By Hollie McGowan
September 28 – October 1, 2017
Vancouver – Inline with the last few moments of summer at the end of September, New Forms Media Society hosted another installment of their New Forms Festival bringing Vancouver an array of experimental electronic music and art to experience. Over the course of three days, attendees were treated to a variety of state-of-the-art media and music performance, as well as introducing a few new surprises to the bill.
This year the festival was not limited to one building, but was spread throughout the city making use of several public spaces for its continued expression and expansion of “new forms” in electronic music, art and the culture that surrounds it. The main location, which acted as a hub for both the opening and late night events, was the Center for Digital Media.
At the center, two very spacious rooms were utilized as stages for music and dancing. Projected onto one of the venue’s outside walls was the WALLPAPERS exhibit; an ongoing collaborative project that has involved a multitude of artists from North America, Europe and the Middle East since 2011. Each night as the parties took place an ever changing stream of images lit up the outdoor space depicting obscurities that would morph and change faster than one had time to comprehend. Adjacent to the building, two ping pong tables allowed for attendees to engage in a round or two as a grilled cheese stand sold hot sandwiches late into the night.
The second location employed for the festival’s Friday and Saturday Evening Resonance Series was SFU Woodward’s Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theater located downtown. The black and minimalist esthetic of the theater provided the perfect setting for the intimate yet electrifying series. With music from artists such as Electric Indigo, Juliana Huxtable and Hans-Joachim Roedelius being performed, the audience sat silently indulging themselves in hours of mind-warping sound experimentation which carried them through multi-layered ambient works and spacious sonic journeys.
The third venue employed for the festival this year was The Western Front where panel discussions and workshops took place in collaboration with CURRENT, a Vancouver based collective focusing on support for femme-identifying and non-binary artists within the Pacific Northwest. The symposium included topics such as “Working towards safer spaces in electronic music culture” and “Shifting narratives in the electronic music & art industry.”
Additionally, a keynote session was held with Juliana Huxtable and Frankie Hutchinson as well as a presentation entitled “Digital Strategies & PR for artists” with Jelissa Classics. Each discussion reflected a return to the real roots of underground dance music culture as being one that originated within marginalized groups in need of a safe space to express themselves as well as an eagerness to continue growing and cultivating our present communities in this day and age.
Participants of the symposium were just as engaged as the speakers, creating an open dialogue that was respectful, thought-provoking and progressive. While the discussions took place, workshops covering electronic music gear demonstration and djing took place in another area of the building. A new addition to New Forms this year, the Saturday symposium was an excellent step in the right direction as the Canadian electronic art and music communities continue to move forward.
For the majority of the festival’s attendees, both the Friday night and Saturday night programs at The Center for Digital Media were the places to be. Both nights were packed as hundreds of digital media connoisseurs, art students and electronic music lovers garbed in their finest black attire to experience what each showcase had to offer.
Friday night highlights included Fractal Fantasy, an audiovisual series by Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones whose partnership on stage reflected their well-balanced and cohesive union as each performer took turns between playing music with the visuals. Simultaneously in the next room, Archetype was expanding minds with his exhilarating techno meets industrial live set. After Fractal Fantasy, ZutZut played a lively show that traversed across a wide range of obscure sounds from experimental techno to tribal rhythms.
Saturday night also provided some rare treats for those in attendance. The much anticipated bass music producer Peverelist played a techno set that was so intricately put together each sound deserved just as much attention as the next. Next door Aleksi Perala led a jam packed room through a minimal yet complex set of electronic frequencies.
Another great year for the books, New Forms Festival 2017 came to a close after the finals acts of Saturday night. Bringing Vancouver both the experimental music and art it seeks while introducing new components to the festival schedule, New Forms yet again succeeded at gathering people together in celebration of contemporary forms of artistic and cultural expression.Centre for Digital Media, New Forms Festival, New Forms Media Society