Ruth Mackenzie has been appointed interim launch director of online digital arts project The Space, ‘to lead the development of the next phase’.
Mackenzie was director of the successful 2012 Cultural Olympiad and is artistic director designate of the Holland Festival with responsibility from 2015. She appears to have been brought in to provide fresh impetus as the project, whose initial pilot website was closed on 31 October 2013, undergoes a period of transformation.
She will be responsible for ‘overseeing the commissions and content development for The Space’s opening programme, securing associate partners and co-commissioners and recruiting the launch team’.
The Space is a BBC and Arts Council project run jointly through a community interest company.
New BBC director general Tony Hall announced in a recent speech that it would be relaunched in spring 2014 ‘as a dynamic new space for artists and audiences to invent and explore brilliant digital art’, with a rolling programme of open calls to artists and links with arts partners through Creative Scotland, the arts councils of Wales and Northern Ireland, the BFI and British Council. Hall said it would also co-commission ‘large, ambitious digital projects with cultural organisations’.
A summary evaluation of the pilot project published in May 2013 found that, while reaching some objectives, including digital capacity building, ‘Participants tended to rate their own projects highly, but were more mixed about the degree to which The Space content as a whole was innovative. Other arts organisations commenting on The Space felt that while there were a few projects admired by all, which could point the way forward, the artistic output overall was a little too safe, although the audience praised it.
‘Many peers and users felt that the service was too reliant on video and “capture” projects, and that the technical platform should allow for greater interactivity. While audiences responded positively to the look and feel of The Space, they said that it would benefit from a clearer voice and identity.’
The pilot project was curated by the BBC’s head of classical music television, Peter Maniura, on secondment from the BBC. MacKenzie’s responsibility for ‘recruiting the launch team’ suggests the project’s refined objectives will require a new staff.
Mackenzie herself, whose work in the London 2014 Festival put her in the top league of arts administrators, will be hoping through her temporary appointment to establish some clarity of purpose for the project. She said: ‘It has been exciting to work with The Space from its beginning days and I am thrilled to have the chance to take it forward to the next phase.’
Alan Yentob, creative director of the BBC, called Mackenzie ‘the perfect choice to lead the launch’, and ACE’s Alan Davey said it was ‘a marvellous appointment which will help the Space develop innovative digital projects with the stars of today and tomorrow’.