The Push Arts New Media Festival: A Recap

On the eve of August 24th, the Push Arts New Media Festival reigned over the South Lake Union neighborhood in a night filled with free art installations, free food and drink, panel discussions, music and live performances–and glow sticks.

Push Arts New Media Festival’s bevy of glow bracelets.

Push Arts 

Guests were greeted at 415 Westlake with free glow stick bracelets, which would come in handy later on during short treks to the festival’s additional venues. Several highlights included artist Gaelen Sayre’s piece I light this candle in a transaction, a candlelit altar which printed a personal prayer for each “devotee” with the swipe of a credit card; Jonathan Womack’s outdoor installation, an eerie and angled  moving image projected onto a hanging row of frames; and Daniel Chesney and Peregrine Church’s installation at the EM Fine Art Gallery, which deployed a strobe light to seemingly arrest drops of water in motion. Unaware yacht owners docking on South Lake Union during the festival were taken surprise by outdoor light installations by Lux Collective, RSVR Visual Research and Iole Alessandrini.

While interesting work could be encountered throughout the night at any one of three venues, a true highlight was the pre-kickoff party panel on “Innovation in the Arts”, which brought together professionals from the Nordstrom Innovation Lab, On the Boards, the Seattle Opera and The Critical Gaming Project. Each speaker was asked to talk about new media, technology, and the creative process and the ways in which it can be applied to new innovation.

Up first was On the Boards, sharing their project: OntheBoards.tv, which allows users to download or rent recorded copies of recent live performances from their website. Digital streaming and distribution of taped art performances effectively breaks down barriers such as geography, time and cost, enabling each piece to reach an entirely new demographic in a fresh and unique method of cataloguing and archiving performance art. Next up was the Seattle Opera, addressing the use of new media and technology in their scenic and set design and special effects. How best to bring new technological advances to an audience steeped in convention without alienating or shocking them? Through seamless incorporation of digital projections, flying rigs, pyrotechnics, and animatronics of course! Like On the Boards, the Seattle Opera has experimented with taping its performances. In May for the first time ever, it broadcasted a simulcast performance of Madama Butterfly in Seattle’s Key Arena.

The Nordstrom Innovation Lab’s emphasis was on human centered design; keeping the user a priority throughout each product’s conception, design and development in a process that is distinctly non-linear. Keeping perspective diverse is key to creative potential and innovation, both at the lab and at the University of Washington’s Critical Gaming Project. The Critical Gaming Project harnesses game information and technologies and uses them to bring an interdisciplinary approach to Humanities education. The Project aims to diversify the ways in which media is contextualized in the classroom through the study of gaming and game technology.

The spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration sparked during the panel discussion carried forward throughout the night. Immediately following the “Innovation in the Arts” panel for example, was the multimedia dance performance Architecture of Movement, a collaboration between a 3D artist working in animation, installation art and real-time media (Anna Czoski), a dancer and choreographer (Laara Garcia), and a composer and electronic sound artist (Pete Moss). Let us look forward to new collaborations and conversation at next year’s Push Arts festival.