July 2010

Loadbang - July 10 (Toronto)

 Loadbang Toronto

LOADBANG
Saturday July 10 7-11pm
Butcher Gallery
234 1/2 Queen Street East, third floor




"A program (patch) runs (load) on a computer and files of moving numbers are (bang) randomly played from one to twenty seconds"

LOADBANG is a one-night blast of subversive, emergent video and web-based art explored through presentation of a mashup, video installation, net art and performance. Questioning net art and Internet video as distinctly web-based media, this exhibition looks at how transgressive and experimental desires in the form and content of online video are translated into an exhibition environment. How do time-wasting interactions such as web-cam performance, gaming, format shifts, avatars and porn affect our appreciation of art and life?

Addressing the instabilty of authorship in new media art production, an intensified presentation of video in a mashup asks us to contemplate variable ways of watching and curating online video.

What is your erotic? What do you want to see in art and what do you expect to see online? How are vulgar uses of technology and appropriated images rearticulated as visual fetish?

Showing randomized video by: Artur Augustynowicz, Adam Cruces, Andrea Hitchman, Ann Hirsch, Jordan Loeppky-Kolesnik, Nathaniel Sullivan, Jessica Vallentin, Ian MacTilstra, Mark Pellegrino, Lucas Soi

Related non-objects, events and actions:

  • A screening of Artie Vierkant’s “Avatar in 3D” at 8pm
  • A SCANDALISHIOUS performance by Ann Hirsch at 9pm
  • Video installation by Adam Herst
  • Death Star YouTube by Matthew Williamson

Curated by Jennifer Chan, this event was planned in response to an open call for “sexy, trashy video made for-or inspired by- the Internet”. Included videos and related artwork was selected in consultation with the gallery and a jury of new media artists/students/curators consisting of Jeremy Bailey, David Frankovich, Cheryl Sourkes, Kaitlin Till-Landry and Stephen Stanford.

This event would not be irl without generous assistance from Jeremy Bailey’s bangloading patchwriting and Mark Pellegrino’s technical consultation.

More information via http://butchergallery.com or contact@butchergallery.com

Born To Corrode: An introduction to, and discussion with, Scott Konzelmann a.k.a. Chop Shop

[Chop Shop / Thrust]

Among the complaints that discontents of the digital age have about the aesthetic shortcomings of its new media, one of the more valid ones is the claim that instantaneity (e.g. of digital photography and digital filming) has warped our perceptions of the organic life cycle. That is to say, images and recorded sounds strive much harder to produce the illusion of ‘emergence’ or ‘coming into being’ that came about via the deficiencies of pre-digital media. The gradual filling in of a Polaroid picture’s flat obsidian space, the unnerving crackle and sputter that indicated a vinyl album’s music program was about to get underway, the lead-in strip of a film reel marked with illegible technical instructions: all these things added a certain preliminary suspense or tension that was not an obstacle to the aesthetic experience, but part and parcel of it. The flip side to this lost organic ‘emergence’ has been, naturally, the way in which the wariness of 21st-century instantaneity has rejuvenated interest in the aesthetic of decay. Among Jean Baudrillard’s final published writings, he scorned digital imagery and/or CGI not only because “there is no negative any longer, no ‘time lapse’” within it, but also because

…nothing dies or disappears there. The image is merely itself the product of an instruction and a programme, aggravated by automatic dissemination from one medium to the other: computer, mobile phone, TV screen etc.'

Certainly, the design world’s acceptance of disappearance, fatigue, and the slow fade-out is not insignificant, although not without occasional insincerity and pandering towards those who fear peer group rejection for exhibiting too much techno-flash in the midst of a global economic nosedive. A few years back, I visited an eatery in Tokyo’s Ebisu district where the menu was printed onto corroded slabs of metal, one facet of a harsh post-industrial decorative scheme that clashed somewhat with the restaurant’s soundtrack of breezy downtempo electronica, and the impeccable grooming of the wait staff. And we’ve all likely seen the premature and rather insincere decay processes that can be found on “stressed” baseball caps, t-shirts and other fashion accoutrements meant as a way for people to exude casual ‘everyman’ bonhomie. Within the digital imaging realm itself, design squads have become increasingly adept at cultivating a special made-to-order decay that produces intense contrasts: bringing the ‘cleaner’ design elements of a given project into sharp relief. A randomly-picked back issue of the official Adobe magazine Layers (September / October 2009) provides an object lesson in this aesthetic via the goofy, overwrought Attention Deficit Design work of Linda Zacks, one-time design director for VH1.com as well as hired hand for Sony and (surprise) Adobe. In an unintentionally comical moment, the word “ORGANIC,” written in an insurrectionary spray-stenciled style as part of Zacks’ cover art, is partially obliterated by the magazine’s scannable barcode. There could be less cogent statements on the futility of such faux-organic aesthetics.

