Santa Fe Takes on International New Media Festival
Last Friday was the grand opening of the International New Media Festival (a.k.a. Currents) and the Plaza was packed with tourists ogling at a car show while the Railyard remained a safe harbor for locals and art geeks. Before sunset all the action was inside El Museo Cultural, which offered more artworks than can be seen in a single night. Over ninety international artists had space to display the best from their digital portfolio.
The entrance into El Museo was blacked out dividing the natural light from the manufactured digital rays and greeting you just past the magic curtain was a four-panel video installation anchoring the room. Displayed in a circle, each panel was vertical and life-size and together formed Hillerbrand + Magsamen’s eState Sale, artists picked for SITE Santa Fe’s recent March 2012 show. The first panel of shows a young boy wearing very little, save protective rain boots, eye wear and some undies. He stands next to a stack of white porcelain dinner plates almost as big as him and in full earnestness throws them one by one on the floor right on top of each other. A pile of broken china grows at his feet until he runs out of plates and the video starts over. The second video screen shows “dad” in a business suit calmly watering his own feet with a garden hose. The third video peers over the daughter who revels in the squishy feel of stuffed childhood toys while the fourth documents a grown woman (the mother) enclosing herself in a closet by building a brick wall with mortar replaced by pillow feathers. Absolutely whimsical while sneaking in an American Beauty snip at modern culture, Hillerbrand + Magsamen’s four pillars set the mood for the two big rooms filled by fun new media that’s not without a little gravitas.
The mood was relaxed enough to wonder at ease and a little room off the center held a piece that filled the space with the yellow-white glow of digital connectivity. Streams of antennae ran out from the center wall surrounding the viewers, who sat centrally on little yellow cubes. Reminiscent of 1990s’ internet diagrams predicting life as video game, Chris Coleman + Laleh Mehran’s W3F presents a world where everyone is connected through wifi hotspots. The room looks like an explanation of six degrees of separation while disembodied theories that were once conspiracy theory scroll on the wall amid the matrix. In 2012, statements like “There is no longer anonymity” and “Everything we do online and almost everything we do offline is recorded and saved” ring true. While the spectator sits in the center of the room, s/he is placed right in the middle of the web with the worldwide web claiming man equally as its maker and prey.
Other luring lights came from the corner of the Main Gallery with a piece by St. John’s graduate Anne Farrell called Cottage. Appealing to some Tim Burton aesthetic that feels simultaneously magical and eerie, numerous paper houses the sizes of dollhouses hung from the ceiling just above reach, their shadows echoing on the wall in chiaroscuro contrast. Merely feigning the myth of a child’s mobile, a video usurps the houses with images of falling teapots and teacups, haunted woods and waters barely fit for The Little Mermaid.
An inkling of rave lights came from the distant end of the farmer’s market promenade where DJ Dirt Girl played under a mirrored satellite dish–obviously a 2012 version of a disco ball. Lining the way from El Museo to the under-thirty dance beats were a handful of wall projections including two pieces by Santa Fe University of Art and Design students and AXLE Contemporary’s kitcsh recreation of fifties’s TV show Winky Dink & You. Once the sun went down, the lights outside went up but all the locals and art geeks meandered home or got a beer at Second Street Brewery long before midnight (the projected closure). An anticipated event for its attempt to stay au currant, maybe a few more people would’ve walked the walk if we could direct the car show tourists to the Railyard. In a city full of creative entrepreneurs, let us know what you think Santa Fe!