Andy Cameron, digital pioneer, co-founder of the Antirom collective, artist, teacher and, latterly, creative director at Fabrica and Wieden + Kennedy, has died unexpectedly.
Cameron was a hugely influential and inspirational figure in the development of digital media, both through his own work (which encompassed commercial projects as well as art installations for shows in the Barbican, MoMA in New York, the V&A and the Pompidou Centre) and as a teacher and mentor at first the University of Westminster and latterly at Fabrica, Benetton’s research centre. He believed fundamentally in the potential of digital media to re-invent the way we communicate with one another. A great many of those leading the field of digital design and interactive media today were influenced, inspired and guided by him.
Cameron first became interested in digital media in the early 1990s after becoming disillusioned with photography. “I realised I was just deeply bored with photography and was really, really excited by the opportunities that interactive representations offered,” he told CR in a July 2010 interview. “I just thought it was really, really cool that you could interrogate an image and that it would respond to your actions in different ways depending on what you did. I actually still haven’t got over that, I still think it’s really cool.”
He was teaching photography at the University of Westminster at the time. As he switched to digital media (co-founding the university’s Hypermedia Research Centre in 1996), he shared his discoveries with his students, who also found them more interesting than the course they’d signed up for. This led to a fruitful collaboration – in Cameron’s first class were Tom Roope, Andy Polaine and Sophie Pendrell. The group (joined by others, including Roope’s brother Nik) went on to form Antirom in 1994, the collective set up to explore creative and artistic ideas in interactive media.
Antirom’s first release was a CD-Rom, self-published with funding from the Arts Council. Packed with small, interactive ‘toys’, it featured graphics by Tomato and music from Underworld. “It was a little interactive CD-Rom full of very, very immediate experiments,” remembered Cameron. “One of the things that we worked out very quickly was that an interactive piece has to engage its audience very rapidly. We used to take our work in installation form to the Big Chill parties on Sundays and set up a computer and then stand back and watch people. It becomes very obvious that if they don’t get it within five or ten seconds then they wander off. So we built that into the interface, so if people didn’t engage with an interaction, it would randomly go to another one.”
Brands were quick to see the potential of interactive and digital media and in 1995 Antirom began working with Levi’s, creating an series of interactive kiosks for stores, and later an interactive shop window which would respond with different musical notes when sensors on the window were banged.
After the break-up of Antirom, Cameron founded Rom and Son with Joe Stephenson, which continued to explore new means of interaction, as in the CD-Rom, romone, stills shown above
Antirom broke up in 1999 – “basically because we got bored and a little fed up with each other, as collectives often do,” Cameron said – but a talk that he had given on the collective at Fabrica in Treviso a few years earlier led to an invitation to return as a visiting interactive artist in 2001. Again his timing was fortuitous and he arrived there at an interesting time – flamboyant photographer Oliviero Toscani, who was behind Benetton’s controversial yet brilliant poster campaigns of the 80s and 90s had just left, leaving a big hole in the company.
Cameron encouraged Fabrica to explore interaction design, and remained at Fabrica for eight years, working first as creative director for interactive and then later becoming executive director of Fabrica. He also worked with the international bursary holders, the young artists or designers who received funding to work on creative projects at the centre for a year.
Always ahead of his time, Cameron created United People for Benetton in 2002, an in-store video installation and online community for Benetton stores worldwide whereby customers could upload videos of themselves.
A trip to the London offices of Wieden + Kennedy to take part in its Platform project, led to Cameron joining the agency as interactive creative director in spring 2010. During this time, in which he jokingly referred to himself as “the oldest bloke in interactive”, he also wrote a wonderfully insightful regular column for CR. Last year, Cameron left Wiedens to pursue other projects, including a planned book. He was also appointed a Royal Designer for Industry at the Royal Society of the Arts.
From The Exquisite Clock, created for the V&A Decode show in 2010 by Cameron and Joao Wilbert, in which a digital clock is created using images that resemble figures grabbed from the web.
CR understands that Cameron died of a heart attack yesterday (May 28). Our thoughts are with his family and friends.