In the business world, a computer glitch typically is the first step in a cascading series of problems better avoided. But in the art world, the dreaded glitch is being harnessed as its own medium, with the flaws, hiccups and imperfections layered atop digital pop culture images for a somewhat Warhol 2.0 aesthetic. Controlled, buggy video achieves a cadence, distorted images a sort of digital cubism and twisted sound sculpts the presence of a room. And when it’s all combined together for a live performance, that’s where you’ll find MediaLive, which will be going down at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and other locations in Boulder on Friday, Nov. 14-Sunday, Nov. 16.
“It’s a festival that celebrates live audiovisual performance,” says Nicole Dial-Kay, manager of public programs at BMoCA. “It’s the only one of its kind in the United States.”
Dial-Kay says that what sets MediaLive apart from other domestic glitch art festivals is they largely focus on new media works, while MediaLive insists they be performances, with the sounds and images being created or manipulated in front of an audience on computers, or with a wide variety of musical instruments.
“[Despite the laptops,] there is still a live manipulation of the sound that’s happening,” says Dial-Kay. “There’s still deciding in the moment how to do it. I think it’s really easy as a musician to look at it and say, ‘That all could have been prerecorded.’ But the dynamism, the interaction with the crowd, that’s a different experience. There’s something in the moment about doing that. There’s something not predetermined or done with the opportunity to fix your mistakes like you’d have if you were prerecording.”
Dial-Kay says the best way to understand glitch artists is as cinema pioneers, piecing together sounds and images as fully immersive experimental films.
“I think it speaks most effectively to our generation because we’re inundated with constantly moving images and sound,” she says. “It defines the way we process everything. Relationships. Jobs. How we handle our to-do list for the day.”
Dial-Kay says that what the images depict isn’t really the point, that it’s more about the atmospheric pastiche that comes with information stew, and there really isn’t anything else quite like it.
“This is a representation of the most on-the-edge film work in the art world,” she says.
Artists participating in this, the third year of the festival, include locals like Jenna Maurice and Thug Entrancer, as well as major international acts like ::VTOL::, Josh Ott and Analogous Recursions. If none of those names mean much to you, you’re probably in the majority. But Dial-Kay says this is not a situation to worry about going into blind.
“The artists that we’re bringing are world famous, they’re top notch,” says Dial-Kay. “They’re the best at this.”
The festival will be headlined by Light Surgeons. The group’s members are coming in from London and Malaysia and will use 360-degree visual projection and sound design to create a fully immersive experience. Dial-Kay says they are even planning to incorporate elements of cooking and serving Malaysian food into the act.
“The thesis of MediaLive is that we’re always looking for what’s happening at the corners of live audio visual performance, how it’s expanded and how it’s continuing to expand and how they are continuing to redefine what’s possible when you combine performance with audio and visual performance,” says Dial-Kay. “I think that Light Surgeons probably encapsulate [this] better than any other artists I’ve seen because they use all that.”
In addition the performances on Friday and Saturday, MediaLive will be hosting a whole day of workshops on Sunday in which those interested in glitch art can learn from the masters. There will be sessions covering techniques used by the participating artists, their guiding philosophies and a session in which participants will learn to build their own theremin — the weird instrument played by manipulating magnetic fields to get that creepy “whoooooo” sound from old sci-fi films.
“Everyone has a fascination with the theremin,” says Dial-Kay.
Another big part of the festival that Dial-Kay hopes people don’t overlook because it is offsite is an art installation that will go in at the Boulder Public Library through Sunday, Nov. 16.
“It’s totally interactive with everyone that is walking by,” says Dial-Kay.
MediaLive is especially hoping to bring in a younger audience, both with several workshops at Boulder High School and a special discounted student price.
The full lineup of performances, workshops and day pass prices can be found at www.BMoCA.org, but know that the most a day pass will run you is $20, and as Dial-Kay points out, MediaLive is a lot more than just a performance.
“It’s no longer just on the screen,” she says. “If you go to this, you’re going to see all of these things and you’re going to become part of it.”