For our 8th trip around the sun we kept it focused on a tight weekend of events that got at the core of what VIA is all about -- community and exchange.
New ways forward greeted us at the stage, in a workshop, and on early morning dance floors -- reminding us that we can continue to make other worlds, even across great geographic divides.
Sonically, this year's programs were designed to bring artists together who had begun their relationships by collaborating digitally, or connected their parallel endeavors online. Elysia Crampton and Embaci, Berlin's Room 4 Resistance and Pittsburgh's Honcho and girlFx, Pittsburgh's Mesh and Cleveland's In Training. Women, LGBTQ, and artists of color would continue to be centered in all that we do as a platform made of many teams, continuing to work for visibility, viability, and futurity.
Visuals took a similar back-to-basics approach, teaming up emerging programmers/designers Char Stiles and Anna Henson for a first time live collaboration. True to it's "festival as laboratory" form, VIA's goal is to give artists a space to take on creative challenges as an opportunity to explore new paths in their work.
Elysia Crampton and Pittsburgh-based artist Princess Jafar discussed sound and performance in the context of survival. Framed by Latinx culture, queerness and its historical roots in Aymara history, Crampton defines abolition as, “...not just the end of all forms of bondage, but all forms of external or internal colonialism and imperialism.” Analyzing images from the 17th century manuscript “El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno / The First New Chronicle and Good Government,” the manuscript’s depiction of native life and the reality of Spanish rule provided a guide through how Andean cultures viewed themselves and the world. From an Andean perspective, time is not linear. The past is seen as something ahead while the future is perceived as something behind.
Our continued responsibility to access was another principle that informed VIA 2017's educational programs. Advocating for public resources to technology underscored our partnership with Carnegie Library. Within the past year, the library had established an equipment lending program - offering anyone with a library card the chance to check out modular synthesizers, drum kits, theramins etc and take crash courses in sound production. Our all-ages workshops were lead by women/non-binary artists and engineers, and took a collaborative approach where educators and students jammed together to learn a new piece of gear.
The most profound moments for me were during these intergenerational workshops, watching age barriers dissolve while kids were in the drivers seat, inspiring adults to find that place where they are most free. The number 8 holds a variety of meanings throughout different cultures and time, but one shared interpretation is the idea of an "angel number" - a gift and calling to start all over again. The 8th VIA returned us to where we began.