PROPOSAL FOR A MESHWORK OF R4WB1T5 MICRO.FESTS — Amanda Gutierrez, jon.satrom and jonCates (2006)

by Amanda Gutierrez, jon.satrom and jonCates (2006)

MESH Journal
Global/Regional Perspectives edition
North and South America

r4WB1t5 (pronounced “raw bits”) festival is an international, open, decentralised, distributed, conversational and collaborative event forsharing raw bits of Digital Art and dirty New Media. (A) r4WB1t5 fest instigates temporary platforms for discussing, developing and exchanging projects, resisting traditional art exhibition or performance situations. (A) r4WB1t5micro festival encourages digital punk DIY (Do It Yourself) strategies and collective DIT (Do It Together) artistic collaborations. Mobilising a decentralised Situationist festival that provokes a Revolution of Everyday Life (in the Raoul Vaneigem sense), (A) r4WB1t5 is microrevolutionary (in the Felix Guattari sense). The r4WB1t5 micro.Fest confronts contemporary for-profit models of New Media and Digital Art development, distribution, curation, organisation, exhibition and events. The micro-sizing of r4WB1t5 critiques the urban sprawl of increasingly bloated and brittle art markets and multimedia festivals in Chicago. Smaller scale international social networks and models such as Dorkbot have inspired r4WB1t5, however, r4WB1t5 seeks to function as an open framework rather than as a branded network. As such, the conceptual structure of r4WB1t5 asks participants to consider raw bits of computational art in conversational contexts, creating a meshwork of interweaving events and resulting in an open ended, unfinished, collaborative and ongoing festival.

The date-by-date naming convention of the ongoing r4WB1t5 festival emphasises the schedule of the continuous, noncontiguous, distributed and decentralised properties of r4WB1t5. The meta-festival we are currently discussing in this text, composed of smaller micro.Fests, expresses multiple localised desires rather than attempting to import, export or impose external models, ideologies and/or contingencies. This basis of this exchange holds particular importance to us as we organise across contested borders (i.e. the United States and Mexico) and among social structures (i.e. social networks configured in bars, multi-user domains, galleries, Internet relay chats, apartments, online games, alleyways, etc.). As organisers, artists and participants, we are always already working within and against systems, constraints and compromises to find openings to share, slippages to exploit and systems to hack while using tools designed for and by technocratic regimes and war machines.

Chicago r4WB1t5
In early April of 2006 (A) MEXICAN r4WB1t5 macro.Fest exploded/expanded in Chicago. Mexico City based curators and organisers Eusebio Bañuelos, Arcángel Constantini, David Somellera, Rogelio Sosa and Amanda Gutierrez selected artists primarily from Mexico City for the r4WB1t5 macro.Fest. The openness (in the sense of availability and accessibility) of r4WB1t5 as an emergent meshwork allows developers to code (in the sense of being an open sourced rule set) localised solutions. In Chicago, organisers Amanda Gutierrez, jon.satrom and jonCates worked to facilitate the macro.Fest (as an expansion and abstraction of the micro.Fest format). The micro.Fest format of small one day festivals became an input pattern that was transformed through abstraction and expansion (following a general definition of “macro” in terms of computer programming) to be output as (A) MEXICAN r4WB1t5 macro.Fest in Chicago. Events took place in Chicago independent art spaces, lofts, apartments and a sports centre rather than funded commercial galleries. While the Chicago based art spaces are selffunded, the invited curators and artists were supported economically by Mexico City cultural institutions and research centres such as Centro Multimedia, Museo Rufino Tamayo and Radio Ibero. Previous r4WB1t5 events in Chicago have been financially and organisationally realised independently without the direct support of institutions or government agencies. Predicated on Do It Yourself (DIY) and/or Do It Together (DIT) ethics, r4WB1t5 connects punk ethos and collaborative artistic theory practices. These events are possible in Chicago because of interwoven socio-economic conditions such as comparatively low rents, personal accumulation of technological resources and sympathetic relationships or solidarities between artists, organisers, educational institutions and local businesses. Physically bringing participants from Mexico City to Chicago required working within the Mexican system of federal, state and local agencies that provide support for the arts. Mexico City based organisers and artists approached alternative spaces in Chicago with excited expectations of working outside of their highly funded situations and within dirty, DIY, DIT and selffunded spaces. This experience has since inspired Mexico City based artists and curators such as Arcángel Constantinni to open their own independent self-funded art spaces.

