Woodstock Digital Media Festival Launches This Weekend: An Interview with Organizers Marcin Ramocki and Joe McKay

by Paddy Johnson on June 14, 2011 · 2 comments Interview

eteam

This weekend tech art nerds will flood Woodstock for the first Digital Media Festival of its kind. Themed, “Out of Place” — a nod to the unlikely union of local landscape and tech– some of the country’s top art professionals converge to discuss and exhibit an array of new media projects specific to the festival. I’m talking, Christiane Paul, the Director of the Media Studies Graduate Programs and Associate Professor of Media Studies at The New School, NY, and Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Magdalena Sawon and Tamas Banovich, owners of the well-known Chelsea Gallery, Postmasters, and Jeremiah Johnson/Nullsleep to name just a few. Also the artist collective eTeam and VTDigger.org journalist Anne Galloway. I talked with two of the project’s organizers, Marcin Ramock and Joe McKay about the festival this week in the hopes of giving readers and travelers a better idea of what’s in store. (Those interested in attending can purchase their tickets online.) Here’s what they said: 

 

Paddy Johnson: So I wanted to talk to you guys briefly about the Woodstock Digital Media Festival in Vermont, which happens this Saturday.  Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Joe Mckay:  Sure. Through a friend of a friend, I met the director of the festival.  He's a guy who comes from working at Time Magazine for a while, working at PBS, and he's actually in England as the acting CEO of some cable television networks there.  He'salways been interested in new media, but more from a commercial side…so he doesn't know a lot about new media in the art world, but he's always sort of been a fan and been interested.We had a couple meetings just because of our personal fan connection, and we got talking about what we might do for a festival; this is sort of a brainchild of his, and he brought me along.  The idea is to do something in his summer hometown, which is in Woodstock…the incongruity of having a new media festival in a place that's so pastoral and idyllic makes sense, but also there is a real wave of people who are turning to new technologies in Vermont as way of preserving that pastoral, idyllic lifestyle.  So it seems sort of an incongruous way of doing a festival in that location, but on the other hand, it makes sense when you're there and you see the community. “Out of place” is our official theme.

Paddy:  And how many times has this been run before?

Joe:  This is our first go-around.

Paddy: Is it something you envision doing every year?

Joe:  Yea, it certainly is.  And I think it's the sort of festival that will change and morph over time.  Obviously, we're going to learn from our mistakes this year, and hopefully we'll get some more money so we can do something a little more ambitious in the years to come.  We're both trying it out and seeing how it runs, but keeping our ears to the ground for what we can change for the future, too.

Marcin Ramocki: Yea, I think that basically this year we have to figure out a format that works.  So we're starting with something very loose and short, and hopefully we will realize what is the right format this year and continue…or not.

Paddy:  So now the festival has a number of different price points.  For example, if you only wanted to attend morning sessions you wouldn't have to pay anything, but if you were to attend the evening performances, that would cost seventy-nine dollars.  And then if you are a full-time student or a Vermont/New Hampshire resident, it costs forty-nine dollars.  Do you have funding from the state to help put this together?

Joe:  No. David is funding this first go-around.  But that's definitely one of the things we're going to be talking about next year, whether we can get a corporate sponsorship or maybe a grant.  We wanted to see whether we could do it, and then it'll be a lot easier once we have one in the bank to apply with next year.

Paddy:  Right.  Can you guys tell me what artists are doing that you're particularly excited about?

Marcin:  Well, I wanted to mention was that we have this incredible line-up of people to participate in the Saturday morning conversation, so Christiane Paul [the curator of new media at the Whitney] is gonna be there, and Magdalena and Tamas from Postmasters

But I think that we can have a meaningful conversation about the introduction to new media [in the morning sessions]; what is new media, is it obsolete, et cetera. We want to start out with some new definitions.  I think we are very lucky getting this group of people together.  We also have a pretty strong line-up of artists…basically Joe invited some artist/curator friends, and together we decided who we would like to invite.

Joe:   I am really excited about eteam's project Saturday afternoon.  They are having a person walk back and forth between two computer terminals carrying a digital file, and each time they get to a computer terminal, they upload the file, the file size doubles, and then they make their return trip.  While they are walking back and forth between the two terminals, the file is being sent through the internet between the two computers.  So as the day progresses, and the file gets larger and larger, there will be a tipping point at which the human walker carrying the data file will be faster than the internet.  And I like this as a kind of a “is the horse faster than the train” thing you would do on a state fair, so it's got a real festival feeling.  It's going to be fun to harass the walker and find out where they're at and how much they're carrying at any given moment.

There will also be an exhibition space with a few artists setting up a more traditional art space, and Cary Peppermint and Leila Nadire, who are ecoarttech, are leading a tour which requires a downloaded app that you have on your Android phone. If you don't have a phone, you can usually share with some one, and it's easy to participate.  Will Pappenheimer's also doing an augmented reality tour that you can do of the city.  So you can find out information on when they start, and then you can participate in those events, as well as experiencing the more traditional art space with art set up in it…the art will be around town, as well as in the gallery space.

Eco Art Tech, Eclipse

 

Paddy:  How many artists total are participating?

Joe:  Nine artists.  And then in the evening session, Christopher Robbins, who is part of Ghana Think Tank, will give a presentation on his work and that project.

Paddy:  Okay.  And you said that you had some music lined up for the evening?

Joe:  We'll have some chiptune music [performed by Jeremiah Johnson, aka Nullsleep] in the evening.  He will also be showing work in the gallery.

C.J. Yeh, My Data=My Mondrian

Marcin:  And CJ [Yeh] is doing a brand-new installation…it will be something gallery-based, something that will be fun for people to play with.  We want to make sure that there's gonna be something for people to do if it rains cats and dogs.

JoeJack Toolin will also be here. He's making his own cardboard booth, and he already has posters up around [Woodstock] for you to come and tell him about the town, so he's sort of acting as a sounding board for the community, and then he'll give a presentation about his research in the evening session.

Paddy:  Right.  And if people want to attend the media festival, what are the kinds of things they would need to know?  They're booking a hotel, I would take it, they're booking a car?

Joe:  Yea, here's the thing: we're looking into chartering a bus in the future [the website information is out of date], but we won't have one this year.

Paddy: Okay.

Joe:  But, yea, it's a beautiful little town, and one of the nice things about the little town is there isn't a Motel 6 plunked down in the middle of it.  There are lots of inns and hotels, but they're not all as cheap as we would like them to be.

Marcin: In the future, we will be looking to make a deal with one of the colleges around there, to let us use their dorms, or something creative like that.

Joe:  Part of the festival is what's going on digitally in Vermont…and we want people who are from Vermont to come and experience this.  We don't just want New York to land in Vermont and exclude Vermont.  So there are some morning sessions that are more about local issues, whether wireless could be spread across Vermont, and that's a whole angle to the festival that's really interesting.  We are, even in our art presentations, giving a taste of what's new media and what's going on, but even in our art conversation in the morning, I think a lot of it will be for an audience that's not necessarily super art-centric…we want to have a conversation that will include that person from Vermont who's interested, but not necessarily up-to-date on the latest thing that's happening in New York.

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