Welcome to “Frequency”: the MAH launches the technological arts festival


Once upon a time, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History delighted locals and transformed the downtown area with a popular event called “GLOW: A Festival of Fire & Light”. And, as the name suggests, there was a lot of artistic fire plume shots, Skyward Burning Man-esque, and other pyro-shows.

It wasn’t that long ago – the 2010s, to be exact – but a pandemic, a local fire tragedy (and a change of management at the museum) later, playing with fire no longer seems to be. the fashion.

This week begins a new tradition, as the MAH launches a biennial festival titled “Frequency: A Festival of Light, Sound & Digital Culture”. It’s sort of a continuation of “GLOW,” an effort to enliven the MAH and its surrounding spaces, such as Abbott Square, with a memorable reminder that the visual arts contain more than paintings and sculptures.

“Frequency”, like its predecessor, is about claiming both the digital arts and the immersive experience that is increasingly part of the museum experience.

“Frequency” – which takes place Thursday through Sunday – is a set of 13 different installations from a variety of different artists and perspectives. Some have an element of interaction with the public. Some people lean more towards the art of performance. As MAH Executive Director Robb Woulfe says, “some of them are very accessible; part of it is a bit esoteric.

But what these 13 facilities have in common is the adoption of cutting edge technology, many times to comment on the use of the same technology in our daily lives. “Zoom Meeting,” for example, by Santa Cruz digital artist Aron Altmark, recreates the now familiar Zoom experience in real-time 3D space.

Josh Bauer helps assemble a geodesic dome for the Frequency Festival held in Abbott Square and MAH.

(Kevin Painchaud / Santa Cruz Belvedere)

Another, entitled “Quilt City”, uses architecture to reflect on our relationship to screens. There’s a video game setup, a geodesic dome, even a hoop dancer using LED lights and body art.

“You absolutely have to be open to adventure,” said Woulfe, who took over from former transformative executive director Nina Simon as the head of MAH in 2020. “I think that’s the beauty of these types of festivals. .

On the surface there are a lot of flashing lights and it’s very show-focused, but if you read some of the artist statements about the work you realize that there is some really thoughtful work going into it. .

Much, but not all, of the festival will be free to visitors. The Solari gallery on the second floor of the MAH, the showcase exhibition space of the museum, will be dedicated to “Ocean of Light”, a passage installation designed by the British artist collective Squidsoup, featuring 5,000 points of light suspended.

“Ocean” will remain at MAH for several months after the end of the “Frequency” festival. Other areas up for grabs for display include the MAH Rooftop Garden, Atrium, ‘Secret Garden’ and Abbott Square. Alongside the festival, the MAH will organize some extracurricular activities, such as an “illuminated” bike ride in the city center.

“Frequency” is the result of a worldwide call for tenders (call for tenders) that the MAH held in the fall of 2020. The final list of invited artists is both international and local. The participating artists represent countries as far apart as the UK and South Korea.

Yet about half of the artists represent Santa Cruz, an epicenter of digital arts in part thanks to the Festival’s partner UC Santa Cruz’s Digital Arts & New Media program.

One of the local festival attendees is actually called The Epicenter, a Santa Cruz organization that primarily caters to children and youth empowered through the arts and technology. The Epicenter presents “Entanglement”, a 22-foot geodesic dome that will be positioned in Abbott Square.

The dome is equipped with lasers attached to sensors which in turn trigger natural sounds of the California coast, allowing those who use it to interact with it to create a unique combination of light and sound, often in conjunction with someone else inside the dome.

Allison Paradise of the Epicenter said the piece is meant to illustrate a crucial point that applies to anyone who interacts in any environment. “The idea is that everything we do has an impact on everyone and everything around us, sometimes in unexpected ways,” she said.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, “Entanglement” will not be used to its full capacity for which it was designed. The number of people interacting with the facility at any time will be limited. The dome cover is translucent, allowing those outside to observe how those inside interact with the lasers. There will also be a short film nearby explaining the themes of the play.

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“Entanglement” will make its festival debut, although Paradise has said she hopes that one day, in a more secure future against COVID, the dome can accommodate more people. “When you are outside and you move spontaneously and you are spontaneously in the world, that is when it is most joyful. I love it so much, because it really invites you to be yourself without judgment. “

Woulfe of the MA holder said that “Fréquence” will return to the museum every two years, on odd-numbered years. Next year, the MAH will launch its even-numbered event, “CommonGround,” in which installations will appear in various urban, rural and architectural spaces in Santa Cruz County. “CommonGround” is scheduled for September 9-18, 2022.

“Frequency” takes place Thursday through Sunday, 5 pm to 10 pm each evening. Most of the facilities are free. Those inside the MAH will be subject to a museum entrance fee. For more information, to go on MAH website.

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