New Forms Festival revels in retro futurism

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      When it was built in the mid ’80s, the geodesic dome that these days houses Science World provided a vision of the future loaded with an instant touch of nostalgia.

      This tension between old and new ripples through the programming at the 14th edition of the New Forms Festival, taking place at the big silver golf ball next Thursday to Sunday (September 18 to 21). Two years ago, the Straight’s Alexander Varty wrote that “old-school instruments just don’t cut it anymore” at the multidisciplinary celebration of cutting-edge music and art, yet NFF’s opening night provides a heavy historical context to the rest of the four-day festival—not to mention lots of old-school instruments.

      In the OMNIMAX dome on Thursday (September 18), the work of deceased experimental filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek kick off an evening of retro futurism that also includes a collaboration between analogue-synth-heads Sarah Davachi and Richard Smith, followed by Sinoia Caves—all of whom reside in Vancouver—and electronic-music pioneer Morton Subotnick. “I think it sets a very specific tone,” said festival director Malcolm Levy in a call to the Straight. This year’s venue, meanwhile, is “a dream to any group of curators as well as the artists who end up participating”.

      The following evening (September 19) sees the OMNIMAX occupied by Mexican composer Murcofin collaboration with computer-based visual artist AntiVJ, while Saturday’s double bill features Brooklyn-based Venezuelan DJ Arca working with digital-media artist Jesse Kanda, followed by a sci-fi–flavoured sound and vision extravaganza from Daniel Lopatin [aka Oneohtrix Point Never] and Nate Boyce. All three of these performances, Levy noted, “were first conceived of for the dome that was done at MOMA PS1 in New York as part of the series there of dome performances, which they’ve been continually shifting and changing ever since. That in itself is immensely exciting from an artistic, aesthetic perspective around the festival.”

      Science World has actually opened the entire facility to NFF—not just the OMNIMAX—with Madlib headlining the second floor on Friday. “He’s coming for the first time in about 10 years,” said Levy. “You can think about the history of hip-hop, and what’s happened in those 10 years, the passing of J Dilla and some of the other historical events—the timing is just incredible.”

      Further to all this is the festival’s visual component, with the online collective Wallpaper being of particular note. “These are just some of the most interesting net artists out there right now,” promised Levy. It all wraps up next Sunday (September 21) with a free outdoor performance at Creekside Park by Sex Tags Mania alumni DJ Fett Burger and DJ Sotofett. Levy noted that many of NFF’s curators “have children now”, meaning that the rapidly growing festival—last year’s attendance topped 7,000—might be edging its way to mainstream respectability. Or not.

      “You have these kind of different narratives and stories happening throughout the festival,” said Levy. “It would keep the most ADD individual completely enthralled without issue. It’s very cool.” More information and the full schedule are at the New Forms Festival website.