Nike “Feel London”: Hellicar and Lewis

The creative duo talk to Dazed ahead of debuting FEEL TV at Nike's 1948 Shoreditch space

Fashion Q+A
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On 17th October, creative partners Hellicar and Lewis (Pete Hellicar and Joel Gethin Lewis) are debuting FEEL TV at Nike's 1948 space in Shoreditch as part of the "Feel London" series of events and workshops inspired by the Nike Free Hyperfeel. This unprecedented event allows viewers to influence the event through a live interactive online broadcast, which will be hosted on Dazed Digital. 

Broadcast is at the heart of Hellicar and Lewis' practice as a team directly at the intersection of art and technology. They believe in the power of the DIY, sharing code, helping others, and openly collaborating. In our interview with them, they talk how "the real world is where memories are made" and the reality of anyone being able to broadcast and re-contextualize the world around them.

On 20th October, the duo is also hosting a workshop with the Nike Innovation Kitchen. Sign up for the workshops on www.nike.com/FeelLondon.

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Dazed Digital: How were you approached by Nike to be a part of "Feel London" and FEEL TV?

Joel Gethin Lewis: We did a proposal last year for this project in London based around doing a TV broadcast. Nike didn’t feel it was the right time, but they loved the idea, and we were pleasantly surprised this year when they got in contact, and it had been rejuvenated as a concept.

DD: What inspires you about the design of the Nike Free Hyperfeel?

Joel: I think that the general idea of performance and being able to feel directly what is going on actually ties into a lot of things that Hellicar and Lewis really care about, like truth. We try to make, truthful honest installations, as in, the interaction methods are very clear. You can draw a parallel between that and what Nike is trying to do with the Hyperfeel shoes—giving the runner the truth about what surfaces they’re running over.

The idea with broadcast is that it’s trying to go back to that place when TV Party was first coming out in the states, when MTV was good—all of this stuff that is slightly more risky and not so dry. We really want to get to a place where we re-contextualize it

DD: How do you feel that interactive technologies, like the livestream for FEEL TV, connect and expose people to a moment and to each other? Can you explain how viewers will be able to interact and influence these performances at 1948 in real time?

Joel: There are three different kinds of interactions systems. There are direct commands, so you can change the visual effects being shown on the livestream that’s happening. You can switch between different visual effects. You can also post in real time.

We’re just really excited about making systems that can create feedback loops. That’s the main area that Pete and I have been interested in for the last five years—how we can make interactive feedback loops between people, spaces, and technology. That idea is something we’ve been exploring for a long time. 

One of the things that we wanted to try on this project is taking that idea of a feedback loop into a live broadcast. What will happen is that someone can change the way a broadcast looks while they are watching it. As much as you can ask a question and think of something in your head, it’s probably not a very interesting idea, but if you can come up with a system where the only way to find out how it will work and what it will feel like is by doing it—that’s what we’re interested in. 

We are interested in what happens to broadcast when people can change it while they’re viewing and interacting with it in real time. There are three modes of interaction that I was talking about before. Number one is commands, where you’re able to change the way the broadcast looks as it’s happening. Number two is you’re able to send messages to the screen. Number three is voting, where you’re able to actually vote on what’s happening during the show interactively, just by tweeting.

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Pete Hellicar: It’s like X-Factor, QVC, and pirate radio all put together in one big, massive, lovely joyous bimble! We’re not interested in television. We think television is rubbish. It’s becoming ever more homogenized by the day. I don’t know if you saw the latest FOX news touchscreen affair that they put together…everything about television is wrong. So what we want to do is get to a place where it’s not about TV, it's about broadcast. 

The idea with broadcast is that it’s trying to go back to that place when TV Party was first coming out in the states, when MTV was good—all of this stuff that is slightly more risky and not so dry. We really want to get to a place where we re-contextualize it. What happens if a load of teenagers can all broadcast themselves? You want to build something that allows everyone to broadcast if they want to.