Though some kind of faux-organicism has always been in force in this writer’s lifetime, and has gone hand-in-hand with parallel design trends (such as expert ways of portraying non-expertise), the past decade or so has shown a marked intensification in the ‘push’ to make this the dominant design aesthetic. However, the conceits of this faux-organicism, especially when dealing with the decay stage of an artifact’s life cycle, are not difficult to identify. The metallic menus in that chic Ebisu restaurant were easily more expensive to produce than paper ones, and had nothing to do with a spartan “improvising from whatever materials were at hand” ethos. Likewise, pre-“stressed” clothing is usually more costly than items that don’t seek to add extra definition through these processes: the differences between the fabric wear injected in the manufacturing stage, and that which comes from real long-term use, remain painstakingly obvious and easy to articulate. Meanwhile, designers like Zacks are almost apologetic about their working methods, and in particular the fact that she admittedly “…use[s] the computer as a place to […] combine hand-done elements and weave them together, but never really as a place to originate pictures. I’m addicted to my scanner…I think it’s the best invention on earth.”

[Smoulder, cover art]

All this begs the question: what kind of art do we get when organic decay processes qua decay processes are allowed to speak for themselves? How do these raw materials look and sound when not being relegated to framing more synthetically ‘pure’ elements, or as a metaphor for a prevailing set of contemporary social conditions? A good example would be the art of Scott Konzelmann, whose recording alias ‘Chop Shop’ already suggests a modus operandi of salvaging disused scrap parts to be later welded together into some barely functioning but highly intriguing monstrosity. If nothing else, Chop Shop’s recorded magnum opus Oxide (23five, 2008), a full CD of strangely engrossing non-music re-constructed from moisture-damaged tapes, does its best to resurrect Baudrillard’s sadly-missed time lapse; the underwater streams of noisy sound artifacts on the disc seem as disinterested in human observers as any subject of time-lapse photography, and are equalized in such a way as to seem like they are literally decomposing and disintegrating upon contact with the listening environment. Also active in the world of the plastic arts, which he has hybridized with sound by way of his unique Speaker Constructions, Konzelmann has aimed to create a “music of decay” in which said organic process constitutes the “performance” itself. The sounds played back through Konzelmann’s specially-housed loudspeakers are then recorded and released on a variety of home audio formats, extending the reach of the Speaker Constructions even further.

His first Speaker Construction, Furnace Plate C1679, consisted of an iron plate taken from a furnace, featuring an 8" circular indentation, which –once drilled through by the artist – provided a convenient means of mounting a similarly sized speaker through which steady sonic frequencies traveled. As the sound hurtles through the speakers at a constant high-volume rate, damage to the speaker cones and other materials is likely to occur, but this is a possibility welcomed by the artist: it makes the physicality of the sound more apparent, and allows the otherwise unyielding hums, hisses and clatters to become further modulated with no outside intervention. Although his original artistic intention is stated as “giving sound a body,” his art also fits into a strong tradition of work that remains open to unintended consequences – consequences that are further accelerated by choosing “bodies” that are not in their prime.

Konzelmann’s home audio releases have occasionally come housed in seemingly impenetrable lead and copper sleeves (see his Smolder 3” cd released on V2 Archief), or his Steel Plate 10” double-vinyl set on RRRecords, whose particular packaging innovation you can probably deduce from the title. Rarely do album artworks manage to make the sound contained within them seem like a mise en abyme of that housing, but these specimens from Chop Shop come staggeringly close: the authoritative weight of the sleeves, their patterned discoloration from electro-chemical reactions, and the sound within provide incredibly complementary sensory effects. As to the subsequent emotional effects, critic Ken ‘Kenny G’ Goldsmith’s comes to a bold conclusion – of Smolder’s musical content he writes that

…there's something in its adamant refusal to engage on any emotional level that makes you respect it. For this reason alone, it's important. Although industrial, mechanical and noise music has been with us all century, there's generally some attempt to express something, despite its contradictory claims. Not this record. Smolder, in its hardcore modernist stance, achieves an expressive stasis that manages to deaden the emotional plane like the lead it's wrapped in.'

