Our website uses cookies. See our cookies page for information about them and how you can remove or block them. Click here to opt in to our cookies

Get to know... NEoN

NEoN (or North East of North if you'd rather) is a digital arts festival, taking place in Dundee every November.

One of Creative Scotland's Regularly Funded Organisations for 2018-21, the festival's mission is the celebrate the best of digital arts, by showcasing work from a range of local, national and international artists.

Founded ten years ago, Director Donna Holford-Lovell explains that "it was originally going to be an industry-focused programme related to Dundee’s place in the international gaming scene, but that idea was quickly dropped in favour of a festival.

"We were bored of business conferences and we wanted to focus on moving image, game demos, concept art and how to expand the idea of digital art generally. A festival with talks, performances, screenings and exhibitions is much better."

Our core mission, to deliver a great digital arts festival, doesn’t change- Donna Holford-Lovell

With a focus on moving image, music and information technologies, the festival offers talks, performances, screenings and exhibitions that expand on the notion of art, information communication, media production and game design.

Inspirational speakers, from Bud Luckey to Ei Wada

Early editions of the festival included keynote addresses from Bud Luckey, animator and character designer for Toy Story (2009); a collaboration with Creative Dundee (2011); an exhibition and city intervention from Danish arts collective N55 (2010), and a performance of Matthew Herbert’s One Pig, programmed in association with Dundee Rep Theatre (2012).

2013 marked the creation of NEoN as a charity and its continuation as the only digital arts festival in Scotland. Since then, it has only gone from strength to strength.

"One highlight for me was working on the commission from Ei Wada, Sounds from Stripes," Donna says, referring to 2015's edition, in which NEoN took the theme North East of North Asia and explored digital works from across Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan.

"I’ve been obsessed with Japanese culture for years," she explains, "so it was a dream come true to work with him.

"In 2015 I was able to travel to Japan to meet with him and his gallery manager, which led to him having his UK premiere at NEoN. I was also able to commission a new work from Akinori Oishi, another Japanese artist, for our second ever festival in 2010 – which was definitely a personal highlight."

Time to REACT

In 2019, the theme is REACT, centering on digital art and activism.

"We’ve been connecting with artists who use digital arts to react to our current socio-political climate," Donna says, "whether that’s through making work to do with global warming or intersectional identity politics.

"We have a wonderful team of curators, including Clare Brennan, Sarah Cook and Joseph DeLappe, who put together the programme including inviting the speakers for our annual symposium and deciding which works will be exhibited where."

REACT will bring together emerging and established digital artists, activists and community groups, asking what role digital art can play in political systems.

The spring, Donna says, is the time for deciding on the shape of the festival.

"It changes year on year depending on the team of co-curators involved – Clare’s been with us since the beginning for instance, while Joseph only came on board last year – and what our theme is.

"Sarah and I have mapped out themes in advance but they morph in reponse to what art work we are most excited about. Our core mission, to deliver a great digital arts festival, doesn’t change!"

Becoming an RFO

'We’re very fortunate to have support from Creative Scotland," Donna says.

"Becoming a Regularly Funded Organisation with Creative Scotland makes us very proud and proves we’re doing great things and that there’s an appetite for what we do."

Images: Lifespans (Kathryn Rattray); Lifespans (Kathryn Rattray); Spirit Molecule (Kathryn Rattray); Pecha Kucha with Creative Dundee (Kathryn Rattray) - used with permission from NEoN.

This article was published on 24 May 2019