1BTN spoke to Laura Ducceschi, programmer of ACCA Digital which runs from 30 Sep to 18 Oct in partnership with Brighton Digital Festival and features Holly Herndon, Tim Hecker and Caterina Barbieri amongst others (full listing here)
How did you get involved with music and arts programming? What has been your journey up to this point, to the curating work you’re doing for Brighton Digital Festival and elsewhere?
Music has always been central to my life since childhood. I feel very protective of it as an art form which means ACCA (Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, on Sussex University campus) is a great home for me to be working with as it has oodles of integrity. In practical terms it is about an approach that supports new work and understanding and presenting work from artists in the way artists intended it to be. It is quite a different process to booking acts so to speak – It largely comes about through direct artist relationships and in my case approaching the aesthetics with full commitment, rather than as a secondary thought to the music. ACCA is the appropriate home for this type of approach. We have a ‘less is more’ ethos which means taking time to understand where the artist is in their practice – allowing build and set up time – trying new things out.
Before ACCA I was at Brighton Dome and Festival and before that Head of Live Programming at De La Warr Pavilion – they both taught me different things. At DLWP I learned to research and consider like a visual arts curator and understand what high quality aesthetics really meant and at BD&F, I got to experience brilliant dance and theatre which is a priceless learning when you see how lighting and stage use can be utilised as part of a mood change or narrative.
What have been some of the projects and productions you’ve been most satisfied with over the years?
Well on a personal level, Live Transmission in 2012 for Brighton Festival was equally one of the most stressful and satisfying things I have done – developing something from your initial concept to delivery is a privilege and takes a lot of drive. This project was a large scale audio visual work with a team of 40 and went onto sell out Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Sydney Opera House etc.
The curation that I am most proud of was a season of work called A Nod To Cage at DWLP, which took place all over the building/galleries/auditorium/foyer. It ranged from a Yoko Ono piece to a self playing piano triggered by radioactive cosmic ray particles to Anna Meredith and Mira Calix, a Mount Kimbie performance in the gallery that had an installation element built around it, Eighth Blackbird and loads more. It was a demanding task but when I look back I can really appreciate how special it was.
How long have you been curating the installation and music for ACCA as part of the festival and what have been some of the highlights of previous years for you?
This is the third year of ACCA Digital which is in partnership with Brighton Digital Festival – ACCA is the main music partner to the festival. The Felix’s Machines and Plaid piece was one of my favourites. It was their second collaboration and it came about through a 2 week residency at ACCA. Felix built the machines for the first time in a vertical structure in the middle of the room and he and Plaid wrote new material for it and played it from the balcony – so the machines were the performer. I loved watching the audience applaud the machines at the end of the show like they were a live band. Some performers really stay with you – Suzanne Ciani will go down as one of my all time favourites and an experience unlike any other I have had or probably will have.
What’s your remit for Brighton Digital Festival? You seem to do a good balancing act between the fringes of club culture and the more highbrow side of things.
Well ACCA lead on music for Brighton Digital Festival but the very nature of ACCA is that most of our projects are cross arts – we present ambitious and only very contemporary work and the very nature of that is that it is cross arts whether primarily embedded in theatre, dance or music. The other factor for me is that I am a very emotionally driven curator – sometimes work is very clever but if it doesn’t give a very emotional hit it is less likely to be in the programme. We are such emotional beings and I believe Arts is about getting out of the head and into the body. The common factor in all the work is that it is current in the questions it asks, so has a good conceptual starting point and it is aesthetically strong, visually and sonically. I am a huge believer in beauty in art, even when it is ugly!
It must be satisfying to programme for ACCA? It’s a great space and the sound has been really spot on at the things I’ve been to.
ACCA is a very special place – I feel it is a privilege to be a programmer and there is an obligation to really want to provide interesting and new experiences for audiences. As a programmer it’s a dream to work somewhere with integrity, a commitment to new work, good equipment/acoustics. It’s an important foundation to work with the type of artists we build relationships with.
I know you have worked with Laurie Anderson on several occasions. Can you give the unenlightened amongst us a quick history lesson about Laurie and her work, and about last year’s CHALKROOM and this year’s To The Moon installation with Hsin-Chien Huang?
