Yesterday marked the start of Electric Fields 2010, the Ottawa festival of electronic art and sound organized by our peers at Artengine. For the next four days, a dynamic program of performances, exhibitions and lectures will take place and while the scope of work presented at Electric Fields is diverse, the overarching mandate of the festival is to showcase forwardthinking new media projects. There are far too many events to list off within this post, so here are a few highlights that have piqued my interest: Artificiel's POWEr (which floored me at MUTEK 2009), a Mini Maker Faire, Paul Jasens's talk "Bass: A Myth Science of the Sonic Body" and Gary James Joynes' On the Other Side. Check the schedule for full details and tune into #ef2010 for festival related chatter on twitter.
[Mitchell Whitelaw / Watching the Street (Ottawa)]
Vague Terrain was invited to curate a web exhibit to accompany Electric Fields and we used the opportunity to dig deep into our archives and present a number of projects from some of our earlier, offline issues. We've bundled together a selection of work from DEFASTEN, Gary James Joynes, Andrea Polli, Jeremy Rotzstain, Marius Watz and Mitchell Whitelaw that highlights our commitment to showcasing vanguard creative practices. Please take some time to check out our contribution to this great event and if you are in Ottawa for the festival—by all means—track me down and introduce yourself.
Editor's Note: Although the GLI.TC/H conference took place several weeks ago the repercussions of the festival will be felt by related practitioners far into the indefinite future. Vague Terrain contributor Ben Baker-Smith was involved at this event as both a performer and exhibitor and has provided us with the following detailed recap.
It has now been several weeks since the close of the IRL portion of GLI.TC/H, a noise & new media event/conference/symposium/festival/gathering in Chicago, IL (September 29 - October 3, 2010). I am still processing.
Three days of galleries, screenings, and performances featured work from over 50 different artists, including many of the most recognized and active names in glitch art. To name a few: Bob Weisz (the man responsible for Chairlift’s Evident Utensil music video and the subsequent datamoshing tutorial), NES circuit bender noteNdo, NO CARRIER of 8bitpeoples, Glitch: Designing Imperfection editors Ant Scott and Iman Moradi, old-school software artists JODI, flickr glitch guru StAllio!, hardware hacker Karl Klomp, and Rosa Menkman who was one of the organizers. The other organizers, who deserve much credit for the time, effort, and resources they poured into the show, are Nick Briz, Jon Satrom, and Evan Meaney.
Glitch art, and the community surrounding it, is almost entirely internet-based, so this gathering provided a unique opportunity for members of the virtual community to meet one another in person, often for the first time. This was one of the highlights for me and many participants, some of whom traveled from distant parts of the country and world to be there.
Of course, the primary focus was the work, and there was plenty of it. The first night, Wednesday 09-27-2010, kicked off with the opening of Roxaboxen Gallery in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. The range of mediums, formats, and aesthetic choices was exciting, and intimidating, running the gamut from textile designs to looping videos to interractive hardware and software setups. It was an awesome and immersive audio/video/tactile experience, and it is proving impossible to select a just few projects that were above and beyond the rest. A full list of the artists and their works is available on the “2010" section of the the GLI.TC/H website.
[Roxaboxen Gallery Opening]
Though the range of mediums was quite stimulating all together, the static works would have benefited from a greater separation from the more interractive and dynamic elements. With all the bleeps, pops, and flashing lights in the peripheral it was difficult to give the still images and textile designs the attention they deserved. Even Tatjana Marusic’s wonderful datamosh style video The Memory of a Landscape was somewhat overshaddowed by the neighboring Realtime Datamoshing installion by Eric Souther. There may have been an attempt to partially separate both ends of the static-dynamic spectrum, as the left and right walls of the gallery were roughly divided along these lines, but the organizers had to work within the tight space constraints of the single-room gallery. And when you’re putting together a 5-day, multi-venue, free show (all events were free besides Rosa Menkman’s lecture at the Gene Siskel Film Center) it seems appropriate to make the best of the space you have.
Friday and Saturday featured nights of screenings and live performances hosted at Transistor and the Nightingale Theatre respectively. Both were chock-full of wild audio/visual glitches (around 3 hours apiece) and well-attended. Some of the screening highlights include Timonds are Forever by Morgan Higby Flowers, I am Sitting in a Room by Antonio Roberts (hellocatfood), Styrofoam by Theodore Darst, Too Many Cats! by Jon Satrom, The Fast Runner Runs From The Infinite Copy by Ben Pearson, and the two spectacular 16mm films: Eratta by Alexander Stewart and Glitch Envy by Jodie Mack.
