Lined with arts venues, cinemas, and independent stores, Digbeth in Birmingham, UK has earned its stripes as a creative hub. The suburb has been a magnet for street artists and studio-based creatives as much as heritage seekers hunting the setting for Peaky Blinders, while no listicle on the “Coolest Neighborhoods In The UK,” it seems, goes without mention of Digbeth. From this week, though, that appeal will no longer be solely local, but, in a project by Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT) and Occupy White Walls (OWW), metaversal.
From October 11, BMT will debut an arts and music festival in a digitally recreated Digbeth in OWW’s “artiverse.” KULTURA Sessions: BRUM homages the neighborhood via a “cyber reinterpretation” of its highlights such as Gibb Street and the Custard Factory. Players can visit art installations dotted throughout the environment, and tune in to music and poetry performances — all of which have been created by six West Midlands artists including musician Ace Ambrose, poet Jasmine Gardiso, and new media artist Antonio Roberts.
KULTURA Sessions: BRUM will premiere in a Twitch stream by influencers Blue and Queenie, after which participants can continue to revisit the performances in OWW. The project has been funded by The Space, a digital agency formed by Arts Council England and the BBC to promote and encourage digital innovation across the UK’s cultural sector.
Why it matters
Long before “the metaverse” became common coin in cultural conversations, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG), one of the nine institutions overseen by BMT, was the first museum to enter OWW’s AI-driven MMO space. The partnership saw BMAG reimagine its venue for the video game, allowing players to use artworks from its collection to curate their own virtual galleries. However much a pandemic-era move, the endeavor now seems revelatory in anticipating cultural participation in the metaverse.
Building on BMAG’s project, KULTURA Sessions: BRUM adds the dimension of sound, while tapping the developing appetite for live metaversal events. As BMT notes in its press materials, the new venture with OWW offers new ways for visitors to immersive themselves in the city’s art and culture. Further, “It also opens up data and analytics about how the public engages with BMT on a level never seen before in ‘bricks and mortar’ galleries.”
What they said
“We’d previously partnered with OWW to add Birmingham art collections and even a version of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery to the game, and this project was inspired by the fact that you can now add sound to the game. We thought it would be great to have an event or festival, showcasing Birmingham artists, but what we have is even better than that, as they have created a Digbeth-inspired cityscape within the game for players all over the world to visit.” — Linda Spurdle, Head of Digital, Birmingham Museums
“This collaboration is a terrific example of how immersive technology and AI can help promote and discover artists who don’t normally get access to the elitist art world hegemony.” — Yarden Yaroshevski, Founder and CEO, KULTURA Ex Machina, the developer behind OWW