Invisible Flock
Nov 4 · 4 min read

The Cost of Innovation; Announcing ACE grant to continue to innovate in the creation of new forms of art and challenge the environmental impact of new technologies

The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed - William Gibson

We are delighted to be one of 46 recipients of the Arts Council England Capital: Small Grants programme, allowing us to invest in cutting edge digital tools, residencies, workshops and partnerships, and continue to innovate in the creation of interactive art that creates a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Invisible Flock has worked at the intersection of technology and art for over 10 years, exploring the practical difficulties around access to innovation. As new technologies shape everything in our society, from healthcare to democracy, it is essential that artists have the language, tools and skills to operate and lead in the digital space.

In practical terms the Cost of Innovation is a three year project investigating models and tools for innovation in our sector. A purchasing plan for a series of cutting edge pieces of equipment with a series of research and residency opportunities attached to each exploring new ways of skill sharing within our sector. As well as exploring how true technical innovation can be supported and pushed we will also look at the impact and invisible costs of innovation and the pressures of it both for artists and the environment more generally.

Cutting edge technical equipment remains extremely costly and at arms-length for the majority of artists. Project budgets leave little room for experimentation, iteration or innovation with tools, beyond their *off the shelf use. There is a serious socio-economic barrier to innovation in the cost of new technologies that particularly restricts artists at early stages of their career and means that new methods and models of storytelling lie in the hands of a select few.

We have experienced first-hand how R&D can become restrictive when hire costs of digital tools, cost in the tens of thousands. Investing in equipment and giving artists access for R&D purposes at low to no cost allows multiple artists access at early stages of a process. Removing the risky cost of “is this the right tech for my project” means experimentation can be undertaken without the majority of a budget disappearing or the more common reality of the technical R&D period not being possible at all.

The project crucially interrogates the environmental cost of operating at the edge of technical innovation. Artists are best equipped to lead a discussion on how the “stuff” of technology has one of the highest impacts of all industries.

When we talk of digital innovations we cannot do so without also talking of environmental sustainability. As our societies and economies are increasingly driven by technology, we need to explore how as a sector we have a voice within a digital ecosystem without unnecessarily adding to the destruction of the planet’s natural resources, this seems like an impossible task, but it is essential we find solutions.

This project will develop modular systems of technologies that can be used across multiple platforms, reducing e-waste, maximising equipment’s life cycle and use, while working closely with ethical suppliers; prioritising quality over durability and cost.

As the sector becomes more digitally literate, issues of access to technology need to be addressed to actively prevent a culture where only the narratives of those that can afford it are heard. Removing financial barriers is essential to escalate this culture shift to create greater equality and diversity in technology driven art.

Our approach to using these digital assets will be about collaboration, and bringing together a pool of partners and artists to use and iterate with the tools, the lessons of one practitioner influencing and becoming tools for another. Together we will strive to reach a wide cross section of artists operating in this space working together as industry leaders in the development of creative technology practices.

About Capital: Small Grants — successful applicants:

Further details about the applicants can be found on

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries — from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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Rebecca Ladbury

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