BENT FESTIVAL 011

Curated by Phillip Stearns

bentfestival.org
319scholes.org

Bent is an annual art and music festival celebrating circuit bending and its related creative practices: DIY electronics, hardware hacking, glitch, code bending, software art, abstract video. Now in its 8th year, the festival is a public summit where artists from across the country and around the globe gather to share their craft through performances, workshops, video screenings, art exhibitions, and installations, showcasing the state of the art in DIY electronics and circuit bending culture.

If you’re the slightest bit curious about electronics, electronic music, handmade electronic art, or if you’ve ever just really wanted to rip your toys apart, Bent Festival is here. On Friday the 24th and Saturday the 25th, we are offering a range of presentations and workshops including the infamous intro to circuit bending workshop with expert benders on hand to help you get started. There will be installation artists building circuit-bent artwork throughout the 319 Scholes space. In the evening, a full program of video works and live performances showcases a hand picked selection of some of the best circuit benders in the world. Wonder seekers of all-ages are welcome.

What is Circuit Bending?
Circuit bending refers to the act of the creative “short circuit”, a process that began through modifying the circuitry of battery-powered children’s toys to create strange, outlandish, unintended, and unpredictable sounds. This re-appropriation of objects of a digital youth has grown in popularity as it offers an affordable, culturally accessible path into the creation of electronic music and sound art. Performers wrangle squelches, bleeps, groans, and blips out of everyday childhood toys in addition to producing fragmented and abstract images from video games systems, digital cameras, and by directly hacking computer files. This is fun to watch, and fun to do.

Circuit bending is the direct result of experimentation, exploration, and play. Almost no technical know-how is needed to get started, making circuit bending accessible to a wide audience who may be curious about electronic art, but feel intimidated by the steep learning curve or passivity of the traditional performance setup.

Curatorial Statement
8 years ago, when The Tank unleashed Bent Festival upon the unsuspecting world, curiosity and enthusiasm for Circuit Bending was on like the Big Bang. Chaos, chance, exploration, “anti-theory”, and the punk inspired impulse to remake something through “breaking” it fueled a fiery frenzy that scorched the shelves of thrift stores and surplus electronics depots, leaving shelves bare and bedroom electronics studios smoldering with the thick smoke of solder and melting plastic. Bent Festival brought together that critical mass of closet tinkerers both seasoned and nubile, and what ensued was total annihilation of the old forms of sonic tradition.

Today, that hot universe has cooled and we find an array of galaxies; the energy that inspired a generation of electronics junkies has manifest in practices beyond circuit bending. We find an embracing of the unexpected and an appreciation for the beauty of the intentionally corrupted manifesting in the glitch movement, which abstracts the gesture of short circuiting a battery powered toy into the process of changing the data structure of a file; Circuit Bending becomes Code Bending. Many of those who began their relationship with electronics through circuit bending find themselves learning the language and begin building their own circuits but with an appreciation for the unexpected; Circuit Bending merges with the DIY movement.

Circuit Bending has matured from a wild phenomenon into a unique and formalized process or anarchy and reappropriation, where subjectivity and community shape individual approaches. Electronics, through circuit bending, becomes a personal narrative and the resulting creative output reflects this situation of the individual within a culture saturated with electronic technologies. The performances, installations, artwork, presentations, workshops, and videos presented in this year’s Best Festival evidence the hand of the artist manifesting in intentionally induced systemic corruption—in data, software or hardware—both in self-made systems and through the modification of a ready-made systems.

Installations and Artwork
The installation artists will come to their respective spaces with a plan and their materials, but will create their entire bent artistic works live over the course of the week. The artists will be working during festival hours, tweeking and tending to their master works, providing the public an insider’s look into their creative process. Many of the installations are participatory and interactive! Additionally artwork from circuit bent imaging devices, data bends, and about circuit bending will adorn the walls of the festival venue.

Workshops and Presentations
Expert benders, including but not limited to our installations artists, will be on-hand throughout the week to help you get started in this amazingly easy and fun process. The FREE Intro to Circuit Bending Workshop will happen on the 25th. Checkout the selections of presentations and workshops and reserve your seat HERE

Evening programming: Concerts and Video Screening
Each night of the festival, a number of national and international acts will perform music that involves circuit bent instruments, custom-made electronics and/or battery-powered electronic devices. Between performances, a selection of short video works by international artists will be screened, highlighting a range of audio visual techniques involving intentional misuse of traditional video technologies. The music will represent a wide range of genres from dance influenced electronic, electronics-based indie-pop acts to abstract, experimental soundscapes, and uncaged noise.

Video edit by Sam Berman

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