VIA 2015 introduced a new configuration of locations, ranging from loft-style pop-ups to indie galleries, with our flagship - Spirit - a new multi-use club and bar, acting as the anchor for this years main showcases. Based in the neighborhood of Lawrenceville, Spirit offered the opportunity to support peers who had recently opened the venue, and had features like green lawns and block party potential.
We started from the inside out, harkening back Spirit's former life as a veteran's lodge (and the decades of amateur fight matches that went down there) by designing this year's stage as THE PIT. THE PIT took the form of an inverted boxing ring with 360-degree visuals, placing our audience on the floor "in the round". The voyeurism and intimacy of THE PIT became the most engaging element of the space. Depending on where you looked, anyone could be part of center stage. Artists like McLyte and Abdu Ali used THE PIT to their advantage, pulling in guests to run bars or freestyle with them, while XXYYXX invited as many people into the ring as possible to crowd around a haze of triggered beats. Live visuals were inspired by a theme of Site/Home (physical, virtual, or online landscapes and interiors), utilizing a collage of video, data points, 3d scans, and indexical content that related to both the visual artist and musician’s city of residence. These hybrid environments were created in Unity and navigated via the gaming engine UnReal Engine. Outside, a parking lot stage, fire pit, and other offerings allowed us to run daytime programming that families and all-ages could attend.
Forecasting talent and supporting purposeful connections between local and national artists / projects became more intertwined with our ongoing partners and satellite showcases. Then Pittsburgh-based artist Yaeji played her first festival set alongside Volvox on a showcase promoting a newly minted Discwoman. Eartheater and Moor Mother interviewed and performed for the Women in Sound Issue 1 launch - a Pittsburgh-based zine that has gone on to be distributed internationally. Rising steadily as a progressive and rare afterhours venue, Hot Mass and its resident crews Honcho and Detour, had solidified themselves as midwest staples for queer and emerging electronic nightlife. Pittsburgh-based women working across the music industry were brought together for a first-ever panel to discuss the business itself and ways in which we can network outside of institutions to move forward.
Our partnership with Carnegie Mellon University supported two commissioned programs by 3D ADDITIVIST MANIFESTO (Morehshin Allahyari + Daniel Rourke) and experimental turntablist Marina Rosenfeld. What is #Additivism? Critical Perspectives on 3D Printing brought Allahyari & Rourke together with industry giant ExOne and local startup KirfCase to discuss the material industry and cultural implications of 3D printing. Their conversations explored tensions between radical practices and maker culture around a technology filled with hope and promise. While in residence, Morehshin & Rourke developed new chapters for the 3D Additivist Cookbook. In partnership with the exhibition Aftersound, Marina Rosenfeld, a leading voice in the hybridization between visual art and music, executed a longform, site-specific piece utilizing a unique palette of electroacoustic sound on hand-crafted dub plates and horns.
Indie games have been a staple of VIA since its inception. Rules for An Other Self, co-curated with Heather Kelley a leader in feminist games, presented a selection of works by female-identified artists who hack, modify or misuse various gaming platforms to explore, expose, critique and re-engage with gender/power dynamics both on and offline. Works such as "Free Will Mode" by Angela Washko used The Sims to place human Artificial Intelligence into situations that expose the extent to which people accept the hand they have been dealt, never altering the environment they've inherited, even if it kills them.
VIA 2015 was in many ways about the decisions we make together. It unabashedly centered female-identifying voices and concerns. What platforms are needed right now to critically shift our social, economic, creative and material struggles? Where and how do we locate our greater family, among different groups and cities, and what can we do for each other?