SANTA FE, N.M. — Visitors approach strangers in masks, including one who walks around with a mirror as a face, having guests look and confront what lies within. Another masked figure sits in a tent, creating personalized gifts and songs depending on how people want to “cleanse” their lives.
Not only seeing but experiencing and feeling art with both mind and body is all part of 2017’s Currents Santa Fe International New Media Festival.
Currents kicks off tonight and continues until June 25. This weekend’s performances and more throughout the upcoming weeks will have their installations, films or performances displayed in multiple spaces within the Railyard District, with El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe the main space.
Founders and co-executive artistic directors Frank Ragano and Mariannah Amster began the annual festival in 2010. Opening weekend this year is expected to attract about 3,000 visitors from around the nation and the world, as well as the Santa Fe area, said Amster. The entire festival is shooting for 8,000 attendees.
In addition to a sold-out coding class for artists being offered, the 2017 festival will also be more centralized near El Museo so the artists will not have to move their work to make way for the weekly Farmer’s Market.
The three main art exhibitions at El Museo include California artist Ryan McGee’s “VOSIS,” an app that he says “shapes and controls sound visually,” and allows users to see how sound relates to certain images or videos in what he said is his largest performance yet.
The other highlighted performances are “We” by Colton White and “Burnish” by Mark-David Hosale and Erika Batdorf. Music will also be presented at both the Currents’ Quasar Pavilion outside El Museo’s main entrance and within the Railyard Plaza.
“We have a lot of different pieces this year because it’s driven by the technology – what people are doing,” Ragano said. “People tend to get more creative with technology.”
Those who visit “Burnish” will receive a one-on-one journey. The product of a collaboration between digital media artist Hosale and theater artist Batdorf, both professors at Toronto’s York University, participants undergo a personalized experience of choosing words or elements or answering given questions from a masked Batdorf. Based on their answers, she gives each person a gift and sings them a song correlating with their answers. Its first showing was in Venice in 2015, later traveling to Canada and California before its showing at Currents.
“The piece is about burning things away, removing veils, but cleansing the heart,” she said. “It’s somewhat mystical in that way. It’s very much a process of choosing things that you want to remove from your life or things you think are going to help you remove those things in your life.”
While showing the piece, both artists said the reactions of those experiencing “Burnish” have varied dramatically, ranging from tears to smiles throughout the 10-minute experience.
“It is really demanding on the audience … . People who do invest, and I’ve seen people invest deeply, I’ve seen some really strong reactions,” Hosale said.
According to White, a Dallas-based artist and performer who was an intern at Currents last year, “We” tackles self-confrontation as people approach and interact with him while he’s wearing a mirror in front of his face. While his piece is also expected to have varied emotional reactions, he said that’s the great thing about opening weekend – people walking into something unexpected.
“It’s a great high to see people be exposed to something different,” said. “It gives me hope that we can give people a chance to open their minds.”
Additional works will be on display through the Axle Contemporary Mobile Art Gallery, Art House, form & concept, OTA and David Richard galleries starting June 9. Locations following opening weekend include Meow Wolf, Violet Crown Cinema and Warehouse 21.
Admission is free, with a $5 suggested donation for visitors ages 18 and older.