by Ryan Haughey

2019 marks the tenth anniversary of Cluster, a festival that showcases art that falls between forms from young exciting artists from Winnipeg, across Canada, and around the world. Cluster Festival features art that is dynamic, genre-breaking, experimental and one of a kind.

“We really try to think about the people as much as the artwork, because we want the festival to be a little mini-community,” Luke Nickel, co-founder of Cluster says. “When artists come from Montreal, Toronto, New York, and around the world, we want it to feel like they’re bringing something to Winnipeg and that they’re learning from Winnipeg.”

Nickel says that the festival is meant to be a social space for audience and artists to interact with and learn from each other. Cluster has been a jumping off point for artists to collaborate together, and to be seen on an international stage.

“What’s special about this year is that it’s still going on in a climate where the arts aren’t always easy, where things come and go. The special thing is that we’re still doing it in year ten,” Nickel says. “We started it when I was 19, and looking back we just had no way of knowing – we thought it would still be around, but I’m not sure we believed it would be anywhere near this level.”

Cluster finds artists through extensive research on local and Canadian art, as well as through an international call for submissions. Each year there are about 75 submissions.

“This year actually was really exciting, as we got all these submissions from around the world that were really great, and then we ended up choosing Davis Plett from Winnipeg.” Nickel says. “It was just incredible to see this person whose work we knew a little bit about, but then seeing their work in the lineup and it so clearly being on the world stage – we thought, ‘that’s the one.’”

Davis Plett’s performance, Etudes for Keyboard was selected over 75 national and international submissions in the open call. Plett describes it as “a performance for the key-bored and typing-weary.”

“On stage it’s just me and my laptop and an office lamp at a desk. The contents of the laptop screen are projected onto the screen at Cinematheque,” they say. “As the performance progresses, the laptop keyboard plays a number of roles: a generator of poetry, a magical musical instrument, a garbler of language, an uncanny conductor of once-familiar software applications now made strange.”

Plett’s performance will be at the Cinematheque on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 3:00pm along with Erin Gee’s performance Machine Unlearning. “Expect singing computers, a David Letterman mystery, finger-tapping poetics, total bops, and vaporware psychedelia!” Plett says.

Nickel says that people should come to the festival to experience unique art in a fun way. “It’s a place that has experimental work and art but on the other hand isn’t going to be super pretentious; you can walk in and ask us questions and the artists will be there to answer questions as well.”

Nickel also says that Cluster is always looking for new art. “If you’re from Winnipeg and you’re making something weird, we should know about it.”

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