Review: NEoN Galleries Tour and NEoN at Night

Review: NEoN Galleries Tour and NEoN at Night

The tour began at CentreSpace in the basement of Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), with moving image works by Paul Dolan and Paul Walde. Both films explored the idea of landscape as something created and maintained, as well as uncontrollable and sublime. Artist Kelly Richardson, whose ‘The Weather Makers’ exhibition upstairs was the next stop, curated the pieces. Richardson’s work features stunning imagined forests and rocky vistas filled with crashed and broken drones and exploration rovers. It was strangely moving to watch CGI robots twitching under a cold, indifference sun in ‘Mariner 9’– sort of like Wall-E mixed with Mad Max or Dune. Apparently the piece was based off technical data from NASA’s missions to Mars.

The DCA organises an event called ‘Echo’ to tie-in with each exhibition in the main gallery, allowing members of the public and local artists to respond to what they see. This time there was poetry from Lindsay MacGregor and Gavin Cameron, who commented: “at the very least they can rust in peace”, a short film, and a musical composition. Unfortunately, the main response from Tom deMajo had to be cancelled at short notice as his train was delayed. He is expected to present his piece in the final week of the exhibition, between 20-26 November.

After the DCA the walking tour made its way to Generator Projects on Mid Wynd Industrial Estate to witness performances by Diago da Cruz and Max Dovey, who both had pieces in the exhibition there; ‘Geltung [Validity]: Perception of a Natural Right’. Both artists were exploring monetary systems and alternative currencies. Dovey’s work was an attempt to monetise human breath, using volunteers from the audience as respiration generators he performed a monologue that oscillated between real digital economic history and an imagined future where human breath and saliva replaces traditional currencies. A point of humour was that throughout the time of the exhibition the real accumulated net worth of the artwork was only one pence, which was then passed around the audience reverently.

By this time it was getting particularly cold, making the walk to West Ward Works distinctly unappealing. Despite this, most of the tour participants did manage to make their way over to the third and final stop. A former printworks, the empty building had been transformed into a temporary art gallery to showcase this year’s themed pieces as part of ‘Media Archaeology: Excavations’. I have already spoken to many of the featured artists elsewhere on this site, but nothing compares to seeing artwork in person. A particular highlight was Olia Lialina’s piece, ‘Give Me Time/This Page Is No More’, which showed old pages from the website GeoCities on a loop. One the left were pages that had been left in a permentent state of coming-into-being with text saying things like “Pack 15’s homepage will be right here. Just you wait,” alongside pages that had been shutdown, full of apologies and explanations. The one that resonated with me the most simply said, “Well, Niki and Duo are no longer together. We broke up December 17, 1999… there’s nothing else here. Go home.” Like a story prompt, the pages conjured up an idea of what the webpages might have looked like when they were maintained. Maybe Niki and Duo had been sharing photographs, memories, or a shared enthusiasm for a band or TV show. It’s possible that the GeoCities Torrent which Lialina mined for the screenshots shown in this piece hold the answers.

Elsewhere in the venue were 3D printed sculptures of monuments destroyed by ISIS, glowing green uranium glassware, VR, and site specific sound interventions.

A few days later I returned to West Ward Works for the festival’s late night party. The set list included performances by Plastique Fantastique, Verity Birt & Musician U, and feminist witch sisters Fallope & The Tubes amongst others. While all the acts were visually captivating, the strangest was definitely Plastique Fantastique – who attempted to summon the ‘Bit Coin Fairy’ with mixed results. Watching a grown man have glitter thrown in his face while someone repeatedly intones the words “bit coin fairy” for a good ten to fifteen minutes was an experience I’m not sure I’d care to repeat, but did have a certain charm.

A surprise joy was karaoke room set up by veteran zinesters Yuck N Yum. Each song had its own custom video-art piece, including a hilarious take on Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ featuring cartoon instruments added in post-production. Established artists such as Rachel McLean as well as former DJCAN alumni like Morgan Cahn had submitted work, and although the microphones were turned down quite low to spare us listening to each other’s singing it was an enjoyable way to spend the evening. Hopefully Yuck N Yum karaoke will be a regular feature of next year’s festival.

Overall, each venue of the walking tour and each act of the late night party helped to give the impression of a festival going from strength to strength. I look forward to trudging through the cold next year if it means seeing such high-quality digital art.