Fortunately, Konzelmann himself is free of ‘expressive stasis’ when communicating about his artwork (and I have to say that Goldsmith’s evaluation here was like a ‘throwing down of the gauntlet’ that partially inspired me to make personal contact with the man.) I fielded a number of questions to Scott throughout 2009-2010 and found him to have a natural enthusiasm for creation, coupled with a bare minimum of anxiety over ‘recognition’ and compensation. Since Scott was involved with another improvisational venture—the ‘cassette network’ of the 1980s—before he became involved with his Speaker Constructions and more elaborate multi-Construction installations, this seemed like a good place to begin…

Your first cassette work ("Primitive Power / Positive Force") came out in 1987, by which time this whole practice of homemade cassette releasing had been happening for about a decade. Was it easy for you to immediately integrate yourself into the culture of home-tapers, or were there some challenges to acceptance of your work at the outset?

Yes, I became active fairly late. I started listening and exchanging material with several people in 1984/85, so I had some idea of what was happening prior to my first release. "Primitive Power / Positive Force" was then my "official" introduction, sent out to people whose work I admired and felt some kinship with. I received very good response and support – but I also learned that it was important to somehow make the work really stand out; whether sonically, in the packaging, or conceptually, etc. That was the primary challenge I found for myself as a result of that cassette circulating.

[Chop Shop / Golden Throat]

Having said that, how much did things change from your first release to the 2nd cassette [“Scraps”] in 1989?

I spent time after the first release developing what came to be known as my Speaker Constructions to better convey and shape the sonic materials. These Speaker Constructions are sculptural assemblages of found and scavenged elements housing functional loudspeakers – each Speaker Construction is operated with a distinct sound program which reflects its' individual physical characteristics. Isolated, or in group settings, the Speaker Constructions charge the listening room to provide a unique listening experience. This area then became the major focus for my work, developing a distinct quality in both presentation and the recordings. So, with "Scraps" I was able to better direct the material. My contacts and distribution widened considerably after that release made its way around. Labels such as RRR and Banned Productions started to ask for further projects to appear through them, and festivals and galleries began offering to present installations and performances of my work.

I'm curious what some of the initial audience reactions were to the Speaker Constructions – did any one particular aspect of the presentation (either the sculptural aspect, or the audio output) seem to take precedence over the others, as people encountered them?

The primal seed of the Speaker Constructions: I found early on, when working in abstract sound, that people always looked at the loudspeaker as they listened – ear cocked – looking for information, some context, or reference. I thought of giving them something to really look at, something that further defined and actually gave a physical body/object to better convey what they were hearing. The focus of this work is to first capture, distill, and then present a particular sound experience as purely as possible. The presentation and focus of my work was more installation than performance – as my working process is to use and to record these objects in variable situations, on end—this made for a challenge—in particular, that the recorded releases convey the experience of an immersive, directed listening environment. Presenting images of the Speaker Constructions along with the sounds expanded the SCRAPS package and gave definition to the materials: intention and more information for the listener. "Physical sounds through visible sources" was the motto then, and remains so now.

Were these objects built with some previous knowledge of what they would sound like upon completion, or were the sonic results a surprise even to you?

Initially, yes: a surprise. A visual idea originally – but of course, I quickly found the playful aspect of "loose" or manipulated speaker elements in various housings (i.e. pipes/hoods/plates/etc.). The Speaker Constructions are developed in a dialog with the sound component – to modify or exploit the reproduction/role and functionality.

Did you ever feel there was any tension between the two 'worlds' of public art installations/exhibits, and that of the international 'tape network' which your early releases contributed to? Or did their respective energies feed off of/complement each other?

Very good question – and a point that remains sticky. I ended up in an odd crack between the two. The art world read "noise – what is that?”, and what do we do with that??" Never got a cold shoulder from the cassette network – who, perhaps, were also not fully sure of the intent or focus behind it. Whittled down the people I stayed in contact/trade with onwards. Earlier, it was easier – as both audiences / "worlds" were fairly open and curious. Originally, I was loath to call myself a "sound artist", but the gallery world then needed that terminology to somehow place it. At the same time I was equally loath to call myself a "noise artist" – as that did not describe the intent (or craft) of the focus behind the work. Both were pretentious. That was 1989. Now, in 2009 it's easier to bend either/or with the descriptions – as they both are more accepted as a more well-known vernacular, though I feel it remains vague. Chop Shop exists in an odd niche somewhat apart from much of the current contexts of both… I initially fed each side by the packaging of my releases—and further by primarily presenting my work as installation—or capture, rather than performances. I now do both, as the proper situation presents.

