Softening the Grid documents a year-long project that aims to re-imagine the grid layout of MK from above with the aid of a falconer, a bird of prey and a drone.
The project Softening the Grid encompasses artist Laura Cooper's engagement with Milton Keynes from 2017-18. Involving birdsong listening sessions, drone flights and hawk walks around the city centre, all were attempts to literally soften the experience of MK's gridded streets.
The film Eating Up The Sky is a dream like document of this process and it began as an attempt to translate the experience of the Milton Keynes architectural grid layout through subtle interactions between animal, human and machine. It involves collaboration with a falconer and drone pilot, attaching a tiny camera to a hawk, tracing its path as it flew over the city.
It is a poetic and idealistic attempt to control a raptors flight, which is typically not systemised, geometric or based on right angles in the way traffic or pedestrians are funnelled to navigate the peculiar geography of MK. The idealistic architects behind MK’s grid layout made it the first UK city to be organised in an L.A.-style grid; it is one of the first places where driverless cars have been tested in the UK, and you can encounter delivery robots navigating the grid streets. The film explores how physical environments shape their inhabitants and dictate human and non-human relationships. It features documentation of experiments by the Avian Research Centre at the department of Zoology, University of Oxford, which involved working with Dr. Graham Taylor (and his 9-year-old daughter Isobel) whose current research involves raptor's flight and visual perception for the design and improvement of autonomous drones.
Through the film's mysterious and intimate portrait of the city, a scientific experiment and the relationship between man and bird emerges.
Laura Cooper is a British artist. Her practice embraces live performance, video installation and drawing.
Laura received her undergraduate degree from Glasgow School of Art in 2006 and her MFA in Fine Art Media at the Slade School of Art London 2012.
Group exhibitions include Play, Game, Place, State, Collyer Bristow Gallery London UK, Voice and The Lens, IKON Gallery Birmingham  touring to Rich Mix Cinema London . VideoGud program Stockholm Sweden  Eyes As Sieves, Global Committee Space Brooklyn NY, Third House Titanik Gallery Finland .
Solo exhibitions include Softening The Grid at Milton Keynes Arts Center , Nomadic Glow, Centro ADM Mexico City , Soft Revolutions at Space In Between Gallery London .
Selected residencies include 108 NY USA and PRAKSIS Oslo , IPark in CT, USA . SAP Seoksu Market International residency in Anyang City, South Korea .
She was awarded the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance [2012/13] and an International Artist Development Fund by the Arts Council England for her project at the 3rd Land Art Mongolia Biennale, Mongolia .
Laura is also engaged in various collaborative projects with artist Hermione Spriggs under the name AooA ‘The Anthropology of Other Animals’. And, she co-directed the artist run project space Global Committee with artist and collaborator Ian Giles in Brooklyn NY from 2014-16.
Softening the Grid received funding support from Arts Council England. Laura and Tracing the Pathway would also like to thank Dr Graham Taylor and all the team at Oxford University’s Zoology department, field station and flight hall; Dr Jason Hockman at Birmingham City University Film and Audio Engineering department; Westbury Arts Centre; Lucianna Riso; Dale Atkinson; Hanne Van Asten; Connor Bowmott; Hermione Spriggs; Ian Giles; Caroline Malone; Tryphena Foster and Frances Fox.