Electrofringe Festival co-director Daniel Green has had a “big, goal-kicking day” when I call him. “I’d like to think the festival is as under control as possible at this stage,” he says cautiously. “Although there’s always another curve ball thrown at you. That’s the nature of the beast!”
“The beast” is Electrofringe, TINA’s experimental electronic arts festival. This year, Electrofringe presents around 60 events – from performances, artist presentations, exhibitions, workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions, screenings and public interventions. Due to the sheer exuberance of those involved, it’s a festival that often seems to bite off more than it can chew; yet always seems to pull it off too.
“Having worked closely with Electrofringe over the last five years it seems that no matter how hairy things get behind the scenes, as long as the punters can’t tell, it doesn’t matter. You might go through absolute hell and they’ll say ‘That was amazing!’”
Green is currently an expert in international FedEx requirements, he jokes, due to an installation by a UK artist Charlie Penrose called ‘Bright Lights’. Shipping the artwork made from black neon lights to Australia has been a world of pain says Green. The artwork itself is one of his favourites, however.
“Essentially, it’s a one-line joke – and I love it for that reason! I like cheap jokes and I like puns. From a subjective level there’s probably heaps going on, but from on an experiential level, it’s a nice, cute pun.”
For the last 13 years, the Electrofringe raison d’être has been to promote experimental electronic arts and culture and to uncover emergent forms. Each year, however, new directors steer it down a slightly different path. Electrofringe is brighter and more playful this year, says Green, featuring artists whose work is “delightfully left of centre, but yet somehow still accessible.”
Green is from a visual arts background; his co-Director Estee Wah is from a theatre background. As such, the sound aspect of Electrofringe is not as academic as previous years. “The spectrum has swung between the extremely academic and almost completely ambient by association, to extreme noise. This year has a more pop-influenced sound.”
The Blip Showcase is the best example of this, says Green. Alongside 8bitpeoples from New York, Electrofringe is showcasing several chiptune artists playing music composed using retro videogame consoles. “It’s incredibly niche within its own circle but also widely accessible. Even if you can’t use a Gameboy to create music yourself, chiptune sounds are hardwired into the brains of our generation so they’ll at least be familiar. These chiptune musicians twist those into shapes and sounds that weren’t the intention when these machines were developed 20 years ago. We want people to see new versions of old ideas and leave with a new way of looking at things.”
Green is also excited about Dale Gorfinkel’s residency in association with the LockUp Cultural Centre in Newcastle. Gorfinkel develops kinetic sound sculptures based on found materials. “They have a very childlike, friendly quality. They’re made from everyday objects so they have a sense of wonder about them too.”
“It sounds cheesy but I always describe Electrofringe as being like a homecoming. After a year of tinkering away people crawl out of the woodwork and get really excited about their work and it’s absolutely infectious. Newcastle really comes alive and you see how diverse the electronic arts community is in Australia. It’s a galvanising experience.”