Currents 2011: New Video Reviewed
Santa Fe was unrecognizable June 10, for the opening night of Currents 2011, a festival for international, new media art. Amidst the bustling Railyard District were: people on bikes, Axle Contemporary’s mobile gallery, video art projected on buildings, the train running through the district, young hipsters on skateboards, experimental music in the streets, and bystanders. El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, where Currents was held, sits in the middle of the action, alongside Santa Fe Clay, Second Street, the Farmers’ Market building. (No doubt, Second Street Brewery—overflowing with customers’ fists full of beers—was thankful for their prime location that night.)
For those of our readers that don’t know Santa Fe, prior to 2008 and the opening celebration of the Railyard District, which includes Farmer’s Market, Railyard Park, and residential/retail, and mixed-use areas, also where SITE Santa Fe resides, Canyon Road was the destination for art. Thus the contemporary art of Santa Fe was swallowed by high to low-end kitsch, pervading the city’s art market. When the plans for the Railyard were in the works (2002), a few galleries jumped at the opportunity to move from historic Canyon Road, as well, old standbys, like William Siegal Gallery, resurfaced.
Forgive the history lesson, but for Santa Feans this is big, and Currents is helping to provide this facelift of sorts to our mostly traditional city.
Inspired by new media, and its ability to engage audiences, Mariannah Amster and Frank Ragano organized and curated Currents 2011. Ragano believes that new media is now a “common language for our world and is therefore important to incorporate into the art scene of Santa Fe and New Mexico in order to keep it alive and vibrant.”
Ragano continues, pointing to the convergence of science and art, which has longsince been attributed to New Mexico—(notoriously, one of the preeminent locations for nuclear bomb testing during the World War II era, while simultaneously a haven for artists and so-called freaks).
Given the wide breadth of the twosome’s curatorial focus, Currents 2011—truly a mixed bag, included explosive, disco-poppy pieces to atmospheric, contemplative works; playful to socio-political; as well as flat-out formally beautiful—had everything from low-tech to high-tech with a particular focus on interactivity.
Interactivity draws people in, often prompting interpersonal connections, and spontaneous play. These qualities are ideal for community-driven initiatives, which I believe is the highest aspiration of Amster and Ragano, given word choices like “festival,” and “common language,” which are associated to the Currents’ mission statement. Judged according to the goal (as is only appropriate), they accomplished this aspiration entirely.
In short, Currents 2011, with its interactive elements and public art installations, utilized the Railyard to its fullest capacity, transforming Santa Fe into a new place. Or perhaps, creating a new place for new media in New Mexico. Although Santa Feans resist “scene-ster-ism”, it’s precisely this hype-slash-scene excitement, which is emblematic of what we are missing when we beg for a city that’s alive past 9 p.m.