006: Soul Labels x 64 Bits / April 2017

Digital Archaeologist Jim Boulton is on a mission to archive and preserve the early days of the web. It is one that has taken him to the Barbican, Internet Week New York and beyond over the past seven years. For 64 Bits, his latest exhibition at Here East, he wanted to showcase 32 pioneering websites on the hardware and the software of the time, together with 32 pieces of artwork.

He asked Soul Labels to contribute in a number of areas, particularly when paying tribute to the unsung heroes of digital culture. Entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg are household names but what about the artists, designers and engineers making breakthroughs behind the scenes?

We curated a gallery of nine influential yet underappreciated innovators such as Alan Emtage (who invented the first search engine), Shigetaka Kurita (the father of the emoji) and Dr Shirley Jackson (without whom we might not have solar cells and fiber optic cables).

To reconfigure their portraits, we called on a number of rising stars from the art world, each with their own unique style: Imani Kahlo, Raman Aso, Chizi and Rahoul Drewitt. It felt right to have BAME (black and minority ethnic) artists celebrating BAME innovators through their work.

Alan Emtage by Rahoul Drewitt

Shigetaka Kurita by Raman Aso & Imani Kahlo

Dr Shirley Jackson by Imani Kahlo

Annie Easley by Chizi

We also produced β€œCan Coders Really Write the Future?” – a panel discussion assessing the opportunities and challenges in this rapidly growing industry and how those from minority backgrounds can play a leading role.

Our speakers were Black Girl Tech founder Lola Odelola, business productivity adviser and AI/robotics graduate Taila Sky, games designer Jameela Khan, London councillor Carole Williams and IT teacher Moses Alemu. It was a fascinating and stimulating discussion.

To accompany the main exhibition, we curated a soundscape around the themes of digital culture, the future and human progress. The aim was to explore the way technology has revolutionised how we play, record, produce and listen. Featured artists included Software, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Actress and Dabrye.

London Live report by Eleanor Cunningham

For those that missed out, here is a guided tour of the exhibition with curator Jim Boulton, produced by the Centre for Computing History.