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DD: Who does what in your team? Do you split the work evenly or do each of you have specialties when it comes to conceptualizing and executing a project?

Pete: It's all Joel. I don't do anything.

Joel: We both talk about the ideas together, and we both argue about them as a general creative process. My area of expertise is probably a bit more on the development side of things, and Pete does more of the art direction. We both know enough about the other person's subject and area of expertise to be able to start an argument at any time.

Pete: That's not true, Joel!

Joel: Yes, it is!

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DD: How has your practice evolved over the years? Have you always been interested in the educational, philanthropic aspects of art and design, like the Somantics project?

Pete: I come from a background of skating, and I've always taught people to skate, so I've thought about ways to pass on knowledge in a way that makes it accessible and available to all. I've brought that from my skating background into what we're doing. Joel had been working with a doctor on this autism software, and we realized that between us, we had quite a good and interesting method for coming up with ideas to be used in an educational environment. We've done lots and lots of color testing and iterative design.

Joel: Pete and I come from disparate backgrounds as he's just described, but we realized that the more time we've spent in this partnership making real work together, Pete has been doing open source work his entire life anyway—he just didn't call it that. Skateboarding has always organized itself in a very much DIY, bootstrapping method. It's been really great to realize that we're both attacking the same problem from different directions.

Pete: There are a lot of similarities with the open source community, the coders, the skaters, the musicians; there's a lot of sharing, basically. 

Joel: Something we really believe about this consumerist world we live in, the question we always come back to, is—what's cooler than liking a band? It's cooler to be in a band. The coolest thing is to make music not just listen to music. We feel like that's been very important to take into our work in terms of interaction and software. It's all very well to interact with projection, but what makes us most excited is when people take our source code and make new, great projects that we couldn't have imagined in the first place.

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DD: You have said "we love the Internet, but the real world is where memories are made." Do you think it's at all possible to create memories online?

Pete: No.

Joel: We think memories are always related to the real world. It was a provocation, right? To say that memories aren't made on the Internet. But we think that most of that does go on the Internet is intimately related to the real world.

Pete: I think Joel's point is that the strongest memories are made in the real world, because you have far more of your senses available to you IRL. Those things are ingrained in you, right in the depths of the psyche, whereas on the Internet, all you're doing is looking and pressing buttons like a  chimp. We want people to actually experience stuff, which is why we're keen to make our experiences happen in the real world and then spreading them online.

Joel: We love the web, we think the web's a great place for sharing and spreading stories, but we think the real world is still a killer act. 

DD: What will you do for your workshop on 20th October with Nike Innovation Kitchen?

Joel: We've got this technique that we use in a lot of our projects called paper prototyping. What we'll be doing is taking the technology platform that we've developed for this project and broadcast in general, and then offering that up in a workshop to see what new ideas we can make and what the next level is with everyone in the room. When taking this platform as a beginning point, what can everyone else make? What happens with television isn't just one to many, it's many to many. 

Pete: That goes back to what we were talking about before with wanting to democratize broadcasting. What will people do in the future if they can broadcast their own ideas without having to go via any channels? That's the nice thing about how we work, and it's very exciting for us—the not knowing.

DD: What advice do you have for young people looking to get involved in the intersection of art and technology?

Pete: Technology is not an idea. 

Joel: Remember that technology is not an idea in itself. You've got to have an interaction that's interesting. The most important thing is cultivating the key skills that are useful for art direction or otherwise. Listen to music, learn to code, and then just be honest with yourself—be truthful, and don't worry about "being cool."

Pete: Or making mistakes. 

Joel: Make mistakes, and just remember that the coolest thing in the world is not being cool. 

DD: Do you have anything else you'd like to add about the project?

Pete: Just do it!

To win 1 of 5 pairs of tickets to FEEL TV on Thursday October 17th fill in your details below.

Nike 1948 -Arches 447-478, Bateman's Row, London EC1A 3HH

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