Pasatiempo - - CURRENTS - Paul Wei­de­man

he su­per-in­ven­tive and of­ten ki­net­i­cally lively art­works pre­sented in the an­nual Cur­rents New Me­dia fes­ti­val daz­zled more than 7,000 at­ten­dees last year and prom­ises to at least match that num­ber dur­ing its 2017 run. The very first new-me­dia ex­hi­bi­tion in Santa Fe was launched by the non­profit Par­al­lel Stu­dios in 2002. Fea­tur­ing work by peo­ple who use the lat­est tech­nol­ogy in their art, it evolved into the Cur­rents New Me­dia event, which pre­miered in 2010. This is the eighth year the fes­ti­val has been staged at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe. The main room at El Museo mea­sures about 12,000 square feet, and there are sev­eral other ex­hibit spa­ces in the Rai­l­yard build­ing (plus a hand­ful of other ex­hi­bi­tions and events staged out­side and in part­ner venues). How do cu­ra­tors Mar­i­an­nah Am­ster and Frank Ragano pre­pare the spa­ces for such a va­ri­ety of pre­sen­ta­tions by over 100 artists? They work from a floor plan.

Stand­ing in the south­east cor­ner of the large room, Am­ster said, “We do spa­ces here for peo­ple who re­ally need to be iso­lated. For ex­am­ple, this is for Na­dav As­sor’s piece (Titch­ener’s Cage/Out of Body Ex­pe­ri­ence Ma­chine #2), which is a vir­tual-re­al­ity piece. Nor­mally for VR pieces you’re in a head­set and you don’t need to be iso­lated. But he is ac­tu­ally record­ing the par­tic­i­pant, and the par­tic­i­pant be­comes part of the space, so he needs bright lights. And Dave Ryan, Mika Negishi Laid­law, and Steve Ryan [Epi­dem­a­gogue] need their pro­jec­tor hung at least 10 feet above the floor. We put it on the build­ing wall along here, be­cause the tem­po­rary walls we put up are only eight feet tall.”

Ragano said they planned to in­stall at least a dozen pro­jec­tors and 22 flat-panel TVs. “Some­times hang­ing pro­jec­tors is easy, but for David and Cory [Vesica Pisces by David Stout, Cory Met­calf, Reilly Dono­van, and NoiseFold], we have to hang four, and they have to be just right. They’re hung on poles from the ceil­ing, and they’re sta­bi­lized by guy wires. For Jo­erg [oK.v005_be­com­ing by Jo­erg Staeger], the pro­jec­tion is also re­ally tricky. Tim Jag, who has been our main prepara­tor for years, takes the lead on that work.”

Even the weather can pose chal­lenges. Ger­man artist Ver­ena Friedrich was wor­ried about how her piece, The Long Now (fea­tur­ing a spe­cial bub­ble-mak­ing ma­chine) will func­tion in Santa Fe’s low hu­mid­ity. “Her pack­age got held up in the Nether­lands,” Am­ster

said, “and it was sup­posed to be here to­day [May 30]. And we have the cost of ship­ping from Ger­many, and fly­ing her from Québec City, where she’s in a res­i­dency. This is just an ex­am­ple of some of the risks we take. In the past, we had one piece that broke the night be­fore the open­ing, and they had to overnight it from Colorado. Tech is tricky that way. That’s one of the things about Cur­rents, that it al­lows artists to see their works run­ning for a fairly long pe­riod of time and make ad­just­ments. Like the piece by Issey Taka­hashi and Akahito Ito [2016’s SyncDon II, which in­volved com­mu­ni­ca­tion through syn­chro­nized heart­beats] that was so beau­ti­ful, but it was such a headache.” Taka­hashi and Eiko Wada have a re­lated piece this year, SYNCROP, in which two peo­ple look into the ends of a long box and hold heart-mon­i­tor­ing han­dles. If both of the par­tic­i­pants’ hearts beat at the same mo­ment, both pan­els go trans­par­ent and they can see each other.

Pro­jec­tors and an as­sort­ment of cur­tains were to be hung from the ceil­ing with the ar­rival of three rented scis­sor lifts on June 2. “The nice thing about it is that the beams up there are all C-chan­nels, and we can clamp things to them re­ally eas­ily,” Ragano said. The in­stall­ers must use Ma­sonite un­der the lifts to pro­tect the car­pet, which barely looks worth sav­ing. “This place is great with the lights off,” he said. “One of the rea­sons we love El Museo is that it’s not pris­tine. If we need to screw a hole in the wall, we just do it, then we patch it when we’re clos­ing down.” Am­ster added, “De-in­stall can be long and te­dious, be­cause we’re sort­ing ev­ery­thing and patch­ing and we’re ex­hausted.”

