NEoN Digital Arts Festival 2017 Preview

Entering its seventh year, Scotland's digital arts festival North East of North returns to Dundee with a hoard of eclectic events

Feature by Ben Venables | 30 Oct 2017

A digital arts festival seems an unlikely place for archaeology. After all, there isn't much to dig when it comes to the digital. But North East of North (NEoN) is set to prove this assumption wrong. NEoN offers a fresh take on who future excavators might turn to as a way of seeing how we live now – namely, artists.

Today, our treasures tend not to be physical. Our possessions are less likely to end up buried underground, instead uploaded onto a virtual cloud. Artists help record our information society and the festival's highlights are a testament to this. Crossing space and time, sound and vision, the past and future, NEoN's events bring local and international talent to Dundee.

Space and Time

The space of Dundee Contemporary Arts gallery does not constrain Canadian artist Kelly Richardson's debut exhibition in Scotland. The Weather Makers travels out to alien terrain, evoking the quest for life beyond Earth. Richardson deploys video and software from both the film and gaming industries, coupled with data gathered by NASA on its mission to Mars. This all creates a 12-metre panoramic view of a future Martian landscape. The exhibition also provokes questions about our carelessness towards Earth's ecosystem today.

Over in West Ward Works, DC Thomson's former print works, there's a group exhibition featuring the work of British artist Verity Birt. Birt's Rites of the Zeitgeber comprises a multiscreen trove of found footage and text. The work of J.G. Ballard, Henri Bergson and Mina Loy arrive in fragments like lost treasures of yore from outmoded media into the here and now. It makes for an imaginative take on our recent past that pays attention to both the physical and the digital. It seems to come from a future perspective, and in disregarding time seems unfettered by a clock.

Also in the group show, VOID is a crew of Brussels-based artists. Their work Bruit Blanc revolves around the idea that sound waves leave an impression on each surface they have ever penetrated. Creating resin discs from ceilings, floors and walls, the discs play like vinyl records. It's a soundtrack which echoes history.

Meanwhile, New Yorker William Miller's photojournalism addresses not only what we see but how a picture is also an object. Ruined Polaroids showcases images produced by a broken old Polaroid SX-70 camera. The 'spoiled' images have become strikingly abstract, suggesting more about the process of photography than the event the camera was trying to capture.

The Future of the Past

Morehshin Allahyari is both an activist and artist. Harnessing 3D modelling and printing to reconstruct 12 artefacts destroyed by ISIS, including Roman-era statues. Today's printing technology becomes a tool for both resistance and historic preservation. Each 3D object also includes a flash drive and memory card within. It acts like an old glass bottle, buried long ago containing secrets from the past. The resconstructions act as guards to crucial information about the original artefacts.

The full programme of events is available at North East of North's website; the festival takes place at venues across Dundee during 7-12 Nov