Swansea scientists collaborate on East London Crowd Control social experiment

Behavioural science researchers from Swansea University are collaborating with artists, curators, and specialists in performance, sound, law, and urban design as part of the forthcoming Crowd Control social experiment organised by Arebyte Gallery in East London.

The month-long interdisciplinary project, which begins on Thursday, June 29 and runs until Sunday, July 23, will take place in Hackney Wick and surrounding areas in East London, and aims to creatively explore the collective behaviour and interactions between individuals, groups, and their environments.

Crowd Control 1 - fishThe project is collaboration between artist Heather Barnett, currently Leverhulme Artist in Residence hosted at Swansea University, who is exploring Animal Collectives; Arebyte Gallery director and curator Nimrod Vardi; and Swansea University behavioural scientists Dr Andrew King and Dr Ines Fürtbauer, based within the College of Science.

Dr Andrew King, Associate Professor and Behavioural Ecologist at Swansea University, said: “I met Heather whilst running an experiment at the Science Museum, London.

"We got chatting and had some crazy ideas for science-art projects; thanks to a Leverhulme Grant she is now an Artist in Residence in Swansea and we are working on making these ideas a reality!”

Dr Ines Fürtbauer, Senior Lecturer and Behavioural Endocrinologist at Swansea University, added: “The opportunity for our research teams to develop experiments and experiences with Crowd Control at the Arebyte Gallery is fantastic. But it is a real challenge to not only think about how we can generate useful data and answer scientific questions, but also create interesting experiences for people!”

Heather Barnett, Leverhulme Artist in Residence hosted by Swansea University, said: “By connecting visual, digital and performance art practices with contemporary scientific research and urban design, Crowd Control will explore human communication, cooperation and collective intelligence.

Crowd Control 2 - sheep“The team will create experiences, experiments and interventions that explore how groups move together, transfer information, make decisions and respond to changing environmental conditions. As well as being enjoyable, the games, activities and participatory events will collect data and imagery, which will in turn feed into the development of artworks.”

Focusing on creative engagement, the project will work directly with local groups, exploring unspoken communication systems and motion dynamics, hosting mass participation exercises and observing the language of gesture on the streets of Hackney Wick.

Taking inspiration from the collective dynamics of nonhuman groups, such as shoaling fish and flocking birds, and the expertise of Dr Andrew King and Dr Ines Fürtbauer and the work of their research groups that study the behaviour and physiology of social animals, the complex patterns of human behaviour will be investigated in imaginative and inquisitive ways.

Crowd Control 3 - sheepThe project will culminate in a public Crowd Control Festival, from July21-23, featuring a weekend of exhibitions, experiments, and spontaneous happenings at a range of venues and sites throughout Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Crowd Control Events:

Saturday Experimentals – July 8 and 15, 1-5pm.  Drop into Crowd Control HQ at Arebyte to meet the researchers and help test some collective behaviour experiments as they are being created.

Crowd Control Festival – Arebyte White Post Lane, Arebyte Wallis Road, and other locations to be confirmed. Opening night is Friday, July 21, from 6-9pm. Events Programme, July 22-23, times to be confirmed.  

Detailed information on events will be confirmed in early July.  Check the website and social media for latest information and to see how the project unfolds.


For further information visit www.crowdcontrol.london; follow the project on Twitter @crowdcontrolldn; or visit the project Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CrowdControlLDN