Illustration by Julia Pancova

Mixing art and technology

IF YOU HAVE no idea what an art and technology festival is, now is the time to find out. Electric Fields is a biennial festival run by Artengine, a non-profit, artist-run centre in Ottawa that focuses on creating, presenting, and promoting art concerned with technological experimentation. Although 2011 was a break year for the festival, the group was too inspired to wait another year to put on a show.

With its roots going back almost 10 years, Electric Fields aims to showcase new media artists, electroacoustics, and audio- visual sounds.

“We have done an abbreviated off-year version of Electric Fields with a symposium planned for the spring,” says Britta Evans-Fenton, a U of O student and the lab coordinator at the Artengine.

“This year, it is a series of four works, one which will be accessible for a year and three one-night performances, all with the theme of sound and space.”

She describes the events, which range from a powwow to a concert in a swimming pool. “The first event is called Polytectures,”says Evans-Fenton. “Participants will be guided on a walking tour through downtown, starting at the Bytown Museum, listening to 12 local com- posers that have been brought together by Montreal artist Antoine Bédard Montag.”

A church music concert will be held in a deconsecrated basilica church, which Evans-Fenton says will be an incredible venue to be immersed in the sonic experiences of Roger Tellier-Craig, Goerges Forget, and Jean Francois Laporte.
Swim Sound, the third event of the festival, is being held at Champagne Bath—one of Canada’s first indoor pools—where Jesse Stewart will be playing water-based instruments on an elevated platform and Rob Cruickshank will be mixing the sounds and playing them back live.

“The audience is invited to bring their bathing suits to enjoy the performance in the pool, [but] it’s not required as there is also standing room around the pool,” says Evans-Fenton.

The festival wraps up with the Electric Pow Wow, a modern adaptation of the tradition of bringing people together in celebration.

Evans-Fenton explains the festival is a unique and exciting series of events where students can be introduced to modern ways of blending art and technology, experiencing the theme of sound and space presented through a variety of artists and collaborators ranging from architects to composers.

The community should care because it is an event that sets Ottawa apart from other cities. While we are often trying to play cultural catch-up to bigger cities, such as Toronto and Montreal, this is one festival that was created in Ottawa for Ottawa,” says Evans-Fenton.

“This year’s festival not only shows off local talent, but also showcases some of Ottawa’s most interesting and historic venues. It provides a chance for Ottawans to explore new locations and experience sound in thrilling ways.”

She encourages students to attend, since all events are close to campus and any events that require payment to access are discounted for students as well.

“For the student starving for an artistic experience, this festival will be a real feast for the senses,” says Evans-Fenton.

“It is a chance for people, young and old, to access art outside of the white walls of a gallery and instead discover unique events set in historic and fascinating venues.”

For more information, click here. Events runs Nov. 23–26.

—Ali Schwabe