Steven Shealth in the Fine Art department used the open-source micro-computer Arduino to create a programed light display within porcelain wasps’ nests. He hopes that the piece will draw attention to the fragile position of bees, wasps, and other insects in our eco-systems which are struggling. He writes: “Porcelain just like the eco-system is fragile and if you are not careful it will break into tiny pieces. The use of light and sound create an immersive sensory experience while expressing the life of these creatures, which threatens to be extinguished”.

Although the amount of digital art on display this year is fairly small, those who want to see a relaxing mix of technology and creativity would do well to head down the Perth Road and check out these pieces. The degree show is on until May 27 and is free to visit.

Feature Image of work by Catriona Beckett

10 Years of NEoN!

Almost a decade has passed since the first NEoN Digital Arts Festival, so as we prepare to welcome artists and makers from across the world to our fair city of Dundee we decided to also take a look back on ten years of digital art festivities.

NEoN – which stands for North East of North, a reference to Dundee’s geographical location on the east coast of Scotland above what is termed the ‘North’ of England – was initially going to be a business conference. Director Donna Holford-Lovell explains how that idea was quickly dropped in favour of a festival. She said: “A small team of industry professionals persuaded them to make it something much more as they were bored of business conferences. With a focus on moving image, music and information technologies, the festival offered talks, performances, screenings and exhibitions that expanded the notion of art, information communication, media production and game design.”

Over two thousand visitors attended the first festival, which featured keynote addresses by the late Bud Luckey, the animator and character designer for Toy Story, and video game composer Tommy Tallarico. Donna organised a fringe exhibition with curator Clare Brennan, which included game demos, video work, concept art, and music. She says: “It was so successful; we had thousands of people through the door in the first few hours. It proved that there was an audience for this kind of thing and really helped show off what Dundee had to offer.”

Bud Luckey at the very first NEoN in 2009

The festival went from strength to strength. A personal highlight for Donna was being able to commission a new work by Japanese artist Akinori Oishi for the second festival in 2010. She says: “In 2008 I went to New York to see Akinori Oishi speak at the Pictoplamsa Conference. I had followed his work for a while, and I wanted to work with him. Then in 2010 we decided to go for another iteration of the NEoN festival with a theme of Character – it was the ideal opportunity to invite Oishi to exhibit and create new work for the festival.”

Akinori Oishi at NEoN 2010

Being able to commission new work is one of the main perks of organising a festival like NEoN. Donna explains how in 2015 they were able to work with another Japanese artist – Ei Wada. With funding from New Media Scotland she travelled to Japan to meet the artist and his gallery manager, Habu Kazuhito, which led to Wada having his UK premiere at NEoN that year. She explains: “This resulted in a number of new commissions that have played in big part in his development. He has gone on to be a very prolific and celebrated artist all over the world. It was such a pleasure to work with him and all the team involved.”

Obviously funding is a big part of any artistic venture and NEoN has been fortunate to have managed to secure a fair bit over the years, most recently from Creative Scotland. When asked what she wishes she’d known when she started Donna replied: “Many things … one important thing is not to rely on financial support from organisations that don’t understand what you do, or don’t understand the value of what you do!” She also emphasised the importance of getting written agreements from everyone involved at the onset, but admits that part of the fun over the last decade has been not knowing exactly how things are going to play out. She said: “Knowing too much may have not made it as exciting. Every year has been a rollercoaster which helps fire the passion and adrenaline. Knowing that NEoN is now ten years old makes me feel old! But it also makes me smile. I always said I would make it work and it would become my full time job – and it has. Also becoming a regular fund organisation with Creative Scotland makes us very proud. It proves we have been doing great things and that there is an appetite for it.”

There’s certainly an appetite for NEoN, and as we enter its tenth year expectations are high. Will the festival continue for another ten years? “I would hope so, however I may have emigrated to Japan by then!” laughs Donna. “It’s a little difficult to say at the moment, but this year’s programme is shaping up to be very exciting!”

Generation ZX(X)

In 1993 the TIMEX Factory in Dundee closed its gates after more than 7 months of painful strikes. 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of this departure from Dundee, a timely moment to look back and reconsider its impact on the city.

TIMEX is still remembered for those bitter last months rather than the near five decades of economic growth and activity. In the 80’s, on the TIMEX assembly lines, the ZX 81 and the ZX Spectrum computers were manufactured. The ZX Spectrum made its way into the houses of Dundee, its capacity to be programmed eventually gave rise to the phenomenon known as bedroom coding.

Despite the fact that it was the women of TIMEX who worked on the assembly lines, building and testing the computers, it was their sons and husbands who learned how to work them: the vast majority of early game developers were men. The event is a thank you, from our generation to the ladies of TIMEX, who through their labor, and often unaware of their contribution, gave Dundee a new future: the video game industry.

