By James Imam
The trichotomous title of Milan’s cutting edge arts forum – the Video Sound Art festival – aptly hints at the variety of events offered in its programme. This year there were wobbling jellies from Delphine Depres, a self-portrait video of Lebanese artist Nour Awada exposed to the icy elements and characteristically provocative projections from Brazilian Bibi Yamamoto. ‘A hard cock full of hope’, one of them read.
Welding such disparate elements into a cohesive programme is surely challenging. Here, the festival’s theme – ‘Ta erotika’ – came into its own. Taking Plato’s Symposium as its reference, eros was conceived as an expansive territory in which love and folly coexist. Subtitled ‘Hidden Doors’, the series explored the multifarious and elusive inner-workings of love.
Artistic director Laura Lamonea has given this festival a fresh, youthful and strongly didactic bent. She and her team of four young curators have sourced not only to well-established artists, but also emerging talent, like the students of the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA), whose very name carries a certain allure by riffing on that of the more famous, Hapsburg-era Academy in Brera on the other side of the city. Theirs was a broad-sighted performance, aptly preceded by a pre-concert talk from Wolf Lieser, the director of Berlin’s Digital Art Museum, which appeared to draw on elements including performance art, tradigital art and visualisation.
It took place in an atrium of Milan’s Museo del Design, with a handful of audience members huddled before the students’ central piece. This consisted in a fish tank with an egg submerged in water onto which a camera was trained, its image beamed onto a screen behind. Students clad in white coats applied drops of paint, which dispersed to create a cloudy, cosmic swirl. Two musicians hunched over an electronic keyboard and sound deck produced a techno accompaniment, whose beat had slick synchrony with strobe lighting.
The result was undoubtedly effective, with lighting, music and video combining to form an entrancingly shape-shifting display. It also underlined the fact that the performance of digital art can involve a human, even chance, element, as with the Abstract Expressionists, in that, irrespective of intrinsic design, one can never fully predetermine the patterns dripping paint will form. How the installation said anything about eros was not immediately clear. But this was clearly a highly subjective art form where the onus was on the audience to come to its own conclusions.