Interesting stuff happens in the cracks: interstitial art festivals

Paul Raven @ 17-05-2010

The Lost Horizon Night Market sounds like the sort of thing I’d love to see roll into my town: like some mad mash-up of the travelling free-party sound-system crews of nineties Europe with a half-squatted house full of installation art students, it’s a peripatetic mobile art festival housed in rental trucks and parked up for one night only in empty industrial lots. It’s…

… an ongoing participatory project with an elegantly simple idea: “Proprietors” rent a truck and do something creative in it, with public interactivity a central element.

There are no admission fees. Participants mainly provide enthusiasm (or homemade jam, or lap dances, or ukulele serenades), and get to soak in a hot tub or share a smoke in the Jesus Christ Hookah Bar. The proprietors exchange their time, money and artistic energy for the distinctive euphoria of seeing people interact with an environment of their own creation.

“For one night, we make an autonomous neighborhood,” said Lost Horizon Night Market co-founder Mark Krawczuk, who enjoys spurring people to act on their creative desires. “I get a kick out of seeing people do stuff. I’ve got 40 people into the game … got people who’ve never done installation art before to do it.”

The Lost Horizon Night Market

Shades of Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones, of course, and of the really weird things you could still see and do at Glastonbury festival before its Millennial gentrification. Breaking down the barriers between consumer and creator, between participant and artist, between art and activity… cool things temporarily inhabiting otherwise uncool spaces. Culture subverting geopgraphy, ideas on the move. (As you’ve probably gathered, I’m a serious sucker for this kind of stuff.)

Apparently the Night Market people would love to see other iterations of the same idea spring up elsewhere, like a vaguely-defined open-source museum franchise. And they may well get their wish… after all, it’s only taken Burning Man a decade to achieve metastasis, and ideas move much faster than they did ten years ago. [image credit: Michael Gwilliam; blagged from linked Wired article, please contact for takedown if required]


Sci-Fi London 2010: much more than just a sci-fi film festival

Paul Raven @ 13-04-2010

This year’s Sci-Fi London film festival is the ninth event to bear the name. Running from Wednesday 28th April through Monday 3rd May 2010, and themed around the concept of “life in 2050”, it promises an even bigger line-up of world premieres and screenings of new, rare and obscure science fiction cinema from around the world than ever before. But in addition to all that celluloid goodness, there’s lots of other stuff going on, giving Sci-Fi London something of the feel of a more traditional science fiction convention (if that’s not a complete oxymoron).

Sci-Fi London 2010

For instance, the Arthur C Clarke Award ceremony is held early in the week of the festival, and this year (should you be lucky enough to get an invite) you’ll get to find out whether China Mieville gets to take home the prize a second time. But there are also numerous workshops and discussion panels going on over the course of the week, and I’m very proud to be able to say that yours truly has been invited to take part in some of them.

The full programme can be found on the Sci-Fi London website, of course, but in the interests of mild self-aggrandizement, here are the four panels I’m involved with:

  • Saturday 1st May 2010, 1pm: FUTURE PUBLISHING? – The publishing industry is coming under assault from all sides. Are Kindles, iPads and smartphones signalling the end of traditional paper publishing? Customers no longer believe publishers can justify the prices they charge, not just for books, newspapers, magazines and periodicals are also suffering. How will the publishing industry re-shape itself for 2050? Will Apple and Google become the new big publishing houses? And if ubiquitous digital delivery means anyone can be a publisher, will we even need the big guns anymore? (PGR as panellist)
  • Saturday 1st May 2010, 2:15pm: THE 30-SECOND COMMUTE – 3D printing, rapid prototyping, offshore outsourcing, automation, evolutionary design software, expert systems, voice processing and synthesis… technologies, network economies and geopolitical shifts are currently making mincemeat out of many careers and jobs that have lasted for centuries. What will we be doing to earn a living in 2050; what will seem as archaic as a thatcher or fletcher does today? And what will fill the days (and pockets and bellies) of the unemployed? (PGR as moderator)
  • Saturday 1st May 2010, 5:45pm: MY FRIEND WENT TO 2050 AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS INDECIPHERABLE MIXED-MEDIA POST-POSTMODERNIST METAPHOR – What will the arts scene look like in 2050? What new (or old!) forms and mediums will be grabbing the headlines, filling our homes and galleries and concert venues and mobile devices? And how will their creators be making a living from it? (PGR as moderator)
  • Sunday 2nd May 2010, 5:15pm: THE FAITH WARS – The ideological square-off between religion and science is here to stay… or is it? Perhaps the dichotomy is a falsehood, and everyone will learn to live and let live. Or perhaps faith will become the fracture point of an energy-hungry civilization, a warring sphere of philosophies. What will we believe in 2050? Is believing that others should act according to our beliefs the fault that unites the two sides of the argument? (PGR as moderator)

If the topics for discussion look familiar, well, there’s a reason for that: I sent the Sci-Fi London organisers a bunch of ideas based on discussions we’ve had here at Futurismic, and they liked some of them so much that they decided to saddle me with steering the conversations in question… how’s that for karma, eh?

In fact, I’m rather awed by some of the pundits and thinkers I’ll be appearing with – that Faith Wars panel features not only the afore-mentioned China Mieville, but also Ruth Gledhill, the religion correspondant for The Times; Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick; and Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association. It promises to be a lively (if not outright contentious) debate, that’s for certain, and I’m really looking forward to it.

(Although, to be honest, I’m also bricking it somewhat; one opinionated and scruffy webzine publisher attempting to ride herd on four super-sharp intellectuals should be a sight worth seeing, if only for the LULZ. Maybe they’ll video it, then screen it at next year’s festival? Be sure to bring popcorn!)

So, if you’re in or around London at the turn of the month, there’s no shortage of interesting diversions for the science fiction aficionado over the weekend – it’d be excellent to see some of you there. 🙂