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Festival: MUTEK BCN 2024 – Art & Discourse programme highlights

Text by Irem Erkin

MUTEK BCN 2024 Art & Discourse highlights

MUTEK Barcelona marks its 15th anniversary in the city from April 9 to 13, centring on the ongoing evolution of electronic and visual arts throughout the past, present, and future. The festival aims to provide new opportunities for artists and professionals in the music industry and digital creativity worldwide to connect and collaborate.

After announcing the complete lineup a few weeks ago, MUTEK Barcelona now reveals the schedule for its symposium, a program of professional activities developed in collaboration with MUTEK Montréal, taking place from April 10 to 12 at Roca Barcelona Gallery, Antigua Fábrica Estrella Damm, and BAU Centro Universitario de Artes y Diseño. 

Alberto Nerone, one of the founders and current artistic director of MUTEK Barcelona, shares with us that the MUTEK programme closely observes the impact of new technologies that empower individuals who previously lacked access to creative tools. They actively track how artificial intelligence influences various aspects of the creative industries. Additionally, the festival keeps a keen eye on the emergence of hybrid projects that defy traditional genres and tools, encouraging experimentation and blending styles.

MUTEK is particularly intrigued by the ongoing democratisation of artistic creation and the intersections between different industries, such as the convergence of music and gaming or the juxtaposition of virtual reality and in-person concerts. They anticipate that emerging markets, as opposed to traditional ones, will hold greater relevance shortly, envisioning a collaborative ethos becoming increasingly prevalent.

From the fact of celebrating 15 years in Barcelona, 20 in Mexico and 25 in Montreal, highlighting the strength of their international network and, generally, of the benefits that come from being a collaborative organisation, the program discourse focuses on Nurturing Networks in Digital Creativity, also the central theme of their professional programming.  

The symposium aims to facilitate essential dialogues, highlighting cutting-edge projects from emerging Catalonia, Québec, and other locations. It will consist of three days of panels, talks, shows, and networking to discuss and analyse achievable goals and establish new standards to promote gender equality, diversity, and sustainability in digital innovation and creativity. It’s worth noting that all activities over the three days of this international event will be conducted in English. 

Nerone further shares that the selection process for the symposium programme is natural and organic, considering that the MUTEK network provides support from their artistic communities and, as always, focuses on what is happening locally, in this case, in Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain. In that sense, MUTEK prioritises debuting exclusive content in the city, fostering new collaborations, and commissioning its own projects.

This commitment demands significant energy and resource allocation to present a program typically featuring 80% performances premiering or making their debut in the city. While this approach involves inherent risks due to the niche nature of showcasing mostly unseen content, the festival aims to attract numerous audiences.  

In conjunction with the festival’s opening day, on April 10 at Roca Barcelona Gallery, Martin Messier and DATUM CUT  will headline the Sculpted With Light & Sound series. On the fifth anniversary of collaboration, it features artistic proposals with three components: art installation, live show, and networking with institutions, artists, collectives, and partners through the MUTEK Match.

Martin Messier will present his installation Impulse for the first time in Barcelona, a poetic analogy with a technological twist on brain function, providing an electrifying effect on the audience. On the other hand, DATUM CUT will showcase their audiovisual performance Inex. materia, an ethereal celebration of the ephemerality and impermanence of our bodies and technologies, exploring connections between obsolete media and contemporary technologies for new aesthetic possibilities.

Impulse, Martin Messier (2017)
SPIME.Im perfoming inf fornt of a screen

The next day, on April 11, BAU Centro Universitario de Artes y Diseño will host MUTEK Market, a day focused on exploring and celebrating innovative projects and initiatives shaping the global landscape of digital creativity. Organisations, studios, and artists from Québec and Catalonia will present themselves through pitches designed to captivate, inspire, and stimulate future collaborations. 