[Alexander Stewart / Eratta]
The spontaneous and unpredictable nature inherent to much glitch art really lends itself to live performances. James Connolly and Eric Pellegrino kicked off the second night with a killer CRT monitor hack. What I could see hanging off of a staircase (and later in video documentation) was abrasive, vibrant, and captivating. Andrew Bucksbarg delivered a fragmented but totally immersive remix of the classic video game Gallaga (here’s a video of a 2007 performance), and noteNdo (Jeff Donaldson) played a refreshingly beat-driven audio/visual dance set using an array of modified nintendo and sega game systems. For the final performance, a dark, sample-driven audio number by StAllio!, the crowd was treated to an unplanned visual accompaniment by Rosa Menkman and Vade.
[James Connolly and Eric Pellegrino / live at the Nightingale Theatre]
When the Nightingale show finally wrapped an hour or so later than scheduled, everyone reconvened at Club Foot for some cheap brews and a groovin DJ set by Bad New Future Krew.
The festival also featured numerous workshops and lectures during the daylight hours, but I was unable to attend the majority and so have not addressed them here. There were attempts to stream these daytime events on Ustream, but the locations were lacking bandwidth and the resulting streams were generally unwatchable.
The good news for those who were unable to attend the show, and those who wish it was still going on, is that it IS still going on, virtually. The GLI.TC/H blog which was quite active before the start of the festival - with theorizing and an incredible array of 30 second video bumpers submitted by glitch enthusiasts worldwide - continues to post new updates, the T.RASHB.IN hosts a growing array of distorted and gremlin-covered images, and there is now an ONLINE EXE.IBITION of internet-based artworks.
You may need: Adobe Flash Player.
Our third VT Audio Edition has been released! Contributed by Montreal-based Brian Damage, "The Accumulation Loops" is a recording of a live performance of his Discipline X project from June 2010. Brian describes the M.O. for his Discipline X project as being:
…driven by formalised compositional rules, referred to as compositional essentialism. Different pieces have different sets of rules, but some recurring elements are found throughout: minimal human intervention, looping and phasing techniques. Using just a Moog, turntable, loop pedal, effects and an extensive music and sound library as source material, minimal elements are transformed into dense, evolving soundscapes.
Jump through to the release page for more info and a download link.
[photo: Le Champion du Monde]
This year's edition of the Electric Fields biennale ran from November 3rd-7th and I had the good fortune of being in Ottawa for the majority of the proceedings. Run by our peers at Artengine, the festival dedicated to showcasing provocative electronic art has been running for approximately 15 years. The 2010 edition of Electric Fields largely revolved around AV performance but also included a string of gallery shows, public lectures and parties. While I could not get out to all of the events, I was in attendance for the entire AV performance program and the following is a cursory overview of the festival.
[artificiel / POWEr, demo]
I was unable to attend the presentation of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Voz Alta (2008) but I did arrive in time for the opening event the following day. This first concert did not open with a bang but a crackle – artificiel's POWEr, which deploys a Tesla coil as an instrument. I was captivated by the piece at MUTEK 2009 and–as great as my first impression was—the second performance was a tighter integration of the apparatus 'solos', video and audio sequences — POWEr definitely needs to be seen and heard to be believed. Next up was Willy Le Maitre's Edia, a stereoscopic tour of the "the topologies of information space." Despite some technical difficulties, Le Maitre's piece illustrated an impressive commitment to exploring panoramic images in a real-time, performative context – the narrated montage evoked a 1980s high theory 'virtual space' aesthetic similar to Chris Marker's Sans Soleil. A collaboration between the string quartet Kingdom Shore and video artist Christopher Payne followed it and paired "anxious and climactic arrangements" with a projection of a minimalist tapestry of shimmering textures.
[Gary James Joynes / On the Other Side]
Friday's event was entitled "Waveform Landscapes" and featured performances by Gary James Joynes and a showcase of the V-Atak audiovisual label. Joynes presented On the Other Side, a piece originally commissioned by the 2008 International Leonard Cohen Festival in which the artist creates "bass-scapes" out of samples of Cohen's voice. These abstract soundscapes were accompanied by ethereal black and white animations of what looked like glowing embers. To mark the transitions between movements, a screen reader chirped out choice passages of Cohen's poetry – these sequences were surprisingly engaging. Tasman Richardson followed with Firing Squad, a piece that leveraged an inventory of video clips documenting the simple act of turning off an array of cathode ray tube televisions to "bombard the audience like a paparazzi firing squad". Bombard is definitely the key word as Richardson used these flickering signals to compose a kinetic visceral score that outright hypnotized the audience for the duration of the piece. There is a preview of Firing Squad online, but it really doesn't do the work justice – go see it live if you have the opportunity, as it will undoubtedly be touring the festival circuit in 2011. The final work presented was Nohista's Nobody, which utilized a similar frenetic editing style to compose visual music with footage of a female dancer. While it was refreshing to see a meditation on the body, I found the piece somewhat flat and wasn't really engaged by the industrial-strength edits beyond enjoying the immaculate production.