Another question about both the speaker constructions, and the 'art object' tapes you were making: was the 'industrial salvage' aesthetic associated with these objects meant to impart any particular message or commentary (be it ethical, political etc.)? Or was it just a matter of finding these 'scrap' materials visually attractive and evocative?

None. No message, no commentary. Not to be taken as political, or ethical – at all. Trying to present sound as a physical residue (mark).

Do you feel like despite the apparent awkwardness of your work 'falling between the cracks’ that this resistance to classification (both from yourself and from the 'art community') will end up giving your work a greater longevity?

The "crack" is not uncomfortable; I find it to be enough at this point. Could be wider if I chose to push it, but I strive to make my work as consistent as possible to my ear and sensibility – at my own pace. There has always been some stress (both internal and external) about remaining more current, as there is an expectation of a fairly constant stream of releases or shows as a barometer. I remain more known by previous history, and by audience support more than activity.

On that note, I must add this: I have met the most incredible people through my activity in the sound network. I count so many great friends – various and far-flung-that have become solid pals that I will know for the rest of my life. That goes back to just sending cassettes to people whose work I enjoyed and respected, and hearing back. So when you ask about longevity, there are internal (overlapping) circles that I am extremely grateful and pleased to have had their long-standing support of my work, to further push, foster– and spark. I continue to hear from great and interesting new people—the circle widens.

In your opinion, why is it easier today than in 1989 to work around these identifiers like "noise artist"? Are people really that much better informed today, or more willing to discover new things without worrying where it fits into the categorical puzzle?

In 1989, calling your work noise would not have found any wider audience that wasn't already listening. Calling your work ‘sound art’ then came off as pretentious to the audience that was already listening. The recent popularity of noise has allowed for very random shit to be considered sound art. There is now a much wider audience that hears in either terminology a "new" direction. After the onset of the digital format in the 1990s – with the laptoppers, DJ ambient noise—and further with the popularity of rock bands incorporating "noise"…that while the usage has become significantly more prevalent and accepted – much (if any) context remains vague. Academically, or commercially. Perhaps that is just fine. Some listeners sense and chase the thread, or history, and make their connections. It takes effort to decipher any clear categories from much of the work that came out of that period (mid 1980's to 2000+) – and hats off to those that try.

The Sternberg Project - Call for Video (NYC)

The Sternberg Project

Throughout the month of July Little Dances Everywhere will be collecting footage for The Sternberg Project, an interactive, crowd-sourced, multi-media time capsule of July in Sternberg Park (bound by Lorimer St, Leonard St, Boerum St and Montrose Av in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and its surrounding area.

We encourage you to help us build a video map of the park throughout the month of July by filming a short clip of the park. Videos can be from 10 seconds to 1 minute in length and made on anything from an HD camcorder to a camera phone. Capture/create anything from dances, conversations, home runs, images, narratives, stills, sounds, etc. and be sure to let us know where it was filmed! Below are some ideas to get you started:

  • What does summer in Brooklyn mean to you?
  • What is your favorite part (as a newcomer, a long-time park user, a neighborhooder, a visitor, a trespasser)?
  • What odd or interesting movement quirks do you find?
  • What stories do you hear/invent/make happen?
  • Who do you meet?
  • What do you see?
  • What do you hear?

    All footage will be included in an interactive map of the park, accessible online. Selected footage will be featured in a dance film to be presented at a public screening on August 23rd by Moviehouse.

    Ways to submit:
    Email file to moviehousebk@gmail.com
    Send via yousendit.com or another hosting site
    Mail/drop off a copy to Moviehouse @ 3rd Ward: 195 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237

    Submission Deadline: July 31st

    The Sound of Live performance - Furthernoise.org Call for Work

    Live sound and music performance is like no other medium for expression and frequently yields interesting sonic results, both on, and off stage. Sound checks, sound failures, the miss assigned patch, FX overloads/calibrations and pinnacles of performative exploration can all yield potential for eclectic new material.

