[spectre] article on Video/Arte/Electronica Fest. Lima, Peru

Andreas Broeckmann abroeck at transmediale.de
Thu Jan 8 16:18:06 CET 2004

In UK's a-n Magazine (January 2004) Kathleen Forde reports from the 7th
International Festival of Video/Arte/Electronica in Lima, Peru

A challenge, not a problem
By Kathleen Forde

As a curator from the USA, I was invited to present an exhibition of San
Francisco-based audiovisual artists at the 7th International Festival of
Video/Arte/ Electronica. It was my first day and quite frankly, I was
feeling a bit ill at ease: "This is not a problem" should, under normal
circumstances, pass as a statement of support, perhaps even comfort.
However, I was beginning to become increasingly disturbed by the frequency
at which I heard this; this was the Peruvian response for my every
anxiety-ridden query.

Fast forward to the end of my week in Lima and I had to eat my words and
worries. My Peruvian colleagues accomplished an impeccable installation of a
complex show with remarkable enthusiasm, not to mention a lack of shut eye.
In other words, "this was not a problem".

For the past seven years, festival director, Jose-Carlos Mariategui, has
organised the International Festival of Video/Arte/Electronica in an effort
to analyse, discover and present technology-driven arts to the city of Lima.
Says Mariategui: "I strongly believe that in a city such as Lima where eight
million people live and the majority are poor but mediatised (that is, their
basic entertainment is radio or TV), an exposure to media art and its
theoretical context is absolutely necessary". According to Mariategui the
goal of a cross-platform festival that strictly adheres to an equivalent
distribution of conferences, performances, collaborative works and
installations is crucial to this challenge.

Key to Mariategui's unique vision is the festival's mission to promote not
only the presentation of new media art, but a cultural dialectic. It is
therefore essential to the director that, whenever possible, international
artists actually attend the festival rather than simply send a work of art
to be included in the show. This year alone thirteen international guests
from France, Germany, Brazil and the USA were invited to come to Lima.

The exhibition module I organised for the Lima festival was entitled SF/AV:
San Francisco/Audiovisual. SF/AV presented installations and performances by
seven artists whose installations were infused with the qualities of their
experience in live performance - namely collaboration, generativity and
ephemerality. The artists were Scott Arford, Matthew Biederman, Sue
Costabile, Joshua Kit Clayton, Christopher Musgrave, Scott Pagano and Randy
HY Yau.

In a city renowned for its catholic fervour, it is perhaps most fitting to
say that the installation of the show was nothing short of a miracle. It
certainly felt akin to a week of water turning into wine as the
equipment-barren galleries transformed into sites of powerful and immersive
audiovisual installations. There were, of course, challenges. But somehow,
one by one, the complexities revealed themselves as blessings in disguise.

The piece de resistance of divine intervention was certainly Scott Pagano's
outdoor installation, Constructive Interference. The work was comprised of
large-scale video projected onto the facade of the National Museum of
Anthropology, Archeology and History situated in the historic district of
Pueblo Libre plaza. The images and sound were generated in real time from a
database of video clips assembled and processed by a computer 'listening' to
eight radios tuned on-site to eight different AM and FM stations in Lima.

Unbeknown to myself or the artist, the first night the piece was installed
in the plaza happened to coincide with a celebration for a patron saint of
Lima. And in a moment that could not have been staged more dramatically by
Fellini himself, Pagano's highly stylised experiments in moving image were
suddenly met with a shuffling procession of priests, incense, gongs, the
mayor and a sky-high statue of a saint on an ornate platform balanced on the
backs of age-weathered short men.

The crux of this ritualistic dramaturgy was based upon intermittent moments
of silent prayer or, in other words, the perfect stage for Pagano's
seemingly amplified lush whooshing of pervasive electronic sound. I half
expected to see Matthew Barney bringing up the rear of the procession, but
was met instead by Pagano, digital video camera in hand, grinning away at
the luck of his unexpected baroque masterpiece.

At times, the moments of cultural exchange were, mercifully for the nerves,
a bit more planned. In the performance Media Exchange, Matthew Biederman
collaborated with Lima-based artist Humberto Polar to remix found footage
lifted from American mass media, with collected footage from local broadcast
television in Lima, comparing and contrasting the media from both countries.
What was realised later in conversation with members of the audience was
that, in essence, the performance had two concurrent iterations. Depending
on whether one was from Peru or San Francisco, the comment upon local
systems of broadcast media was overwhelmingly personal to one's geographical

However, although it may be inherently international in scope, the festival
is undeniably intended for the audience in Lima and not, by and large, for
the international art festival-hopping crowd. Case in point is that the
month-long festival operates on a rolling schedule, meaning that a different
international perspective is presented each week, rather than a grand
overlapping of all of the invited artists and curators in a brief period of
talented cacophony. The downside to this is that the weekly swinging door
often does not allow the foreign artists and curators to see the entire
festival if they do not have the time to stay in Lima for more than a week.
It does however allow for thoughtful viewing and return visits for the local
visitors. With a bit of distance, I tend to think the trade-off is a fair
one, as I am sure any one of us who frequent media arts festivals can
attest, this unhurried context is an utterly seductive one.

Refreshingly, it is also crucial to Mariategui's masterplan to create - at
the very least - a social context for international/local dialogue. Either
by scheduling the presentation of works by Latin American artists in tandem
with international presentations or simply by coordinating lavish dinners at
his home for locals and foreigners to get to find out more about each
other's work. He is very careful to ensure a mix: "My position has been
always to include Peruvian and Latin American artists in this context,
mixing the picture and making just one global image".

It was during one of these Peruvian feasts of fancy that I was able to get a
first-hand sense of the Lima scene through conversations with Peruvian
artists. It appears the Lima artscape is certainly in the middle of
significant flux that has begun to incorporate a mix of traditional and new
media strategies, due in part to the efforts of Mariategui and the festival.
Mariategui sees the scene as one of tradition in transition: "The younger
artists, coming principally from the National School of Fine Arts, or being
self-educated, are the ones interested in experimental forms of art...
thanks also in part to our festival, the presentation of electronic art has
turned into one of the most interesting cultural activities within Lima
during the year. So the art scene could be described as limited, but this is
changing. And the attitude towards working in mixed media is also changing.
It is important to take into consideration that, in many ways, all this
comes from a global influence which is translated into local patterns."

And so it seems that, thankfully, the impact of the SF/AV show went far
beyond a mere one-way introduction of media artists to the Lima audience or
vice versa. Certainly, the collaborations and conversations, coupled with
the struggles and surprises of being in Lima affected all of us and our work
to come.

I could list ad nauseum the endless moments of cultural exchange. But at the
end of the day, this is simply one personal story that hopefully functions
as a reminder of just how important it is for artists and curators to
attempt to step out of their own backyard. SF/AV was yet another lesson that
the effect of international exchange is not only profound, but often
profoundly unexpected.

Kathleen Forde is currently an independent curator and Alexander von
Humboldt Foundation German Chancellor scholar based in Berlin, Germany. She
was first invited to organise the San Francisco-based presentation in Peru
in conjunction with her previous position as Assistant Curator for New Media
at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The 7th International Festival of Video/Arte/Electronica took place 19 June
- 17 August 2003.

a-n Magazine is a UK agency for supporting artists and promoting and shaping
visual arts practice and publishes a-n Magazine monthly, www.a-n.co.uk and
other key professional material including Signpost and a-n North Essentials.

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