By Ana Hine

I keep forgetting I’ve been to Tokyo: GAIDEN

As part of NEoN, Generator Projects is currently hosting an exhibition entitled ‘Geltung [validity]: perception of a natural right’. Blogger Ana Hine caught up with one of the artists involved, Newcastle-based Petra Szemán, to discuss her video-based piece ‘I keep forgetting I’ve been to Tokyo: GAIDEN’ as well as her wider practice as a zinemaker and multi-media artist.

Did you make any zines while you were in Tokyo?
I didn’t – mainly because I’m more of a retrospective zinemaker, but also because aside from Tokyo I also travelled to some remote islands in the South of Japan, and I was already carrying hiking gear and two cameras. I did make a travel diary-esque zine after my trip however, based on the notes I wrote in my phone while I was there. I tried to keep an actual diary during the trip and planned to scan that and turn it into a zine, but ironically, despite my obsession with my own self(ves), I’m very bad at following through with real time diaries.

Why did you choose to have three screens and how did you decide upon those particular moments?
All the base backgrounds I use in these videos are (often analogue) photographs that I took in Japan. As I went there on a research trip, all the locations I visited were significant in a way, so I choose from these captured moments either based on the location and its relation to the narrative I’m presenting, a personal memory, or just aesthetics.

I started out the video with the just the left screen, which uses a photo I took in Chichibu, a small city two hours from Tokyo. It’s a fictionally saturated place in that it’s part of a pilgrimage route that connects 34 Buddhist temples and also it’s the city where an anime called Anohana takes place. Upon arrival, you are given maps that lead you through the pilgrimage, and maps to the locations featured in Anohana – a different kind of removed experience.

When I visited, I made a point of sitting down and reading a book by Jorin-Ji temple (number 17 in the pilgrimage), which is where the main characters also often spend time. I wanted to reflect on this by placing Yourself (my virtual self) in that place where all these realities cross, idling in a looped scene. I added the other two screens later as the narrative and point of the video unfolded – the middle screen is a platform at Hanno station where I had to change trains to get to Chichibu, the right screen a shrine that’s part of the Jinda-Ji temple complex in Chofu, a suburb in West Tokyo. I chose Hanno as a conscious connection to Chichibu, and Chofu as an aesthetic choice, but the neighbourhood surfaced in the narrative in the end. My choices and working processes are often very convoluted and introspective.

You describe yourself as an ‘unreliable narrator’, what do you mean by this?
In an interview, writer Lidia Yuknavitch summed it up like this: “We are ALWAYS experiencing life as a series of chaotic retinal flashes. Then later we smooth it over by making narratives that make sense. We call this memory. We give things a beginning, middle, and end.”

In this way, I’m a narrator because I perceive myself as a person with an identity narrative. Partially by referring to myself as unreliable, I’m referring to the process that these raw experiences have to go through for them to make sense to me – they’re mediated by the personal mythologies that I have constructed for myself from a multitude of characters and ideas introduced to me in real life or in fictional worlds that I have consumed. My memory is not impartial, it’s a subjective and therefore unstable narrative device. This of course is based on the assumption that my identity is not something I was born with and inherent, but something more performative and shaped by information available to me throughout my life.

How does the artistic culture of Newcastle influence your work?
The art scene in Newcastle is quite open and playful, which I think comes through in the tone of my work mainly, but it’s a subtle influence. I’ve only worked in Newcastle, so I can’t say for sure, but I think the city’s openness is partially what allows me to confidently work with pop culture elements and mundane aspects of life.

What attracts you to animation and computer games?
I mainly enjoy the aesthetic and the nostalgia factor, but I also like the ways identities and narratives can function in RPG games, and the explicit nature of immersion in virtual realities. My connection to animation is more genuine than it is to gaming, though – I only started gaming a couple of years ago, but I grew up watching animes on YouTube, with questionable English subs and uploaded in three parts, way before I spoke substantial English. Maybe my fascination with animated worlds stems from a core childhood nostalgia heightened by the fact that at the time I didn’t even understand the details of the narratives because of their inaccessibility to a Hungarian 10-year-old in 2004, and I got more of a holistic sense of anime rather than connections to specific stories, which makes for a stronger base.

How do you relate to your avatar in this piece, and is this typical to the way you relate to avatars you use?
My relationship to Yourself is complex – I created her a couple of years ago as an explicit virtual version of myself for exploring virtual renditions of spaces, but she took off and separated and it became this mutually controlling relationship. For example in older videos she has longer hair and different glasses, which she continued to have for about eight months after I cut my hair and changed my frames. But when I thought her appearance change became narrative compliant, I felt the need to take a photo in my bathroom and draw her in cutting her own hair before I started using her refreshed version in my videos, without the intention of showing it in a professional context even, just so I could progress in a way that made sense. Then later I gave her a Sailor Moon-esque transition scene, when I had time to focus on it. She’s the same as my identity, but lagging behind and not localised, yet I still feel compelled to make her existence extensive and continuous.

