Review: Unconscious Archives Festival (Video)

The Unconscious Archives Festival covered four events including its ongoing exhibition Emotion + the Tech(no)body at the Austrian Cultural Forum that runs until November 17th.  The exhibition explores ideas relating to the relationship between data, technology and the human body.

More broadly, the programme of events that constituted the festival curated by Sally Golding,  was an ambitious showcase of performance sound art, experimental cinema, multi-media art and installations created by an international group of artists exploring materiality and embodied liveness across sound art and electronic music, experimental new media and audiovisual art.

Video:  FAD Live

There has been depth in the quality and a significant breadth in terms of innovation demonstrated across the work exhibited.  These are artists whose work connects with strands of the 20th century avant garde and perhaps in doing so, Unconscious Archives Festival shows that these ideas continue to persevere in their relevancy and capacity to remain at the cutting edge of certain disciplines of artistic practice.

Compositional Constructs on September 24th at east London’s Café Oto showcased ingenious artist made technology and performance interventions.  Artists Myriam Bleau, Leafcutter John, Dawid Liftinger and Mariska De Groot transported the attentive audience through radically inventive explorations of light and sound.  The performances were in themselves remarkable and of a consistently high standard whilst the means by which they were created were satisfyingly unique in each and every case.

Video:  FAD Live

There was a time, when the experimental jazz musicians and folk singers of the 1960s performed in small coffee shop venues to audiences who sat, listened in serious consideration of the new, experimental music and performances that they were experiencing in congregation.  Compositional Constructs shared that deep sense of audience engagement but with the performances presented using devices and the aesthetic qualities of what was once science fiction.

Video:  FAD Live

Haptic Somatic, presented at south east London’s Corsica Studios, was an ambitious mixture of performance art, experimental computer music and industrial grade exploration of sensory experience.  Its format recalled a lost counter culture era akin to the prototype raves of the 1960s hosted at Roundhouse by the International Times, where fledgling experimental future pop culture icons such as Pink Floyd and The Who performed with light projections by Gustav Metzger, whilst Jonas Mekas screened films alongside performance art by Yoko Ono.  There and then as here and now, Haptic Somatic dared to mix the more interesting edges of pop culture with art that immerses, engages and exposed its audience to challenging, experimental work.

Video:  FAD Live

From Marta Forsberg’s immersive light and drone based sound compositions that drew the audience into a shared experience of contemplative joy to the industrial brutality of Polish electronic noise artist Ewa Justka with her performance pounding, flashing strobes that assaulted the senses to the point of spatial disorientation; Haptic Somatic offered a bold programme that sustained the audience’s interest throughout the night.

Video:  FAD Live

The event also showed off new breeds of electronic music with acts such as Yaxu and Spatial, who generate through music through live coding and projecting their process during their performances.  It is through events such as Haptic Somatic that embrace these experimental forms of practice and expose them, at no little risk in terms of their less than spectacular presentation, that audiences are given the opportunity to engage with innovation.

This perhaps reflects upon the curation of the festival that has been delivered with light, shade and a willingness to accept the risks involved of breaking new ground and exploring new territories.

Closing the festival on September 30th was Narrativize featuring Esperanza Collado, James Holcombe and Secluded Bronte, Foxy Moron and Jörg Piringer, an evening of live film, performance exploring the construction and deconstruction of narrative.

Video:  FAD Live

Ranging from work that explored the materiality of film and the trails of its socio-economic connection with the broader history of film through the collaborative eyes of James Holcombe and Secluded Bronte to the experimental participatory form of Esperanza Collado’s witty minimalist offering.  Narrativize provided an intelligent, engaging conclusion to the festival programme that also expanded its already considerable scope of ingenuity.

Video:  FAD Live

It seemed appropriate that the final performance of the festival was given by an Austrian.  Although the festival showcased many international artists, the Austrian contingent have informed the programme with a particularly rich and satisfying selection of exhibited work and performances.  Jörg Piringer’s abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, an audio visual voice performance was fitting conclusion as it drew upon an early avant garde of sound and visual poets, whilst exploring new boundaries in theory, practice and the creation of new technology to facilitate its delivery.

Such exploration of boundaries has been part of the character of the festival, as indeed has been the drawing from concepts and visionary perspectives of the avant garde in whose spiritual footsteps the artists who have participated are both following and whose achievements of innovation they show the promise to exceed.

Unconscious Archives Festival has been a glimpse into a bright future that remains visionary yet increasingly tangible.

Video:  FAD Live

Unconscious Archives Festival 2017

ua2017.unconscious-archives.org/

Exhibition:  Emotion + the Tech(no)body runs until 17th  November

www.acflondon.org/events/emotion-technobody/

About Tom Matchett

Broadcaster and live social video specialist. Founder of Studio Boho and co-founder of FAD live. Author of the Revolutionary Life & Art Of Gustav Metzger and working to create an immersive multi-media music art installation, The Light Gate: An Opera.