Cyber dynamics

Next month in London sees the second annual festival organised by digital arts organisation Alpha-ville, on the theme of cities of the future. Anna Richardson takes a sneak preview of some of the work that will be on show

Combining the digital realm with arts is providing an increasingly heady mix. As digital technologies continue to grow and become more accessible, digital art and design are doing so at a similar pace.

Estela Oliva, co-founder of the digital arts and design organisation Alpha-ville, says, ’The impact of communication and of social communities make art participatory in a way that has never happened before. Millions of communities are connected, opening doors and creating global connections.’

Oliva launched Alpha-ville with Carmen Salas last year in response to a lack of innovative events in London that promote and support the development of high-quality digital arts and culture.

Next month sees its second annual festival. The two-day multidisciplinary event takes place on 17-18 September at the Whitechapel Gallery and the Rich Mix in east London and includes audio-visual performances, interactive design installations and digital screenings.

This year’s theme is Visionary Cities, which chimes with Alpha-ville’s ongoing interest inthe rise of the mega city and gives participants the opportunity to explore their visions of future urbanism.

’New technologies are transforming human relations and the built environment, and there are increasing concerns for the future of urban spaces and society,’ explains Salas. ’The 2010 festival will provide a space for reflection on this theme.’

As trends in digital arts and design evolve so quickly, with technology, social media and open-source software allowing for fast developments in digital creation, pinning down the important trends is difficult, says Oliva. ’The key is to keep researching.’

The festival programme is divided into different categories. On the audio-visual side, one evening is dedicated to the Live Cinema movement, which sees live collaborations between designers and musicians. Digital artist Graphset will join forces with electronic music composer Pixel to construct a 3D virtual city through the music played; The Space in Between will see artist Alba G Corral and singer Nikka combine digital music and generative art featuring visual compositions with real-time processing graphics; and Sylvain Quément and Guillaume Castagne, aka Gangpol und Mit, will combine their electronic music and interactive arts backgrounds to create a cartoon world inhabited by colourful and geometric creatures.

Architectural projection mapping will also be part of the screening programme. ’We are very excited about this,’ says Oliva. ’3D is a technique that keeps appearing.’

Animetro by ES Projections is a 3D audio-visual performance combining mapped projections and immersive sounds manipulated in real-time to evolve a virtual metropolis. The title Animetro is inspired by futuristic visions of the 1950s such as sci-fi illustrators and futurist architects such as Antonia Saint Elia.

Students from The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Unit 15 will also showcase their work. The unit specialises in the use of film to investigate new forms of architecture, creating visualisations of environments through moving images – they are ’true visionaries’, says Oliva. Graduate Keiichi Matsude, for example, uses a mixture of video, motion graphics, interaction design and architecture to create ’hyper-real’ environments that blur the distinction between the physical and virtual.

The interaction design elements of the festival programme include Eternal Summer Storm by Ka Fai Choy, an interactive piece that plays with the idea of body movement, transforming it into sound waves to recreate the Japanese dance Butoh. Another reactive design installation uses textiles that respondto changes in the local environment and human interactions.

The use of social media will be present throughout the festival, with a real-time visualisation feed on Twitter and a virtual itinerary using online applications such as Foursquare. Oliva hopes to make the festival more visible this year. ’Our ambitions are in terms of quality and not quantity,’ she says. ’What we portray is only a minuscule fragment of what there is out there.’

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