I tend to internalise what various avatars of mine go through, but Yourself is special in that regard. And obviously she accesses spaces and experiences very differently to me.

There’s a certain loneliness to your work, is that intentional?
Partially yes – the worlds I present are all-encompassing and free-roaming, but they are tied to a subjective experience that’s channelled through Yourself, which is necessarily lonesome. It’s partially coincidental that I happen to travel alone often and I subsequently went to Japan on my own. It’s also because immersion tends to be a solitary act. I am aiming to deliver a sense of disconnection, however, or maybe more a need to navigate a multitude of disconnections and connection throughout different worlds and environments, and accepting that a complete experience of all worlds and realities at a given point in time is not currently possible.

‘Geltung [validity]: perception of a natural right’ will be on until 12 November 2017 and also features work from Diogo da Cruz, Max Dovey, and Felicity Hammond. Generator Projects is based at 25-26 Mid Wynd Industrial estate, Dundee, DD1 4JG.

Future Artifacts: Find Them in the McManus!

This year has marked the 150-year anniversary of The McManus, the art gallery & museum which has been an intrinsic part of Dundee’s cultural fabric since its opening. Amongst many other exhibitions and events designed to celebrate the life and impact of the Museum, ‘Future Artifacts’ promises to be both a unique and active exhibition, as well as a great opportunity discover hidden corners of the McManus.

As part of this year’s NEoN Digital Arts Festival, we are partnering up with McManus to bring you ‘Future Artifacts’; an exhibition-intervention spread all around the museum. Just like following a treasure trail, you will be able to find works by internationally renowned artists in unconventional spots like hallways and stairwells as well as galleries.

The theme of future artifacts explores the kinds of objects our age will be remembered, and maybe even discovered, for. It asks the question: “Which of today’s objects will tell our history to future historians?”. Displaying on this exploratory exhibition is: Gabriel Menotti (Brazil), Scott Kildall (USA), Roel Roscam Abbing (Netherlands), Thomson & Craighead (UK), Nedyalka Panova (Bulgaria).

Come along to the McManus Mon-Sat (10am-5pm) or Sun (12:30-4:30) to explore & hunt for the artifacts. Head to the Mills Observatory for a bonus artifact, open on Mon-Fri (4pm-10pm) and Sat-Sun (12:30-4pm).

From NEoN, we’d like to send out a big thanks to Leisure & Culture Dundee and the McManus, without which this fascinating new exhibition would not have been arranged.


Colourful costumes and not-safe-for-work lyrics

As part of the NEoN at Night party on Saturday 11 November, Fallope and the Tubes will be bringing their colourful costumes, not-safe-for-work lyrics, and sense of YOLO fun to West Ward Works. Blogger Ana Hine caught up with the group.

Do you each make your own costumes? Where do you source the materials from?

Yes, we make our costumes, we are artists you know. We source materials from anywhere from Cotton Print Factory (Big Shout Out!) to the skip.

How would you describe your brand of feminism?

Not sure “brand” would be our word of choice here, it feels quite prescribed and rigid. We’d hope our relationship with feminism is more like a conversation and that it will constantly evolve in response to new circumstances and new information… continual self-improvement is our goal, how about you?

Srsly tho, thinking about how the band’s activities reflect our relationship with feminism is good for our brains, thanks for asking. Basically we think that male protagonist culture is a huge drag and that while female protagonist culture would be loads of fun for a while it would inevitably at some point also become a huge drag. We think there needs to be more value placed on democracy, diplomacy, open-ness, collaboration, intuition, play and all the things that women have become pretty fluent in over the eons.

How does the internet and social media affect what you do? Do you think Fallope and the Tubes would exist in a non-digital age?

We’d probably get a lot more done. We’d probably be less vain. Internet is great for rousing a rabble however.

What is a ‘witch sister’ and how does someone become one?

It’s a self-defining position; say you are a witch sister and POOF you are one. It usually helps to find another, sisterhood being relational and all.

What’s been the most fun performance that you’ve done so far? And what’s been the most embarrassing?

Each performance has its own unique flavour of embarrassment, usually comes when catching the eye of someone you fancy in the crowd whilst struggling to remember a three-chord riff and screaming about orgasms and with the other eye you catch sight of your own mother.

