'A new way of seeing' - Albuquerque Journal

‘A new way of seeing’

Since they started the Currents New Media Festival in 2010, co-founders Frank Ragano and Mariannah Amster have always envisioned establishing community-wide partnerships over the month of June to showcase arts, science and technology.

And this year, springing from its new relationship with the Santa Fe Institute and the first-ever InterPlanetary Festival, Currents has spearheaded a new series of events with the hopes of making the city known as a new/digital media art center for the U.S.

“Futurition,” a series of art exhibitions, installations, talks and other happenings under umbrella themes of digital and new media art, technology and – of course – the future, started Thursday with the opening day of the InterPlanetary fest in the Railyard. It ends June 24, the last day of Currents.

Other Futurition partners include the Thoma Foundation’s Art House, Axle Contemporary’s rolling exhibit space, form & concept gallery, Meow Wolf and the Railyard.

Last fall, shortly after SFI President David Krakauer established a partnership with Currents, the two groups applied for and received a $30,000 Collaborative Arts Marketing grant from the city. With the funding, which paid for a marketing firm to promote the series, Ragano and Amster rounded up other local partners.

Carla Gannis comments on the future of human communication in “Portraits in Landscape, Sunrise.” The video will be on display at Art House in its “Transfer Download: Simulations in Hyperspace” exhibit opening June 15. (SOURCE: The Art House)

The mini-festival, as Ragano calls it, is meant to appeal to both locals and tourists, and is part of an effort to make June Santa Fe’s “Emerging Media Month,” an idea pushed by the new Emerging Media Alliance, itself an offshoot of Santa Fe’s Film and Digital Media Commission.

“The point behind this is to update the profile of Santa Fe,” Ragano said, adding he wants people to see Santa Fe is an “emerging center” for new kinds of art linked to science and technology, in addition to the traditional arts for which the city is revered.

In addition to Currents, the alliance includes Meow Wolf, SFI, the Thoma Foundation, Descartes Labs and other organizations.

“It’s not your Indian or Spanish market,” said Frank Rose, gallery director of form & concept gallery, said of Futurition. “It’s this new event that speaks to a contemporary time.”

Form & concept’s multimedia exhibition, “Inner Orbit,” features artists who Rose says use the concept of outer space as a lens to create personal artwork or delve into the Earth’s own issues. The show opened May 25 and will stay up until July 21.

Both Rose and Ragano were careful to not knock the city’s traditional arts scene. According to Ragano, he simply wants to showcase that Santa Fe has both the old and the new.

“The most important thing is that it’s not about replacing the incredible culture that’s already here,” said Ragano. “It’s additive, saying, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got the whole thing here.’ ”

A.I., virtual reality on stage at Currents’ opening weekend

Amster said she and Ragano hope to continue receiving city grant money annually. She described this year’s first Futirition series as an “experiment,” adding they aren’t sure how people who visit Currents during its weekslong run – last year it was about 8,000 – will spread out among all the various parts of series.

Ragano noted that most of the organizations involved, with the exception of the new InterPlanetary Festival, have partnered with the Currents festival in some way in the past. But they would often get “subsumed” under the larger event, he said, making it difficult for other groups to stand apart.

“Nobody is ‘Futurition,’ everybody is ‘Futurition,’ ” he added. “It gives people a separateness and individuality.”

Sharing the goal of bringing more attention to the digital art realm is Kelani Nichole, Brooklyn-based curator for Art House’s Futurition show “Transfer Download: Simulations in Hyperspace.”

The exhibit, which has been shown in various formats across the world since 2016 and opens in Santa Fe June 15, showcases 15 international artists whose works are all projected onto a three-channel screen that covers the entire exhibition room.

The visitor decides which piece he or she wants to see by selecting from an iPad. Choices vary from algorithmic, internet-based artwork to the video creation of a New York artist featuring a landscape and human figures made up only of emojis.

“We’re really consuming them in that virtual space,” Nichole said of the show. “And it’s really opening up a new way of seeing. It’s so impactful. It’s so simple, but so impactful.”

As part of Currents’ opening weekend, she will also be giving a talk at SITE Santa Fe about practices associated with the new media art movement, which she says still is not fully understood or accepted by the contemporary art world or its collectors.

“We don’t talk about sculpture art or painting art, it’s just contemporary art, but we talk about ‘digital art’ for some reason,” she said. “And I’ve been very keen on fighting against that label because I feel its putting it in a little bit of a box and putting it aside.”

“Futurition” is free. A full list of the events and locations is available at santafefuturition.com.

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