by Chris Bryson
In the depths of Winnipeg’s winter cold, the Forthwith Festival returns for its second year of experimental arts. Stylus sat down for a Google Hangout chat with Wouter Jaspers and Colby Richardson, two of the Forthwith Festival organizers, to talk about what’s in store for the 2018 edition.Jaspers is a musician himself and makes music electronics for a living. His opportunity to be part of the Forthwith Festival arose from his friendship with the people who run Forth.
“They invited me last year to come over and to book a few acts for an experimental festival. They like that type of music there too and they’re very open to weird stuff. So we decided to work together and to make something in the middle of winter and hopefully at its coldest,” Jaspers says with a laugh.
From that, “the idea was to do something real interesting and fun in winter and it’s just different,” explains Jaspers. “Give people also a reason to come there and to get them to know the local artists and get something going where also the people making stuff in Winnipeg get to mingle and hang out for a few days together which I think for an artist is also a lot of fun too.”
Jaspers says the festival announcement to the public last year was on rather short notice, despite this, he was quite happy with the results, selling 350 tickets over the three days it runs for.
The festival is host to a wide array of experimental visual and audio artists from all over the world. In addition to audio performances, there will be visual installations, audio-visual collaborative performances, a variety of workshops, and some other surprises along the way.
Richardson is in charge of the visual aspects of the festival. He books the visual artists, will be performing, and is also in charge of the installations that will be there.
“So the idea behind the visual side of the festival is that every visual artist will have a visual performance in tandem with an audio artist who is visiting for the festival,” explains Richardson. “They’ll provide visuals and collaborate in that manner. That happened last year as well and it went really well. There was some really beautiful combinations that happened. But in addition to the performance they have an installation somewhere within the space and sometimes multiple installations. So each artist will be able to represent themselves through a visual performance collaboration with an audio artist but also a static installation that’s usually based in light and immersive in some way. Whether it takes place in the basement, on the rooftop, or throughout the café upstairs, really transforming the whole space.”
The two say that on the Saturday of the festival last year they were able to have a pretty fun party on the rooftop of Forth, with drinks for the occasion, weather dependent of course, and they hope to do the same this year.
Richardson finds curating the audio-visual collaborations to be one of the fun parts of organizing the fest. Jaspers and the organizers from the audio side will give him a list of audio artists that are open to collaborating. “And then from that I basically ask each of the artists what their vibe is, for lack of a better word. I prefer to perform visuals for stuff that’s kind of challenging and noisy and abrasive,” says Richardson. “Or on the flip side something that’s really funky, really dancey. So those are two things that I feel like I can perform visuals for relatively easily and I enjoy doing that the best. But everyone has their preferences so basically I give the artists an option of gentle to aggressive, calm to dancey, and ambient to maximalist. And basically tuning in what the visual artists preferences are and then from that see which artists who are open to collaborating might be able to match up.”
For the visual side Richardson says he likes to focus on artists that work with light in some way, “video artists or filmmakers or sculpture artists that have a big focus on projections and light.”
Richardson lists off some examples of this: Doreen Girard messes with slide machines and overhead projectors, creating warped visuals using glass objects to fragment light. Alyssa Bornn “has a similar approach but has this beautiful composition of Plexiglas that warps light and creates strange shapes.” Scott Fitzpatrick is a local experimental filmmaker who creates “really dazzling installations with 16mm projectors.”
“So it’s really the thing that ties it all together is video and light,” says Richardson. “The reason why is largely because audio and video I feel have something tangible connecting them, even though they’re kind of opposites.”
Jaspers says for the musical side of the festival he tries to “find people that have a very tactile approach to music making. So a lot of the acts are electroacoustic, focusing on using objects at one end and very pure synthesis on the other. So you get a very nice natural combination.”
Jaspers gives some examples of these: Hainbach uses tapes loops that he records and then “works with the tapes, with the mechanisms that run the tapes, slowing it down or speeding it up. And really playing with that type of effect in a lot of his work, combined with synthesis.” Uchi makes dreamy ambient techno. The Present Elders, who will be performing, are also community workers from Chicago, who make music by “going on the street in the summer and kids will come and they make music with them,” says Jaspers, they’ll be “showing them beat production and performance techniques.” Lisa Busby and Leslie Deere use rotating devices like turntables to make music, but without using the needle.
“So there again the tactile approach comes around the corner,” says Jaspers. The Friday night will host what Jaspers calls the New York Invasion. Artists from there will have the whole night to give a freaky New York style dance party.
There will also be building workshops and artist talks over the course of the festival. Hainbach will show techniques with tape loops, there will be a percussion-building workshop, and Jaspers says he’ll be hosting a workshop about found sound, all this and more.
In addition to all this, Nowhere Kitchen, a cooking collective from Brazil will be cooking food for the festival. “They really focus on reusing whatever’s left,” says Jaspers. “They make delicious meals out of it. So they have also a strong message of reusing what’s local.”