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Machines in spotlight at ISEA

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So what happens when you have 2,500 cameras attached to a van? The answer is not clear, but Harrod Blank sure enjoys the reactions.

Blank is owner of a 1972 Dodge 1-ton van to which he has skillfully attached cameras. He also is a car artist and documentary filmmaker. But out of everything that he’s built, it’s the camera van that takes the cake.

“With all of the cameras on it, the van is like a tank and people notice it,” he explains during a recent interview. “The idea for the van came to me in a dream. What’s cool about the van is that all of the cameras are hooked up to take pictures and I get to document people’s first-time reactions. They are all pretty interesting.”

If you go
WHAT: ISEA2012: “Machine Wilderness” conference. Related exhibitions will be up through January
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 19, through Sept. 24
WHERE: Various locations around Albuquerque

Blank will drive the van from California to Albuquerque so he can participate in the International Symposium of Electronic Art 2012, or ISEA2012: “Machine Wilderness,” conference beginning Wednesday, Sept. 19.

The event consists of a conference, a multisite exhibition and a seasonlong series of public programs around the region, all exploring the intersection of art, science and technology. It is broken into five subthemes – power, creative economies, transportation, wildlife and the cosmos.

It also will have more than 500 artists showing work and/or giving presentations. There will be related exhibitions up through January at various locations in and around Albuquerque.

Blank will screen his documentary “Automorphosis” on Sept. 23 at the KiMo Theatre. He also will participate in the Block Party on the same date with other car artists.

“People have been so conditioned and they don’t know it’s OK to decorate your car,” he explains. “You think after all these years of seeing art cars, it would be more prevalent. But people still adhere to the values that were instilled as children.”

Blank says with car artists, you can immediately see the value of creativity.

“With that creativity, the person is able to problem solve and think on their feet,” he says. “What people don’t realize is that to make something that makes an impact takes time, effort and a lot of money. Sure, you can go out and spray paint your car, but what does it mean? Getting the van to be the way I wanted it has been nearly 12 years of work and updates.”

As a subtheme, transportation will have a big and mobile part of the conference.

In addition to Blank’s art cars, native New Mexican Christopher Marianetti will premiere Symphony 505 on Sept. 23 at the Downtown Block Party. Symphony 505 is an Albuquerque-based collaborative project that brings together Marianetti as composer, choreographer Mary Margaret Moore and the Down Low Car Club from Albuquerque. The collaboration is a revisioning of the role of the car, and specifically, the lowrider.

“We basically create our own genre of symphony/car show/ballet,” Marianetti explains. “Utilizing the unique capabilities of each car and driver, as well as wireless sound transmission to the car’s sound systems, we reimagine the cars as the mobile musical instruments of a symphony.”

Marianetti says he’s worked on previous projects like this, but never utilized wireless programming.

“We’ve been rehearsing for the past six months twice a week,” he says. “Every time that we have a rehearsal, we see something that we could make better.”

Marianetti says that growing up in Albuquerque, the Northeast Heights specifically, he would see lowriders but never really understood their culture.

He says that’s what started the inspiration behind “Symphony 505.”

“I saw this culture from a distance and became fascinated with the machines,” he says. “Then as I was working with Found Sound Nation, we began to work on projects like this and have been taking them to various cities. This is the first one with lowriders, though, and I can’t wait to give a New Mexico flair to ISEA.”

Also dealing with transportation will be Mexican artists Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domené. The duo have created “SEFT-1,” a project in Mexico.

The vehicle is equipped with a Hi-Rail system, a metal wheel mechanism that enables it to move on the rails. The manned railway exploration probe travels abandoned railways using photography, video, audio and text to record contemporary people, landscape and infrastructure in largely remote areas of Mexico.

The duo will make a historic journey from Mexico to Albuquerque for ISEA2012.

“It’s been a long road for us to get this project off the ground,” Puig says. “We’re looking forward to having audiences see our project and all of the results.”

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