Art in Re­view Cur­rents In­ter­na­tional New Media Fes­ti­val at El Museo

El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe, 555 Camino de la Fa­milia, 505-992-0591; through June 28

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For more than a decade, Santa Fe’s home­grown fes­ti­val of new media has ad­vanced steadily from a spo­radic en­ter­prise with a hand­ful of artists to an an­nual event of much larger pro­por­tions. As in past years, the of­fer­ings for 2015, which in­clude a stag­ger­ing num­ber of works, es­tab­lish Cur­rents as the most in­vig­o­rat­ing of our sea­sonal fairs. It is (pun in­tended) elec­tric. New media is a re­cent term to de­scribe elec­tronic and dig­i­tal-art forms. It’s more in­clu­sive than “video art,” which fails to en­com­pass the di­verse forms and in­ge­nious de­signs of new media artists. Cur­rents has it all: sin­gle and mul­ti­chan­nel video in­stal­la­tions, video pro­jec­tion, video sculp­ture, 3-D printed ob­jects, im­mer­sive in­stal­la­tions, sound en­vi­ron­ments, ro­bot­ics, and more. It’s high tech and high con­cept and pro­vides a sense of the mul­ti­tudi­nous ways new tech­nol­ogy can be used in ser­vice to cre­ativ­ity.

It may be in­ter­na­tional, but Cur­rents in­cludes a fair amount of works from lo­cal and re­gional tal­ent. The first art­work you come to, lo­cated in the smaller of two large rooms de­voted to the fes­ti­val, is David For­lano and Sean O’Don­nell’s Totem, a wall-mounted dig­i­tal dis­play of nine col­ored dots of light that ran­domly change their blink­ing pat­tern. The dots re­call the grid paint­ings of Piet Mon­drian. Other New Mexico artists in­clude Tony Abeyta, a pain­ter who has re­cently ven­tured into the realm of video sculp­ture. His Myth Shifter, a video sculp­ture made up of four con­vex, wall-mounted spheres and dig­i­tal pro­jec­tions of botan­i­cal forms and mi­cro­scopic im­agery that pul­sates and dances over the spheres, is inspired by the Navajo cre­ation myth. The four spheres de­scribe the jour­ney from the un­der­world to our world. The most com­pelling work in the front space is Sin­ga­pore artist Kian-Peng Ong’s Par­ti­cle

Waves, a ki­netic sound in­stal­la­tion com­posed of 12 glass bowls filled with me­tal­lic beads. The bowls are at­tached to small mo­tors and set, evenly spaced, on the floor. The mo­tors move the bowls in a wave­like pat­tern and as the beads swirl in­side them, it cre­ates a sound­scape that mim­ics waves on the sea. Mu­nich-based artist Ka­rina Smigla-Bobin­ski’s

Sim­u­lacra, a cube com­posed of four seem­ingly blank video screens that emit a white light, is an in­ter­ac­tive in­stal­la­tion. Hand-held mag­ni­fy­ing lenses al­low visi­tors to see the im­agery on the screens. A tan­gle of the nec­es­sary wires for pro­vid­ing power hangs above and be­neath the mon­i­tors, care­fully ar­ranged into sculp­tural form. Santa Fe artist Mar­ion Wasser­man’s

Rit­ual Hive, on dis­play in the sec­ond gallery, cre­ates an im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ment that repli­cates the in­te­rior of a bee­hive and was inspired by the bees’ trans­form­ing pollen into honey. The Is­land of Pal by Anne Far­rell, also from Santa Fe, is another mul­ti­me­dia-in­stal­la­tion piece: a myth­i­cal is­land where a horse named Pal lives and seems to serve as both guide and god. The small en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated by Far­rell uses ob­jects, video mon­i­tors, and video pro­jec­tion on is­land-shaped sculp­tures. The video in­ter­cuts im­agery of a run­ning horse (a hand-held plas­tic toy) with footage of a live horse. The en­vi­ron­ment re­calls the free­dom and spirit of child­hood imag­i­na­tion.

Delta, an art-mak­ing ro­bot de­signed by engi­neer Har­vey Moon, is fas­ci­nat­ing to watch. Delta’s ro­botic ap­pendage, end­ing in a pen, nav­i­gates a cir­cu­lar sheet of pa­per, mak­ing marks based on al­go­rithms in a soft­ware pro­gram. No two im­ages cre­ated by Delta are the same. When the draw­ings are com­pleted, they are dis­played on a nearby wall. Delta is a big draw for chil­dren, and sev­eral school groups passed through Cur­rents while this re­viewer was in at­ten­dance. Delta isn’t the only ro­bot on dis­play. Ste­fan Prosky’s

BabyBotts are in­ter­ac­tive robots in the form of large baby bot­tles that mimic the be­hav­ior of in­fants and tod­dlers by cry­ing, talk­ing, gur­gling, and rolling around. Michael Schip­pling’s pro­ject Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of Au­ton­o­mous Robots (PE­TAR) in­cludes a num­ber of ro­botic ve­hi­cles that rove around in­side El Museo and smaller robots that can fit in the palm of your hand.

Sev­eral ex­am­ples of 3-D print­ing are on view, which show off the tech­nol­ogy’s artis­tic ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Dennis Har­roun’s Off the Wall is a 3-D sculp­ture printed us­ing a Zcorp ma­chine that prints in color. The sculp­ture is wall-mounted and de­picts a rack of five grotesquely ex­ag­ger­ated, car­toon­ish faces, dis­play­ing the in­tri­cacy and nu­ances 3-D print­ing is ca­pa­ble of repli­cat­ing from a de­sign. Jenn Law presents two 3-D print ob­jects: Ar­ti­fact, a replica of a book by com­puter sci­en­tist Ed­mund C. Berke­ley, and Rein­vent­ing the

Wheel, a fully func­tion­ing in­taglio press in minia­ture, a print­ing ma­chine made by a print­ing ma­chine.

Par­al­lel Stu­dios, pro­ducer of Cur­rents, has been de­voted to ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams from the get-go and has in­cluded sev­eral sin­gle-chan­nel videos and some in­stal­la­tion works from re­gional grade-school stu­dents over the years, and they in­vite school groups to tour the fes­ti­val. This year they have video works from Es­pañola Val­ley High School, the New Mexico School for the Arts, and Media Arts Col­lab­o­ra­tive Char­ter School in Al­bu­querque.

Ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tors and fes­ti­val founders Mar­i­an­nah Am­ster and Frank Ragano and their many col­lab­o­ra­tors and vol­un­teers de­serve ku­dos for de­vel­op­ing Cur­rents into the ma­jor ex­po­si­tion it has be­come. Last year, they be­gan a statewide pro­gram called New Media New Mexico to pro­mote dig­i­tal arts. A list of lo­ca­tions across the state where new media ex­hibits are pre­sented in con­junc­tion with Cur­rents is avail­able at www.cur­rentsnew­me­dia.org. The site also has list­ings for all clos­ing-week­end events. — Michael Abatemarco

David For­lano and Sean O’Don­nell: Totem, 2015, new media in­stal­la­tion; above, Ka­rina Smigla-Bobin­ski, Sim­u­lacra, 2014, in­ter­ac­tive video in­stal­la­tion

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