Nathan T. Dean is a writer, artist and theatre practitioner based in Lincoln, UK. Taking inspiration from new weird, postmodernism, his own existential crises, and a bank of literary interests, Nathan strives to create novels, plays and pieces that tackle the absurd and uncomfortable.

“This century’s art should be about connection, people to people communication without cultural gatekeepers and about the authentic voice that speaks from experience.” – Barry Hale, Frequency Festival Organiser

I’m stood in an enclosed space of Lincoln Castle, listening to children squeal in delight, men and women discussing a visual display amorphous and swirling about them amid crashing noises, and watching a grand 3D projection right before my eyes. Margaret Thatcher blurs and warps into King Richard, as temples fall, civilisations clash, people are imprisoned and set free; this is seeper’s (2015) contribution to The Frequency Festival, a projection exploring the scope of human freedom, displayed against Lincoln Castle’s walls, directly connecting the past to the present to the future. The Castle is historically and politically significant not just to the people of Lincolnshire but also of the world; to  include in the piece the destruction of King Richard – who opposed the Magna Carta, a document which gave birth to American Independence, property rights, and freedom as we recognise it today – through the medium of light projection, narrative and art, was a perfect metaphor and conclusion to a festival celebrating collaboration and accessibility within the art collective.


  • Showreel for Seeper’s work in 2015
  • seeper 3- Credit John Bennett

    Seeper installation in Lincoln Castle for Frequency Festival – John Bennett, 2015
  • seeper 6 - Credit John Bennett

    Seeper installation in Lincoln Castle for Frequency Festival – John Bennett, 2015

  • seeper 2 - Credit Benjamin Kidd

    Seeper installation in Lincoln Castle for Frequency Festival – Benjamin Kidd, 2015

Seeper is an interactive and digital art studio based in London that creates installations for major brands.

The theme of this year’s (2015) Frequency Festival was liberation, a resonant yet complex topic in the 21st century. “Frequency’s primary role is to present art to new audiences in Lincoln in a way that complements the city’s image of its past and its ambitions for its future. [It] presents a high-quality, no-barriers festival platform for celebrating the county’s talent and for building creative, collaborative and professional networks” says Barry Hale, festival organiser.

It is no accident that the terms “platform” and “networks” are metaphors borrowed from web 2.0; the interplay between art and technology is one of the main driving forces behind the “liberation” that Frequency celebrates. Opening up this interrelation between gaming culture, the indie mentality, and the arts world, creates a collaborative atmosphere. By breaking down these barriers between different creative microcosms, the Frequency Festival inspires accessibility and, most importantly, interdependence between fellow artists.

The artistic pieces across the city thrived in their interactions with the architecture of the city; the heritage sites and the new builds, the future and the past. They emulate and interact with the theme, but the most crucial element is not necessarily the individual pieces, but the holistic bringing-together of audiences, creators and landscapes of Lincolnshire; it is about the structures and systems in place that connect people to art, and the way we support artists creatively and economically.

co_LAB at the Web We Want Festival

co_LAB’s participation was a continuation of a project inspired by the anniversary of the Magna Carta. They had run an intensive workshop which brought together students from Film and Media, Computer Science and Psychology and developed an exhibition as part of the Web We Want Festival at the Southbank Arts Centre, London. This exhibition formed the basis for their installations at the Frequency Festival in Lincoln.

Arts economies

As a self-published novelist and dramaturge, I am interested in the crucial relationship between conventional funding opportunities, the price of the book, and surviving like the Punks and Beats of before. It is an unavoidable element of artistic cultural expression.

The tension between communication and consumption was demonstrated in the work curated for the festival. co_LAB’s piece asked the audience to speak about how they viewed the internet – arguably the freest space in the world right now – and how it can remain a liberating space for humanity. Squidsoup transformed the shopping centre into an artistic space, creating a bridge between the ordinary shopping day and the expressiveness of the festival. And Shun Ito, with his piece Cosmic Birds, introduced one of the simplest and most important elements of the arts: discussion, debate, ‘what is this, and why is it so gorgeous.’

