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New Media Festival kicks off this weekend and runs through June 26

For the next two weeks, opportunities will abound in Santa Fe to have your senses saturated, your brain boggled and your concept of art blown wide open.

The 7th annual Currents International New Media Festival gets underway from 6 p.m. to midnight today and noon to midnight Saturday with multimedia performances and displays at its primary location, El Museo Cultural, that will overflow throughout the Railyard Plaza this weekend.

And, to add to the festivities, Duel Brewing will be serving its locally crafted beers and wine from 6 p.m. to closing both nights.

This is a festival that has been steadily growing and expanding its reach ever since co-directors Mariannah Amster and Frank Ragano of Parallel Studios first launched it.

“International artists are telling us they go all over the world and this is right at the top” for new media exhibitions, Ragano said.

Amster added, “One thing that is different is that a lot of new media festivals focus on the technology; we really focus on what artists are doing with the technology.”

“To afar the water flows” is a new media installation by Yuge Zhou. (Courtesy of Currents)

“To afar the water flows” is a new media installation by Yuge Zhou. (Courtesy of Currents)

Submissions came this year from 516 artists in 35 countries, they said, with pieces from some 140 artists accepted, most of them at El Museo Cultural, but some of them showing at different venues.

And the proliferation of locations has brought Currents close to their original vision of a citywide festival, they said.

The former Zane Bennett gallery space, now form & concept, will stage exhibits, and the Meow Wolf Arts Complex has weighed in with related weekend performances and concerts, while MAKE Santa Fe in that complex is offering a series of workshops.

The Digital Dome at the Institute for American Indian Arts continues to offer full-dome video screenings during the festival, and events can be found at Warehouse 21, Violet Crown Cinema, David Richard Fine Art, Axle Contemporary, The Art House and more.

While Currents organizers talked about dropping efforts to link events and exhibitions around the state after last year’s festival, Ragano said, “it’s taken on a life of its own. … Now, all of a sudden, we have seven partners,” including locations in Roswell, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Magdalena and Taos.

Also, the educational component has expanded, with Highlands University offering a credit course on “Installation and New Media” at the Higher Education Center in Santa Fe. And five youths from the Youth Shelter’s Access program will follow up their training workshops in May with experience as interns with the festival, he said.

Another difference this year is that a full exhibit, “Code and Noise,” curated by Christine Duval, will travel from San Francisco to its own room at El Museo. Duval reached out to see if she could bring her show here, which includes 13 or 14 artists, Amster said. From Santa Fe, the show will travel to Los Angeles.

Jo Lawrence’s single-channel video, “The Woman Who Owns the Sun,” will be shown at Currents. (Courtesy of Currents)

Jo Lawrence’s single-channel video, “The Woman Who Owns the Sun,” will be shown at Currents. (Courtesy of Currents)

Big opening weekend

This year’s opening weekend will be a lot bigger than in the past, Ragano said.

“There will be a lot more work in the Railyard,” he said, referring to performances, displays, projections and more. In collaboration with AMP Concerts, they’re bringing in Filastine at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, a duo that incorporates video, design and dance into music that draws on electronic beats and ambient sounds. “They’re incredible,” Ragano said, noting that he and Amster saw them last year at Taos Mesa Brewing. “It’s an urban blend with hip-hop and world music. They have incredible video. It’s very danceable, but kind of cutting-edge.”

Tonight, just in case the cold weather kept you from this year’s Vision Fest at the Santa Fe University of Arts and Design, students will offer a reprise of some of their projections and video in the Railyard.

This is an image from “Observance,” a multimedia performance by Ariadne. (Courtesy of Currents)

This is an image from “Observance,” a multimedia performance by Ariadne. (Courtesy of Currents)

Other installations through the two days will include solar-powered robots, a revolving sphere of stars, sound installations, lasers and more – many of which interact with the audience. Interacting music and visuals, a real-time audio/visual performance, electronic muscle stimulation that moves performers like puppets and more will be found in weekend performances scheduled inside El Museo.

The possibilities can be overwhelming, but that just gives you an excuse to keep coming back to see what you missed the other times you visited. The website gives you a schedule and list of artworks, along with links to partner organizations.

And if you have a smartphone, bring it to the exhibit. “Several pieces require you to download a free app to interact with them,” Ragano said. Also, the festival itself will have a free app available to give you information about a piece as you view it.

While continuing to expand the technological possibilities, the festival attendance also has been growing by about a thousand people each year, he said. Last year, about 6,200 people attended – 2,000 of them over the opening weekend – and they’re hoping for 7,000 this year, he said.

But don’t head over to El Museo on Mondays or Tuesdays – festival exhibits there are closed on those days. Otherwise, starting Wednesday, hours are noon-7 p.m., staying open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.