Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

20 October 2016

Imaginary Cities - British Library Labs Project

Posted by Mahendra Mahey on behalf of Michael Takeo Magruder, first runner up in the British Library Labs Competition 2016.

Michael will be working with the BL Labs team between November 2016 and March 2017 on his project 'Imaginary Cities' which is described below: 

Imaginary Cities
by Michael Takeo Magruder, visual artist and researcher

Exploring the British Library’s digital collection of historic urban maps to create provocative fictional cityscapes for the Information Age

About the project:

Takeo_DS-Blog_Imaginary Cities study detailImaginary Cities (study i), Michael Takeo Magruder, 2016 – aesthetic rendering that has been procedurally generated from a 19th century map of London

Imaginary Cities is an arts-humanities research project that considers how large digital repositories of historic cultural materials can be used to create new born-digital artworks and real-time experiences which are relevant and exciting to 21st century audiences. The project will take images and associated metadata of pre-20th century urban maps drawn from the British Library’s online “1 Million Images from Scanned Books” digital collection on Flickr Commons and transform this material into provocative fictional cityscapes for the Information Age.

Takeo_DS-Blog_Flickr source
Imaginary Cities (study i), Michael Takeo Magruder, 2016 – source digitised map and associated metadata parsed from British Library Flickr Commons

The project will exemplify collaborative and interdisciplinary research as it will bring together contemporary arts practice, digital humanities scholarship and advanced visualisation technology. The project’s outcomes will encompass both artistic and scholarly outputs, most important of which will be a set of prototype digital artworks that will exist as physical installations constructed with leading-edge processes including generative systems, real-time virtual environments and 3D printing. Blending the historical and the contemporary, the informative and the aesthetic, these artworks will not only draw from and feed into the British Library’s digital scholarship and curatorial programmes, but more significantly, will engender new ways for members of the general public to discover and access the Library’s important digital collections and research initiatives.

Takeo_DS-Blog_Imaginary Cities study
Imaginary Cities (study i), Michael Takeo Magruder, 2016 – detail of the aesthetic rendering

If you would like to meet Michael, he will be at the British Library Labs Symposium on Monday 7th of November 2016, at the British Library in London to talk about his work.

About the artist:

Michael Takeo Magruder

Michael Takeo Magruder (b.1974, US/UK, is a visual artist and researcher who works with new media including real-time data, digital archives, immersive environments, mobile devices and virtual worlds. His practice explores concepts ranging from media criticism and aesthetic journalism to digital formalism and computational aesthetics, deploying Information Age technologies and systems to examine our networked, media-rich world.

In the last 15 years, Michael’s projects have been showcased in over 250 exhibitions in 34 countries, and his art has been supported by numerous funding bodies and public galleries within the UK, US and EU. In 2010, Michael represented the UK at Manifesta 8: the European Biennial of Contemporary Art and several of his most well-known digital artworks were added to the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art at Cornell University. More recently, he was a Leverhulme Trust artist-in-residence (2013-14) collaborating with Prof Ben Quash (Theology, King’s College London) and Alfredo Cramerotti (Director, Mostyn) to create a new solo exhibition - entitled De/coding the Apocalypse - exploring contemporary creative visions inspired by and based on the Book of Revelation. In 2014, Michael was commissioned by the UK-based theatre company Headlong to create two new artworks - PRISM (a new media installation reflecting on Headlong’s production of George Orwell’s 1984) and The Nether Realm (a living virtual world inspired by Jennifer Haley’s play The Nether). Last year, he was awarded the 2015 Immersive Environments Lumen Prize for his virtual reality installation A New Jerusalem.