David Foedel on LEAF 2018: Pattern Language



The latest edition of LEAF (or Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival) happens this weekend on Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28 in Lafayette, CO. LEAF is a showcase for the synthesis of technology and art and each iteration of the festival has featured some of the most innovative creative people in the field. The Spring 2018 event will include performances from ART391A2, John Gunther/John Drumheller, Trace Reddell, Jason and Debora Bernagozzi and Phillip Sterns with demonstration from Branger_Briz. On Friday night, after the performances, DJ Crix Madine will generate repetitive beats and abstract patterns in conjunction with live video from one of Denver experimental music’s go-to video artists, orchidz3ro. What makes the festival so worthwhile is that it humanizes the art and the technology and makes it accessible in an intimate setting.

Things kick off on Friday at 7 p.m. with the music/performative shows at the Colorado Music Festival Center For Musical Arts building at 200 East Baseline.. On Saturday the festivities continue 9:30 Saturday morning at The Collective Gallery at 201 North Public Road with the “Data Safari” demonstration showcasing the pervasiveness of data flowing through the air and the manner in which it does so from our devices and public and private broadcasting devices. Saturday evening beginning at 5 p.m. there will be a short film festival at Grimes Hall room of the 200 East Baseline location mentioned prior. For more information, please visit the LEAF website.

Crix Madine, photo courtesy LEAF

We recently ran some questions by festival curator David Fodel about the current edition of LEAF.

Queen City Sounds And Art: Why did the theme/concept of Pattern Language suggest itself to you for this edition of LEAF?

David Fodel: There is a well-known book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander that describes and catalogs various successful patterns in architecture, urban planning, and generally community building, which has also been quite influential in the software development world too. I find this idea of hybridity and cross-pollination, of “synthesis” rather than specialization to be an important quality in art, music, design and engineering and wanted to give the festival a theme that was far-reaching, while at the same time could simply relate to repetitive beats or sequencer music, which I also love.

You have a number of artists who combine their art with computer programming and heavy technical skills. That’s not unique to this iteration of LEAF but why do you think your attention was drawn to artists who combine those skill sets at this time?

Well really all artists have specialized technical skills, and the most interesting art for me is when people explore emerging technologies, and get playful with it, seeing what happens when they combine things in ways that should not be done, not necessarily on purpose even, but because they may just not know any better. Discoveries happen sometimes, and sometimes it’s terrible, but it’s that iterative process, what’s called ‘design thinking’ that can lead to interesting new forms and refinements. A lot of the work in this year’s LEAF has deep roots in historical artistic and musical experiments and explorations, but have been refined to push those forms forward. Some of the artists have been doing this type of work for decades, and some of them are super fresh to the whole notion of making art with technology.

Phillip Stearns, photo courtesy LEAF

The Data Safari part of the festival seems especially relevant and interesting for people’s everyday lives in a way they may not be aware of. Can you tell us about how you came to be aware of Branger_Briz and that sort of, for lack of a better word, performance or demonstration? Why do you think that sort of thing is important for people to know about and what kind of awareness and change do you think having that knowledge might engender?

I have known Nick Briz for a number of years now, and have presented his work in the past here in Denver at a show called “The Emperor’s New Aesthetic.” It straddles art, activism and design and as you mentioned, it is especially relevant now due to the data breaches at Facebook. Branger_Briz is a design collective based in Chicago and Nick has deep roots in that whole kinda Midwest Glitch scene along with Jon Satrom and John Cates. They all teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which has a long history of embracing new media art forms well in advance of other institutions. I got to know those guys when I was at a Live Cinema Summit in Chicago back in 2008 or 2009. They embrace the notion of technology as a potential disruptive force for change, and potential source of authoritarian control, depending on how we guide it and the social structures that enable its dissemination.

The Data Safari is yet again one of those playful ways of using technology to draw attention to bigger issues like privacy and who controls our data. The underlying artwork, called “ProbeKit” is on display at The Collective, a new gallery in Lafayette as part of the first LEAF visual art exhibition called “Machine Language.” Branger_Briz is joined by a handful of other artists that each explore the notion of the “machine” in art and I would really encourage you to check that out. The show runs through May 5th.

It’s often been said that art leads culture and society. Do you feel that to be the case? 

I think it’s more accurate to say that art is part of a complex of entangled forces and expressions that manifest emergent forms, systems and behaviors.

It seems as though all the artists you have for every edition of LEAF has brought a creative use of technology to make creative work that synthesizes science and art. Why do you think showcasing that kind of art is important beyond it just being interesting to you personally?

Science is a powerful methodology and technology is a powerful tool. It’s important that we don’t leave those things in the hands of people with no sense of humor or love of nature and humanity.

Trace Reddell, photo courtesy LEAF

Trace Reddell is a science fiction author/creator. The idea behind much of science fiction is that it’s commentary on today even when it’s projecting into the future. What do you think Trace’s contribution as a commenter on current culture and civilization is especially interesting?

Well Trace has a very unique angle on science fiction and sci-fi cinema. His work really explores how sound and language form this hybrid kind of matrix that can structurally change our brains. His work for LEAF is a performance lecture format where he will be mixing and mashing up cinema, spoken word, psychedelic music and literature to not only communicate a message, but to induce consciousness changes directly.