(A) MEXICAN r4wb1t5 macro.Fest began with Arcángel Constantinni’s Infomera project. Constantinni curated and organised a live Lucha Libre Net Art Wrestling match pitting his team against CH1C4G0.COM. Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling is characterised by masked wrestlers who either use the opposing rough or rude (rudos) versus the clean or technical (tecnicos) fighting styles in exaggerated performances of (regional and national) identities. CH1C4G0 constituted the rudos, positioned in the ring as local villains on one side, and Infomera (composed of Constantinni who was simultaneously connected with partners in Mexico City including Media Artist Ivan Edeza), represented the tecnicos. Three projected screens of live video showed each teams’ computers and the main Infomera.netserver, the computer that acts as the virtual wrestling ring above the physical match. Mexico City based experimental electronic musician do/nut (Mario de Vega) joined Constantinni in the ring on the tecnicos side. Chicago based audio project PIRANACON.EXE (jakeelliott) ganged up with CH1C4G0 on the rudos side of the ring. PIRANACON.EXE programmed Python scripts to create custom databases of randomly re-cut techno tracks in realtime while do/nut played hardware hacked toys and digital systems producing pounding beats that reverberated through the concrete sports arena.

This chaotic performance of realtime audio, live coding and Web Art recast Lucha Libre wrestling as a battle of computational skills online. The three massive projection screens displayed the movements of each team flaunting their contrasting strategies based on the speed, cunning and agility of their programming. Every round the referee refreshed a web browser on the computer located in the middle of the ring, projecting each teams’ changes as they were made to the server. The referee, Chicago-based artist Chris Reilly, excited the audience by exaggerating the social performance of this constructed conflict as people chanted, “Refresh! Refresh! Refresh!” trying to follow the battle and cheering for their chosen sides. The fantasy of conflict became real as the rudos CH1C4G0 team slammed the server with bad packets producing a show stopping 500 Internal Server Error. CH1C4G0’s digital punk approach provoked a system crash, winning the match as they were clearly too “rudos” for the clean techniques of Constantinni’s Infomera team. The local Chicago audience cheered wildly for their home town villains in a communal performance of ironic place patriotism.

CH1C4G0.COM wins the wrestling match after hacking the server into complete Server Error submission! PHOTO Courtesy of bensyverson.

Over four days of micro.Fests the following participants were involved: Arcángel Constantinni, vs CH1C4G0.COM, do/nut vs PIRANACON.EXE, Eusebio Bañuelos, Carolina Esparragoza, Paola de Anda, Enrique Jezik, Warriors Collective, Miho Haguino, Lureana Toledo, Mario de Vega, Juan Jose Rivas, techmex, fllanos, Rogelio Sosa, Sergio Luque, Guillermo Galindo, Andrés Solis, MU Collective, Jake Elliott, AmandaGutierrez, Jason Soliday, jon.satrom, jonCates, Changorama, Triscerable and Zaratustra Gabriel Vázquez Ruiz. Each participant and project contributed crucially to the realisation of this r4WB1t5 event. Given the limited scope of this text, the following abbreviated glimpses will document a few moments in the macro.Fest that illustrate salient qualities of the r4WB1t5 output pattern.

During the 2006.04.08 (A) MEXICAN r4WB1t5 micro.Fest at the Enemy art space MU Collective literally performed realtime audio video across national borders. With one MU Collective member, Ezequiel Netri, in Mexico City and Eduardo Meléndez and Ernesto Romero in Chicago, their distributed performance was enabled by combining a range of technologies including Open Sound Control (OSC), Internet messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) applications with built/coded systems such as their hand built/home brewed midi Marimba into a temporary cluster of open ports and protocols.

