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Giant bug installation from award-winning theatre makers Trigger to host free creative programme for all ages. 

Joint initiative involving University of Oxford academics to celebrate the works of Kafka and bring to a wider audience. 

Visitors to University Parks this Spring should be persuaded not to apply more insect repellent as a gigantic half-man half-insect lands from 31 May – 2 June. 

Created and presented by award-winning producers Trigger (The Hatchling / PoliNations), in collaboration with The Cultural Programme, the ‘Jitterbug’ is an enormous 14 metre inflatable bug tent which will be the setting for a free programme of activities with workshops and events for all ages. From talks, yoga and crafting to storytelling hosted by the Story Museum and a drag cabaret extravaganza in the evening, the event also features a brand-new collaboration between Oxford-based MC Rawz and aerialist Julia Sparkle.  

Celebrating Franz Kafka’s work ‘Metamorphosis’ the concept for the ‘Jitterbug’ was created in conjunction with academics from the University of Oxford, some of whom will be appearing at the event. It is designed to highlight the importance of recognising beauty from within a person and forms part of the centenary celebrations for the writer, part of the ‘Kafka’s Transformative Communities’ project from the Kafka Research Centre: #OxfordKafka24. 

Booking is now open for all workshops. Please visit: oxfordculturalprogramme.org.uk/event/jitterbug 

Some of the key highlights include: 

Friday 31 May: Oxford-based The Story Museum will take over the Jitterbug tent for storytelling and crafting during the day.  

At 8pm there will be a special evening performance by international superstar, Meow Meow, who will grace the audience with some of her trademark Kafkaesque musical mayhem. (Tickets priced at £10). 

Saturday 1 June: A Bugify me workshop transforming old clothes into new during the day will be followed by ‘Cabaret at the Jitterbug’ in the evening with a performance by Dragademia. ‘Chrysalis’ will also be performed by esteemed local artists and University of Oxford fellow, Rawz and aerialist Julia Sparkle.  

Sunday 2 June:  Meet some special buggy guests on an insect adventure, followed by an engaging panel discussion delving into the world of insects and their pivotal role in shaping the future. 

John Fulljames, Director of the Humanities Cultural programme, says: 

“We can’t wait to welcome people from across the city and beyond to the Jitterbug events which should be a lot of fun and bring Kafka’s world to life”  

Angie Bual, Creative Director of Trigger says: 

“We are so excited to bring our extraordinary and fantastical Jitterbug to the people of Oxford. There really will be something for everyone! From early morning yoga sessions to creative writing sessions, opportunities to get up close and personal with bugs and let loose at our evening cabaret. We’re thrilled to have collaborated with The Cultural Programme to present this colourful celebration of transformation and discovery. See you in the bug!” 

The Jitterbug is conceived by Creative Director Angie Bual (Trigger), designed by world class designer Carl Robertshaw (Kylie Minogue, Stranger Things) and is fabricated by Studio Souffle.   

The Cultural Programme at the University of Oxford was set up to deliver world-class arts and culture from around the world in preparation for the opening of Oxford’s new Schwarzman Centre, a state-of-the-art academic, exhibition and performance space, due to open in 2025.  

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities celebrated reaching a new milestone this week.

The Centre, which began construction in January 2023, has reached its highest point and was commemorated with a topping out ceremony.

The event began with an afternoon of cultural activities produced and promoted by the University’s Cultural Programme and included performances from the Castalian String Quartet, Quartet in Residence at the Faculty of Music and from the Oxford Gamelan Society.

The festivities ended with the symbolic placement of a yew branch taken from a 379-year-old yew tree from the University’s Botanic Gardens. Professor William Whyte, Senior Responsible Owner, said: ‘Planted by the first Curator of Oxford’s Botanic Garden, Jacob Bobart, it is the oldest plant in the collection and binds the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities into the long history of the University, as well as the long-standing tradition of topping out.’

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities will house together Oxford’s Faculties of English, History, Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics, Medieval & Modern Languages, Music, Philosophy, and Theology & Religion in a space designed to encourage experiential learning and bold experimentation through cross-disciplinary and collaborative study.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, said: ‘I am thrilled to celebrate this milestone in the construction of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. Buildings need to be inspirational if we’re to create spaces that enable our staff and students to fulfil their potential and do ground-breaking teaching and research. We are incredibly grateful to Stephen Schwarzman for his generous support for the Humanities, underpinning our commitment to continued excellence in this crucial area of study, and I look forward to seeing this space buzzing with students, staff and members of the community when it opens next year.’