    Furthernoise.org is calling for works which are a bi-product of live performance for our next compilation "Explorations in Sound Vol 4' . Works can be raw audio of, tuning up, happy accidents, sound check experiments, improvisations, studio out takes, or any other means in which new source material was generated by performative chance

    Submissions can be electro/acoustic or both, and between 60 seconds and 7 minutes in length.

    Please send ftp links of 44.1 k WAV or AIF files to roger [at] furthernoise [DOT] org. Include details of process, event or place, inspirations and permission to use the track for the compilation licensed under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales. Please also attach a short 100 word bio of contributors.

    For more information see http://www.furthernoise.org

    Make Art - Call for Projects (Poitiers)

    The sixth edition of make art—"in-between design: rediscovering collaboration in digital art"—will take place in Poitiers (FR), from the 4th to the 7th of November 2010.

    Make art is an international festival dedicated to the integration of Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) in digital art. make art offers performances, presentations, workshops and an exhibition, focusing on the encounter between digital art and free software.

    Today's market production accelerates the spread of non-critical and standardized aesthetics, by means of locked top-down distribution mechanisms and a series of tools that enforce it. At the same time new forms of methodologies inspired or powered by free software, participatory practices and peer-to-peer networks are fueling many Internet subcultures. Some of these emerging practices will lead to competitive social productions, while other will remain as pure artistic experiments.

    By adopting production and distribution methods based on free software and open standards and by sharing the sources of one's work with others, the collective knowledge base and aesthetic sensibilities can freely interact to explore uncharted, hybrid directions which no longer reflect the supremacy of a single idea.

    • Does the sharing of artworks "recipes" and tools help debunk the myth of the isolated design genius?
    • By leaving the possibility of ongoing development and refinement, is it possible to ever produce a "final" design?
    • Can these methods and technologies inspire new forms of creation or tools, beyond self-referential productions?
    • Is it wishful thinking to approach collaborative graphical design in the same way as an open source software project?
    • Is Free and Open Source licensing a catalyst for creation or does it add an extra level of complexity?
    • Can the limitation of one license trigger new forms of constrained creativity?

    We're currently seeking new, innovative media art and design works and projects focusing on the above theme and questions:

    • graphical artworks and installations
    • lectures
    • project presentations
    • software and hardware demos

    We're also seeking audiovisual performances that will take place during the festival evenings.

    The submitted projects must fit this focus and be made in a free/libre and open source environment, this includes both its optional dependencies or production tools and the operating system. We are asking you to publish the sources of your project under a free culture license of your choice or release it into the public domain. Projects that do not meet these criteria will not be considered.

    Submission form and a list of additional requirements are available at:
    http://makeart.goto10.org/call

    Submission deadline: Saturday July 31st, 2010

    Fogo Island Arts Corporation Residency Program 2011 - Call for Applications

     Fogo Island Arts Corporation

    The Fogo Island Arts Corporation is a new contemporary art venue on the east coast of Canada. The Arts Corporation runs two distinct yet complementary programs, the Residency program and the Production program. Both programs encourage dialogue between visiting artists and local people to share experiences and perceptions.

    The Fogo Island Arts Corporation's mission to bring together local communities and the international art scene is reflected in the accommodations and work space provided to Residency Program participants. Striking new studios are being built at locations across the island. They are designed by acclaimed architect Todd Saunders. The first of these studios—The Long Studio—opened on June 2 2010.

    Living spaces are provided in refurbished traditional homes located in nearby communities on the island.

    How to Apply: Visual artists, curators and filmmakers can apply for residencies on Fogo Island in 2011. Residencies are 3 – 6 months. Visiting artists/curators/filmmakers are provided with a studio space and a house to live in.

    Application deadline: July 31 2010.

    Applications are reviewed by an international Selection Committee. For complete guidelines and applications forms please visit this page.

    Beaux Arts Ball 2010 - CFP (NYC)

     Arch. League NYC - Beaux Arts Ball

    The Architectural League is seeking individuals or teams of artists and designers to create light installation and projection mapping projects for our annual Beaux Arts Ball. The Ball will take place on September 25, 2010, at the American Academy of Arts and Letters at Audubon Terrace in Washington Heights. Last year, the event drew over 1000 architects, designers and artists at The Old American Can Factory in Gowanus. Up to ten proposals will be selected for display for the duration of the event, from roughly 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Teams may submit one or more proposals for review.

