exploring the collective behaviour of Hackney Wick


Crowd Control was a month long interdisciplinary experiment creatively exploring the collective interactions between individuals, groups and their environments.

By connecting visual, digital and performance art practices with contemporary scientific research, law and urban design, Crowd Control explored human communication, cooperation and collective action in Hackney Wick, East London.

Running at arebyte from 30 June until 23 July 2017, the project was a collaboration between artist Heather Barnett, curator Nimrod Vardi and behavioural scientists Dr Andrew King and Dr Ines Fürtbauer, joined by specialists in performance, law and urban design.

The team created experiences, experiments and interventions that explore how groups move together, transfer information, make decisions and respond to changing environmental conditions. Playful and exploratory, the games, activities and events explored the control mechanisms that affect collective behaviour. Data and imagery generated fed into the development of interactive artworks and scientific studies.

Focussing on creative engagement, Heather and the team worked with local groups and wider participants, exploring unspoken communication systems and motion dynamics, hosting mass participation exercises and observing the language of gesture on the streets of Hackney Wick. Devised activities took inspiration from a range of control mechanism: the collective dynamics of nonhuman groups, such as shoaling fish and flocking birds; how the law impacts on our behaviour in conscious and unconscious ways; ecological cooperation and competition; and the processes of gentrification and the emergence of culture. All of the events explored the complex patterns of human behaviour in imaginative and inquisitive ways.

The residency culminated in a public Crowd Control Festival (21-23 July), a weekend of exhibitions, experiments and explorations at a range of venues and sites throughout Hackney Wick. Check the events page for details of individual events which took place.