Biome Collective is an organization that combines technology, art and culture, providing a creative studio, co-working space, and other forms of support for people to create, collaborate and explore new frontiers in games, digital art and technology.
Our unique and accessible games, interventions, installations and events span across digital and physical spaces. The collective attracts diverse independent creative minds and facilitates collaborative projects with partners from the arts, academia, games and business to respond to technological and cultural challenges through unique work that ranges from the delightful to the complex.
We are based in Dundee, have members across Scotland, and arrange exciting opportunities for knowledge sharing, collaboration and public exhibition in their local communities and internationally. Our areas of expertise include online and in-person events and festivals, developing experimental interactive work for public exhibition in galleries and outdoor spaces, and broad approaches to game design and research.
Since 2017, Biome Collective has produced and curated Arcadia, a biannual grassroots celebration exploring independent, alternative, and experimental play in games, space and culture. Biome Collective has also exhibited work at the London Design Biennale, AMAZE Festival, Leftfield Collection at EGX and Somerset House and partnered with organisations such as V&A Dundee, British Council, National Museums Scotland and We Throw Switches.
The main contacts for initial collaborations with China will be Biome Collective members Emilie Reed and Susie Buchan, with potential for further members to become involved once the partnership is determined. Emilie Reed is a curator whose work combines art history and new media perspectives with game studies to better present video games in arts contexts. She has co-curated exhibitions like The Blank Arcade 2016 at the Hannah Maclure Centre, Pixels X Paper at the Babycastles gallery, and We Throw Switches’ Games Are For Everyone events, in addition to running online writing jams and zine workshops for the Now Play This festival’s zine library. Her current focus is incorporating diverse indie, DIY and experimental approaches to video game creation into gaming history. She has organised symposia and screenings for NEoN Digital Arts Festival. Her writing has appeared in academic and popular publications as well as the British Council Games Storytelling project.
Susie Buchan is an experienced creative producer and project manager with a passion for games, digital art, performance and participatory events. She has extensive experience in events and festival production from her time as a producer at NEoN Digital Arts Festival and as a creative events producer at Abertay University. She has organised events featuring well-known games industry professionals such as Brie Code, Sara Brin, Phoenix Perry, Marie Foulston and Irene Fubara Manuel. During her two years at NEoN she formed part of the curatorial team that curated a number exhibitions featuring digital artists and experimental game-makers from across the world, as well as, in her role at Abertay, curating exhibitions of student work, game jam projects and alternate controller games. Recently she has been working on developing strategies for creating successful and meaningful online events.
Collaboration Ideas with China
Biome Collective strongly values bringing together a diverse group of creators, researchers, and producers in the digital art, video games, and cultural areas to push the boundaries of interactive and experimental work. Establishing international connections with creators in China would fit well with our organizational goals and also open opportunities for our members to forge new collaborations and experiences. China is a major part of the current international games industry, home to its own independent games scenes, and also has many arts organisations doing important work involving interactive technology.
However, opportunities for international cultural exchange from Scotland to China are still rare compared to opportunities to collaborate with North American and European countries. Working with China would contribute to our existing experience collaborating on projects in Asian countries, and offers the opportunity to learn from different perspectives and concerns about digital media, the gaming industry, social inclusion and interactive art that can influence our future works and strengthen collaboration and communication with international communities.
The collective is also strongly interested in social inclusion and how it can be improved in the arts and game development sectors. The issues facing marginalized, independent and aspiring artists and game creators can vary significantly from place to place, however these issues can also overlap and benefit from shared experiences and learning from one another.
By forming a connection with Chinese game developers and arts organizations, we can combine perspectives and work together to discover and address hurdles to participation in gaming and the arts in both countries, and open up opportunities for marginalized creators to express themselves through digital art, performance, and game creation to an international audience through festivals, exhibitions, and public installations.
Because Biome Collective has a broad portfolio of past collaborations as well as a variety of member skills and interests, any collaboration with a Chinese partner could take a variety of forms, or consist of multiple different phases. Initially, we are interested in conducting cross-cultural research, workshops, interviews and discussions about organizations, opportunities for funding, and development practices involved in the Chinese and Scottish games industry, independent games scenes, and art institutions.
This would help to establish shared knowledge and understanding between ourselves and our partners, as well as identify existing hurdles to accessibility and social inclusion in these areas. We would also get an idea of potential areas to intervene in or issues to address in the development of our subsequent projects. These projects could take multiple forms. Biome Collective has developed a wide portfolio of interactive projects with partners including arts and cultural institutions, as well as individual artists and game developers. They have taken the form of digitally-distributed independent games, special exhibition installations, and large-scale public installations.
Since the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic we have also focused on networked online exhibitions and projects like the Biome Gallery that can be especially useful in maintaining a feeling of interaction and connection in situations where social distancing is enforced or travel is difficult. After the initial research we would be eager to determine which artists, developers, or organizations would benefit most and be the best fit for pursuing a major new interactive project.
Additionally, if we end up making connections with many suitable developers, artists, and organizations, Biome Collective could lead on creating an international version of our festival of independent, alternative and experimental approaches in games, play and culture, Arcadia. In the past, these festivals have included a lineup of talks and presentations from practitioners and researchers in these areas, as well as interactive workshop activities, and an arcade where a variety of independent games and other projects were presented in unique and hands-on ways. An online or in-person international version of this festival would showcase Chinese and Scottish work together, exposing both to an international audience, and have a variety of presentations and activities to encourage future collaborations. Whatever form this Connections Through Culture opportunity takes, we would want it to have a positive impact that opens the door for further festivals, activities, and new projects in both countries.
We would primarily be interested in working with cultural organizations who are looking to incorporate experimental approaches to interactive media into their own programming, or who already have done this and want to share their own experiences, as well as independent game developers and small studios or artists who are working with video games.
Ideally, our potential Chinese partner would have existing examples of festivals, game development projects, or interactive artworks that we could build on and take inspiration from while also sharing our own work. The partner organisation should also share our goals of using collaboration, digital art and interactive technology to explore issues of social inclusion, as well as highlighting marginalised creators in these areas to give them platforms and opportunities to create and share new work. Potential partners like the Shanghai Theatre Academy share our interest in creating new approaches to experimental and immersive experiences through combining artistic and technological skills, and would offer a great development context for the skills Biome Collective members possess, as well as many opportunities to connect with students and emerging creators in the area. Additionally, it would give both partners an opportunity to work cross-culturally and create awareness of their work among existing audiences who are curious about public art, games, and performance across both countries.
Alternately, we would also be interested in working with independent game studios, individual creators, and artists working with digital media to see how we could develop our own experimental and public display experience by using their work and interests as a starting point. Developing exhibitions, festivals, and new collaborations suited to their work will assist emerging creators in the Chinese independent gaming and art scene with presenting their work and finding an audience, as well as increasing the variety of projects Biome Collective has worked with. In either case we feel that these types of partner organisations would be a good fit in terms of shared goals and skills, but also opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration. Further, we would mutually benefit each other by sharing types of projects and collaborations we already have experience with, such as large scale public installations of new digital work, innovative exhibition approaches, and festivals or events that provide opportunities for the general public to learn about experimental and artistic uses of technology, while also providing opportunities for practitioners to learn and share their work.