Around 200,000 years ago we gradually evolved into a species capable of communicating through language. This incredible ability to use our breath and mouth to manipulate pulses of air pressure into structured patterns of meaning, and for these to be processed and understood by the strange miniature labyrinthine organs on either side of our heads, is unique on our planet. Our first utterances were transitory, fading with the wind. But we soon became adept at storing and retrieving information and feelings passed between us through the gift of spoken words. This is the genesis of storytelling: a means through which we are able to imagine lived experiences beyond the limitation of our immediate surroundings
Fast forward some 150,000 years and another richly expressive means of communication has flourished. Visualisations of the world and its creatures adorn the spaces where our ancestors took shelter. Fragments of rock and stone are fashioned into representational form and imbued with significance and meaning. Around the same time, we learn to manipulate nature’s sounds into patterns and rhythms which further reflect our increasingly complex thoughts and feelings; and we begin to use our bodies to create symbolic form and movement as communal means of expression and celebration. Art and artefact, music and dance, ritual and representation – all these elements evolve in parallel to our ability to craft natural material into tools for survival; and the environments we inhabit into sheltered spaces and safe settlements.
Written language comes later. An amalgam of all previous cultural forms, it reflects our increasingly developed means and modes of communication and culture. Then, applying our natural instinct to pretend and embody, we learn to perform and share the stories and adventures of those who have come before us. These become mass communal gatherings; collective acts of understanding and edification; safe spaces where we re-experience the dangers and delights of both the real and the imaginary; tales of familiar strangers we will never directly know.
Art and Culture has always made use of the tools and technologies of the time. Yet the fundamentals of creativity and storytelling which drive them have changed little since the forms first evolved. How else are we to understand the complexities of the world around us – in particular the mysteries of the species of which we form part? What else offers us glimpses of explanation for our sensations and feelings, and for the peculiarities of how we humans behave towards each other? It is only within these spaces that we dare to celebrate triumph over imagined adversity, to understand the tragedy of loss of life or love, as rehearsal for the sorrows that our own lives inevitably hold in store. Stories provide us with the vicarious thrills of adventure without risk, the rush of fear without actual danger, the intensity of unbridled passion pitted against reason or sanity.
For our modern lives, these elements are essential not optional. These arts are the currency of the soul, vital for our vitality, one of few precious sources of good in the world. And in these unprecedented times, we have at our disposal the most remarkable tools and technologies, accessible now to more of us than ever before.
But history tells us, painfully, that technological advance can be both for the benefit and detriment of life and well-being, and also that of the planet we inhabit. More often than not, ‘progress’ profits the haves and harms the have-nots. So how do we ensure that the latest and greatest technologies are put to the best possible use?
C-CATS, the Centre for Creative Arts and Technologies, is our humble way of assisting in this mission.
We seek to broaden creativity; to explore and develop the best use of tools and technologies which enable the showing and sharing of stories and experiences for everyone, everywhere.
We embrace new and emerging technologies without turning our back on fundamental skills and techniques.
Democratisation, accessibility, diversity, engagement. These are all essential facets of our work as a centre for research, development, production and skills enhancement in media and performance, including film, animation, visual effects, games, interactivity, immersion, multimedia theatre and virtual production.
We are particularly interested in the spaces which exist between all these forms: cross-overs between animation, digital technology, film, music and live performance; and the interactions between ‘makers’ and ‘players’ in the broadest sense.