The two be­gin work­ing on the next fes­ti­val ev­ery July, not long af­ter catch­ing their breaths from the de-in­stall. Their di­vi­sion of la­bor is “pretty smushy,” they said. They cu­rate to­gether — Am­ster is in charge of show de­sign, and Ragano func­tions as pro­ject man­ager. An­other realm on which they col­lab­o­rate is sound. In gen­eral, if an artist’s piece pro­duces sound that is too in­tense for the space, it needs to go on head­phones. “We use in­frared head­phones, which are wire­less, and they only have a range of about 25 feet, so you can iso­late the pieces,” Ragano said. “You can put on head­phones and move from piece to piece. You can’t have the speak­ers’ ‘out­put cones’ cross­ing be­cause it makes a weird sound.”

One of Am­ster’s floor plans shows all the cones, so they can in­stall the var­i­ous pieces to avoid over­laps. “Some artists in­sist, or try to in­sist, that their sound should be am­bi­ent, so we lis­ten, and then we have to make a de­ci­sion about how the whole room sounds and whether we have to put our foot down,” she said. “Jo­erg’s is very min­i­mal and quite beau­ti­ful, so he’s go­ing to be live in this space,” Ragano said. But the cu­ra­tors were still de­bat­ing the is­sue with Liu Chang and Miao Jing, be­cause they want live sound for their col­lab­o­ra­tive piece with mu­si­cian Jason Hou, Tran­si­tion. “When they get here we’re go­ing to test it,” Am­ster said.

The goal was to do a re­hearsal, with all the Cur­rents works ac­ti­vated, the night be­fore the open­ing — which is cut­ting it close. There are fewer wor­ries about the pieces that are be­ing staged out­side dur­ing the open­ing week­end. The area be­tween El Museo and the rail­road tracks will hold the Bur­nish per­for­mance piece by Erika Bat­dorf and Mark-David Hos­ale as well as the Quasar Pav­il­ion, a se­ries of small con­certs and video per­for­mances cu­rated by Dwight Loop. “We were go­ing to put up tents so peo­ple could min­gle and take their drinks out­side, but the city wants us to put up a 6-foot chain-link fence, so we’re not go­ing to do that,” Am­ster said.

Loop is one of the par­tic­i­pants who is based in Santa Fe. “There are some lo­cal peo­ple who have worked with us since the begin­ning, like David Stout and Bob Camp­bell, and they gen­er­ally pro­duce very beau­ti­ful work. And Su­sanna Carlisle and Bruce Hamil­ton, they’re the kind of foun­da­tion peo­ple. If they want to be in the show, we gen­er­ally look very se­ri­ously at their work.” She added that Steina and Woody Va­sulka “were re­ally re­spon­si­ble for the new­me­dia arts com­mu­nity in Santa Fe, so we do honor them when they want to be hon­ored. This year we have The Art of Woody Va­sulka in a lit­tle iPad gallery by Or­lando Lei­bovitz. And the Thoma Foun­da­tion bought a piece of Steina’s, Vi­o­lin Power, 1970-1978, and that’s go­ing to be at the Art House [231 Del­gado St.] dur­ing the run.”

This year, Cur­rents should have re­li­able in­ter­net speeds. “Luck­ily, just re­cently they got fiber op­tics in here, so we’re all set up,” Ragano said. “Be­fore, we had to bring in a tem­po­rary wire­less de­vice on the roof and Cy­ber­mesa would Wi-Fi in­ter­net from REI, which has fiber. It was a lit­tle er­ratic. I had asked for a hun­dred megabytes down [down­load speed], but it would range from 30 to 50 or so. But most peo­ple’s

pieces don’t need the in­ter­net. What a lot need it for is that if they’re not on-site, they can re­motely watch over their pieces, and if some­one has a glitch, he or she can log in and fix it. What we also have here are bea­cons for ev­ery art piece that re­act with our app, which you can down­load for free, and when you get near the bea­con, it au­to­mat­i­cally pops open on your phone and gives you a lot of in­for­ma­tion about the piece and the artist.” The app is avail­able to down­load on iPhone and An­droid. Just search for Cur­rents New Me­dia.

David Stout, Cory Met­calf, Reilly Dono­van: Vesica Pisces, 2017, film still, hy­brid vir­tual-re­al­ity video in­stal­la­tion

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