[rumori] electrofringe in real time

From: shannon o'neill (aliasATaliasfrequencies.org)
Date: Sun Dec 09 2001 - 04:21:10 PST


Newcastle on the electrofringe
Felena Alach

Newcastle: This Is Not Art festival…a 4-way conjunction of the new
media-tech festival electrofringe, the National Young Writers Festival, the
National Student Media Conference and Sound Summit 2001. This diverse
cross-section of interests descended amidst grand-final-fever in Newcastle
to explore an extensive program of workshops, panel discussions, project
expositions and forums by day, with evenings offering all kinds of
entertainment in the form of sound experiments and visual collaborations.

Navigating a dense schedule was relieved somewhat by my brief to focus on
new media arts, implying mostly electrofringe content. This Is Not Art
(acronym alert…) presented a broad overview of the state of the creative
‘fringe’, providing crossing-points between a flourishing underground of
youthful enterprise and more established structures. Organised largely as
non-formal presentation forums, the relaxed and amicable style of delivery
provided mostly interesting and enlivening discussion with a high level of
audience engagement. There were a few hit-and-miss hazards, certain forums
suffering a frustrating lack of direction/focus, or thwarted by
tech-glitches/panellist no-shows (such as the mystery of the elusive Mark
Dery). Overall, content was generous and most sessions highly rewarding.

With pragmatics, playfulness and politics intersecting in the realm of
creative appropriation, one key theme of TINA discussion centred on
copyright, exploring the ethics of ‘cultural recycling’ in the use of
‘sampled’ sound/images/text within creative practice. This topic reveals
the marginal status of those applying non-sponsored creativity towards
technology, within the grey-zone politics of ownership vs authorship in the
age of digital reproduction. Citing “the glamour of theft” and “the
pleasure of the intertext”, San Franciscan Steev Hise discussed the
censorship dilemma for artists working in sample-based appropriation which
led to the development of his site as a secure, non-censored server for
such artists. In an entertaining flipside to creative appropriation, Mark
Gunderson (Evolution Control Committee) exposed leaks in the now defunct
Napster file-sharing phenomenon, where people unwittingly allow computer
soundfiles of their own (excruciatingly) personal recordings to be shared
by lax default settings. These dodgy karaoke moments and pillow talk, as
unconsenting gems of kooky source material, present hilarious examples of
the fruits of creative trespass, with such anonymous authorship throwing
questions of privacy into discussions of the creative ethics of ‘fair use.’

The balance between politics and play within appropriation-as-subversion
emerged through topical discussion of ‘culture jamming…art or activism?’.
(‘Culture jamming’ implies symbolic/concrete interventions into the public
space of communications, introducing noise into the signal of ‘the proper’
economy of status quo commercial/official interests.) In the shadow of the
recent shock of spectacle terrorism and its military responses, the forum
on resistance politics, subversion and art was thrown into stark relief. In
arguing the question of effectiveness—either as art or activism—within the
elusive hit-and-run tactics of cultural jamming, the frustrations of such
symbolic resistance revealed itself a necessary altruism for those who
choose peaceful, non-militant modes of cultural critique (to whatever
degree such subversions manifest as material interventions). An example of
such creative interference was presented by Andy Cox (Together We Can
Defeat Capitalism) with the (re)launch of the pseudo-corporate para-sites
www.citibank-global-domination.com and www.citigroup-global-domination.com.
This web intervention masquerading as bank home page (cunningly tweaked to
pop up high on key-word searches) creates links to legitimate wilderness
group sites, revealing factual information about the global/environmental
impacts of this and other banks’ activities.

electrofringe presented highly informative workshops offering practical
insights into digital tools, complemented by interesting panel discussions
on online environments, multi-user virtual ‘worlds’, and developments
within the gaming industry. With unanimous emphasis on the importance of
freely accessible and ‘open-source’ software for lateral applications of
digital ingenuity, one important topic was that of customising software
through ‘patching.’ This is the process where software is altered through
manipulating its source code in order to offer new tools for digital
manipulation, project development and creative novelty. Presentations
included Anne Marie Schleiner’s curated examples of gaming culture art and
experimental game patches such as alternative character ‘skins’ for
established games (see www.opensorcery.net); the use of existing game
engines as a base from which to develop a 3D environment as with the
interesting game project Spookyville; Celine Bernadeau’s discussion of
current game industry developments; and other engaging discussions on the
future of the ‘global village.’

Other tech presentations focused on current technologies for processing
audio/video signals in realtime, with excellent tutorial workshops in
software tools such as MAX/JMAX. This also opened up a view into the
arcanely fresh phenomenon of vision mixing or VJ-ing using realtime
manipulation of video to generate either images in response to external
audio sources, or combining a complete AV signal with ‘scratch’ techniques
of cut-up collaging to create an integrated sound+vision ‘musicvideo.’ UK
feature guest Vicki Bennett (aka People Like Us) offered both consummate
performance in vision mixing as well as engaging workshop discussion on the
technical processes. Other VJs offered excellent examples of this recent
media artistry throughout the festival, a greatly appreciated visual
content in the program. Also worth mentioning were the excellent Archimedia
screenings and other random site showings that manifested in the streets
and venues of Newcastle.

electrofringe, directors Joni Taylor & Shannon O’Neil, part of
This Is Not Art festival, Newcastle, Sept 26-Oct

*copyright RealTime; www.realtimearts.net*

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