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Internet? Outernet! CanTeen Music & Memes Project 2020

What is the best way to stay creative when we can’t leave our houses? That was the question we asked ourselves while devising Internet? Outernet!, our latest collaboration with Canteen Ireland, the national young people’s cancer support group. The answer was to look to the world wide web and the many types of art that exist online!

Over the six years Helium Arts has been collaborating with young people from CanTeen, projects have evolved from a film-based approach to encompassing multiple art forms. Since 2017, communal music-making and performing have been embraced by CanTeen members, mentored by composer and musician Seán Carpio. This year marked another evolution as we began to explore the world of ‘net art’ (internet art).

For Internet? Outernet!, musicians Ríona Sally Hartman and Seán Carpio invited participants to collectively generate material from both online and offline sources to represent a fantastical new world. Using online whiteboard applications, field recordings, found images (gifs and memes), original music and lyrics, the group collectively pieced together this world: its aesthetics, sounds, and songs.

The project incorporated online meet ups (four virtual sessions via Zoom, 2.5 hours per session) and offline generation of materials by participants. Music, songs, spoken word pieces and sound effects were recorded on WhatsApp and sent via CanTeen’s Manager of Services to the project artists for collation and arrangement, resulting in the production of two audio works.

As many CanTeen members are at higher risk from Covid-19 and had to avoid contact with those outside their own households, the aim of the project was to reduce the social isolation of young people with experience of cancer during the pandemic, provide an opportunity for participants to re-connect through a collaborative creative process, trial creative methodologies (song-writing and internet art) new to Helium’s online programming, guided by professional artists  and create an audio-based artwork for online dissemination.

Internet? Outernet! took place in two phases: an exploratory phase in July utilised Padlet, an online notice board, to develop a new online culture made from the young people’s collective imaginations. This resulted in the creation of The Doge (based on a popular internet meme), an audio story following the war between the Doges and the Muppets. The Doge incorporated original song fragments, music interludes and voiceover narration.

LISTEN: The Doge (duration 11:30)

Phase II (August-September) focused on devising a series of radio commercials informed by ideas from the group’s previous audio work. Again, Padlet was used to collate images, gifs, videos and sounds but this time round they were organised in the form of storyboards. As themes appeared for the commercials, the group contributed scripts / lyrics / songs and made storyboards to match. This laid the groundwork for a series of radio ads which were shaped into a unifying piece by the project artists.

LISTEN: CanTeen 2020 Commercials on Intergalactic 746FM (duration 6:30) 

Check out these pieces of feedback from participants:

At the beginning I thought I wouldn’t fit into this because I’m not musical. I was delighted I could make a contribution into the sections.’ – Participant

I really liked the free flow of everyone pooling their ideas. It was both audio and visual stimulation for everyone to take part … I’m pretty amazed at how it turned out.’

– Evelyn Griffith, Manager of Services, CanTeen Ireland

Making our own internet world [was my favourite thing]’ – Participant

I love the collaborative effort of it all’ – Liam Quinn, Chairperson, CanTeen Ireland

Internet? Outernet! is produced by Helium Arts in partnership with CanTeen Ireland. The project was funded by the Arts Council and the ESB Generations Fund

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