For our 5th anniversary we went big with our largest Pittsburgh venue to date, as well as launching a VIA Chicago satellite event series in partnership with Them Flavors.
With the support of the Office of the Mayor Bill Peduto and Davis Companies, we were allowed to transform Pittsburgh's historic Union Trust building's basement and vault into a night club with 2 stages and surround visuals, while vacant department stores and the 13-story grand rotunda were home for augmented reality exhibitions, immersive installations, indie games, and video screenings.
The weight of 2014 felt heavy, turning 5 was a big deal, and with that came wishes for performers who would both destroy and elevate our senses and reaffirm who we are. Each showcase required an intensity all its own, and were co-curated with local partners to achieve these ends. Mike Q and Kevin JZ Prodigy sweat out our opening night in partnership with QTPOC/ballroom collective True-T Entertainment; Matrixxman and Tin Man literally had the walls coming down at Hot Mass; Deafheaven and Liturgy released dark and heavy waves that permeate this town on the daily. Zebra Katz brought out the freak in every single one of us and then dipped his way into a 7-11 freezer with L-Viz. Amid all the big feelings, Pittsburgh was still a place that wanted you to get weird.
Collaborating again with the CMU MFA Video & Media program on stage and live visual design, this year's super team showcased artists from video label collective Undervolt & Co. As part of their residency, Undervolt presented a discussion series on the business of starting a "visual label" and navigating careers that exist between the art world and entertainment industries.
With augmented and virtual reality cresting heavily into public consciousness, I worked with three teams of artists to launch experimental platforms that would act as antidotes to the rapid mainstream-ification of these platforms, and increasing physical and social isolation associated with them. From artists perspective, the "empathy machine" was not a believable narrative, but experiencing empathy and joy via digital worlds was not dead. Virtual worlds and physical worlds could be connected - and we were going to explore some meeting points. ASMR NPC, in collaboration with LaTurbo Avedon and YouTube personality Brittany ASMR utilized the Oculus Rift, binaural audio, and a 30-foot inflatable bubble for site-specific sensory therapies. PEEK, by Andrew Bueno & Andy Biar, explored augmented reality graffiti hidden in plain sight using the Microsoft Kinect and the open-source RGBD Toolkit in collaboration with James George and Vince McKelvie. And VIRTUAL LIFE DRAWING connected "real world" drawing groups with meetups and live virtual models in Second Life to sketch bodies unrestricted by biology, gravity, and so forth.
Over at Carnegie Mellon, in partnership with Ableton and CMU's Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, we presented a crash course in electronic music composition with a Mini Music Conference, featuring modular synthesis luminary Richard Devine and up and coming artists.
VIA 2014 was grand in scale and programmatic scope, thanks to numerous local partnerships that had developed over the past few years. Pittsburgh's growing, progressive underground such as QTPOC/trans advocacy group True-T Entertainment, Girls Rock Pittsburgh, and bathhouse-based afterhours Hot Mass, were recurring partnerships that deeply informed VIA's efforts to be an annual platform that showcased critical voices and visions for what the future of Pittsburgh could be.
Flagship Pop-up: Union Trust Building, Downtown, Pittsburgh, PA
When you wake up the next day to 2 of your artists in a 7-11 freezer #litsburgh