The event brings together performance, historical accounts, video and arcade games, and live music.

The title draws attention to three core aspects surrounding the TIMEX factory in Dundee: the gender dynamics (the vast majority of the assembly line workers were women whereas the vast majority of early coders and game makers were men), the heritage of the ZX Spectrum (the manufacturing of the ZX Spectrum in Dundee contributed to the city’s strong video game industry and education), and its contribution to the rise of the technology-savvy generation Z (Abertay’s video games courses are the first and one of the best programmes in the world).

Event date: 4th May, 2018

Event time: 8PM-10:30PM

Event Location: Camperdown Park. Event starts with registration at 7:30 in front of Camperdown House.

The event is free but ticketed. Tickets available here


The project would not be possible without the help and support of:

NEoN Digital Arts Festival, Creative Scotland, Weave by Abertay, Abertay Game Lab, Abertay University, The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Laura Bissell, Alistair MacDonald, Dundee City Council, JTC Furniture Group, We Throw Switches, TIMEX History Group, Charlie Malone, Alice Marra and Loadsaweeminsinging, John Gray (Public Art) – Dundee City Council, Douglas Community Centre and Library Communities Department – Dundee City Council, Dighty Connect’s Mosaic Group, John Carnegie and Alan Spence, Hot Chocolate Trust, The Dundee Rep, The DC Thomson Archives, Dundee City Council – Dundee’s Art Galleries and Museums, STV, Paul Farley, Douglas Hare, Danny Parker, Philip and Andrew Oliver, Mike Dailly, Chris van der Kuyl, Erin Stevenson, Robin Sloan, Lynn Parker and all the lovely ladies who shared their stories with me.

Creative Team

Mona Bozdog, Clare Brennan, Susie Buchan, Robert Clark, Dan Faichney, Dayna Galloway, Robin Griffiths, Kayleigh MacLeod, Alice Marra, Niall Moody

Projection Art: Robin Griffiths

Breaking Through the Frame Development: Niall Moody, Kayleigh MacLeod

Assembly and She-Town Development: Retrospect

Joy Ajuong,  Marc Philippe Beaujean,  Robert Clark,  Sean Connaghan,  Courtney Kirk, Phillip McCafferty, Cara Pearson, Jordan Ross

Paint It Loud & Clear

Come along to our sign making workshop in Douglas Community Centre on Thursday 5th April from 1 – 4pm! In this workshop you will be creating big colourful signs for a large performance event, Generation ZX(X), happening on Friday 4th May 2018.

Join us to create signs that reflect on Dundee as you see it and how it has come to be the exciting and ever-changing place that it is today. Whether you are celebrating the strong women in your life and throughout history, imagining your vision for the city’s future or realising what Dundee means to you, we want you to paint it LOUD and CLEAR! These bold visual signs will simultaneously reflect on Dundee’s past and look forward to a hopeful future.

2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the TIMEX Factory closing in Dundee. Amongst many other things, the factory produced one of the first ever home computers – the ZX Spectrum. The assembly lines were predominantly made up of Dundee women.

This anniversary provides a timely moment to look back and reconsider the factory’s impact on the city, and to thank the ladies of TIMEX, who through their labour, and often unaware of their contribution, gave Dundee a new future: the video game industry.

For more information

Embroidered Digital Commons

Workshops with Ele Carpenter
10th – 11th March 2018, 12pm – 4pm
Wellgate Shopping Centre, 1st Floor next to Iceland

A pop-up event by NEoN Digital Arts Festival

NEoN invites you along to a special embroidery workshop to be part of an exciting global project – Embroidered Digital Commons. This project has already brought together embroideries by over 1,000 people stitching over 4,500 words… and now you can be part of it too!

The project is based on the beautifully crafted language of the  Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons  written by the Raqs Media Collective, and published in the Sarai Reader 2003. The full lexicon is an A-Z of the interrelationship between social, digital and material space. It weaves together an evolving metaphorical language of the commons which is both poetic and informative.

The ‘Embroidered Digital Commons’ facilitated by Ele Carpenter as part of the Open Source Embroidery project, utilising social and digital connectivity. This distributed embroidery aims to collectively stitch terms from the Lexicon as a practical way of close-reading and discussing the text and it’s current meaning.

At the workshops you can choose a section of text to embroider, stitch with others, have a cuppa and chat to Ele about the project. Your level of experience doesn’t matter, we welcome everyone! Also, as Sunday 11th is Mother’s Day it would be great to see some cross-generational groups come and  take part.  

Materials will be provided but feel free to bring along your own if you want to add a personal touch to your piece! The best fabric to stitch on is plain cotton fabric of any colour using embroidery thread that contrasts with the fabric.

With special thanks to Creative Scotland, Abertay University, University of Dundee and Wellgate Shopping Centre.