    The site, Audubon Terrace, is a landmark complex of approximately eight early 20th Century Beaux Arts buildings in New York City. Home to the Academy, the Hispanic Society and Boricua College, the various architecturally complementary buildings, which take up most of a city block, are arranged in two parallel rows facing each other across an east/west pedestrian plaza. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Images of the terrace and floor plans of the Academy’s buildings can be found at http://archleague.org/bab2010images

    Three of the Academy’s buildings and the terrace will house various projection mapping projects and lighting installations. There are almost ZERO New York City based projection mapping projects on Vimeo. Let’s change that. Examples of types of projects we would like to see include:

    • Sculptural projection mapping projects that can easily be taken down and set up again. This can involve projecting on geometric shapes, white television screens, white furniture, old architectural models, and sculptures.
    • 2D projection mapping onto any variety of media on walls. Media can range from books, to picture frames, to polygons.
    • Architectural projection mapping, onto the facades of the buildings and the Audubon Terrace.
    • Light sculptures that play with reflection, refraction, shadow, and different types of lights.

    If selected, all team members will receive free admission to the Ball. Additionally, projects and teams will be featured on the Ball web page on www.archleague.org and will be given credit in the printed program for the Ball. We would also like to host a presentation of each team’s piece and/or prior work at the League’s office which we may turn into a podcast and be featured on our blog. During the event we will have a tour of the installations introducing the design teams to architects and designers.

    For more information please visit http://archleague.org/2010/09/beaux-arts-ball-2010

    GLI.TC/H - CFP (Chicago)

     

    GLI.TC/H is an international gathering of noise & new media practitioners in Chicago from September 29 thru October 03, 2010.

    GLI.TC/H is a physical and virtual assembly of artists, hackers,moshers, dirty mediators, noise makers, circuit benders, p/h/i/l/o/s/o/p/h/e/r/s, and those who find wonder in that which others call broken.

    GLI.TC/H seeks: Realtime + time-based performances (audio/video), utilizing broken/bent technologies/strategies. Workshops, sharingknowledge of hardware/software hacking, cracking, breaking, kludging,piracy, & tool building. Artworks and Projects, artware, videos,games, films, tapes, code, interventions, screen-captures, systems,websites & installations. Texts, lectures, essays, code, articles and hypermedia.

    Submission Deadline: 2010.08.20

    Send an email to glitch@gli.tc link to your work, abstract, or other documentation. Please include a short explanation and your bio, let us know your geolocation and if you want to physically (or electronically) attend the conference. If applicable, send spatial, technical or temporal requirements for the project.

    More info available at http://gli.tc/h

    Doing it for the lulz - August 6th (Toronto)

    [Jeremy Bailey / Public Sculpture / 2009]

    doing it for the lulz: The internet is bigger than ever. With consumption and production pushed into such close proximity, XPACE has asked Jeremy Bailey, ginger coons, and Jon Rafman to talk about the problems and possibilities of the internet.

    More information at http://xpace.info/events_archive/doing-it-for-the-lulz

    August 6th, 7pm
    XPACE Cultural Centre
    58 Ossington Avenue (north of Queen Street West)
    Toronto

    Pitch a tent in Meaford, Ontario this long weekend

    Meaford, Ontario

    This is the Meaford I know. Nestled quaintly on the Southern shore of Georgian Bay, Meaford for me means farming, it means my grandparents homestead, rolling hillsides, markets and lazy summer afternoons. It hadn’t (until recently) meant anything related to new media or electronic arts. That is, however, until I discovered Electric Eclectics (EE); festival of experimental music and sound art that has been taking place for the past five years over the August Long Weekend on a farm (The Funny Farm, owned by festival director Gordon Monahan) that overlooks Beaver Valley. Juxtaposing this bucolic rural scenery with a line up of avant-garde artists and crossover musicians that includes HEALTH, AIDS Wolf, DD/MM/YYYY, Let’s Paint TV; a midnight presentation of Tommy Wiseau’s film, “The Room” as well as installations by Andrew Harwood, Cinecycle, Marla Hlady and Christof Migone, EE seems like it will be an amazing mix of sounds and sights, a space to truly emerse yourself in the art and the outdoors.