Head of Humanities, Professor Dan Grimley, said: ‘It is inspiring to celebrate this landmark in the creation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. When it opens in Autumn 2025, the Centre will be a beacon for the arts and humanities in the Oxford region, nationally, and beyond. It will welcome a diverse community of students, teachers, researchers, creative artists, and members of the public. We are indebted to Stephen A. Schwarzman for his generosity, vision, and his far-sighted support.’

The project, delivered by Laing O’Rourke, is the single largest building project the University has undertaken and will include a 500-seat concert hall, theatre, the Black Box experimental performance space, cinema, exhibition hall, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, café and gardens.

Deputy Head of Capital Projects, Jennifer Makkreel, said: ‘The University has worked to deliver buildings with Laing O’Rourke for over 20 years and it is wonderful to be topping out our 12th building together. Reaching this milestone on time and to the environmental and acoustic quality standards has been an impressive achievement for the team.’

A multidisciplinary artist residency exploring the potential of immersive art and technology to interrogate our notions of reality and consciousness

7 May 2024 : Mediale is delighted to announce the six creatives commissioned for Immersive Assembly Vol 4: Dreams & Echoes (IA4), their early career digital artists and creators development programme, supported by the Cultural Programme at The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, University of Oxford, and the Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub at Jesus College, Oxford, a dynamic new space dedicated to exploring the latest advances in digital technologies.

Over five months, the programme will support the 2024 cohort to collaborate and develop projects inspired by the theme ‘Dreams & Echoes’. Working alongside a dedicated University of Oxford academic research partner, each creative will explore the potential of immersive media in interrogating our perception of consciousness and enabling new interpretations of ‘reality’ now and in the future.

As our understanding of consciousness evolves beyond human thinking, IA4 will provide participants with the opportunity to draw on the University’s world-leading research to explore areas such as neuroscience, mental health and medical science expertise, as well as cutting edge AI and ethics research, and globally leading immersive art.

John Fulljames, Director, Cultural Programme, says: ”This open call has seen a record number of applicants wanting to create new, innovative work with Mediale.  We are delighted they will be working in partnership with researchers at Oxford University to develop new digital experiences.  It was great to see so much talent and so many brilliant artistic ideas and exciting to think that some of these artists may in time make and present work in the Schwarzman Centre, Oxford’s new home for the humanities.”

Dr Janina Schupp, Curator, Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub, says: “We are thrilled to welcome such a wonderful artist cohort, and our partners, to the Digital Hub at Jesus College, Oxford. The applications received already show the incredible potential of immersive media in creative practice, which will now be infused with cutting-edge academic research to generate unique creative discussions between artists and academics. We look forward to exhibiting the “Dreams and Echoes” generated through this stimulating collaboration.”

The six UK-based creatives comprising the 2024 IA4 cohort are:

  1. Vicky Clarke (Manchester) – a sound and electronic media artist whose work explores materiality, electrical phenomena and ritual. Working with sound sculpture, DIY electronics and human-machine systems, she explores our relationship to technology considering themes of human agency in autonomous systems, post-industrialisation and the techno-emotional states we experience through these networked interactions. Her work takes the form of composition and live AV performance, DIY machines & sculpture, digital art & research.
  1. Michelle Collier (Manchester)-a writer, artist and digital maker fascinated by why and how we tell stories – from ancient myth to modern lore, and everything in between. What do these stories say about us, our identities, our fears? How might we use stories to conjure new worlds? Michelle’s work spans illustration, print, games, immersive, digital art, XR, video, short fiction, experimental poetry and more.  
  1. Chipo Mapondera (Margate) -a creative technologist exploring alternative realities rooted in Zimbabwean traditional cultures. Her work seeks to expand XR narratives and audiences, and to diversify cultural information, creating virtual worlds depicting multi-layered Afrofuturistic dreamscapes. Chipo is the founder of Global Digital Futures, the platform for cutting edge conversations on digital media and technology in the Global South.
  1. Jazmin Morris (Leeds)a creative computing artist and educator, Jazmin’s practice and research explore representation and inclusivity within technology. She uses free and open-source tools to create digital experiences that highlight issues surrounding gender, race and power, focusing on the complexities of simulating culture and identity. Her work spans across a range of digital media with audience participation often a key part of her experiences.
  1. Alysha Nelson (London) a multidisciplinary artist specialising in immersive performance and live art, exploring themes of cultural heritage, climate resilience, post-colonialism, and perception. Her practice encompasses theatre, visual art, virtual and augmented reality often using immersive technologies to champion and preserve marginalised histories and voices. She has collaborated with renowned VR & AR studios, arts, cultural, and educational institutes, democratising nascent technologies through affordable, accessible installations and immersive experiences for the general public.
  1. Chris Tegho (London)a machine learning engineer with a focus on computer vision, language modelling, and generative models. Chris is particularly interested in the intersection of art and machine learning, exploring themes of multiplicity, relations to others, queer experiences of belonging, and movement. Recent collaborations include work with artist Zach Blas for the Berlin Biennale, which utilised diffusion models to synthesise video, and an installation commissioned by Arebyte Gallery, London and Secession, Austria, featuring text generation and addressing AI religiosity in the tech industry.

