By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — What do you get when you combine light, sound, texture, esthetics and philosophy into an immersive artistic experience? The answer itself is a fascinating equation; one that has been given life and room to breathe thanks to an immersive three-day celebration of multimedia art known as PARTICLE + WAVE.
“We started out in 2012, as sort of an experiment during Alberta Culture Days, and our second one was in 2015, so we’re trying to make it a biannual event,” says programming director Vicki Chau, “EMMEDIA wanted to do a festival that focuses on the realm of live audiovisual performances and more on projection art and sound art. It kind of emerged around the same time that Soundasaurus, the Multimedia Sound Arts Festival that was put on by Tammy McGrath, at the EPCOR Centre (now known as Arts Commons) was ending. When Tammy left, Soundasaurus died away and there was a need for a sound-arts festival in the city, so PARTICLE + WAVE picked that up; along with all of the other aspects of media arts, as well as sound, to give the Calgary community something that’s a little bit different.”
Offering a glimpse into the brave new world of multimedia works and installations, PARTICLE + WAVE is the ideal point of entry for those seeking to expand their knowledge of how digital technologies are being manipulated to create provocative works of art that challenge the limits of audio-visual presentation and performance. On the other side of the brain, the festival has been carefully curated so as to provide a frictionless transition between environment and experience, thereby rendering even the most intimidatingly complex examples both accessible and approachable.
“It’s interesting to be able to evolve a festival along with what the artists are producing and to be able to find the venues around the city, such as Festival Hall, that can facilitate their kind of work,” says Chau. “Our partners have been fantastic in supporting us in showcasing the kind of art that can’t be shown anywhere else. Because PARTICLE + WAVE exists in a celebratory mode it is the perfect vehicle for us to present to people who are not already familiar with EMMEDIA or media arts. Everything we do, except for the Feature Night, is free. So, we want to entice the public to come back to EMMEDIA and partake of the year-round events that we have to offer beyond the festival, as well.”
While PARTICLE + WAVE’s biggest soirée takes place on February 2nd, group exhibition Digital Artifacts runs February 4 to March 4 at U-Hall TRUCK, and Janus will run February 3 to 25 at EMMEDIA. Mapping artificial intelligence from the inside out, Janus, produced by Toronto-based multimedia pioneer and guest lecturer Tasman Richardson, is a prime example of using modern software “hacks” to reanimate obsolete computer systems. Richardson’s colourful and stimulating brand of technomancy involves stimulating vintage Atari 2600 consoles to give birth to their own original sounds and images. According to semiotic sampler Richardson, running a device through its virtual death throes in order to capture the “nowness” of the elusive binary life flashing before your eyes is just the tip of the cybernetic iceberg.
“I call it fishing for the invisibles,” Richardson elaborates. “Normally, in post-‘87 technologies, you’d get a blue screen that would censor (as in censorship) and stop any unstable static or noise that happens when you turn on your TV, just to make it more palatable. The problem is that it also cancels out any beautiful, subtle, nuanced glitches that the machines are building and generating. The glitches come straight from the console itself, with no cartridge inside it, and you have to use power failure and brown-outs to ween the machine off of its stabilizing power in order to generate the glitches. So, there’s a real movement of trying to harness those glitches and that’s called fishing for them.”
PARTICLE + WAVE’s main events take place February 2nd to 4th at various venues in Calgary. Shows Digital Artifacts and Janus throughout February at U-Hall TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary and EMMEDIA respectively.AB, Alberta, Digital Artifacts, EMMEDIA, Janus, multimedia art, PARTICLE + WAVE, U-Hall TRUCK Contemporary Art, visual arts