The artist’s primary struggle is being able to communicate to an audience. The reality is that the independent sphere of artistic curation is stunted; the budgets are not available, the support structures are not always evident, and the work gets lost in a sea of Kickstarter rewards and blog posts. And when you have to find alternative means of income to support your true vocation, it is often difficult to find the space and time to push your work out into the throngs to be found, especially when so many others are doing the same. For all these economic and community based issues the artist faces, The Frequency Festival puts up a good fight to circumvent and alleviate those stresses.

Cosmic Birds, Shun Ito

  • Shun Ito, 2015
  • Cosmic Birds 1 - Credit Benjamin Kidd

    Benjamin Kidd, 2015
  • Cosmic Birds 2 - Credit Benjamin Kidd

    Benjamin Kidd, 2015

  • Cosmic Birds 3 - Credit Benjamin Kidd

    Benjamin Kidd, 2015

Shun Ito’s “Cosmic Birds” was diplayed at Chad Varah Chapel for the Frequency Festival. Ito has been creating kinetic sculptures since 2001, using light and movement for aesthetic effects inspired by his study of dance.

Liberated arts organising

Uzma Johal, Barry Hale, and their team aim to occupy two architectures: firstly, the city itself, and what it represents; and secondly, the arts, the metaphysical/spiritual/economic architecture of artistic expression that helps and educates humanity. Though the project is exemplified by placing digital art directly on the stonework of a place renowned for its connection to liberty, they nevertheless face a difficult challenge in creating this framework for one and all.

The entire event coincided with the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. The document, created in 1215 despite King Richard’s opposition, rebuilt the structure of British politics. No longer could the Royalty dictate to their whims; now the people held the rights to their land, their beliefs, and their futures. The formation of the Magna Carta opened up new pathways for our concepts of liberty, but we are by no means in a utopia of liberty today. The spirit of King Richard still lingers. The Frequency Festival, as I said, faces a difficult challenge in supporting individualism and the economics of the artistic sphere. They recognised the constant struggle between freedom of expression and authoritarian suppression, and it was this awareness that allowed the Festival to function as well as it has.

Some systems currently in place that support the arts are fragile and underdeveloped. Powerhouses such as Saatchi & Saatchi ushered in a commercialisation of the arts, and further added to a sense of elitism. With university cutbacks and ever-fluctuating changes in funds, the arts and humanities are continuing to become fields of interest only for a specific range of individuals, which could be boiled down with those with money or those who don’t care about such things. This is something arts producers like Threshold Studios, and artists like Nick Driftwood are trying to change, or at least subvert. They do not subscribe to the idea that art is simply a status symbol for an upper echelon of the rich. They are firmly grounded in the communicative power of the arts, and thus build systems that work toward the goals of that ideology, rather than toward the goal of making a buck out of the art market.

In some ways, Hale and Driftwood’s work is comparable to the Altgames movement, a DIY approach to cultural production. Both have a connection to Punk, a musical and artistic movement of the 1970s promoting free expression, interconnectivity and a breakdown of social hierarchies . “I grew up during punk where the philosophy was go buy a guitar and start a band and there was very little separation between those on stage and those in the audience. That’s come round again”, says Driftwood, who seems to imbue his work with this sentimentality. If it has come around again, should we be concerned about the same commercialisation of punk occurring again in new media art forms? As much as Frequency Festival revels in how it supports its artists, if it continues to grow in success will it too have to cede to a bigger picture in which free expression may not be at the top of the agenda?

“Art is not a commodity, but a language that everyone has the right to speak” Click To Tweet

This gives me hope that they will continue to focus on building a framework for artists that resists the pull of commercialisation.

ROAD promotional video

Nick Driftwood is a digital artist and videographer who works with soundscape designers to experiment with a sense of place. From the official website: “ROAD is an immersive non–linear screen work for public spaces that is inspired by the relationship between freedom and technology.”

