Art+Communication 2004 in Riga
Some thoughts about the Art+Communication 2004 Festival which I attended a few weeks ago follow. I arrived Riga Thursday evening, 30th of September. The hotel which quite a few of the festival guests used, Hotel Viktorija, was rather nice experience. The reception and elevator lobbies very quite ok and well-kept, but when I got to the fourth floor and opened the folding doors to the corridor where my room was located it was an instant transferral to the Soviet era. Quite a low, flickering lighting, overall tone of earth colors, and no similar doors whatsoever. It was so cool, an ostalgy overdose. The feeling just elevated when I got to my room: very high ceiling, the surfaces of the cupboard and table were high-gloss enamel, the floor was creaky parquet. Too bad I failed to take a camera with me.
The breakfast of the hotel was excellent, especially the newly roasted pancakes! I met Annie at the breakfast hall and some other festival participants. I ended up walking to RIXC building with Teemu from Helsinki and a Colombian guy who had dreamed some quite weird dreams (can't remember his name, alas). Although we arrived some 15 minutes late, we just made it in time for the first representations.
The first panel was called Endocolonization. The most interesting speech was given by Heath Bunting, who has compiled quite a comprehensive database about national borders, BorderXing. It's about documenting the crossing European country borders without identification.
At the afternoon, in the Social Cartography panel, Schyler Erle had a very interesting and lively representation. The title was Mapping Hacks, and he represented examples of what can be combined using freely available data. A very interesting example was a map that combined the paths of hurricanes in Florida and the voter behavior in these countries in the 2000 election. However, according to Snopes, the data in question is not very accurate. (I think I originally misunderstood the example: I thought that the hurricanes had struck previously and this had effected on people to vote for Bush with his religious ramblings. However, it seems that the map tried to say that voting for Bush results in a punishment from the (American) God).
Then there were artists presentations, live sound performances, and the usual eating and partying.
The facilities of RIXC were very nice. The lecture hall was shaped like half a circle, like an amphitheatre sans elevation. I heard the room was used by a sculptor to make huge statues. At the exhibition hall many works of art and banners about the workshops were on display. There were, amongst others, Jaanis' hyperdelic installation parallel[land]scapes, an eerie and irrational 3d landscape (spacescape?). Time that Land Forgot by Timo and Even looked greater than usually thanks to huge plasma screens.
On Saturday, Mark Bain showed a program, Tempest for Eliza, that creates patterns on a monitor which cause it to emit AM radio waves that can be received using a radio. In other words, the program outputs sound files utilizing quite an unexpected medium. Unfortunately, the demonstration did not work (it occured to me later that maybe it was because he used a laptop and it might require a CRT).
The keynote presentation was given by Dr. Richard Barbrook. The keynote, New York Prophecies, was about the imaginary future of technology, how technology was being marketed to the general public and what were the real motives behind the development. The examples he used were from the 50's and 60's: atomic power, rockets and computers. It was probably the dramaturgically best lecture I've ever attended. Very enlightening, too.
I gave my presentation on Saturday evening, there wasn't much time (Derek was such a sharp moderator), but I think I managed to convey the idea to the audience. A few people came to talk about it so at least it was of some interest.
We went to eat at a Latvian restaurant chain, Ludo. The concept was just great: you go to a separate room in which you fill the tray with anything you wish (mostly traditional Latvian food) and then pay. Quite greasy, but (or hence) very good.
On Sunday we boarded a double decker and headed off to Limbazhi, a village about 100 kilometers from Riga, where the opening of The MilkLine exhibition was being held. The location was very beautiful, a dwelling of a Latvian writer, which had been made into a museum. Idea of the MilkLine is to follow the milk from cow to cheese to consumer. This was done using GPS, which is quite banal nowadays, but the project was became outstanding because the artists told stories about all the people involved. The cheese in question is Rigamont, probably one of the best cheeses in the world, which there were plentiful amounts available.
When we got back, I scarcely had the time to buy stuff from the center of Riga. Since Latvia has the best dairy products in the world, I bought a lot of Rigamont cheese and chocolate.
Overall, the festival was really a boon! Well organized, great representations and foremost, the overall atmosphere was very original. Hence, I extend my gratitude to RIXC and other organizers.