What are you looking forward to about NEoN Digitial Arts Festival 2017?

Returning to our spiritual home of Dundee (we all studied at DOJ at some point or another over ten years or so) and hopefully ripping the city a new one. Also we always love performing alongside other artists.

Is it true that you live together ‘off the grid’? What does that mean?

Not true, we have flats and homes in cities and villages with electricity supply AND plumbing (phew!). We have done a couple of residencies together ‘off-grid’ which means not connected to mains water/power. We have spent time together in places like Sweeney’s Bothy, Inschriach Bothy and a wee bunkhouse on the Isle of Kerrera aka the Cradle of Life – Google it. We spent those weeks together writing horrible hybrid Bothy ballad/punk songs fuelled on wine and the meat of molluscs.

What motivated you to take up performance art? Do you have any advice for aspiring performance artists?

The definition of ‘aspiring’ is “directing one’s hopes or ambitions towards becoming a specified type of person. ‘an aspiring artist’.” You’re already that person, friend. Carpe diem, embrace your best self! YOLO.

The joy of making performance art is all about putting yourself in all of its true human fleshy form in the spotlight, the risk of failure, ridicule, the risk of SUCCESS – it’s all there for the taking. It’s joyous, it’s terrifying, it’s real, live and responsive to its environment. Sharing all this within a group of people who care for one and another, who support and spur one and other on is truly m a g i c a l.

2017 Festival Day by Day

Keep this handy guide to the Festival so you are sure not to miss a thing!

Our day-to-day line-up will help you find out what’s going on where and when.


———————————-On All Week

7 – 12 November 2017

THE WEATHER MAKERS, Kelly Richardson (Canada) 10am to 6pm – Dundee Contemporary Arts
PETROLEUM MANGA, Marina Zurkow (USA) 10am – 5pm – Dundee Science Centre
GELTUNG [VALIDITY]: PERCEPTION OF A NATURAL RIGHT, Diogo da Cruz, Max Dovey, Felicity Hammond, Petra Szemán 12pm to 5pm – Generator Projects
DIGITAL DARCY, Caroline Erolin All Day – Sharing Not Hoarding, Mary Slessor Square
FUTURE ARTIFACTS, Gabriel Menotti, Scott Kildall, Roel Roscam Abbing, Thomson & Craighead, Nedyalka Panova 10am – 5pm – The McManus & The Mills Observatory
RENDERING THE PAST, 3DVisLab All Day – Mary Slessor Square

Tuesday 7 November

PECHA KUCHA 7pm – 10pm – Bonar Hall


Wednesday 8 November

A HUGE SPACE OF ENDLESS PREDETERMINED POSSIBILITIES, Catherine Mason 6pm – 8pm University of Dundee

ARTISTS’ SHORTS, Screening Programme 7pm – 9pm The Mayfly 


Thursday 9 November

A POLYPHONIC ESSAY ON MEMORY, Alexandra Ross (UK), Gayle Meikle (UK) & Laura Leuzzi (Italy) 2pm – 5pm, Vision Building 

Gallery Tours and Exhibition Opening Night 

RECORDS AND WIREFRAMES, Paul Dolan (UK) & Paul Walde (Canada) 5pm – 6pm, CentreSpace (Drinks Reception) 

ECHO, Tom deMajo (UK), 6pm – 7pm, Dundee Contemporary Arts (Performance) 

GELTUNG [VALIDITY]: PERCEPTION OF A NATURAL RIGHT,  7pm to 8pm – Generator Projects (Performance & Food) 

MEDIA ARCHAEOLOGY: EXCAVATIONS, Group Exhibition 8pm – 10m, West Ward Works (Drinks Reception)


Friday 10 November

All exhibitions open!

NEoN ACTIVITY ROOM, Janey Muir (UK) & others 11am – 5pm, West Ward Works

ARTISTS IN CONVERSATION, Bill Miller (USA) and Paul Walde (Canada) 10am – 11am, DCA Cinema

MINI SYMPOSIUM, Various Artists, including Sarah Kenderdine, 11.30am – 4pm, Discovery Point

SCAN TOUR 2.15pm – 6pm, starting in Mary Slessor Square

SCAN PANEL DISCUSSION AND RECEPTION with Kelly Richardson, 6pm-7.30pm, West Ward Works 

MODERN TIMES, Charlie Chaplin 9pm – 10.30pm, Mecca Dundee Playhouse


Saturday 11 November

All exhibitions open!