On the ROAD

It seems logical to appropriate the Punk Mentality – alongside individualism, grassroots, community funding – when trying to break down the elitism within the arts. Driftwood’s piece ROAD, a visual and musical piece, is philosophically related to the idea of the freedom of the roadtrip, the American dream, and – most importantly to me – the Beat Generation, who I’d argue were some of the freest literati of contemporary times. Whilst I observe my image of Lincoln Castle destabilising under seeper’s 3D mapped projections, I also witness the barrier between audience and the arts collapse, letting Beat-Thought, Punk-Freedom and creativity flourish. They are creating a new architecture, moving away from defined roles, and into a playful space of sharing and communication. Barry Hale explains it perfectly: “art speaks most effectively when it engages with the beliefs, the questions and the passions of everyone, away from the commercial concerns of arts investors and the machine that serves them.” Yet this machine looms over the creative and humanitarian professions.

Many of the events at the festival are entirely free. Hale explained to me how they try and create an adventurous, explorative atmosphere across the city. Like a well-designed quest system, every event is a leaping-on point for discovering the rest of the artistic exhibits on offer. I began with ROAD at Chad Varah House and then travelled to what is known as The Steep Hill towards the other sights and sounds across the city. I saw parents entertaining their children during the holiday break, overwhelmed consumers decompressing at an installation in the shopping centre, and wild businessmen stumbling across something that connected with them.

Squidsoup, Enlightenment

  • From the Salisbury Cathedral Youtube page: “Squidsoup’s Amazing light installations reflect on the values and legacy of Magna Carta.”
  • Squidsoup - Credit Benjamin Kidd

    Benjamin Kidd, 2015

Squidsoup is an international group of artists, researchers and designers (UK/NO/NZ) working with digital and interactive media.


However, the machine that looms over artists whirrs on. How can we support a playful, interactive, multi-demographic arts & humanities, when it doesn’t make any money? The answer might be to see what happens systemically when the city is made into a playful space. 17,000 people came to view the festival. 800 visitors a day came into the Waterside Shopping Centre. At the launch party I learnt many of the hotel spots in the city were fully booked, aggravating German tourists who could not find a place to stay; each of those visitors spent money in cafes, local shops, the scene that is Lincoln that exists with or without the festival. This new, enlightened, for-the-people, by-the-prosumer approach to artistic funding and growth does benefit the community. The artists are given space and room to breathe. The physical architecture of the city drives the construction of the festival, and this drives the audience not just from artist to artist, but from site to site, driving economic activity across the city.

“You hear a lot about how tough things are for the arts at the moment and that’s true.  There have been big cuts in public funding for the arts and that affects not just people creating work but also venues and festivals who present it. There is also the impact of digital distribution and it is hard for creators of anything digital to make money from their work. But there are good reasons to be optimistic.  Audiences are growing hungry for new experiences and for being part of something.  The tools for making and sharing work are getting better and cheaper.” – Nick Driftwood

The festival was a physical expression of a kind of Punk mentality: ‘come together and be a part of something, and maybe we can make something grow’; this only functions with belief, a belief that needs to permeate contemporary culture or the arts will suffer. If everyone can create, everyone needs space. If everything is cheap, does this devalue the finished product? If there is no budget to begin with, how does anyone create? The Frequency Festival shows, within the microcosm of Lincoln, how it could be possible for the macrocosm of the international art economy to evolve. ROAD showed how relatively accessible technology and a free spirit can create a piece inspiring that innate need for adventure. Practical and artistic needs are both supported in the festival, and by utilising the interconnectivity found in our prosumer future, the Festival exemplifies how the economy thrives naturally when people work together. Rather than trying to fund collaboration – rather than seeing it as a cash injection into the arts – we should see the arts as a functioning system that money can move easily around in.

Across the world people are creating experiences within the arts focusing on expression, community and collaboration, to combat “a hierarchy we should regularly challenge”, as Barry Hale put it: hierarchies in culture, social circles, the arts, the government; hierarchies we accept diligently which, perhaps, slow down our development. The geography and architecture of Lincoln were temporarily appropriated into a space that artists and audience could share, inspired by the ideals of Punk and collaboration — how do we make this happen on a macrocosmic level?


More information about artists featured at Frequency Festival 2015

Note: All infoboxes on artists were embedded into the article by the editor