Factory International's Intro to Virtual Tools programme brought together 20 artists based in Greater Manchester across two weekends to develop new skills and learn from world-class digital artists.

One of the artists who took part in the Intro to Virtual Tools programme, Jack Jameson, spoke to us about his/their fascination with the future and shifting his/their practice to incorporate the digital as well as the physical.

Could you tell us about yourself and your practice?

I’m Jack, a queer creative living in Manchester. Over the past two years I’ve journeyed down a long road of self-discovery not only with myself but also in my practice – shifting from film to digital art, increasingly using myself as the subject. A form of gender performance. My creative process can be slow as it’s often research-led, but I also like to have my hand in a lot of aspects of a project – crafting costume and props for example. It’s certainly fun but isn’t the most efficient process. To get by I work as a production assistant for a set construction company – seeing sketches become realities fuels my love for fantasy and the bizarre.

A person rests against a large shell with the ocean in the background. The lower half of their body is a fishtail.

Venus as a Freak by Jack Jameson

What attracted you to Intro to Virtual Tools?

Last year, like many, I got obsessed with the topic of the future and what it holds, most likely because we spent every day locked indoors and glued to our phones. It led me into a period of research about the digital and the physical where I began to develop a digital comic called Control of the Algorythym.

Combined with my ongoing shift to digital art I have become increasingly interested in the possibilities of technology within art. I’ve always been a fan of MIF festivals, having volunteered and taken a creative project management course with the Factory Academy last year. After seeing the course advertised, I thought it may be the perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge of technology and how I could use it to develop my work.

Which workshop or session had the biggest impact on you?

Keiken’s session excited me the most – their range of worldly projects from immersive games with physically sculptured maps to soft robotics. Their merging of the digital and physical is exactly what I’ve been delving into over the past year. Also, the fact that they had started their collective from their own bedrooms after living together at university. It made anything feel possible in the ever-digitalising world that we live in.

It has opened my thinking about how I create, how the imagination of a world can now be very easily created, it doesn’t have to be a physical set.

Jack Jameson

What was it like being a part of a cohort of artists?

I have to commend the Virtual Tools production team for bringing together such a range of creatives from all walks of life. From game developers to actors, everyone was there with a common purpose, to expand their knowledge of new possibilities. Although I am not quite ready for a new project, I have been thinking a lot about the people I met and how collaboration could be formed. I hope there are more opportunities for us to meet up.

Did you come up with any new ideas to explore during this time?

I have not yet found my next big project; I am in a space of expanded thought. However, I have a few ideas of how I can experiment with the tools I was introduced to, although my owning of technology can be limiting at times.

How has the scheme influenced your artistic practice?

It has opened my thinking about how I create, how the imagination of a world can now be very easily created, it doesn’t have to be a physical set. However, execution of this takes time to develop.

A man and a woman standing in a darkened art gallery, each wearing a Virtual Reality headset and holding a black controller. They are playing a game by the artist Rachel Maclean.

Intro to Virtual Tools workshop, one of Factory International's Artist Development programmes.

What are you currently up to?

Currently, I am enjoying my summer. I faced a lot of issues with projects over the COVID-19 pandemic and for other reasons. However, this year I have truly found myself and my kin. I have just moved into a new place; [at the time of writing] it’s Pride weekend and I am more excited for the future than ever.

Any advice for artists and creatives?

Don’t think, just do – but also think! That’s coming from a Virgo. I love thought but it’s often my own worst enemy – it can explore every corner but restrict the actual making. The creative world is more competitive than ever – everyone owns a camera and therefore anyone can create. Social media makes it feel impossible to keep up with the amount of work that is released, but not all work is good work, even your own. Don’t let it dishearten you – you’re doing great sweetie.

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