PETROLEUM MANGA WEAVING WORKSHOP 10am – 4pm, Dundee Science Centre 

SELF-MADE WI-FI ANTENNAS WORKSHOP, Roel Roscam Abbing (Netherlands) 10am – 5pm, Dundee Science Centre

NEoN ACTIVITY ROOM, Janey Muir (UK) & others 11am – 5pm, West Ward Works

REINVENTING THE ART LAB (ON THE BLOCKCHAIN) WORKSHOP, Ruth Catlow (UK) 1pm – 3pm, Hannah Maclure Centre

FUTURE FOSSIL CERAMICS WORKSHOP, Dundee Ceramics Workshop 2pm – 5pm, West Ward Works

NEON AT NIGHT, Various Artists 8pm – 1am, West Ward Works


Sunday 12 November

All exhibitions open!

NEoN ACTIVITY ROOM, Janey Muir (UK) & others 11am – 5pm, West Ward Works

ATARI: GAME OVER (2014), Film Screening 1pm – 2.30pm, Hannah Maclure Centre Cinema

STORYTIME & PLAY FOR PRE-SCHOOLERS, Thomas Sloan 11am – 12am, West Ward Works

Olia Lialina discusses the lost internet platform

Olia Lialina is considered one of the first people to use the internet as an artform with her piece My Boyfriend Came Back from the War from 1996. For NEoN she will be displaying a collection of works resulting from her ongoing excavation of the Geocities Torrent – a massive archive of pages from the lost internet platform. NEoN blogger Ana Hine caught up with Olia to talk about the project.  


Do you prefer the aesthetic of the internet of the 1990s over the 2000s and the 2010s? What are the most significant changes, in your opinion, between these internet eras?

I can’t think about web aesthetics in decades. In the 1990s one astronomical year was ten on the web. If you read David Siegel‘s legendary design manual “Creating Killer Websites”, you will be amazed that already in 1996 he talks about the third generation of web design. Things were always changing fast, aesthetically and ideologically. In 2012 my students made a fictional timeline, that – in many little steps – shows the development of the web aesthetics. Significant change is not in aesthetics, but in the structure. There is no place for personal web, there are no “home pages” anymore.

What was Geocities, and what was its significance to you personally?

Like everyone who didn’t have a page on Geocities in the second part of the 1990’s, I was very sceptical about this free hosting service. I thought about it as an outlet for people who have too much time and too little understanding of how to make web pages correctly. But around the turn of the century when I noticed how fast self-made things disappear, I changed my mind and started to pay closer attention to amateur production. I developed an understanding and respect for, not only Geocities, of course, but vernacular web outside of it as well. Today we mostly talk about Geocities because it as the only substantial archive of self-made web pages.

The One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age project seems to revel in the Geocities pages that were saved without discrimination. How do you measure value in a context like this?

I don’t. There is value in all of them. I learn something from every page I see. I categorize, and tag, make conceptual and formal connections, collect more and more material. Of course not all 400k websites in the archive are interesting on their own, but each adds something to our understanding of what it means to be a web master of your own site.

Why is digital archaeology important?

Every archaeological work is important. Evacuating the history of the world wide web is important for deeper understanding of this beautiful and powerful medium. It is important for educating web users about the power they can have.

What do you think digital archaeology will look like in the future? Would you be involved in projects to save Myspace profiles or Tweets, or was there something unique to Geocities that persuaded you to work on archiving it?

Social networks are another story, because of their scale. The Geocities archive is 1TB, whereas the Dutch social network Hyves, which closed in 2013, is 25TB. Global players like Twitter or Facebook would be in Petabytes. But size is in fact the smallest issue. Their structure and, let me say, philosophy are the issues that would make classic archiving useless. We should learn already now to deal with them on another level: a low level, a personal level. If we make a little archive, we can create little stories that will tell our stories in the future. For example recording your own interactions or whatever you personally, or as institution, through something like I also think there must be an understanding that nothing will stay there forever, we are always on the eve of this or that service being closed and we should act accordingly.

Do you have favourite pages that have been saved?

I do. These are two types of pages I like and both are those that are not very spectacular visually, but precious content-wise in the context of the archive. First are pages that give a promise to be complete, to become the greatest on the web, in a week or two. Second are pages that announce their own death. I often see them next to each other, and it is quite dramatic. At the festival I will show them as two parallel slide projections called “Give Me Time/This Page Is No More, with hope on the left and despair on the right. I hope you spend some time sitting in between, watching.


Interview by Ana Hine