Electric Fields features electronic and interactive art

The concrete wall of the Rideau Centre facing Daly Avenue played home to a holographic cube the evening of Nov. 4, adjacent another projection of the question “What is love?”

A response appeared:  “Love is. . . don’t love don’t evolve.”

The Philosopher’s Cube was an interactive multimedia project that was designed to answer “life’s essential questions,” according to Artengine, the electronic art centre that commissioned it for the Electric Fields Electronic Art Festival, which ran Nov. 3–7.

In a room warmed by the projector on the second floor of the Ottawa Arts Court, the cube’s designer, Anthony Scavarelli, sat beside his laptop.

He explained that passersby and people online could respond to the projected question via Twitter or text messaging. He said the cube answers questions using a program he made that pulls in the messages and randomly picks and combines four words.

“It’s not just static,” said Scavarelli, a fourth-year interactive multimedia and design student at Carleton University. “Interactive art is about trying to get people to give to the art.”

Electric Fields is a biannual festival started in 2003. This year, Artengine took a lead in organizing the festival, according to Ryan Stec, the artistic director. He said the festival has been developing each year with a growing audience.

“I think it’s the timing. There’s such an increasing interest and demand to see expression with technology,” Stec said.

Scavarelli said there is more of an interest in electronic art because technology is becoming a more popular art medium.

“People were generally easy to not accept it as art, but all art has been derived from forms of entertainment,” Scavarelli said.

Paul Jasen, a PhD candidate at Carleton who has taught classes about music and culture, gave a talk entitled “Bass: A Myth-Science of the Sonic Body.”

As he talked about the effect of low frequencies, audiences felt over 4,000 watts of power courtesy of two subwoofers.

“We had a phenomenal amount of power in the room,” he said, “You could feel everything shaking.”

Jasen, who said he was one of the first people in North America to catch on to dubstep and grime music, said dubstep has been a catalyst in developing an interest in low frequencies, which he is currently researching.

“Beyond just the sensory experience I’m interested in how low frequencies draw the imagination into the body,” Jasen said, referencing everything from dancing in clubs to the religious practices of monks.

In addition to artist talks throughout the day, the Mini Maker Faire showcased hacker kits, 3D mapping devices and Twitter-capable typewriters while performances took place throughout the evenings.

This is the first year the festival has included 3D presentations, Stec said.

Kingdom Shore, an experimental classical sextet, collaborated with video artist Christopher Payne who created a 3D backdrop that reflected their music with a colourful spectrum of mountainous waves.

Ottawa artist Willy le Maitre took audiences on a three-dimensional journey from desert cliffs to crowded urban streets as the scenery disintegrated into particles and pixelated blobs. He narrated his piece, “Edia,” with a distorted and haunting voice-over.

Stec said le Maitre has been doing 3D art for a long time but now audiences are more interested in this art since it has become so widely utilized in contemporary cinema.