Distance no object – PLAY! and the team that made told-hold

Even those of us not into sport know what it feels like to be part of a really good

team. That feeling of wellbeing is not just about achievement. It is also about

the qualities of trusting and being trusted, meaningful autonomy, and the sense

of common purpose we get from team interactions.

The UNESCO Media Arts Cities project, City to City, which began in 2020, is

about creative collaboration in our distanced times. Already it is leading to other,

wider, interactions between York and our 21 sister cities around the world.

One of the five works launched on 9 February this year, told-hold, was made by

the dancers and choreographers ARCOS, from Austin, the composer Meiyan

Chen from Karlsruhe, and media artist Taeheon Lee from Gwangju, Korea,

whose virtual residence in York was hosted by the Guild of Media Arts and


City to City: PLAY! asked artists for their responses to the prospect of being

able, once again, to pick up relationships, make new friendships and rediscover

our communities. Four online workshops helped teams to grow and gel around

creative ideas, before they began an intensive and self-managed production

process. This was also ‘located’ online and across every time zone, posing

additional questions about how we become confident in one another’s company,

and ready to share common goals.


The artists, drawing on their personal experience, describe how becoming

acquainted, and overcoming fears and biases, can be a matter of playfulness.

‘In this social game, we ask: is it possible to truly care for someone we’ve

never met? And can we, in turn, trust a stranger to hold our own story?’

The told-hold creators offer visitors choices of image and sound to accompany

their ‘danced’ response to another visitor’s story. The user’s hand conveys

emotion directly, creating and recording movement between the story on a

screen and the user’s smartphone. A library of encounters is being created as

visitors hold the stories told by others.

We might even say there are lessons here for our increasingly fractured society.

While we commonly refer to ‘cultural differences’ as barriers to effective

communication, and regard digital space as inherently dangerous, the team that

made told-hold show how open-minded engagement can enable positive cultural

connection across time and space.

told-hold is here


Chris Bailey

Clerk, Guild of Media Arts

Focal Point, York UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts