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Energetic festival sure to be full of fizzing energy; DAVID WHETSTONE highlights some of the attractions of the AV Festival which is coming our way in March.


FESTIVALS come and festivals go - but one that seems to be thriving in the North East is the AV Festival of electronic arts. After a pilot festival in 2003, it returned in 2006 and has run at two-yearly intervals ever since.

The 2010 festival, the fourth, has energy as its theme. It was launched yesterday at The Sage Gateshead amid a flurry of statistics.

Director Rebecca Shatwell promised an impressive line-up of 24 exhibitions, 20 performances, 10 screenings, 14 talks, four club nights and three symposia. The festival will involve the work of more than 100 visual artists and 15 world premieres.

It will run from March 5-14 across Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and Middlesbrough but it is rightly described as international.

Flying in for the festival will be artists from America and Europe to join others from around the UK or based in the region.

Rebecca said the festival would look at energy in its many manifestations - scientific, environmental "but also the more human, spiritual side of energy".

It was the biggest AV Festival so far, she promised, having captured the imagination of partner organisations in several different fields.

Seemingly we can expect the unexpected.

Rebecca recalled: "A lot of partners said, 'It's not just going to be a green festival, is it? Because that would be really obvious'."

She promised it would not, saying that while environmental concerns would be reflected in the festival, energy would be discussed in its many senses.

Not too many environmentalists, you imagine, would be thrilled by the idea of coal-fired computers, a concept explored in an exhibition at Newcastle's Discovery Museum by artists Graham Harwood and Yokokoji.

Having your laptop powered by a traction engine doesn't sound like progress but it is one example of how cutting-edge technologies from different eras will come together in this year's AV Festival.

Over the 10 days, the focus will move from city to city, town to town.

Sunderland Aquatic Centre will boast an electronic music event called Big Water, a collaboration between North East-based Zoviet*France and German 'krautrock' pioneers Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius who now style themselves Cluster.

"Bring your trunks or swimming cossie and experience the strange sensation of listening to music underwater," urges the advance publicity.

"We're hoping Zoviet*France will perform on a diving board," said Rebecca.

A highlight on Tyneside will be three performances by Charlemagne Palestine, described in the AV Festival brochure as a true living legend.

Yesterday Rebecca acknowledged that few people in this country might have heard of him. But she said: "He was a contemporary of Terry Riley, Philip Glass and the American minimalist composers of the 1960s and 70s but never made it to Europe like the others. He was more of a maverick." It sounds as if describing Charlemagne Palestine as a character would be like describing the Eiffel Tower as an ornament.

He's a fan of bells, apparently, having first attracted attention from an artistic crowd by playing carillon bells in a church near New York's Museum of Modern Art.

On his first trip to the North East, when he played at The Sage in 2005, he was amazed to hear Newcastle bellringers giving it their all.

He will return therefore in March to perform on the famous carillon bells at Newcastle Civic Centre and to hear the premiere of his first composition for church bells performed by ringers of St Nicholas' Cathedral and St John's Church. Making it a Palestine threesome, he will also perform Schlingen Blngen, a six-hour organ recital, in the Church of St Thomas the Martyr.

One more thing to be said about Charlemagne Palestine: he performs with an on-stage audience of teddy bears. More on this to come - assuming The Journal is granted an interview with the great man.

Also bound for AV is American film-maker Kenneth Anger, a big name in avant garde cinema who made waves in 1959 with a book called Hollywood Babylon, putting the scandals of Tinseltown in the public domain.

The octogenarian, who has numbered Andy Warhol and Martin Scorsese among his fans, will spend 10 days in the North East, attending a screening of his famous 1963 film, Scorpio Rising, at the Tyneside Cinema and talking about his work.

This year's festival will launch in Middlesbrough where an exhibition by the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-96) and William McKeown will take place at Mima, augmented by billboard installations across the region.

Rebecca described the American Gonzalex-Torres as a key artist of the 1990s and renowned for art that can be taken away by members of the public, such as stacks of paper or piles of sweets.

This is just scratching the surface of a festival that is going to infiltrate many corners of the region. Full details can be seen on the website which goes live today.


BELL LOVER Charlemagne Palestine. ENERGY AV10 director Rebecca Shatwell. STUNNING One of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the AV Festival will be from Charlemagne Palestine. Above, his Beast, 2008.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 19, 2010
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