Idea Engine

The best ways to experience Fusebox Festival: Free range art and digestible feats of brilliance

Fusebox Festival promises free range art and digestible feats

Austin Photo Set: News_Justin_sonya cote_fusebox_may 2012_food
Exploring food and drink at Fusebox. Photo by Erica Nix
Austin Photo Set: News_Justin_sonya cote_fusebox_may 2012_graham reynolds
Graham Reynolds performs. Photo by Erica Nix
Fusebox Fesstival Transfiguration exhibit
transFIGURATION: Wura-Natasha Ogunji. Courtesy of Fusebox Festival
Austin Photo Set: News_Justin_sonya cote_fusebox_may 2012_food
Austin Photo Set: News_Justin_sonya cote_fusebox_may 2012_graham reynolds
Fusebox Fesstival Transfiguration exhibit

We are a city that embraces creativity of all kinds. Having just wrapped Art City Austin, we turn our gaze to the upcoming Fusebox Festival, beginning April 17 and running through April 28.

Founded in 2005 by Artistic Director Ron Berry in East Austin, Fusebox champions adventurous works of art across a variety of different mediums. The nonprofit organization aims to create new avenues of conversation; present contemporary works and programs that challenge, re-invent and push us forward; further our understanding of contemporary arts through various education programs; and provide resources, equipment and money for the creation of new works and improved sustainability for artists. 

Fusebox is an idea engine. A space where artists and audiences can take risks, ask questions, break rules, blur boundaries and explore ideas together. Fusebox is a platform for visionary works, unabashed play and new ways of engaging with our world.

Three years ago the festival kicked off with 200 dancers performing a Texas two-step on the Capitol lawn to the music of contemporary composer Graham Reynolds. This year's festival promises to be bigger than ever, and will offer more than 40 events in 12 days, across 15 different venues around Austin. Here are some of the best ways to explore Fusebox Festival 2013.

Free Range Art
An ongoing series of installations, performances, experiments and encounters outside the traditional walls of theaters and galleries, these experiences are 100 percent free. Projects that are part of Free Range Art include 20 Ft. Wide, kicking off at 8:30 p.m. on April 17 in the alley between Congress and Brazos at Ninth and 10th Streets. This installation by Dan Cheetham and Michelle Tarsney is a case study in transforming a downtown alley into a vibrant public open space, meant to connect us with the dynamic past, present and future roles of Austin's urban alley system. It will include a musical performance by Convergence at 8:45 p.m.

Another project is transFIGURATION, by Wura-Natasha Ogunji. Opening on April 22 at 7 p.m. at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, Ogunji's work explores water, land and air, often engaging her body in explorations of movement. “I chose to transform my portrait at the sea in Lagos, Nigeria because I have felt so changed by the experience of living and making work here," Ogunji says of the exhibit. "This particular place is marked by the abandoned ships that stretch for miles along the shore. Though immense, the ships are in a process of constant transformation by the sea as they sink deeper into the sands or are tossed and turned by the ocean. This seemed an ideal place to destroy my own image.”

Digestible Feats
Focusing on unique collaborations between culinary artists and artists from other disciplines (including writers, musicians, sound engineers, actors and painters), this series creates opportunities for conversation by planning interesting culinary moments where artists and audience members can sit and talk over beautiful food and drink. Events include a Fusebox Family BBQ at Live Oak BBQ on April 21 at 11 a.m., Lord Wensleydale's Last High Tea at Umlauf Sculpture Garden on April 27 at 1:30 p.m., and Zen Songs and Prayers on April 28 at noon (also at Umlauf).

Art & Tech
This is the newest component of Fusebox, and the festival is in the early stages of launching the new series investigating the intersection of art, culture, and technology. "We felt it was becoming increasingly difficult to have a dialogue about contemporary culture without dealing with technology in some shape or form and wanted to create a specific space for this conversation," the Fusebox website states. "And by technology, we are talking about both emergent technologies and their infinite possibilities, as well the simple, mundane, ubiquitous tools and programs we use daily without blinking an eye."

This Fusebox series will explore promising new technologies and the fresh thinking they inspire, but will also hold up a lens to our expanding, often very intimate relationship, with technology. What are the numerous implications? Are there certain ideas, systems and methodologies that are playing out in the technology world that we can apply to other social, economic and political structures? Can this particular series allow us to engage with new populations, organizations, and ideas in meaningful new ways? 

Art & Tech project Cue China is a short film that is a dream-like encounter between creator Ant Hampton and Chinese migrant workers who were sickened by n-hexane, a chemical used to clean the iPhone's glass screen. At the work's core is a simple proposal — that as consumers we stop for a moment, look into the eyes of those who make our stuff, and allow them to look back at us with an equal capacity for curiosity, humor and desire. “The idea is to get beyond these stories of victim-hood, which are mostly what you get from news stories," Hampton says. "To realize that these 'victims' also possess curiosity and a sense of humor. To see the face, literally, behind the screen."

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For more information about everything going on at Fusebox Festival, you can check out the calendar of events on the fest's website. Some events are free and others require tickets, which you can purchase in two ways: Individual event tickets or an all-access Festival Pass for $175.