If the term electronic art brings to mind video projections on walls, the next FUSE event at the Vancouver Art Gallery has quite a surprise in store.
For the art party’s 10th anniversary, the gallery is hooking up with the International Symposium on Electronic Art to present the largest happening in its history, FUSE: Disruption, on Saturday night (August 15). The 50 local and international exhibits both inside the facility and spreading far out into Robson Square defy preconceptions—and show you how media and electronic art have exploded. Think remote-controlled drones creating graffiti paintings, a video sculpture housed in a gold-gilded obsolete Mac computer tower, and a sound installation that turns sampled movie car chases into death metal.
“We really want to challenge people about the way they think about media art. A lot of the [FUSE] pieces deal with specific objects: masks, drones, mud balls…record players, slide projectors, recycled materials,” says Malcolm Levy, who has guest-curated FUSE with fellow ISEA artistic director Kate Armstrong.
“There are some projections of video, but very few compared to other work. The work is very material-based and that was important to us. That’s how Kate and I participate and experience media art ourselves. It was very important to make that statement to the international scene coming here, but also to the Vancouver scene here. And it was really important for us to look at the idea of artists taking about how the world has been disrupted by technology and surveillance.”
At the same time, Levy wants to pay tribute to the history of the form, in part through an exhibition of glitch—the turning of analog or digital errors into art—featuring pioneers jonCates and Philip Galanter.
That history of media art ties in nicely to the VAG setting: the gallery hosted workshops and exhibited the work of the pioneering Intermedia in the late 1960s and 1970s, an interdisciplinary collective that included such names as Michael Morris, Gary Lee-Nova, Gathie Falk, and Michael de Courcy. It had a major influence on multimedia art here and around the world, and spurred creative hubs like VIVO and the Western Front. “Intermedia was one of the most well-documented and important events in Vancouver’s art history and the timing couldn’t be better,” says Levy, adding FUSE:Disruption is like a “perfect cycle”.
The celebration on Saturday features performances by artists in Robson Square’s skating-rink area, as well as installations leading up through the plaza to the gallery, where pieces are installed in rooms alongside ongoing exhibits such as Geoffrey Farmer’s How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth?.
Look for such challenging yet fun installations as Andres Wanner’s Signature Strokes, in which a drone hovers while painting graffiti below it—a play on the idea of “signature strikes” against terrorists by similar devices. Levy says the work also references the use of the remote-controlled vehicles to ship goods or carry out surveillance. “Considering the movement of it, the drawing is an object, but you also have the drone interacting with it, so there’s a performance element,” he adds.
He points out that Leonardo Selvaggio’s URME Surveillance also plays provocatively on fears of being watched: the interactive work creates photorealistic, 3-D-printed masks of his face, which the public can wear to trick surveillance cameras.
Elsewhere, Marisa Olson’s Blue Sky houses a video of the artist trying to hand-make the title sky within an old Mac computer tower; Paula Gaetano Adi and Gustavo Crembil blend high and low tech in TZ’IJK, a blind, deaf, and speechless robot made from mud; Amelia Marzec’s New American Sweatshop installs a mini manufacturing plant in the gallery where performers hand-build communication devices out of electronic waste; and duo Kubrick or Korine debuts a 24-hour James Franco TV channel.
Put together, it will be a head-spinning array of work that will challenge political and economic ideas, question the globe’s technological course, and even let you touch, build, and move stuff. All this, and a few pretty cool video projections as well: check them out, along with music performances, in programming by New Forms Media Society out in the plaza. Just open your mind to all the other forms of multimedia on display.