[Paul Jasen talks low end theory / photo: Le Champion du Monde]
Saturday kicked off with the much-anticipated lecture "Bass: A Myth-Science of the Sonic Body" in which Paul Jasen considered the history and significance of low-frequency sound. The talk touched on the architecture of pipe organs, the connection between infrasound and alleged hauntings, Jamaican sound systems and (of course) dubstep. Jasen augmented discussion of these topics by playing several related tracks and mixes through the house sound system. Bolstered by a monstrous bass bin, with some serious EQ-sculpting to emphasize the low end, this playlist provided chest-rattling examples of some of Jasen's talking points.
The evening AV showcase was dedicated to highlighting talent connected to Montreal's Elektra festival. In a performance that was highly polished and all too brief, TIND presented trame00, an instalment of their ongoing investigation of live glitch video by way of hacked analog devices. Herman Kolgen's Dust followed and provided an exploration in "changes in the state of matter… at the edge of the imperceptible". Kolgen's work is always pristine and Dust was no exception, the piece catalogues an extensive archive of macro photography and ultra slow motion video of constellations of detritus, flies and other ephemera. The evening closed out with a presentation of A B C D Light, a decade-long collaboration between the digital artist Yan Breuleux's and composer Alain Thibault that explored the synthesis of light and percussion as a stroboscopic spectacle.
On the final afternoon of the festival I stopped by the related mini-Maker Faire that attracted a range of hackers and designers from the Northeast to present their work in an informal context. I spent some time chatting with representatives of HackLab.TO who are working on a third generation RepRap DIY 3D printer, demoed Erik Boyd's North Paw haptic compass, saw some great retro timepieces designed by GlowingTech and checked out a cold-war era teletype machine that had been hacked into serving as a twitter interface.
I have to extend my respect and salutations to Artengine's artistic director Ryan Stec for the stellar job he did with the festival curation. Ryan was a consummate host at each event and his thoughtful (and personal) introductions of each artist and stream of programming helped cultivate the wonderful, familial atmosphere that permeated Electric Fields 2010.
As we mentioned earlier, Vague Terrain was asked to curate a web exhibit as part of the festival – if you haven't already given it a once over please do, it contains projects from our archives by DEFASTEN, Gary James Joynes, Andrea Polli, Jeremy Rotzstain, Marius Watz and Mitchell Whitelaw.
Musicworks magazine is calling for new works from composers, sound artists, writers and journalists…
The Electronic Music Contest
First Prize: Albelton Live Software
Compose a piece in one of the following genres: Acousmatic, Audio Art, Electroacoustic, Glitch, Intelligent Dance Music, Microsound, Noise, or Turntable art. Maximum 5 minutes in length.
The Sonic Geography Writing Contest
First Prize: Apple iPad
Describe a location through sound. What does your local coffee shop sound like? Grocery store? Commute to work in the morning? Choose anywhere—urban or rural, indoors or outside, busy and loud or mysteriously quiet—and literally describe what you hear. Maximum 500 words.
Deadline for both contests: May 16, 2011
The Contest Entry Fee includes:
Go to contest.musicworks.ca for full contest details and submission guidelines.
DÉRAPAGE is a unique event of audiovisual exploration that annually invites people from all disciplines to create a non-narrative sonorized audiovisual short piece of less than three minutes.
Your videos can be in realtime, in animation, working with textures; shot in red, blue or green; in black and white or in color; hysterical or contemplative; name it! they'll find their place in Dérapage. So, now is time to submit your non narrative artworks for the grand screening evening of Dérapage 11.
To its usual categories − best editing, best sound, best animation, best first video and Grand Prize − Dérapage adds the new category « Moment d'apesanteur » (moment of weightlessness) in acrobatic performance.
Dérapage initiates a dialogue between these two practices and asks artists to explore this weightlessness moment, this instant when the acrobat in suspended in the air, between elevation and fall, fixed in time and space, in an acrobatical slow-motion, and to bring to the viewers the dreamscape, the interior environment of the performer in that specific position.
This challenge asks the videoartists to elongate this weightlessness moment in order to produce a piece, using original images, archives sequences and/or footage from rehearsals and shows, playing with time and space, that satisfies intelligence and sensitivity to provoque either artistic, dramatic or oniric emotions.
Submission Deadline: Submissions are due no later than March 18th, 2011. Selected works will be shown Thursday April 21st, at Centre de Design de l'UQAM (Montreal). Full submission guidelines available at derapage.ca/en