+ Bogotrax festivals report
Pointless Creations were invited to perform at two Colombian festivals taking place in the country’s largest cities: Bogota and Medellin. After previous missions taking us to Russia, Croatia, Estonia and Northern Ireland, we thought it was time we expanded our artistic activities to a sunnier and more relaxed destination. With backing from the British council to pay for our flights, we assembled a smaller-than-usual (congratulations to Jam and Will on Lorcan’s arrival) team of AV entertainers composed of David Bernard (Video Switchboard+ cube screens), Dan Norton (Ablab) and Jaygo Bloom (Midi Maracas). We got our yellow fever vaccines (which turned out not to be needed) and packed our luggage full of suspicious looking electronic equipment and screen fabric.
Now in its 4th year, Bogotrax is an alternative, autonomous and independent festival presented as a “urban laboratory” for artistic and social experimentation, with electronic music and associated visual arts as its leading disciplines and conceived as a north-south cultural exchange for music producers, VJs and video artists, free software activists, graphic designers, programmers, graffiti writers and street performers- totalling over 100 contributing artists. The 10 days of the festival consisted of non-stop concerts, club nights, workshops, conferences, public performances and parties- all events were free to attend. This fact alone is a remarkable characteristic of the operation in a region where most electronic culture appears to be a high-priced commodity only available in its commercial strand.
organisers have long been involved in Europe’s Free Party movement
and have decided to bring its non-commercial ethics back to their own
country. The majority of the international guest performers have strong
links to the Sound Systems that rocked Europe’s countrysides and
disused industrial estates from the 90’s onwards ensuring that
some of the pragmatic principles of the Temporary
Autonomous Zone concept worked at their best. With very little means
and practically no cash support (all artists performed for free and
had to raise their own transport costs) the large network of volunteers
managed to facilitate environments where artists and their small-yet-dedicated
audiences met and exchanged skills and ideas.
live visuals sets were a seamless match for many fast paced musical
styles on display at the events, and we were also ask to teach some
of our visual production techniques as part of the programme. Rather
than focusing on the showcase of high-tech equipment often associated
with VJing, we decided to run a 2 day workshop on DIY mesh screen design
and how to create the kind of 3-dimensional image environments we’ve
been working with over the last few years. We played around with low-cost
materials and tried to challenge the usual expectation of digital image
displays with the aim to create warm social spaces by breaking down
the traditional artist/spectator boundary with suspended screens above
performed an Ablab AV set at the Metropolis club rigged up with our
rotating cube screens and Dav followed with Video Switchboard triggered
visuals supporting thunderous breakbeat sets by Crackhead Worm and Miss
is the Colombian version of Pixelache, an electronic art and subcultures
festival network based in Helsinki, it focuses on ‘electronic
subcultures’ – self-organized communities involved in creative
media and technology development (VJ community, open source developers,
media activists, etc) and features workshops, conferences and public
events in parks and schools, taking place in a comuna (marginal neighbourhood).
We were invited to take part in the February opening event and there
will be subsequent monthly repeats till the june 2007 finale that will
combine the creative efforts of groups of young people from these districts
with inputs from international artists. A jungle media lab is also being
organised, bringing artists to work with indigenous communities.
The workshops participants were young and motivated to learn and experiment with projection techniques and the digital tools for live video. In a memorable session taking place in the Benedikta school/ theatre, participants took turns to manipulate screens in response to the imagery and created an engaging live cinema environment with exploratory shadow performance that paved the way for the party.
The “Sancocho audiovisual” (sancocho being a popular soup dish, their own take on the mix concept) took place in the San Javier park below Comuna 13. Charles Tox and Krak-in-Dub from Mas-I-mas sound system (france) played some upbeat drum’n’bass and electro and improvised with Son Bata, an amazing local 8-piece Chirimia (traditional drum and brass party ensemble) complete with rappers and beat-boxers. Erik Sandelin had setup the interactive audiovisual installation built during his workshop: recycled metallic trash arranged as a traditional street trader booth that activated sound samples and projections when touched and clanged together.
used the basketball posts to support the screens created designed by
our students and hell broke loose as the kids got hold of the hand-held
screens and danced in front of the beams and up and down the posts.
I have to admit my surprise to the respect shown by all for the fragile
structures: not one screen was pulled down or damaged despite them hanging
came to a close with the “invasion” of the Parque del Periodista,
a city centre hangout full of excitable teenage punks. The truck mounted
sound system drove in, the MCs got on the microphone, the projectors
pointed at the surrounding buildings resulting in another memorable
night. The visuals were provided by the students from the VJ workshops
and Dan performed another fine Ablab AV set. The party was set to last
long into the night but the organisers had been given a midnight curfew
by the authorities – it was always going to be difficult to negotiate
a licence extension with a policeman, let alone dozens of them carrying
large calibre weaponry. A great night was had by all and revellers dispersed
towards less conspicuous gathering spots.