If the sensory experiences offered at this year’s installment of Currents, an international festival of new media, are any indication, gone are the days when “new media” was simply another term for video. Of course, there will be plenty of video but also a whole lot more. The center of the activity, as in past Currents, is El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, with satellite events occurring at locations across town throughout the month, culminating in a free concert at the Railyard Plaza by D Numbers on June 29.
The festival is the brainchild of Mariannah Amster and Frank Ragano, digital media artists whose organization Parallel Studios began producing the festival in 2002 at the Center for Contemporary Arts, with only eight video artists. Past Currents occurred sporadically between the years 2002 and 2009, but the festival has grown in size to become an annual event over the last four years. Several galleries and art venues are partnering with Parallel Studios for Currents 2013, including Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, which hosts a talk by César Meneghetti at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 15. Meneghetti worked with physically and mentally disabled people from Rome’s Community of Sant’Egidio, a Christian evangelical charity organization, on his project I\O — a component of which, called Opera #01, is on view at El Museo. Also at Zane Bennett is a panel discussion on June 21, “Art and the Legacy of Artificial Life.” In addition, CCA hosts New Media: Arts and Sciences, an afternoon of events on June 23 presented by 1st-Mile Institute’s SARC (Scientists/Artists Research Collaborations) program. The day’s activities include screenings, panel discussions, and presentations. Together with “Art and the Legacy of Artificial Life,” it represents one of several convergences — this one between art and science — that make Currents 2013 a dynamic, broadly focused festival. Other convergences include music and new media as well as live multimedia performances that incorporate video projection and video installation. Details of all events, including performance times, can be found on Currents’ website, www.currentsnewmedia.org.
The opening weekend starts with 5 p.m. receptions on Friday, June 14, at David Richard Gallery — which offers Projected, an exhibition of digital and video artwork by Susan Herdman, Matthew Kluber, and collaborators Max Almy and Teri Yarbrow — and at Zane Bennett, host of the exhibit Projections in New Media. But the main event is at El Museo, where, beginning at 6 p.m., visitors can see examples of web art, gaming, experimental documentaries, and other new-media installations. Among the nearly two dozen artists with single-channel videos at El Museo are Snow Yunxue Fu of Guiyang, China; Karl F. Stewart of Düsseldorf, Germany; and Jennifer Berger of Los Angeles. Also at the El Museo opening are a series of performances by Miwa Matreyek, Paula Gaetano Adi, The Bridge Club, and Xristina Penna that run at specific times throughout the evening. Penna’s interactive installation I know this, I do this all the time (I don’t like it though) relies on audience participation. Audience members, using a device similar to an overhead projector, draw images projected onto the face of the performer, erasing the line between observer/object and referencing psychic processes. Matreyek’s Myth and Infrastructure involves a mix of live shadow play and digital media with the artist’s silhouette, from behind a screen, interacting with projected animation.
This year, the submitted single-channel video and video-installation work includes a lot of geometric imagery evocative of mandalas, particularly in the installations of Bonnie Lane from Melbourne, Australia, and Santa Fe artist Flame Schon. “Those two videos are very much based on a kind of mandala structure, but we got a lot more submissions like that,” Ragano said. Such imagery is something Currents has avoided showing in the past. “Usually I find it very gimmicky, but these are quite beautiful and very compelling.”
Participation by local artists is something Ragano and Amster strive to include every year. Along with Schon, others from Santa Fe are Anne Farrell, Madelin Coit, and Matthew Chase-Daniel. Chase-Daniel’s mobile gallery, Axle Contemporary (a project with Jerry Wellman), will be parked by the Railyard Plaza during opening night and features an interactive performance and installation by August Muth called The Carnival of Shattered Dreams. Chase-Daniel’s own video installation, Venice Beach, is on view at El Museo.
Area high schools and colleges also take part. Elliot Roberts, Julia Griffin, Keith Riggs, and Brandon Birkey, who participated in Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Outdoor Vision Fest in April, show video projections at the Railyard Plaza, along with a light and fog installation by Jack Snider and performances under the water tower by Meow Wolf DJ’s Dirt Girl and P.F.F.P. A site-specific video presentation by Molly Bradbury is shown on the west wall of Warehouse 21. Video projects at the Institute of American Indian Art’s Digital Dome begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, and run on various dates throughout the month. As for high school video projects, Currents 2013 offers more than what’s been included in the past. “Usually we just show single-channel video work on a dedicated flat panel for the student work, which we also have this year,” Ragano said. “But this is the first year that we actually have some installations from the students. Two of them are from Santa Fe Prep, and one is from the New Mexico School for the Arts. One from Santa Fe Prep has three different screens with three different videos happening. Two students have actually created a built installation, a slanted nine-foot apparatus, and projected onto the apparatus is, I believe, the Santa Fe River. At the foot of this is a Google map that shows you where you are along the river. We’re very excited to have work from the students that moves beyond single channel — not that single-channel work isn’t great; it’s just something different.”
Between gallery exhibitions, performances, and the new-media exposition at El Museo, Currents offers a lot to take in and is, without question, among Santa Fe’s largest annual community art happenings. It’s local, it’s international, it’s fun, it’s free, and it’s huge. ◀
▼ Currents 2013
▼ Opening reception 6 p.m. Friday, June 14; events continue through June
▼ El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, 555 Camino de la Familia, 992-0591
▼ No charge; for participating venues and a complete list of events, visit www.currentsnewmedia.org