CSM students recode Shakespeare for a global audience

To Be Or Not to Be by Chris Kontogeorgos

Over the past six months, students from Central Saint Martins’ MA Communication Design course have been part of an exciting collaboration with the World Shakespeare Festival 2012. Part of the London 2012 Festival (the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad), the festival is the biggest celebration of Shakespeare ever staged.

Students have been commissioned to ‘interpret, recode and remix’ Shakespeare, and their work features on the new digital platform, myShakespeare, alongside that of artists such as Kate Tempest, Brendan Dawes and Will Power.

Coloured Water by Konstantinos Mouzakis

Six projects have been selected to appear online and represent the impressive scope of ideas that were arrived at from one single brief. The results are diverse, visually compelling and at times beguiling: from Kate Brangan’s ‘Shakespeare by chance’, a generative design program which creates real-time visual translations of Shakespeare quotes, to Konstantinos Mouzakis’ installation ‘Coloured Water’, which uses water tanks and ink to represent the complex network of relationships in Twelfth Night.

Sarah Ellis is the Digital Producer at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has been involved in this project since its inception. We caught up with her to find out more about the process – and the results.

Talking Dots by Hanna Bischof

How did it all start?

MyShakespeare originated from the World Shakespeare Festival. What it’s meant to do is to invite global audiences to participate and engage with the Festival, people wouldn’t be able to come to the UK and see the work that’s on here.

But also to ask the question ‘how do we interpret Shakespeare today?’ What we’re looking for is lots of different voices and people who are interested in Shakespeare and making their own work. MyShakespeare is an opportunity to share that work in a gallery space and to write articles about what you care about, on the blog space. It’s also an opportunity to comment as well, so it’s a democratic space, and the work with Central Saint Martins in particular came from a want to engage with the new generation of artists and designers and makers. To explore that question and specifically ask the question ‘so what would you do with Shakespeare today?’ And as a result, we’ve had some fantastic responses from people that may not have even read Shakespeare before. Some of the work that’s come from the students at CSM has been some of the freshest work I’ve seen in a long time, because they don’t come with any preconceived ideas. Some of them are genuinely exploring it for the first time.

Ophelia's Skull by Owen Woonyung Lee

Any favourite work?

Highlights include all the work that we’ve put on the site. What I love about it is that you get something like Ophelia’s Skull which appeals to certain audiences and then you get Talking Dots, which appeals to another strand of our audiences.

Are there any future plans for the work?

Yes, we’re going to do an exhibition. Some of the work will just work online but we’re looking to exhibit some of the work that works in a physical space at the end of July, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for those artists to get a further profile of their work and also an opportunity to get a new audience for their work; and for us to get a new perspective for our core audiences.

The Systematic Crown of Cleopatra by Alma Iraldy Vivas Terrones

Might there be opportunities for other students to create work inspired by Shakespeare?

Indeed, if any other student from the University of the Arts London wants to get in touch, my details are on the site. We’d welcome and be really open to that. It’s about being diverse in your approaches and who you’re talking to. So we’re not just talking to the theatre world – we’re really expanding on that and I think we have a lot to work with there.

Anything else to add?

Just to say it’s been a really brilliant partnership and I think it’s fed both partners really well – it’s been really fruitful. I was delighted with the results and I think global audiences were in particular. If you go on to the site and see how many people have ‘liked’ some of that work, global audiences have been really inspired by that and I’m really pleased. We’ve got a series of commissioned artists who will appear throughout the festival but the Central Saint Martins commission was the first to appear on the site. They’ve set the bar really high.

See the work here.

Shakespeare by Chance by Kate Brangan

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