Finding a copy of A History of New Media Art in a bookshop in Toronto was a defining moment for Northern Voices participant Heather Corcoran.
Flicking through pages featuring Robert Rauschenberg and Nam June Paik, she became fascinated with the idea of a future for art beyond painting and drawing, where artists could experiment with technology as part of their growth.
“I didn’t have a computer in my house during my teens, but I was always interested in technology, and the creative and the cultural implications of it,” she explains.
“Not just what we could do with it in terms of using computers, but interactive exhibitions and things like that.”
Canadian born, but now calling Liverpool home, Corcoran was the first of a handful of representatives hired by crowdfunding-favourite Kickstarter in the UK and Europe.
Liverpool’s tech-powered regeneration
While projects often find their own way to crowdfunding, part of Heather’s role is ‘coolhunting’ – AKA – finding communities, maker spaces, incubators and individuals, and connecting them to the Kickstarter community.
Most recently, she’s been working with the Liverpool’s Turner-Prize-Winning Assemble and Granby Workshop on their Splatware Kickstarter project; unique plates and cups created using a 60 tonne experimental hydraulic press, made in the local area, to benefit local people.
“It’s exciting but also nerve-wracking when we approach someone for Kickstarter because of the all-or-nothing model of funding. You really want to see them do well, so you end up on the website refreshing it all the time to check on their progress.”
Until recently, the Granby area of Liverpool was left derelict through a series of poorly planned regeneration initiatives.
It was the local residents organising through the Granby4Streets community land trust who decided to clean it up and make it something beautiful.
As just one example, that meant doing up the houses with bespoke fixtures and fittings created locally by local people, for which the work won the 2015 Turner Prize.
Through Kickstarter, their latest project has reached an international audience and will allow them to give back even more to the area, including training new staff for the workshop.
As it was on her home turf, Corcoran was able to regularly visit the studio to help frame the story of the project and understand how they could engage with a community of people who would be enthusiastic about it.
For her, this is the key to a successful crowdfunding project. “There is a definite skew towards educational crowdfunding projects, such as Cubetto, Mover Kit and Kano” she says. Corcoran’s also noticed a spike in cycling-related projects, such as Blaze Laserlight and Beeline.
“Virtual Reality is popular too,” she adds, pointing to successful campaigns like Oculus Rift and the growing community of people who are really pushing immersive VR experiences.
“There really isn’t a type of project that wouldn’t work, as long as the creator is willing to find and engage with a community to help bring the project to life. Because that’s what Kickstarter is about – asking others to get involved in your work, and share in the passion for what you’re doing.”