For a variety of reasons—all traceable to the film Bladerunner—most of my notions about the future carry post-humanist anxieties and involve flying cars.
I saw no flying cars (just lots of the regular kind, desperately searching for parking in the Railyard) over the June 8 weekend of events kicking off Emerging Media Month. I did, however, see, hear and possibly initiate plenty of discourse about the relationship between people, nature and technology in this wacky, fractured and increasingly digitized-possibly-on-the-brink-of-ruin culture in which we live.
As mentioned in a previous column, a confluence of events, anchored by the Interplanetary and CURRENTS New Media festivals, are part of a larger movement to emphasize Santa Fe's growing role in both emerging arts and technology. On the ground, this translated into a very busy weekend, during which I attempted to hit as many events as possible while not spontaneously combusting in the heat. I didn't make everything and, if you also missed out, not to worry: It's a busy month with more to come.
CURRENTS opened June 9 at El Museo Cultural (and continues through June 24) with a panoply of interactive displays, virtual reality experiences, audio installations and more, and will require return visits to truly grok. I was particularly taken with "Hollow Noise," a sound installation by Taiwanese artist Fujui Wang, an audio and kinetic piece that provided a surprisingly meditative sense of calm (surprising given the mass of sensory experiences going down in El Museo—be sure to look for it).
In the most relative sense, the exhibition hall for the inaugural Nation of Makers Conference (hosted at the Convention Center over the weekend) felt lo-fi, in a good way. There, a variety of maker types gathered to discuss the state of making, and to display hands-on projects melding technology with DIY. There, I found Todd Blatt, founder of We the Builders, who was working on a project in which a 7-inch sculpture of Rosie the Riveter by sculptor Jen Schachter had been digitized, turned into a 6-foot 3-D model, and cut into 2,600 three-inch chunks so that other hundreds of other makers could download them. Those pieces were shipped to MAKE Santa Fe and were being reassembled into a multi-hued sculpture representing the theme of inclusivity that was the conference's guiding principal.
Artist Katherine Lee showed me the "great wheel" that was also made through a 3-D printer, on which she was spinning yarn (from cotton she grows herself). All this activity made me feel extra lazy (generally, the only things I make are messes), although Lee herself said despite her hands-on approach across a variety of disciplines, she found herself wondering about the role of making. "It can be meaningful to make things, … to shape the world we live in physically. But if I stopped making stuff, I could just sit around." (As an expert, I told her just sitting around is an overrated experience).
From NomCom, I scooted over to form & concept Gallery for an artists' talk on the group show Inner Orbit (up through July 21). Gallery Director Frank Rose said the show, mounted in conjunction with Interplanetary, focuses on the personal experiences artists have with the cosmos, writ large and small. This included Matthew Mullins' paintings of fractals and other shapes in nature, as well as Drew Cassidy Lenihan's investigation of his family's history in World World II as it intersected with Shell Oil Company, the US Navy and NASA. Gallery Marketing Manager Jordan Eddy noted during the artists' talk that the works were interested in space not as "a void," but, rather, a "complicated cultural space we project onto."
The notion of complicated cultural spaces stayed with me as I ended the evening at SITE Santa Fe for the multi-media concert Displaced Horizons, part of SITE's Sound and Spectacle series, a collaborative musical/visual piece examining water infrastructure. As was the case throughout the weekend, the work toggled between concern about the ways in which technological tools have taken over culture, and using those tools to make stuff (art, performance, objects) responding to those concerns.
Chris Jonas, one of the composers and performers for Displaced Horizons, also is shepherding the Emerging Media Alliance, a project by the city's Film and Digital Media Commission. He sees June as the opening salvo of what will be more events and discussions in this realm.
"A weekend like this is an opportunity for all of us as artists to scratch our heads and ask what we are doing with our tools," he says, "and to create opportunities with our relationship to the public to explore these complicated views."
EMA's launch party is Thursday evening, and membership is open to both individuals and groups to join and collaborate in this brave new world.