ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Connections. As a part of this earth, humans have them with one another, nature, the environment and the world.
It’s also the theme of this year’s The Paseo in Taos.
“We bring people together and share a space together,” says Matt Thomas, director of The Paseo. “We are all connected to each other. The greater theme is how we connect with ourselves, others and the world.”
The Paseo, an annual outdoor art festival convening local, national and international artists, is in its sixth year. The free event will take place from sunset to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, and Saturday, Sept. 14.
The festival features 32 works – ranging from low-tech to new media – selected from the hundreds of submissions.
The public installations are designed to be interactive and are placed on Taos’ adobe walls or in its historic acequias.
“This festival is very specific for Taos,” Thomas says. “Over the years, we’ve learned what really works. Everything is interactive in some ways. The installations are outside and beg for some form of engagement, and it becomes an expression of oneself.”
Thomas says that when the festival began, the organizers and artists were trying to find its identity.
“By year two and three, we had it figured out that it was going to be an interactive space,” he says. “The pieces that each artist has created are meant to have some sort of interaction.”
Thomas curated the show this year around the connections theme.
“It’s loose and broad enough that you can play with what the different artists are doing,” he says. “Each piece is context-responsive. It’s like no other place. We look for those specific elements, and whether it’s new media or technology, we look to see what will make an impact.”
A few of the artists to be featured in at the festival are:
• Calfornia-based artist Ryon Gesink will have “Numinous Eye Arch,” which will welcome Paseo visitors. It has multiple fire elements.
• Taos’ Christian Ristow presents “With Open Arms We Welcomed That Which Would Destroy Us,” which is a sculpture of a seated robot deity. From a distance, it is beautiful and seductive, yet on closer inspection it reveals its true nature. It is not evil; it’s a robot. It has its own directives. And like any god, we created it and gave it its power, Ristow says.
• Antonin Fourneau, of France, will have “Waterlight Graffiti,” an interactive artwork in the form of a wall of thousands of LEDs illuminating in contact with water. The public is invited to express itself on this luminous surface by drawing or writing with a brush or a spray.
• New York’s Andy Wagener displays “CLOUDNET,” a light and sound structure that is activated by the movement of observers and passersby. As thunderous booms echo from its core, for a moment, participants can experience on a small scale what it’s like to control the uncontrollable.
• Los Angeles’ Robyn Sanford will present “*HUGS*,” a large, soft sculpture spelling out the word “hugs” surrounded by asterisks. It is interactive, inviting viewers to touch, hug, and photograph themselves with the word. “*HUGS*” is a reference to the prevalence of physical signifier terms used in virtual communication, Sanford says.
• La Pocha Nostra, which consists of Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Saul Garcia Lopez/La Saula and Balitronica Gómez, is the artist in residence for the festival.
The company will present “In the Enchilada Western,” an interactive performance opera in which living dioramas enact all of the extreme performance personas that reveal the contradictions of Taos, including “white Indians,” “fake shamans,” “tourists on steroids,” and “fetishized identities,” the company says. Original music, video projections, cinematic lighting, taxidermied animals and twisted ethnographic motifs will help enhance the high-tech “robo-baroque aesthetic.”
Thomas says it’s difficult to pick a favorite, though he’s looking forward to seeing Gesink’s piece at the entryway to The Paseo.
“This piece provided a little shock and awe,” he says. “It’s a 40-foot steel archway, and it has fire coming from it. It’s a dramatic entrance.”
The event is sponsored by Meow Wolf, Taos County, the town of Taos, the Martin Foundation, the Lor Foundation and JF Maddox Foundation.