Following MU’s performance an open and inclusive collaborative improvisation developed. Contingent and momentary structures such as these are foregrounded in Chicago as improvisational Free Jazz histories and practices continue to inform experimental forms. The open audio-video jam imploded the distinctions between performers and audience, as people informally moved in and out of the space, playing and sharing instruments, computers and media. This situation created a microcosm of the performative and collaborative possibilities, structures, people, projects and cultures that exist in Chicago and generated communication models (of improvised audio and video) that circumvent the borders/barriers of spoken languages. Participants from Mexico City enthusiastically noted the uniquely local possibility of improvising and collaborating in Chicago and took the opportunity to experiment and exchange with each other and the Chicago-based participants of the open collaboration.

Open collaborative improvisation with r4WB1t5 participants. PHOTO Courtesy of bensyverson.

Changorama (represented by members David Somellera and Abelardo Martin) brought the Mexico City Sonido scene to life inside Polvo. The Sonido scene
combines DJ/VJ, techno, hip-hop, cumbia, salsa, remix, dance and Pirate Radio cultures in mostly illegal street parties. Changorama positions itself both inside the Sonido scene and as art world crossovers throwing hybrid art party events that install sound systems in contemporary art galleries as well as public and private party contexts. Changorama takes the act of sonorizar (to install a sound system) as a conceptual basis for installing events that self-critically celebrate Barrio cultures and various vocabularies of Installation, Performance and Media Art.

Changorama’s performance at Polvo functioned as a closing party for the macro.Fest and brought the audience into the gallery space/dance floor to engage
directly with Changorama, requesting shout outs to friends and family, dancing together and viewing Changorama’s video works projected on the gallery walls. Rather than providing simplistic wallpapered accompaniment to their DJ set, the video works Changorama screened hybridised multiple representational forms. These videos document previous Changorama performances and the Mexico City Sonido scene as well as being personally reflexive and evocative works shot and edited during the macro.Fest that intercut Chicago with Mexico City. The diaristic moments of the video works made material Changorama’s experience of the previous days while self-reflexively folding those experiences into the closing night performance/party at Polvo. As we danced the cumbia to Changorama’s synthesis of cultural forms, Ernesto Romero took the microphone and sent a shout out to r4WB1t5 itself, a family of friends formed in an ongoing series of micro.Fests.

Changorama performs during (A) MEXICAN r4WB1t5 macro.Fest at Polvo. PHOTO Courtesy of jon.satrom.

These projects and events, along with those not described in this brief text, strengthen/loosen the international meshwork of interlacing hyperthreads that connects/supports organisational networks/subnets of collaborative artistic activity. We hope to further loosen/strengthen this meshwork of r4WB1t5 through increasingly open exchanges. This text is an introduction to this process and an open call to develop international meshworks of r4WB1t5 micro.Fests.

Organise (A) r4WB1t5 micro festival. Improvise strategies. Facilitate micro revolutionary moments. Throw a digital punk show. Do it yourself. Do it together. Exchange cultural resources. Reduce. Remix. Recycle. Expand. Revise. Decentralise. Nodalise. Network. Take Free Jazz forms and introduce realtime New Media projects into conversational contexts. Unlock alternative spaces. Activate events in unrealised situations. Wrestle, Web Art and experimental musics as Luche Libre. Foreground labor issues. Build transparencies. Unpack systems. Collaborate across contested borders.

Amanda Gutierrez, Jon.Satrom and Jon Cates have facilitated (A) MEXICAN r4WB1t5 macro.Fest in Chicago and are currently organizing (A) CHICAGO
r4WB1t5 macro.Fest in Mexico City. jonCates initiated the concept of r4WB1t5 in conversation with jon.satrom in 2005 to create opportunities for programming small and intense New Media events. Between May of 2005 and current developments, r4WB1t5 traces a movement towards increased collaboration,
openness and exchange in the conception and development of micro.Festivals. Amanda Gutierrez first participated in the 2005.08.27 (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest at Alterspace in Chicago. At this event Amanda Gutierrez improvised audio and collaborated for the first time with fellow audio video artists Ezara Hoffman and Jake Elliott. This collaborative improvisation grew from the development of this festival itself, demonstrating how r4WB1t5 involves people in shifting configurations, inspires intersecting roles as artists, performers, organizers, curators, etc. and instigates new projects and processes.

© Experimenta Media Arts 2006

School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Film, Video, New Media and Animation dept; Art History, Theory and Criticism dept.

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