    There is something I really love about events like this that take place in smaller, less central locations. There is also something more to be said for festival organizers who take it upon themselves to start something new, to decide that instead of always venturing afar to experience the avant-garde that they will bring (or at least attempt to bring) these artists to them, in this case to their very own back yard, as Monahan decided to do for the first EE in 2006. This d-i-y approach may cost the event some of the slick production quality of other electronic arts extravaganzas, but with the philosophy of not only supporting artists who are adept at bending, crossing or completely redefining musical and artistic categories, but also exposing new communities to these types of artists, it is festivals like EE that seem like fresh pockets of creativity.

    Both Monahan and EE co-director Chris Worden was in town last week for Bluesfest, where they had arranged, for the third year in a row, to co-present Electric Ecelctics satellite concerts, as previews for the festival proper. Certainly again, if you want to find an example of a festival attempting to expose new communities to electronic arts, I would label the EE performances at Bluesfest this year as nothing short of shear courageousness on the part of both festivals’ organizers. (They are in fact brothers…)

    On the first Saturday of BF, I spent what I think was the hottest afternoon of the year watching Let’s Paint TV (who will perform in Meaford on Saturday night) play between musical sets on the Subway Stage. An internationally renowned YouTube phenomena, HIS NAME is probably the farthest thing away from the balls-to-the-wall, face melting, fifteen minute guitar solos that can tend to typify headliners at BF since it moved to Lebreton Flats. Let’s Paint TV’s act is fairly straight forward – accompanied by the sounds of a theramine, synth, drums and various percussive instruments – he runs on a treadmill, while making fresh blended drinks and painting. Yep, running, blending and painting! For the performance I saw, he attempted to capture the beauty of the Ottawa River stretching out beyond the festival site, while mixing a cocktail of bananas, apples and mangos. Spouting words of encouragement and inspiration on how to the audience could achieve their physical and creative potential – a Jimmy Stewart for the arts – Let’s Paint TV sweat it out three times that afternoon, to crowds that grew increasingly perplexed, if not down-right obnoxious. Of course, there were some die-hard fans who actually came to see him perform, but for the most part, he was met with gawks, guffaws and even jeering, especially from the lawn-chair crowd, who had arrived early to see WHO. I later found out that this was the first time EE had presented any of its performers on the outdoor stages. Admittedly, Let’s Paint TV is gimmicky; it is kitchy, random and at times, a bit of a gong show, which didn’t entirely translate onto such a large stage. It was, however, amazing to see a balding, suited man jog, juice and channel Jackson Pollock in 32º. I can see why Let’s Paint TV has garnered such a cult following, and if Ottawa wasn’t ready for it, maybe Meaford will be next weekend.

    The second performance presented by EE at Bluesfest was a set by Nicolas Collins in the Barney Danson Theatre, the space where all the past EE presentations have taken place in. Cloistered away from the rest of the festival, the theatre is the ideal space for EE to present artists – most obviously for the fact that it can support the various types of electronics and audio-visual presentations that would not fair well on any of the outdoor stages. For better or for worse, it also shelters these performances from unassuming, potential audiences; anyone who wants to see these shows will seek them out, but few people happen upon them accidentally, which is a shame.

    Collins, who will also be performing at EE on Saturday night, is the antithesis of Let’s Paint TV. A professor in the Department of Sound at the Art Institute of Chicago, the editor of Leonardo Music Journal and author of several books including Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardward Hacking (now in its second edition), he is an icon of the genre and an academic through and through. Taking the stage in loafers, and a beige blazer, he spent his first song seated nonchalantly behind his laptop, studying the screen as though reading or editing an article, thoughtfully and purposefully tapping a key or two at select intervals. His music is quite classic in the electronic sense, and includes song written entirely for skipping CDs, custom circuit compositions, electromagnetically manipulated instruments, as well as spoken word and orchestrations for musicians who imitate these digital noises. Coming from a generation of composers that includes Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma and David Tudor, Collins is entirely old-school, and watching him in the air conditioned comfort of the Barney Danson Theatre felt very much like seeing a lecture in a university classroom, one, of course, accompanied by a wall of sound and feedback!

    The strength in these two performances was that they represented both sides of the spectrum of performances that will be showcased this weekend at Eletric Ecelctics. It was unfortunate that neither performance was very well attended, or altogether all that well received by the Bluesfest audience. It is also unfortunate that neither was ultimately as dynamic as what the rest of the EE line-up seems to be; however, I still hold out hope for the events this weekend, up on that rolling hillside in the Beaver Valley.