The making of “PHENOMENA”

A guest post by Roberta Buiani, on her project to put together this year’s extraordinary evening of film, “PHENOMENA: A Journey Around Audiovisual Art-Science“.

At the beginning of February, solicited by Jim, I contacted Marco Mancuso to invite him to participate in the Subtle Technologies Festival.  Jim had been very impressed by a series of screenings that Marco had put together for a conference at the University of Rome. Their title: “Hidden Worlds.”

While I would have been very pleased to see the curator from Milan and editor of Digicult and Digimag here in Toronto, I thought I would ask him if he had any thoughts or suggestions to make this program more intriguing. From then on, a series of discussions, proposals and negotiations started to jump back and forth between the two of us until we settled on the program that will be screened on June 2.

While a much more comprehensive program had been proposed with a panel of artists and scientist and a live performance, almost a conference in itself, it was way too financially ambitious for Subtle Technologies (and didn’t fit the schedule!). However, the program we ended up with is certainly not a second choice: when Marco proposed that we invite Claudia to present her program of experimental videos I realized how the two programs together, in fact, could have worked perfectly, since they conceptually and aesthetically complement each other. Thus, the fact that this event is happening, and it is happening in the current format makes me very proud: the program has been programmed in the spirit of the Festival, that is, through collaboration, negotiations and critical exchange between curator and organizer.

Now that the program has been confirmed and our guests will be in Toronto in less than three weeks, I am happy to confirm that this year Subtle Technologies Festival is set to start with a program of screenings specially prepared for the occasion by two internationally accomplished guests: Italian artists and curators Marco Mancuso and Claudia D’Alonzo.

Exploring the sometimes mysterious world of scientific experimentation and the occurrence of natural phenomena as seen through the lens of artists and performers, Marco’s and Claudia’s work is actually an excellent way to kick off the festival. In fact, while their programs have been conceived to work together, they are, nonetheless, very different. Together, they work diametrically: Mancuso’s “Hidden Worlds” is a collection of videos where scientific phenomena acquire aesthetic qualities when they are seen from a particular angle or they are exposed to a particular light. The collaborative work of artists and scientists become here an occasion for exchange, mutual engagement and the discovery of new aspects that characterize the phenomena observed. Claudia’s “Quando l’Occhio Trema” comes from an opposite perspective, but ends up with similar results. Her intervention looks at the way in which artists have explored the phenomenon of flickering from a variety of angles: scientific, aesthetic or methodological. In this case, the artistic work is potentially turned into a tool helping scientific research.

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