Writer, maker and circus master Leila Johnston’s quarterly magazine and event series Hack Circus ‘For Makers, Players & Explorers’ celebrates and questions the union of art, science and technology as well as delving into questions of how stuff works and how things can be modified to create different and often unusual results.
Sowing the Seeds of Hack Circus
The idea for Hack Circus has been on the back burner for over 10 years, while has been Leila exploring, questioning and reporting the use of technology in art, hacking in the form in which it is most associated – manipulation of code and computer interfaces and the more recent definition of taking something with a specific use, transforming it and giving it an entirely identity.
Her naturally curious and questioning mind and gift in being able to synthesise and communicate quite complex ideas, has led her to become a spokesperson for ‘generation hack’ and the art and craft of technology. As well as writing several books (See Enemy of Chaos, How to Worry Friends and Inconvenience People and The Inner Head) and articles generally questioning how the world works and deconstructing preconceived ideas, quite literally turning them upside down and inside out, her regular ‘in conversation’ podcasts Shift Run Stop where she chats about pretty much everything with friend and tech enthusiast Roo Reynolds, have also added to her perhaps unconscious, but certainly effective, unpicking of locks and opening of wardrobe doors into this mysterious Geekdom and shining an LED light on its fascinating citizens and providing a safe-haven for them to grow.
Finally, the time is right, we’ve come to terms with technology as part of everyday life, there is a regenerated interest in science, interdisciplinary tech meets art, meets science events are rife and coding is now cool, so bring on Hack Circus led by the natural and self-proclaimed shepherdess Leila Johnston.
Like most of the ‘Seeds’ celebrated on this website, there was no specific plan but more a series of collaborations and encounters that led to the final result. The first incarnation was a paper called ‘Hackers’ printed in 2011 as the flagship paper for the utopian print group Newspaper Club, but realised that the look and feel of the magazine was almost as important as the content, so with a little help from acquaintances along the way, some cost calculations, and the conclusion that there is a growing market for boutique items delivered to your door. The result is a beautifully designed, colour printed mag that you want to keep.
Hack Circus N°1 around the theme of ‘Time and Time Travel’ was published last October with an event based around the subject in London, followed by the second issue ‘Reality’ just recently off-the-press with an associated event at Sheffield’s Site Gallery. The latest issue deconstructs different areas of reality, posing the important question ‘What makes you so sure you’re not just a brain in a jar?’
The next theme is ‘Access all Areas’ covering encryption, codes, locks and all manner of ways to get into or protect your space, data and life. It looks as though the Hack Circus events are to be a roaming circus with the next event planned for the summer around the same theme somewhere else in the country (TBC).
There are a multitude of resources and events for Hackers and Makers available both online and in the city as people become more and more fascinated with how things work and how to they can be manipulated or ‘hacked’ to work differently. The Hackesphere is branching out in all directions from turning computer consoles into music instruments (see Superbyte Festival), Ikea cashing in on furniture hacking, art meets tech hack events such as Hack The Barbican last year, dedicated spaces to making and tech collaborations like Hack Space and courses in how to make your own gadgets with Technology Will Save Us featured previously on SeedTheCIty. The separation between the past and the future is itself being hacked with making the possibilities endless!