Tom Higham, Creative Director, Mediale says: “We’re so excited to be launching IA4 in collaboration with the Cultural Programme at the Schwarzman Centre, University of Oxford, and the Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub at Jesus College, Oxford. The unparalleled research and academic expertise the artists have access to this year will no doubt result in some wonderful projects. Having received over 200 applications for this year’s programme, the standard keeps going up. The need, energy and momentum around well-designed talent development opportunities in digital art is impossible to ignore. 

The residency will conclude in November 2024 with a public showcase of three new immersive project prototypes developed by the cohort.

Learn more about Immersive Assembly Vol. 4  HERE

A range of spectacular events are set to take place at venues across Oxford during May and June celebrating the literary works and global legacy of the writer, Franz Kafka 100 years after his death.

The Cultural Programme, part of the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford, will be hosting three events encouraging people in and around Oxford to connect with artists, performers and creatives as part of the centenary celebrations organised by the University: #OxfordKafka24.

Following two previous sold-out performances, Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective will perform a new concert, ‘Transfigured’, at The Sheldonian Theatre on Friday 24 May. Exploring themes of metamorphosis and transformations in two of the most thrilling works in the repertoire, their richly expressive programme will feature fast-rising star soprano Francesca Chiejina.

From 31 May to 2 June, University Park will be taken over by ‘Jitterbug’, an incredible and enormous inflatable bug tent from award-winning artists, Trigger. Celebrating Kafka’s work ‘Metamorphosis’, a free programme of day-to-night creative activities will take place inside the insect, with workshops and events for all ages. From talks, yoga and crafting to storytelling hosted by the Story Museum, a drag cabaret extravaganza, and a brand-new collaboration between Oxford-based MC Rawz and aerialist Julia Sparkle. The programme will unfold within the epic Jitterbug structure, designed by the acclaimed Carl Robertshaw (Kylie Minogue, Stranger Things).

The Old Fire Station will host the world premiere of a dance/music theatre adaption of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Hunger Artist’ from 3 to 5 June. Choreographed and directed by celebrated choreographer Arthur Pita, the immersive dance ‘spectacle’ features dance virtuoso, Edward Watson, and the renowned rebel chanteuse, Meow Meow, with music composed and performed by long-standing collaborator, Frank Moon.

John Fulljames, Director of the Humanities Cultural programme, says:

“This is the latest in a series of extraordinary public shared experiences we are set to bring to Oxford. We want everyone to enjoy the benefits of art and culture and I’m grateful to the team and our partners for enabling us to bring some truly outstanding performances which I would encourage everyone to attend.”

In collaboration with the AHRC project ‘Kafka’s Transformative Communities‘, the #OxfordKafka24 campaign features a new free exhibition at the Bodleian’s Weston Library: ‘Kafka: Making of an Icon’ (30 May-27 October) and a University-wide series of academic and public events taking place across 2024 exploring Kafka’s global appeal. This will include a public reading of Metamorphosis in the Sheldon Theatre on 3 June, with leading literary figures, Oxford civic leaders, and student societies.

The Cultural Programme at the University of Oxford is building a programme of world-class arts and culture from around the globe in preparation for the opening of Oxford’s new Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, a state-of-the-art academic, exhibition, and performance space, due to open in 2025.

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