Abandon Normal Devices – 2009 was big stuff

AND 2009 - Strange Attractors (KMA)

AND 2009 - Strange Attractors (KMA)

Something remarkable took place in September liverpool – the delivery of a community connected, socially engaged, academically contexted  and artistically highbrow event – Abandon Normal Devices, presented as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and commissioned for WE PLAY – the Northwest’s cultural legacy programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. And, like the layers of a Russian Doll, this 2012 programme and festival should be commended for its weaving together of so many layers  of interaction and experience.  Symbolic of our cross and transdisciplinary age and appropriate to a city and region renowned for border crossings, pioneering, trend setting and leading industry ( health and music are  of particular note too), AND is part of continuing the long NW tradition of invention.

The AND programme had many strands – film programme, gallery exhibitions, public realm projects, community/fringe events, salons, conferences and workshops, talks and masterclass programmes. I did not get round it all by any stretch but for me the most successful elements were the public realm projects and the salons – for very different reasons.

The fulcrum for this festival could be found in the salons  –

AND Salon - Desire

AND Salon - Desire

a series of four lunchtime debates engaging top level international speakers who as experts in their fields were challenged to discuss sporting, scientific and technological advancements and issues in the context of art, culture and the London 2012 Olympics. These salons provided the glue that made the diverse array of events within the AND programme make sense in terms of cultural programming for a sporting event.  But it was when Natasha Vita-More (a transhumanist from the USA) was speaking at the ‘Compete ‘ Salon and said that it was the science and the military sectors that were funding research for the development of the human enhancement sector that the works in AND  which related to themes of war and social justice – for example, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Primitive exhibiton and Krysztof Wodiczko’s War Vetern Vehicle –

Wodiczko -War Veteran Vehicle

Wodiczko -War Veteran Vehicle

made complete sense in relation to the AND theme of normality and the North West’s 2012 cultural programme strand of  body and economy for which AND was commissioned.

Having experienced the full five days of the festival,  I came away knowing that AND was a very important initiative for the Northwest and the whole of the UK, creating a much needed platform for new cinema and digital culture, development and debate.  Not bad for year one or for legacy of the 2012  Olympics.  This region does need a festival like this and so does the new media and digital culture sector in the UK.

There was a disconnect in my view between  the film programme and all the other work, thematically i could not work out how it was tied in and neither did I see a great film (although this is by no means a comment on the programme as I barely touched the surface of seeing the full offering.  But i did see a few of them  and, from discussion with many others who has seen other films, there was the general view that the film programme was not as strong as the other activities or connected – it seemed like it has a different artistic vision and intent altogether.

Surprisingly, for a programme focussed on film and digital culure, AND was in fact a testament to the power of live shared experience. You can go see a film anytime but you won’t see a polish artist driving a war vertern vechile cum mobile cinema around Liverpool that often in a lifetime. Great stuff! I look forward to more AND events, the next phase rolling out over Lancashire and Cumbria in April 2010.

AND has the potential to be a highly topical and  debate driven long term programme of work and its worth mentioning one of its  programming methodologies as exemplary which was the integration of socially engaged practice into the programme. This was was very positive. Amongst the most community connected elements were the Small Cinema, Kino Caberet  and Kazimier party. When a producer knows its audience and is that audience you get very authentic work and experiences. AND gave a platform  to independent arts organisations  in Liverpool, invested in them to deliver events they had seeded but on a new scale and the results were good. These events could be promoted from the fringe to the core of the festival – the future of production is in hands like these and strategic partnerships such as AND have a role in supporting the professional development and practice of local organisations – and over the longer term.I can just about imagine what they could deliver  in 2012 if a 3 year relationships were established and committed to. This is the beauty of the Olympics – it gives us a four year programming perspective.

AND is providing a time, place and space for artists to grow and  is doing very valuable work linking in the new and emerging in form and content with the established and international. This is what LOndon 2012 should be enabling.

Issues raised which I personally found of interest to Olympiad programming:

  • Youth and time– the 24hr world of youth culture
  • Desire – abandoning normal desires – ie an impulse or indulgence
  • Device – not just technical but can be explosive, a political mechanism –  Deviant devising
  • Sport changing our perceptions of normality.  (It it was not for the olympics such debates would not be happening in AND,  in Liverpool, right now).
  • Enhanced performance
  • GET REAL– Disabled perfrmers will very soon be able to outperform able bodied performers as a result of advances in technology and we will need to look at a change in terminology
  • What is artifice?
  • New norm – we are all disabled.  Old norm – able v disabled. Unable, Able, Disa bled. Ultraabled. Do we want our children to be stronger and better? Most of what seems natural has been acquired or learned.
  • Super enablement
  • Future – less biological and more nano based – what can we become?

Acceptance of perfection – What might we lose?

1. Abandon your resistance to change and evolution

2. Abandon device of judging too quickly and segregation of cultures into groups

3. A film is never finished only abandoned

Masterclasses – can they also be radio programmes?

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~ by Debbi Lander on October 15, 2009.

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