Experimentations in light, rhythm and sound took center stage at the ninth annual installment of Pixilerations, a media festival presented by FirstWorks Friday and Saturday night in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. The full schedule included two concert programs of digital animation, performance art and electronic music in addition to artist talks, video screenings and multimedia exhibitions in the Cohen Gallery and the Rhode Island School of Design's Sol Koffler Gallery.
Pixilerations is produced by FirstWorks in collaboration with the Multimedia and Electronic Music Experiments program, the Visual Art Department and the Creative Arts Council at Brown and the Digital Media Program and the Center for Student Involvement at RISD. This year's festival featured 14 digital media artists from across southern New England and four from Taiwan in partnership with the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture.
"We're really interested in the reach that Pixilerations is starting to have and the dialogue that's possible for the artists who are participating," said Kathleen Pletcher, founder and executive artistic director of FirstWorks. "It started with us using raw space in downtown Providence," she said, "but we're looking at Pixileration's 10th year, and we're really interested in where it will go from here."
The headliner for the concert performances was Miwa Matreyek, an animator, designer and multimedia artist, who was featured at the TED Global conference in 2010. She presented two live performances, "Dream of Lucid Living" and "Myth and Infrastructure," in which she used her own silhouette to interact with projected animation and original music.
Exploring domestic spaces, navigating imaginary landscapes and manipulating layers of light and shadow, she executed a carefully choreographed performance that blurred the line between illusion and reality in digital animation.
"When I make work, it's very much about experimentation between the animation, the body and objects around me," Matreyek said. "It's a rhythmic, intuitive performance with a few very lo-fi tricks."
Following Matreyek's performances in Studio 1, the audience moved to the Martinos Auditorium, adding a processional adventure to an evening rife with creative energy. "We thought about making it a 'Moveable Feast,'" Pletcher said, referencing Ernest Hemingway's memoirs. "It was an interesting experiment, and I think that's something that the Granoff Center's architecture and certainly the Creative Arts Council encourages."
The concert performances also included exciting new works in electronic music. Friday night, a group called BUMPR presented "UVB76," in which they improvised with handmade objects and computer technology to create an immersive digital soundscape. Saturday's offerings included "Sonic Universe," by Rafael Attias and Mikhail Mansion, which looped original material for synthesizer, percussion and electric guitar with archival media from NASA.
"It's a mix of technology and traditional media," said James Moses, technical director and lecturer in the music department, who also serves on the steering committee for Pixilerations. "It allows the universities, FirstWorks and the city to work together and to collaborate," he said.
"Our audience is a combination of people who are extremely knowledgeable and working in art and technology and people who ... are interested in discovering new things," Pletcher said. "I hope on the level of practicing artists that it will encourage conversations and connections being made, and then on the level of experiencing new media perhaps for the first time. I'm hoping that it builds a bridge for audiences who are less familiar and for whom this is a whole new world."
Audiences reacted positively to the performances and gallery installations. Friday night was a full house, and many people had to sit on the floor.
"I thought there was some really interesting stuff," said Hannah Subotnick '16, who said the space enhanced BUMPR's ambient electronic music.
Africanus Okokon RISD '12 said Matreyek's work reminded him of music videos on MTV in the '90s, except that Matreyek was physically engaged with the animated material. "I thought it was beautiful," he said.
"I hope the audience takes away some sense of wonder, happiness or fantastical-ness," Matreyek said. "I feel like there are still new discoveries to be made."
Video screenings will be presented Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. at the Cable Car Cinema, and installations featuring works by Chung-Kun Wang, Jie-Lin Zhuang and Zih-Jing Wei will continue until Oct. 21 in the Sol Koffler Gallery and the Cohen Gallery.