MUTEK Market is divided into three sessions: the Opening Session, New Frontiers: Emerging Technologies in Human Creativity, where Lluís Nacenta (curator at CCCB) will showcase the latest intersections between technology and art. The second session is Project Pitches, where ten studios (five from Québec and five from Catalonia) will present their projects. Lastly, the third session, titled The Business of Digital Art: Economic Models and Insights into the Future, conducted by speaker Ilaria Bondivalli, will explore how we can diversify income sources and existing business models to promote sustainable, ethical, and inclusive economic growth for the industry.

The primary day of the MUTEK Barcelona Symposium will be Friday, April 12, at the iconic Antigua Fábrica Estrella Damm. Under the theme of Nurturing Networks in Digital Creativity, it will be a full day dedicated to discussing and analysing the impact of networks.

Leveraging the celebration of various MUTEK anniversaries worldwide, the focus will be on effectively working within networks to nurture and sustain the MUTEK ecosystem. It will also explore the significant role of cultural diplomacy in the dynamic landscape of digital creativity, celebrating the collaboration between Catalonia and Québec and creating spaces where knowledge, concepts, and values converge to enhance collective creative efforts.

The opening session of the day will feature the talk MUTEK 2024: Reflecting on Anniversaries and Future Directions in Digital Creativity, presented by Sarah Mackenzie (MUTEK) and Ludovica Michelin (MUTEK.ES), unveiling the intricacies of the cultural collaboration network established by MUTEK as a series of global festivals.

Following this, in Cultivating Cultural Synergies: The Québec-Cataluña Nexus in Digital Creativity, Julie Elliott (Office of Québec), Eva Colom (Catalan Arts), Mónika Rikic, and Amanda Gutierrez will offer a unique perspective on forging global connections and pioneering in the digital realm.

The next session will be the panel Networks as Catalysts: New Forms of Cultural Collaboration, featuring Laurent Bigarella (Arty Farty), Naiara Lasa (Sala Apolo), Anna Zó (Linecheck), and moderated by Georgia Taglietti (ICNAC). These representatives from festivals and cultural organisations will share their views based on case studies and innovative concepts, showcasing the influence of interdisciplinary and international networks in fostering innovation within digital culture.

Following the panel, there will be a networking session and a visit to the installation by Sian Fan, highlighting the disconnected relationship between our digital and physical existence, capturing movement through interactive forms, multi-channel video, and sound.

The penultimate session of the day will be a roundtable with Sian Fan, Efe Ce Ele, Samito (Fezihaus), and moderated by Natalia San Juan (Femnoise), discussing the topic DigitALL: Inclusion in the Digital Era. The conversation will examine the traditionally gender-biased fabric of digital experiences and envision a more equitable and diverse digital artistic and musical future.

The symposium will conclude with the roundtable Fest Forward: Forging New Horizons for Festivals, featuring Pep Salazar (OFFF), Bronne Keelsmaat (Rewire Festival), Chiara Bertamini (C2C Festival).

In the general programme, Nerone highlights that this year’s programme focuses on powerful AV performances on all stages featuring pioneers like Daito Manabe and Martin Messier, both premiering new AV shows in Spain. Italian artistic collective SPIME IM, which explores the boundaries of identity, corporeality and perception, have been MUTEK highlights in Montreal and Mexico in 2023.

Artists like Grand River and Yamila, who present shows focused on light and haze, or Hatis Noit with a more theatrical-performing arts approach. Romeo Poirier and Belgian creative design studio Ohme will also premiere their new audiovisual performance, Tales of Entropy, which combines generative music, polarised light microscopy, and computer vision.

One of MUTEK’s notable accomplishments is cultivating a culture of knowledge and discovery. To conclude, Nerone states that in a city as culturally and musically vibrant as Barcelona, teeming with events and festivals, MUTEK has consciously set itself apart by curating an original programme that spotlights performances never before witnessed in the city and the presence of a large international artistic community that congregates at the festival annually. 

Tickets are available from this link. Festival Passport holders can access the symposium through a limited capacity pre-registration on a first-come-first-served basis.

(Media courtesy of MUTEK Barcelona. Header picture Impulse, Martin Messier)
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