Blunted Points [updated]

21st February 2012

Tomorrow Arts Council England and the BBC announce the projects to be funded for this summer’s exciting digital arts project The Space (see my earlier post Make it new). I did some initial consultancy for The Space but then decided that I wanted to pitch an idea. This entailed pulling back from any contact with those who were judging the applications. The idea, which I called Points, was turned down in the first stage of applications because it was felt that Illuminations did not qualify as ‘an arts organisation’. I appealed this call, successfully, and Points went forward to the second round. But we learned today that it has not been successful. So I thought it might be interesting – in part because people rarely acknowledge their failures in these processes – to reproduce below the core of the Points first-round application, written back in November. The application at this stage was seeking a grant, including all rights costs, of £73,400.

Points: an application

Conceived to be released daily throughout the life of The Space, Points is a rigorously curated collection of 184 individual archival moments drawn from the BBC and ACE film archives. Lasting between 2 and 5 minutes, each Point is a fragment of imaginatively presented cultural experience – a poem, a movement of dance, s short section of music, a soliloquy, an engagement with a single painting. Each one is chosen both because of the beauty or surprise or challenge or delight of the art being presented and because this has been creatively interpreted and re-imagined for the screen.

Certain Points are released to coincide with related artistic events planned for 2012; others appear unconnected to the summer’s schedule. As a whole, Points offers an unparalleled sampling of the astonishing story of the arts in post-war Britain and reveals the immensely rich but all-too-often buried traditions of imagination and creativity from six decades of media made for the BBC and the Arts Council.

Examples of the thousands of possible Points include:

• the beautiful concluding sequence of John Read’s Barbara Hepworth (BBC, 1961), in which her sculptures are displayed on the St Ives beach accompanied only by music;

• Linton Kwesi Johnson performing a poem from Dread Beat’n’Blood (ACE, 1979), directed by Franco Rosso;

• a scene of The Fall (ACE, 1990), Darshan Singh Bhuller’s extraordinary film with Celeste Dandeker, a dancer with disabilities;

• part of James Scott’s experimental Richard Hamilton(ACE, 1969), which juxtaposes the artist’s work with its sources in American popular culture;

• the breathless, crazed montage that opens Ken Russell’s Isadora (BBC, 1966) with Vivian Pickles (above);

• Christopher Plummer performing ‘To be or not to be’ from Hamlet at Elsinore (BBC, 1964);

• a short scene from the BBC studio production of Michael Tippett’s controversial opera New Year (1991).

Each Point, which on screen carries only an introductory caption and a closing copyright line, is accompanied online by three essential complements:

• extensive metadata that facilitates searching as well as connections to be made across the collection;

• a detailed ‘catalogue’ description of the material and its creators, the context in which it was made and suggestions for why it might be seen as interesting;

• full details of all the rights associated with the clip, and what clearances have been necessary (including the itemisation of all specific costs and permissions) to allow each Point to be released into The Space – and ideally beyond to YouTube, blog embeds and more.

Although each individual Point is a complete experience, we hope that the distribution platform will support the emergence of numerous innovative forms – pathways, journeys, channels, user-curated selections, user commentaries – to associate, connect and enhance any number of Points.

Points offers a daily release that contributes to the overall narrative of The Space and helps structure its framework. The creative curatorial vision, the 184 individual elements and the associated online information, together comprise a new artistic work that engages with, interrogates and reinvigorates the archives of the BBC and ACE. Points offers immediate and engaging experience of a wonderful array of artistic achievement coupled with contextual knowledge that enhance these encounters and assists others to explore and re-imagine archival sources.

In terms of the other key objectives of The Space, Points contributes to wider digital development by (a) revealing the richness of archival sources, and (b) sharing extensive knowledge and experience about rights, including specific costs – which remains a ‘hidden’ aspects of all rights discussions.

Points also supports digital innovation in it use of archival elements, making a selection widely available as resources for mobile and other platforms. The use and take-up of the many disparate elements will also generate extensive data to inform evaluation of The Space and possible future archive-based applications and access strategies.


Arts Council England and the BBC have announced the successful applicants – details here. Clicking on the link below will take you to a .pdf of the full list.

Full list of successful applicants to The Space (.pdf)


  1. Great proposal John – and a sad thing that they didn’t put it through. Within my own network of artists, producers & organisations I am only aware of one successful application… I shall be watching the announcement of the list of commissioned projects with interest.

    The whole process is crying out for greater transparency – it’s bizarre that a project with the outputs of the Space is defined by a paper application, evaluated in secret.

  2. Gary Thomas says:

    It’s a simply beautiful idea.

  3. Kate Hall says:

    Thanks for this – it’s inspired me to write about our proposal that didn’t get through. Was raging, then grumpy, now sanguine about it. Maybe, once i have had my feedback from ACE I may do it anyway, with G4A, – I am thinking a “Not The Space Space”

  4. John Wyver says:

    Many thanks for the comments. I think there’s going to be a need for a rich discussion about The Space and its projects – and I’m really interested in seeing part of that hosted here. I’m intending to write about each of the projects as they are released – and I hope we can use the blog to develop a productive debate about how The Space as a whole unfolds.

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