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Fascinate 2014

This August was my second time at Fascinate, and the second time the conference has taken place, with this year’s being a bigger event than in 2013. Fascinate 2014 incorporated two days of workshops in addition to the conference and showcase (this year held at various locations within Falmouth town centre). Fascinate sells itself as “an interdisciplinary conference investigating the current and future applications of ubiquitous computing technologies in visual and performance arts, games, architecture, craft, design and interactive media”.

First up was the ‘Performance’ workshop; a day in length and lead by Marcus Dyer and Chris Cole of ‘theskyisthinaspaperhere’ it featured a very thorough and useful presentation on loopers and looping techniques followed by a practical demonstration and hands-on group looping jam. Being at the stage in my MMus where my final performance module is fast approaching I was really hoping this workshop would help clarify ideas and set into motion the techniques I would use, and it did. Discussions on Robert Fripp’s solo guitar performance over loops titled ‘Frippertronics (1979) and Brian Eno’s well known ‘Music for Airports’ (1979), a loop based generative composition and the more recent Four Tet’s Studio Science video, amongst others, gave me some inspiration to the approach I could take. Building upon this was comprehensive information on different hardware and software that could be used, the features of each, technical considerations and common problems. The actual looping jam gave me a very brief practical insight into using Ableton and different set ups that could be used and how they worked as part of a group improvisation.

Highlights from the conference include a thought provoking keynote talk from Sound Artist Duncan Speakman on ‘Composed Structures in an Improvised World’ that highlighted audience participation, interactive installations and crowd sourcing, whilst raising the important point that often artists are too democratic in their interactive works and as such lose the opportunity to shock, as well as neglect to keep a strong artistic stamp. Kristina Anderson from STEIM gave a keynote talk entitled ‘Making Instruments’ that gave me a great deal to think about, ideas to try out and strategies to use in both composition and performance. I found her point on making objects as a way of thinking about and imagining ideas helpful and plan to put this into practice.

The stand out showcase piece for me this year was a very surreal interactive sound art and digital poetry installation by David Devanny called ‘Pop goes the pineapple’. A site specific piece, it involved walking around a disused cocktail lounge within a 200 year old pub, carrying a watering can full of lemons and a sensor on the end of a strange contraption with a pineapple picture taped to the top (see photo), headphones on, trying to locate recordings of poetry! I felt like I was in a David Lynch movie with the decor and slightly disturbing poetry, especially when the poetry was about the place you had to stand to hear it (“twisted limbs floating in the wallpaper of your mind” heard whilst standing next to an old wallpapered wall). I loved this piece and found it very inspiring for my own composition work.

Further information and links to all the artists and speakers mentioned above can be found on Fascinate’s website http://www.fascinateconference.com

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