Telfair’s Pulse Art + Technology Festival is taking place a couple of weeks earlier this year, but it’s every bit as packed with digital, electronic and science-based art, music, games, performances and workshops as it’s ever been. Now in its 11th year, Pulse can still claim its place as one of the only museum-based festivals of its kind in the country.
As festival organizer and Telfair’s senior curator of education Harry DeLorme explains, there are a number of conventions, conferences and the like that focus on art and technology, but very few are museum-based events that bring together contemporary artists working in the realm of technology to exhibit their work in the context of like-minded musicians, performers and other creators like Pulse does.
“This is a way for the general public to sample a lot of these things that are happening right now around the creative use of tech,” says Delorme. “And it’s cheap, too. We’re not like a big festival where you have to pay 100 bucks for a festival pass. We’ve got free admission in the daytime thanks to our sponsorship … and the nighttime events are free for members and really cheap for non-members.”
DeLorme scours the country throughout the year attending various conferences and expos to find the most interesting ideas that are happening in the world of art and technology to bring to Pulse. So much of what’s being shown this year, as with other years, is up-to-the-minute, cutting-edge technologies, but what makes it so fun, as DeLorme also points out, is that artists are tweaking and playing around with technology in a way that highlights obscure possibilities as well as some of the moral quandaries that arise from it.
“What I think is interesting is the way artists are taking these new tools as they emerge and using them the ‘wrong’ way to do things that are either aesthetically interesting or raise interesting questions,” says DeLorme.
Some of the sights and sounds this year’s Pulse has in store are as mind-boggling as ever, and so much of it, as with previous years, is very hands-on and interactive. This year’s exhibitions have been grouped into three categories that delve into three distinct themes relating to the creative use of emerging technologies.
“Re-embodied: From Information to Sculpture” explores the possibilities of genetic manipulation with some very strange results. Courtney Brown and Sharif Razzaque’s “RAWR! A Study in Sonic Skulls” is a 3D recreation of the skull of a duck-billed dinosaur that you can blow into and hear what the creature may have actually sounded like when alive. In a related piece, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg has created facial portraits based on the DNA profile of leftover genetic material found in discarded trash, like chewing gum and cigarette butts. The results are both fascinating and deeply creepy.
“Alt-AI,” on the other hand, explores the creative side of artificial intelligence with work from artist Gene Kogan, whose “Cubist Mirror” transforms the viewer’s image into a digital cubist painting. Melanie Hoff and Druv Mehrotra use AI in their Doppelcam app, which searches the internet for what it thinks is the closest match to whatever photograph you take, with sometimes unexpected and potentially thought-provoking results.
ArtCade is this year’s video game installment to Pulse. Culled from last year’s IndieCade East, held at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, with help from that festival’s organizers, ArtCade features a sampling of the work shown at IndieCade, but to call them “video games” is actually somewhat of a misnomer. Each game is playable and interactive and they utilize not just video, but also projections, LED strips and, perhaps most excitingly, virtual reality. Art collective Kokoromi’s “Superhypercube”was recently released for Sony PlayStation VR as a “spacial reasoning puzzle” and will be available to play throughout Pulse, along with many others.
There are also a number of evening events that will incorporate an assortment of live music, spoken word and other inventive digital mashups. Opening night will feature Pulse perennial favorites the Medeology Collective, who will open the festival with a performance of “The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse,” utilizing projection mapping and inflatable unicorns. There will also be a number of other performances and artist lectures throughout the festival, including one off-site event at the new Space Station at Starlandia, 2436 Bull St., titled “Sonic Deviations,” a sound art showcase curated by local electronic impresarios Jeffrey Tosh and Emily Hadland and presented in collaboration with Graveface Records.
There are also a number of workshops and other attractions that are far too numerous to mention here, but a detailed schedule is available at Telfair.org. This is definitely one of Savannah’s most unique events and shouldn’t be missed.
“We’ve got a lot of really exciting things this year,” says DeLorme. “We’ve got a wide variety of components and themes and a lot of good science connections, so I think a lot of teachers and students are especially going to want to participate.”
IF YOU GO
What: Pulse Art + Technology Festival
When: Jan. 11-15
Where: Jepson Center, 207 W. York St.
Cost: Daytime events are free, evening events free to members, $15 for non-members
Daytime events are free and open to the public. Evening events require $15 Pulse Pass. Workshops require registration at telfair.org or 912-790-8820.
4-6 p.m. Jan. 6
Pre-PULSE Youth Workshop: Intro to Game Development with Game Maker for ages 9-12
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 8
Pre-PULSE Youth Workshop: Technology and Dance for ages 7-12
11 a.m. Jan. 12
PULSE Lecture for Students with artists Heather Dewey-Hagborg and David Bowen
2 p.m. Jan. 12
PULSE Artist Talk and Demo: Artists Melanie Hoff and Druhv Mehrotra discuss Dopplecam app
10 a.m. Jan. 13
PULSE Lecture for Students featuring artist Courtney Brown
2 p.m. Jan. 13
4-6 p.m. Jan. 13
PULSE Youth Workshop: Create Your Own Brand and Logo! for ages 12 and older
10 a.m.-noon Jan. 14
PULSE Youth Workshop: Make a Plantbot! for ages 10 and older
1-4 p.m. Jan. 14
Free Family Day and Expo with new “Student Maker Zone”
2 p.m. Jan. 14
Performance of excerpts from “The Odyssey Redux”
2-4 p.m. Jan. 15
“Big Screen Gaming!” with casual, competitive gaming of recent indie video games
6 p.m. Jan. 11
Lecture by artists Heather Dewey-Hagborg and David Bowen
7 p.m. Jan. 11
Projection mapping performance: “The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse” by the Medeology Collective in the atrium; cash bar
6 p.m. Jan. 12
“Submerged” dance with interactive visuals choreographed by Britt Bacon
6:30 p.m. Jan. 12
“How to Speak Dinosaur” performance and talk by Courtney D. Brown
6 p.m. Jan. 13
“The Odyssey Redux,” a live media art adaptation of Homer’s famous epic poem by Alessandro Imperato and David Spencer
7 p.m. Jan. 14
Chiptune Night! concert featuring Little Paw with Matt Akers