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The Olympics, online for everyone

Cultural Olympiad goes high-tech with CODE projects



Those of us in Whistler will only have to hop on a bus to join in with the Olympic festivities. But Olympic organizers have also found a way to include people from all over the world in the 2010 Games. And as it turns out, they're only a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks away.

Rae Hull is the creative director of the Cultural Olympiad Digital Edition (more commonly known as CODE), a new concept for the Olympics and one that has been created specifically for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"CODE was created to really take advantage of the extent to which digital provides us with opportunities that would have been impossible before now," Hull explained.

The CODE program is broken up into five parts - Canada CODE, Code Motion Pictures, CODE Screen 2010, CODE Live and a CODE publishing unit - all of which are designed to transform audiences from passive spectators to active participants, able to engage, explore and celebrate arts and culture.

"We created five projects, really, that all illustrate a different aspect of the arts and also invite participation in different ways," Hull said.

"CODE is the umbrella title for a series of projects that were really designed to celebrate the fact that digital gives us such incredible flexibility to include more people, to put more of Canada's cultural content and talent online to global audiences."

Canada CODE is an online grassroots digital collaboration of text and photos created by Canadians. They've already received many submissions from Whistlerites for Canada CODE, one of which is an evergreen tree growing along the Lost Lake trails that has been decorated by passersby. People can register online to "remix" the submission as well, creating multimedia slideshows that merge their own photos and text with submissions from others. They can even set the show to music.

CODE Motion Pictures is a collection of more than 70 short films about the human body in motion.

"As part of that project, we actually commissioned 16 new films, so the rest of the films are curated from existing content," said Hull. "But with our partners Telefilm Canada and the Association of Provincial and Territorial Film Financing Agencies, we were able to actually offer this great opportunity to filmmakers from across the country to create new films and to have it in front of Olympic audiences."

They received more than 200 submissions for the program.

"They actually do also reflect different corners of the country, different cultures," Hull said. "Really, when you put them together it's so delightful because they all celebrate the theme of the human body in motion and at the same time in subtle and yet really meaningful ways, they also illustrate the entire country."

The films are already available on Bell Mobility's Olympic Channel and will be featured on Air Canada flights, on the Vancouver 2010 website and at Whistler Live! sites during the Games.

CODE Screen 2010 was launched in September. A new online exhibition of Canadian art has been added every two weeks.

"When you think of galleries, galleries are in six locations and you have to be at those six locations to see that art. So it was a way of taking a genre like the visual arts and putting it on a stage where many more people would be able to access it," she said.

CODE Live is a digital arts event that will run throughout the Games, featuring 40 art installations in three venues throughout the city and a few site-specific locations.

"These are pieces that people can actually activate with their cell phones, they can see where they are at that very moment, standing in the gallery space, in relation to where they are in the universe - it's all about having the audience essentially complete the art," Hull said.

She pointed to the Vectorial Elevation light show that will be installed along the shores of English Bay as an example.

"People anywhere in the world can go online, they can program how they'd like to see those lights positioned in the sky and send in their design and know that even though they're on the opposite side of the world to where the 2010 Games are taking place that there's a moment in the skies over Vancouver where their creative signature is going to be presented to everyone watching."

Finally, the CODE digital edition publishing unit will publish stories, highlights and podcasts from the Cultural Olympiad and CODE activities that can be accessed online through social networking sites.

Creating CODE has been a huge learning process for organizers as they consult with artists and curators to find out how art will work in this online forum.

"All of this is groundbreaking to the extent where exploring how the arts are conveyed online or in a digital space means that you really do need to think through what it's going to be like in that space," Hull said.

"...There isn't somebody who can give us the advice on how it worked last time, so we're always just looking at the space ahead of us and it's brand-spanking new; nobody's worked on that canvas, nobody's walked over that snowdrift."