Welcome to the digital arts festival that’s literally underground

The Abandon Normal Devices (AND) festival is due to descend this week on the peaks and subterranean caverns of the Peak District, in-tow with an array of digital artworks, sound compositions, film screening and “geological installations”.

Based around the village of Castleton, various artworks will take place above and below ground, encompassing light-flooded valleys, heavy metal music, site-specific augmented reality artworks and cavernous tours envisioning a future without digital technology.

Dutch designer and artist Daan Roosegaarde, who has previously worked on a smog-purifying tower, will flood the area of Winnats Pass with smoke and light as part of an artwork called Waterlicht – illustrating the area’s geological history as a valley once submerged beneath a tropical sea. Steve Maher’s Heavy Metal Detector tackles geological history in a very different way, using hacked metal detectors to play locally-sourced heavy metal music every time a piece of metal is discovered.

Curator and artist Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, who we previously interviewed about his work with art bots, is collaborating with Doreen A. Ríos to create an augmented reality gallery/silo within a specific part of Castleton, circumscribing a number of AR artworks by Mexican artists. Meanwhile, underground in Treak Cliff Cavern, a collection of artists will present work that explores the challenges we face in preserving our digital lives for future generations.  

The show, titled Digital Dark Ages, features work by Nora Al-Badri, Jan Nikolai nelles, Sam Lavigne and Charlotte Jarvis, and taps into ideas that have lately been on the boil. The Sanctuary 2017 festival, for example, which similarly takes place in a remote location (the Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park in south west Scotland), is also very much centred on the fantasy and anxiety of going ‘off grid’. In both cases, it’s interesting to see an apparent appetite for smushing disparate digital technology with specific geological zones.root_0082_simone_niquille_part_of_digital_dark_ages_2

(Above: ROOT 0082 by Simone Niquille, part of Digital Dark Ages)

Plummer-Fernandez and Ríos’ AR exhibition, titled My Wall Is Your Filter Bubble, also looks like it could be a provocative glimpse at how the barrier between physical and virtual spaces (and let’s not forget that all technology is ultimately physical) could be further gnarled by the likes of Apple’s ARKit. AND says its festival will be “a prophetic, provocative and uncanny reflection on the verticality of the earth”. But what bearing does our terrain have when it reaches not only above and below ground, but across thousands of miles to data centres in an antarctic circle?

Maybe there’ll be some answers in the Peak district. AND festival 2017 runs from 21-24 September. More information can be found here.

Lead image: Titan, Peak Cavern from above the Event Horizon. Credit: Robbie Shone

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