Naturalis Electronica, Interferenze festival report

Naturalis Electronica

Digital and organic are never antonyms at Interferenze, the annual festival of new arts taking place in San Martino Valle Caudina (Italy). In the middle of a beautiful chestnut trees forest the 2006 edition lead the young local enthusiastic curator crew to succeed in integrating digital culture with their own cultural roots. ‘Naturalis Electronica’ was the leit motif of three days of electronic art, celebrated in a friendly atmosphere with no barriers between artists and public, sharing almost the same spaces, perfectly mixing the local environment and food tradition with the artistic research on the edge of digital and organic. The curators’ commitment to this philosophy is almost total and it was seamlessly implemented in the festival program attracting the usual mass of thousands of local curious people plus experts arrived from all over the nation attending the event. Amongst the most popular one there were the workshops of the solar-powered micro-robots by Ralf Schreiber: they were unofficially repeated every day after the first crowded one. Schreiber scattered also some of his chirping electronic lifeforms around the forest as an installation (‘Living Particles’), forcing the hanging around crowds to always wonder themselves if the sounds they heard was real or virtual. Food was also one of the main topics, as in the ‘gastroacoustic’ performance of the Troyer brothers + Philip Furtenbach. This was perhaps even too ethereal bringing some speakers together that ‘cooked’ sounds at the very moment the (freely available) near raw chicken and vegetable soup was doing, placed on a wood fire. But this was not the only food involved: a professional daily workshop was available for appreciating craftily prepared cheeses, wines, truffles and hams. This kind of food knowledge was adding important levels of information in the tasting process, providing a deeper level of understanding of the manufacturing act and, more relevant, a much better conscious sensorial experience. The awareness of technical tools was the goal of a conference on the use of Open Source software to intervene in the urban and natural territory management. Stimulating the consciousness of sounds, instead, was one of the implications of ‘Acquatic’ by Marianne Decoster-Taivalkoski, a hidden webcam activated sound environment made out of calm / normal / frightening recordings of sea waves, triggered by the amount of audience movements. The other two installations were the famous ‘Process 6,7,8’ by Casey Reas, the beautiful organic drawings generation coded with his own Process programming language and an interactive showcase of the graphic organic irony of Frédéric Durieu / LeCielEstBleu. Sounds were omnipresent, and the locative approach of Zeenath Hasan and Richard Widerberg (IMPROVe) was refreshing. After a collective recording walk in the wood they performed a ‘concert’ happily cutting the found and raised sounds. A different type of collective performance was organized by the well known japanese Sine Wave Orchestra. Their shared sinewave generating transparent eggs gave a different soundtrack to the obscure ambiental surroundings, provoking night birds wondered twitters as a reaction. The live sets in the night were surrounded by the deep dark of sleeping mountains. Biosphere opened his long and retrospective set with agricultural samples used in his upcoming album while the japanese O.blaat flustered a silver bowl of water placed on a big speaker with her own software-generated sound waves. The only performance unfortunately affected by nature was in the end the Emi Maeda with Lia one. While the former was intriguingly attacking a classic harp, the latter guided her graphic abstract patterns evolution on the screen, but a sudden thunderstorm interrupted the final part. With a solid partnership with the Pixelache festival in Helsinki, Interferenze is uniquely questioning the digital art festival form, going deeper and deeper in its own territory roots and extending accordingly to the rest of the world its specific research.