Laurie is an all-round artist of the highest level – musician, storyteller, writer, painter, installation artist. She has been very active for the last 50 years. One of the most recognisable things about her is her voice – a very unique voice that tells you poignant quirky stories within layered digital music. This year’s project To The Moon and last year’s CHALKROOM are her ventures into virtual reality for which she collaborates with Hsin-Chien Chuang. Putting VR in Laurie’s hands takes it to a very special place – out the hands of the more modern video game style we are used to seeing and creating an all encompassing reflective somewhat Zen art piece that you are inside of and directing your own experience.
Am I right in saying that this is the third time Holly Herndon has been in the programme? What attracts you to her work?
It is my second time working with Holly. I love Holly as she is progressive in how she incorporates technology into her work but it is always about an exploration of humanity. This show is pretty special with an expanded line up of musicians and a vocal section. It’s about her AI Baby called SPAWN. SPAWN is constantly fed information through datasets and from this she grows. This project is about seeing how she grows up – SPAWN is not ready to be on stage yet but each show Holly does incorporates the content from call and response interaction with the audience which enables SPAWN to be fed the data and learn about voice models
So that is the concept but most importantly it sounds bloody great!!
I discovered Caterina Barbieri on that Flowers From the Ashes comp of Italian electronic music last year, now she seems to be everywhere. What can you tell us about her way of working and what can we expect from the collaboration with Ruben Spini?
Yes she is dead interesting! Think Bach meets F*ck Buttons! Her work focuses on minimalism – so, repetitive pattern-based sequences. It has that Bach style polyphonic patterns going on but her investigations are about the psycho-physical effects of this musical geometry. She describes it as exploring the potential to induce a sense of ecstasy and contemplation. Her musical studies and expertise is broad and I think it is quite quickly apparent – it is far beyond simply being a digital/electronic artist. Her Ecstatic Computation album is intoxicating – a total zone out (Agreed – Ed), definitely not background music. It’s an singular experience – headphones album, listen on your own!
Myriam Bleau is programmed alongside Caterina Barbieri. How did you come into contact with her work and what will her performance involve?
Myriam is a Quebecois artist and it seems to me there is some amazing digital activity going on in that place nowadays that I’ve been encountering. This is a new piece utilising a large pendulum on stage that she interacts with and controls via handheld device driving the motion sensors on the pendulum. Like Barbieri she uses modular synthesis to create the sound and landscape – It presented at LEV (Laboratorio de Electrónica Visua, Madrid) earlier this year and was fantastically received – a real talking point. Together these two are going to be a really fascinating evening – very different artistically and with very different moods and visual manifestation.
There seems to be quite a buzz about the Tim Hecker show, one of only two this year in the UK. He has progressed from DJ/techno producer into more sophisticated composition work and collaborations. He seems like a perfect fit with Brighton Digital Festival. What interests you about his work and what can you tell us about this performance?
Anoyo is Hecker’s ninth album and is the sister album to Konoyo. He made them in Japan in collaboration with the Gagaku ensemble in a Japanese temple. I find his work deeply reflective, consuming and elegant. Support comes from SUGAI KEN who has been labelled ‘neo-japonica’, an initiative created between traditions and contemporary sound technologies, Japanese folk music, urban native field recordings and sound art.
And the other show on at ACCA is as part of Brighton Digital Festival is Planningtorock …
This is a premiere of reworked versions of the last album Powerhouse. Planningtorock are going to release an album next year which will be Powerhouse Unplugged – Live from the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. At this show they will be trying out some very raw stripped back versions so it is something of a prelude that will have the more familiar high energy electronic vibe we are more used to hearing. Jam has invited the other two performers and is turning this night into one big genderqueer dance party. The last time I worked with Planningtorock it was one of the gigs I have danced the most at – such good energy and a very talented artist. Planningtorock is joined by YaYa Bones and S/HE (Tomboy’s Don’t Cry)
What else are you working on for ACCA, outside of ACCA Digital?
ACCA is mostly about rare/special events – I can’t really say too much more at this stage but just that there are some lovely conversations with artists going on presently, so we will see what occurs!
Full listing for Brighton Digital Festival can be found here.