Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival Makes Experimentation Accessible

Joshue Ott is one of several performers at this year's Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival.
Joshue Ott is one of several performers at this year's Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival.
Joshue Ott
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As the fifth installment of the Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival descends upon Lafayette this Friday, Front Range artists and audiences will come together to celebrate unorthodox and experimental approaches to audio and visual performance. Offering everything from psychedelic colors to mind-bending symbiotic relationships between sight and sound, LEAF 2019 is sure to be an unforgettable weekend, spotlighting some of the most exciting experimental artists in the world.

Curated by David Fodel, the 2019 festival looks at media archaeology: Performers will put their own spin on technology both old and new, creating artistic expressions completely their own.

The theme of the festival comes from Fodel's appreciation for experimental work throughout the world, as well as his own love of repurposing technology that's been collecting dust.

“Primarily, I have an interest in old tech,” says Fodel. “I’ve been around for a while, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in technology and how we discard technology — in some cases, before it has the opportunity to be explored in any real in-depth way. We’ve moved on to the next thing. There’s something fascinating about using technology in creative ways that it wasn’t originally intended for, and to sort of extract out new aesthetics.

“I have a little bit of an affiliation with the media archaeology laboratory at CU Boulder and know those folks and the work they’re doing," he adds. "They have this amazing collection of equipment up there, and some of the artists that bubbled up out of my research were doing interesting things with technology along those lines. That kind of started to form that loose theme around media archaeology.”

One of the many experimental audio-visual performances at LEAF.
One of the many experimental audio-visual performances at LEAF.
Joshue Ott

LEAF 2019, a free event, will feature performances from people such as Helsinki-based experimental artist; instrument builder and theorist Derek Holzer, who will re-purpose old military tech for his vector synthesis controlled projector-less light and sound performance; Colorado-based musician Janet Feder exploring the origins of psychedelia with Joshue Ott and his signature augmented reality technology; pianist Sean Winters and visual artist Angie Eng; and Boulder-based duo Jahnavi Stenflo and Nathan Jantz [also known as Normal Ones], performing their audiovisual synthesizer project L’Astra Cosmo.

The defining trait of LEAF is its accessibility and emphasis on using the festival as an opportunity to educate, as performers will lecture on their performance and technology.

“There’s a million ways that people are approaching making music with technology. The idea, I think, to differentiate it from electronic music, is to add another layer that has an educational component,” says Fodel. “That’s why we pair the talks, lectures and demos on Saturday night so that people can come back and try to understand what is going on here, what is this idea of media archaeology, why is this different than me just going to a dance party."

LEAF performer Angie Eng is one of the most well-known visual artists in the world.EXPAND
LEAF performer Angie Eng is one of the most well-known visual artists in the world.
Paula Court

“What I like about what LEAF is it definitely has a local community vibe to it, but they also bring in international artists to come in as well to play alongside local artists,” says artist Nathan Jantz. “What’s interesting about LEAF is they’re very much into having artists present stuff that’s experimental or media-based experimentations.”

LEAF also serves as a necessary platform for artists hoping to share work that falls outside of what a standard music venue or theater might be looking to book. It’s an outlet that promotes experimentation and has built a reputation among artists while being open to the general public.

“We love the fact that it’s an event that’s free to the public and all-ages,” says artist Jahnavi Stenflo. “That’s a kind of distinctly lacking forum in many ways for the experimental new medium projects that are around.

L’Astra Cosmo is an interesting concept that was almost dropped out of the ether into our heads," she continues. "We have a longstanding love affair with electricity in the many forms that it can be harnessed to make sound and vision. That’s what, for us, the project is about: using sound and video synthesizers and using electricity that are analog and using the current to form the sound and vision.”

From finding participants that have discovered new ways to use old technology to openly sharing how to do so, LEAF is pushing the boundaries of audio and visual arts while breaking down barriers for entry.

A scene from Winters and Eng's collaboration.
A scene from Winters and Eng's collaboration.
Sean Winters and Angie Eng

“We want to be able to present it in a way that’s accessible,” says Fodel. “That’s one of the reasons why we keep it free, so that the barrier for entry is removed and people can come and be exposed to this stuff and learn something and give them an easy way to engage in something that could otherwise be a little off-putting. We want to try to open it up in a way that’s friendly and safe and educational.”

Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival, 7 p.m. Friday, March 15, 200 East Baseline Road, Lafayette. 

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