Sunday, June 21, 2015

Currents: New Media in Santa Fe

The first question is, “What is New Media?”  I quickly found a good answer at  It is “is a 21st Century catchall term used to define all that is related to the internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound. In fact, the definition of new media changes daily, and will continue to do so. New media evolves and morphs continuously.”  It is where art meets technology and it seems to be a continuous battle between the two.

Currents is produced by Parallel Studios in Santa Fe.  It is a not for profit put together by a group of video and installation artists.  The Co-executive Directors Mariannah Amster and Frank Ragano are interested in producing exhibitions to provide a venue for new media artists.  The first edition of Currents was in 2010.  The main event is always free and it seems to grow larger every year. It takes place in the 31,000 square foot exhibition space known as El Museo Cultural.  This space is also often a venue for art fairs.  For Currents it is totally blacked out with the only light on or from the exhibits themselves, and ,wisely, a separate light on the label.  There are about 45 exhibits here that vary in size from quite small to 400 square feet.  Since this includes sets of short films as well as outside venues, approximately 125 artists participate in Currents. 

There can be a disorienting nature to the dark space and ever moving exhibits so there are plenty of places to sit, watch and listen.  In one exhibit you walk onto or is it into a pool of moving water.  One steps rather gingerly if you don’t have a great deal of faith that they are not trying to soak you!  There are earphones so you can hear the water swishing and gurgling around you. In this brief video,  the ambient voice is coincidental.  I left the earphones dangling and you can see my shoes as well.  Titled Pink Noise by Yolande Harris.

While some of the works are purely visual many include sound. On a large screen, here is a detail of the Video “Noise Fold” by David Stout and Cory Metcalf from Denton, Texas.

Some of the exhibits are interactive.  We saw an artist who had a stylus attached to a gyroscope-like contraption, which periodically took images of people looking at the work. It then took bits of the image to draw until the round piece of paper was reasonably full.  According to the artist it would continue until the paper was totally full but he preferred to stop before that point.  The artist is Harvey Moon from San Francisco and he titled his work “Delta”.  He is interested in connecting people with technology through what is new in the field.

Hye Young Kim, originally from South Korea, has created a video experience called Intimate Distance where two visitors are asked to sit opposite each other with their heads together.  Some are related like Aunt and Nephew or Mother and Daughter and others are Boyfriend and Girlfriend.  The artist is interested in the interaction and also whether they will kiss or not!   Some of the videos are exhibited on a screen nearby.

An event like this also allows artists of different nations to get together to exchange ideas, techniques and understand the art of other countries.  The immense effort that goes into such an enterprise makes the project worth being funded by National and State agencies, private foundations and individual contributions. This year 40 artists had their, travel lodging and shipping paid by Parallel Studios and honorariums were paid to local artists.

Currents does not only occur at El Museo but at a number of galleries and other venues in Santa Fe and this year the organization will present exhibitions at four other locations around New Mexico as well.  It is the largest venture of its kind anywhere giving new media artists around the world the opportunity to qualify and participate.

I must admit I find it intriguing but still have trouble reconciling it with how I was brought up as to what art is.  On the other hand there have been so many art movements that have been ridiculed in their own time only to last until they become part of the artistic vocabulary.

The show has a short 2 week run and will close on June 28.

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