Libby Battaglia Q&A
A former professional dancer and choreographer, Libby Battaglia’s training taught her from a young age that nothing is impossible. As Creative Director of Audacious she has pursued her passion for light as a creative and interactive medium that fuses the arts, technology and innovation in unusual and unexpected places.
Although Audacious operates in a relatively niche part of the cultural landscape, its ambition reaches far beyond that territory. Libby refers to her collaborators as ‘Ultra Technologists’, including not only visual artists but lighting designers, architects, engineers, programmers, animators, mathematicians, musicians, technicians, film-makers and more.
Her vision for Audacious is that its work should break down to excite and inspire people who might not otherwise engage with the arts. She draws on more than 30 years of designing and delivering high profile events and artistic content, including the Disney-backed Jubilee Family Festival in Hyde Park for HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and has a long-standing connection with Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, where she helped shape its Creative Engagement programme.
Libby, what do you look for in a project for Audacious?
I always start with ‘Who is the audience?’ because ultimately that is what is most important for our work to be successful. It is essential for us to understand the demographic. Then I’ll ask ‘So what? Why do we need to do this? What difference is it going to make?’
We like projects where the audience have some ownership and co-produce the project with us. These are usually the most successful because we know that they want to participate and are excited by the idea so we can build it from there.
What makes Audacious different?
Firstly we are working with light art, a very accessible and fairly new art form. What we do is cross this genre over by bringing in other art forms that add a narrative.
I started as a dancer and choreographer so I’m very used to telling stories using movement. We do this in a similar way with light art and introduce different art forms to help us tell a story.
We work with artists that understand the importance of engagement – it’s great if an art piece is beautiful and eye catching, but it needs to be more than that. We want the work to touch people and stay with them for a while and in order to do that it needs to have meaning and purpose.
We also spend a lot of time looking at the space and don’t want to plonk something in it simply because we like it, it needs to complement the landscape and make the audience think differently about the space.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Difficult question… it’s a combination of different things including what’s going on in the world, the landscape and the artist. I am always researching and I’m often influenced by the wider world and how that might change in the future.
I get inspired by challenging spaces; so I spend a lot of time in different landscapes thinking about how people could see it differently and then an artist will come to mind and I will think about how I can challenge them to bring the location to life in a new way.
If Audacious could do one thing, what would it be and why?
We are really ambitious and dynamic, and it is really important that we keep learning and growing, challenging ourselves and those we collaborate with. We are looking at developing more light trails and in different destinations around the world.
Why? People who experience our projects often tell me that our work brings so much joy and wonder and the experiences we create stay with them. I also love to give freelancers the opportunity to work and do what they do best and this is what drives me especially in these challenging times.
Who can be an artist?
Being an artist requires skill, talent and creativity. Skills can be taught and improved upon, talent is something that you are born with and to be a great artist you need to have incredible creativity and introduce something to art that moves it on.
Artists today need to be hugely resilient, driven, self-motivated and entrepreneurial. It is tough out there and I think it is one of the most challenging careers to be in especially in the current climate.
The world is fighting a pandemic, how do you think Art can help?
When we first went into lockdown it was incredible to see how the creative industries immediately went digital and communities were turning to the arts to help them get through this crazy time.
I think the balcony performances in Italy went viral and then well-known artists started performing in their sitting rooms when their concert and festival gigs were cancelled. In some respects, the pandemic has helped art by taking it online and I know that many artists and organisations have learnt new digital skills.
I know when we started to develop ‘Confessions’ we were asking how does a website become a piece of art? Art makes people think differently and I believe people have more understanding now about the power of art.
Sadly, a lot of the content has been free and so I hope that governments around the world show their appreciation by giving back to the artistic community and not just the so-called ‘Crown Jewels’ but the artists who are the heart and soul of their communities.
Art is a business and it pays the bills for many freelancers, but much of it has been decimated by the global lockdown and I worry that we will have lost a lot of people along the way. I know many artists who are now doing different jobs to make ends meet and I hope this is a temporary situation and they can get back to what they spent years of training and investment to become.