The Subtle Technologies Festival and the Ghettoblast Sound System

This post comes from the Ghetto Blast Sound System crew members Kerry Campbell and Michael Caffrey. Kerry and Michael also make up the core of our GRL Ottawa group. Ghetto Blast has developed a mobile off-the-grid sound system that they use for free parties in the woods and urban sound interventions. In June we sent Ghetto Blast down to Subtle Technologies, a conference and festival centered on the cross section of art and technology, as the theme for this years edition was sustainability. Enjoy the post and hopefully there will be more to come from Ghetto Blast.

We arrived at the University of Toronto late Friday afternoon, and we were just in time to hear Adam Zaretsky’s presentation on Appropriating Pervert Technology which gave way to new and interesting ways of looking at Global ecology and solutions to save our dying world. The presentation gave us a chance to let go of our preconceptions and concentrate on the messages and teachings from the wide variety of participants and view points at the festival. This presentation was followed up by a panel discussion regarding sustainable housing. We learned about zero-energy homes and some projects that aim to green existing housing or create sustainable living spaces in Canada.

During the evening, we headed to the InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre for the opening of the art exhibit for the festival. The mysteries of the art show would eventually be explained on the Saturday afternoon panel, however as we left the gallery on Friday night, we were left with many questions.

Saturday was a fun filled day of different guest speakers, who were all involved with different aspects of the ecology and choose different ways to express the dangers of pollution to our planet. We learned about the disappearing salt marshes; bees; creating public sustainable art; how this century fits into the current life cycle of the planet, and how to create a wind powered generator from garbage. We found the Laurence Packer who presented about bees to be an amazing speaker and he gave a great introduction to an audio/visual investigation using a bee colony and its hive.

There was also a short session for people who did not make formal presentations. This gave people a chance to explain their projects in a room of participants over juice and cookies. My favourite was Amanda White’s FARMY which cast clay, compost and seed mixture into small parachute troopers. The parachute troopers were then “deployed” through out Toronto to populate abandoned spaces with growth. Finally the project documents the growth of the solders all the while using the language and methodology of war. Another interesting artist was Sofian Audry, who described his electronic interventions in nature.

At the end of the day the artists from the exhibition got to explain their art projects. This answered many questions that had arisen from our previous visit to the exhibit.

Marko Peljahn and Matthew Biederman talked about their project in the North of teaching local communities to use photo mapping and tracking devices to help making northern living easier and more sustainable. The exhibit featured a series of photographs of the north, and became much more exciting after their explanation, as well as the video of the stealth like remote controlled camera used to take the amazing digital images.

Chris Hardwicke’s Velo-city is a bike super highway made out of a series of connecting plastic tubes. Chris explained that this idea was very open concept, and cyclists around the world have contributed and debated his idea with the hopes of improving the design and eventually creating a Velo-city.

The last presentation was The Green Corridor. Noel Harding and Rod Strickland wanted to make the highway between the US and Canada a more welcoming and environmentally friendly. This project showed that small scale interventions can improve space, and it’s not necessary to complete the project on a grand scale to foster change. I also enjoyed this presentation very much because my favourite work of sustainable art is by Noel Harding, who is famous for the Elevated Wetlands sculpture seen on the Don Valley Parkway.

We decided to skip the Saturday evening presentation as it was on a boat. We felt that with the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster, it would not be a good idea to celebrate sustainability on a diesel powered boat in Lake Ontario for 4 hours.

Sunday was another fun filled day starting with presentation of building relationships through social innovation. The guys from Food Jammers gave us an overview of their television show and a tour through some of the more interesting ecological food related innovations like a green house with rivers stocked with fish between the rows of plants.

The Subtle Technologies Festival surprised me with all the different opinions and ideas for sustainable living. We left the festival having met like minded people with interesting ideas and approaches to environmentalism. This festival incorporated the famous and the unknown to present a wide variety of projects that will help our existence on the planet.


Subtle Technologies

Extensive information on the InterAccess show Contingent Ecologies, curated by Camille Turner and Michael Alstad on their exhibition blog – here.

A more extensive article from We-Make-Money-Not-Art on Adam Zaretsky.

Info on the Resonating Bodies project from Sarah Peebles, Dr. Laurence Packer and Rob King at the project website.

Chris Hardwicke’s Velo-City.

More information on Noel Hardings Don Valley project here.

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