It may sound counter-intuitive for a digital arts festival to set its focus upon the physical mysteries and untold wonders of the earth we stand upon. But this year’s edition of Abandon Normal Devices (AND) has married the two contrasting spheres; using pioneering digital technology to offer a fresh series of geological, evolutionary, political and futuristic perspectives on the landscape of the Peak District National Park.
The UK’s only roaming digital festival, AND, resurfaces in 2017 in the caves and rugged summits of the Castleton area, with a four-day programme of digital art interventions, geological installations, technological experiments and previously unseen film screenings, presenting work by an international selection of more than 25 artists. Among the highlights: Waterlicht will flood the v-shaped valley of Winnats Pass with light and smoke to reveal the geological and glacial histories that shaped it. An augmented-reality exhibition will geo-fence a section of the village, connecting with ideas of borders and silos within digital cultures. And Hearing Gravity will lead visitors on an immersive listening journey through Peak Cavern.
The festival has been curated both ‘vertically’ and ‘horizontally’: travelling from the dizzying heights of satellite imagery and drone technology, down through layers of earth to the network of caves, caverns and veins that lies beneath; and using the theme of ‘Deep Time’ to look back to the very beginnings of the universe. Artists have also looked forwards, becoming ‘archaeologists of the future’; unearthing rare sounds, simulated environments and technological ruins. Others examine the glitches, chasms, and fissures opening up between the physical and virtual world; and the ancient mythologies, esoteric oral histories and sonic rhythms of the below.
This year, AND drag us away from our screens and into the countryside; revealing how digital technology can be used as a tool to bring us closer to, rather further from, the non-virtual world. Something we perhaps all need a bit more of.