Image by Ele Carpenter

A little more information about the project…

The Embroidered Digital Commons is a collective close-reading and close-stitching of a text written by Raqs Media Collective called ‘A Concise Lexicon of / for the Digital Commons’ (2003). The full lexicon is an A-Z of the relationship between social, digital and material space. The lexicon weaves together an evolving metaphorical language of common ownership, use and access across digital platforms. The commons has become synonymous with digital media through the discourse of free and open source software, shared production of knowledge, open access, and creative commons. The digital commons is a response to the inherent ‘copy n paste’ reproducibility of digital codes, scripts, and files and the cultural forms they support.

The project began in 2008 as part of the Open Source Embroidery project facilitated by Ele Carpenter.

Check out the website to see examples of past stitched texts and get some inspiration for your embroidery:  Embroidered Digital Commons ____________________________________________________________________

Here is the text we will be stitching:

‘Journal: A record of the everyday. Annals of matters varied and quotidian. Data from day to day to day. On reams or scraps of any material that can carry the emboss of time. The material may vary from newsprint to video to sound to binary code, or a combination of the same, and the journal may transmogrify from being a witness, to a participant in that which is being recorded. The extent and scale of ‘participation’ depends on the frequency of entries into the journal, and the number of correspondents it can muster. The higher the frequency of entries or number of correspondents, the greater is the intensity of the inscription of a time on a journal. A densely, thickly inscribed journal is one that is usually open access in terms of writing, reading and publishing. Why else would strangers want to write in? An open journal expects to be published anywhere at all. An open journal actively practices xenophilly. When a journal becomes more than a gazetteer of a moment it turns into a history. It then begins to make sense of itself as much as it does about a time that it spans. Conversely, every history begins life as a journal.’


Now In its tenth year, NEoN Digital Arts Festival is growing up!

We are excited to announce that in this, Scotland’s Year of Young People, NEoN has turned 10 and is one of 19 organisations to newly join Creative Scotland’s regular funded portfolio of organisations. With three years of support NEoN will continue to deliver Scotland’s only digital arts festival across the city of Dundee.

Contemporary culture is linked to digital technology in profound ways. NEoN (North East of North) is one of Scotland’s leading organisations solely focused on advancing the understanding and accessibility of digital and technology-driven art and provoking questions about how ‘the digital’ is so intrinsically embedded in today’s society. This November will see us deliver our tenth festival, which like the last 9 will be programmed in partnership with organisations and venues across the city including Dundee Contemporary Arts, Leisure and Culture Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Weave at Abertay, New Media Scotland, Dundee Science Festival, Creative Dundee, Generator Projects, NOMAS projects and more. NEoN invites you to get involved!

NEoN Director Donna Holford Lovell said, “By bringing together emerging talent and well-established artists, NEoN aims to influence and reshape the field of digital arts. We seek to create opportunities for collaboration and spontaneity, and push beyond expectations. NEoN will continue to commission and program world class artists to present contemporary work of the highest quality. We hope that International artists see NEoN as a place to create their best work and emerging artists are enriched by their connection with the programme and other participants in it. We feel brand new with this amazing news and are looking forward to getting to work on delivering the programme!”

With 2018 being designated as Scotland’s Year of Young People, NEoN’s theme is Lifespans and will envision the trajectories of digital natives as well as consider what happens to the life of our digital selves, which may live on beyond our biological selves in unexpected ways. NEoN curators are in conversation with Blast Theory, Heather Dewey Hagborg and Phillip Andrew Lewis, Sistema and many others to realise their work here in Dundee. Full programme details will be announced in the coming months.

Clare Brennan, on the board of NEoN and one its co-founders and curators said, “NEoN will continue to commission and present novel digital experiences including group exhibitions, online works, screenings, our mini symposium, performance nights, workshops, and bring our unique take on music and live experiences to wider audiences. This funding will allow us to strengthen and deepen relationships with artists and organisations – in 2019 we will consider activist strategies and in 2020 new kinds of communities and sharing structures.”

Sarah Cook, curator, said “I am thrilled that NEoN has been recognised by Creative Scotland with this support, it affirms the importance of the Festival and the pop-up programme as a platform for experiencing new art and new ideas in the field of digital creativity. The three year funding allows us to continue our national and international working, and to increase professional development and competency for artists and curators engaging with the digital sector. We look forward to working with AND Festival, Scottish Contemporary Art Network, the Rome Media Art Festival, and past and future digital arts partners in Dundee, London, Durban, and beyond.”




NEoN’s vision is that contemporary culture is linked to technology in profound ways, and that through a collaborative programme, greater critical understanding and accessibility of digital art can be fostered.

NEoN’s mission is to nurture and present a collaborative programme of digital art that fosters a greater critical understanding of contemporary culture within the context of today’s technology driven society, through an accessible annual festival and pop-up programme.