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3beards Art Hackathon: Review and Winners

1st Place: Citizens Office of Communications Safety
1st Place: Citizens Office of Communications Safety
3Beards' Michael Hobson (L) and Bryce Keane (R)
3Beards’ Michael Hobson (L) and Bryce Keane (R), Credit: Paul Clarke

3Beards’ Michael Hobson tells us about Art Hackathon 2 – at South Place Hotel

Held over the weekend, the Digital Sizzle 9 – Art Hackathon 2 saw 23 teams converge at South Place Hotel in Moorgate to mash up tech with art.

We caught up with Michael Hobson, one of the 3Beards organisers.

Tell us about the “Art Hackathon” – what was the big idea?

Last summer, we held our first Art Hackathon in association with Whitechapel Gallery.

The concept came about when they approached us for ideas to bring more techies to the gallery.

Because they’re right on the edge of Tech City, they wanted to find creative ways of bringing in more tech footfall.

We reverse-engineered the brief and decided to do a hackathon – if we could bring artists and techies together, it would be a great way to generate content for the gallery.

Last year went really well and we got great feedback from everyone involved, so we decided to make it an annual thing.

Where was the event hosted this year?

This year our partner is South Place Hotel. The hotel is owned by D&D, so it’s already full of really cool artwork already. We ran a members opening night for them earlier this year, so mentioned the Art Hackathon idea to them. They were looking to appeal to techies, and we needed an inspiring situation to be surrounded in, so the hotel was a perfect fit.

South Place Hotel
South Place Hotel (Credit:

What was the brief for those involved over the weekend?

Many hackathons have a format where you have to create an individual product. We wanted people to get creative, so we kept the brief vague: take any data and turn it into something creative or artistic. The projects could use any data they wanted and get creative with it. We suggested various feeds of data, but it was up to the attendees to decide what they wanted to do.

We invited along a lot of developers and coders as well as artists, musicians and designers to the weekend. It was really cool to see people integrate with each other. Working in a startup, you don’t always get the chance to work with these types of people, so it benefited both communities.

How did the weekend go?

It was a mad rush. There were 25 installations created over the weekend, and it’s clear that the ideas have really been taken up a notch from last year. The location was also better, both in terms of accommodation and vibe, and the exposure that the artists will get is increased as well. There was also a lot of crossing over between people and projects, which was great to see – that’s what it’s all about. The projects are all great and really cool, but the best part is watching people that wouldn’t normally necessarily hang out together integrating and getting along so well.

Art Hackathon
Art Hackathon (Credit:

What happens next?

We’re now working with the hotel to arrange a weekend open house. On Friday August 16 we’ll host an open night followed by an open house over the weekend of August 17-18, where the public can check out the artwork.

The winners

1st Place: Citizens Office of Communications Safety

1st Place: Citizens Office of Communications Safety
1st Place: Citizens Office of Communications Safety (Credit:

These guys did something a bit provocative. They sniffed the wifi signal in a radius around the hotel and detected which websites people were accessing on the wifi. They made a really cool-looking digital screen that featured a live feed of computer names and what they’re looking at. They also flagged “deviant” websites, if anyone accessed them, with a big alert on the screen. Everyone was quite shocked that everything they did was monitored, but that was the statement that they wanted to make. It was a thought-provoking piece.

2nd Place: Cryptographics

2nd Place: Cryptographics
2nd Place: Cryptographics (Credit:

The idea behind Cryptographics was, “What if you could encrypt a message in art and give people the key to unlock it?” They generated an alphabet of shapes, for example triangles, and you could then type a message and encode it. It was then used to create the artwork, which ranged from prints to laser-cut acrylics and a quilt. The idea was that, for example, you could create a piece of art and give it to a family member, and leave the password for them after you’ve died.

3rd Place: Mashifesto

3rd Place: Mashifesto
3rd Place: Mashifesto (Credit:

Mashifesto took people’s Twitter feeds (they used ours as an example) and the output was Russian propaganda art. They would take things we’d said in the past and mash them into features, identifying things we’ve said that would fit into the sentence format to make a propaganda statement. A lot of them made no sense but were funny.

South Place Hotel Award (and one of Michael’s favourites): Standing Novation

Honourable mention: Standing Novation
Honourable mention: Standing Novation (Credit:

Standing Novation was the one that I liked the most, simply because I spent the most time with them. They took 16 DJ launchpads and made them into a massive grid with 1,024 buttons. They hooked up the grid so you could light it up in different colours, displaying Instagram pictures in really low-res on the board, or you could tweet your age to it and it would display your life expectancy, with each button a percentage of your life already passed and how much is left. It was massive, so quite impressive.

You can view all of the art installations from Art Hackathon 2 at the South Place Hotel in Moorgate’s open night and open house on August 16-18.