Indexical Presents Digital Alchemy in Fall 2019
Posted on 8/14/2019

Digital Alchemy

  • A series of four talks at Design by Cosmic, probing the intellectual and ideological histories of art and technology
  • A film screening of Notations by People Like Us with premiere live-score by Blectum from Blechdom
  • Three concerts at Wind River & Radius Gallery, engaging with themes of alienation, colonialism, technology, and cross-species communication

Digital Alchemy is a series of performances and discussions exploring the intertwined intellectual and ideological histories of art and technology, presented throughout Indexical’s Fall 2019 season. This series probes the history, the tacit assumptions, and the systems of control present in our technological and artistic tools.

Curator David Kant summarizes the purpose of the Digital Alchemy festival:

“Digital Alchemy intertwines critical conversation, history, and artistic practice to reflect the relationships between technology and culture. We believe that technology is not neutral, and that art shouldn’t be either.”
—David Kant, Curator & Technical Director, Indexical

Indexical & Design by Cosmic present a monthly series of talks, bringing established and emerging scholars into a critical discourse with artists and technologists. Topics range from the politics of Auto-Tune and other pitch-correction software [9/13/19: Catherine Provenzano], to a look at artificial intelligence through the lens of early electronic music [10/11/19: Jon Leidecker], to techno-utopianism and the disintegrating idealism of 1960s counterculture [11/08/19: Fred Turner], to the intertwining of gender and artificial intelligence [12/13/19: Os Keyes]. All talks are hosted at Design by Cosmic in Downtown Santa Cruz, and are free and open to the public.

Executive Director of Indexical Andrew C. Smith says about the collaboration:

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Design by Cosmic, a company with such a clear social purpose. We look forward to cross-pollinating the art, tech, and design communities in Santa Cruz.”
—Andrew C. Smith, Executive Director, Indexical

Digital Alchemy interweaves talks with performances throughout the Fall 2019 season. The performance series begins with a film screening of The Mirror and Notations by collage artist and filmmaker People Like Us, accompanied by a premiere performance of a live improvised score by underground electronic music duo Blectum from Blechdom [9/28/19: People Like Us + Blectum From Blechdom]. Bennett’s work will be presented in a converted movie theater at DNA’s Comedy Lab in Downtown Santa Cruz.

The concert series continues at Wind River— an intimate studio nestled in the redwoods—with Laetitia Sonami’s new, site-specific “prepared exploration” Of lands and lines, in a concert with interface theorist and media historian Asha Tamirisa [10/19/19: Laetitia Sonami + Asha Tamirisa]. Designed by Sonami in collaboration with technologist Rebecca Fiebrink, the Spring Sprye uses a custom neural network interface through which she “trains” the instrument’s sound-making capabilities. Jack Callahan and Jeff Witscher’s What Happens on Earth Stays on Earth [11/2/19: Jeff Witscher & Jack Callahan] explores the banality of human drama in the 21st century through a multichannel recorded Q&A, which critic Nick James Scavo called:

“an unhinged, overlapping narrative of contemporary life. … [What Happens on Earth Stays on Earth] shares sensibilities with A.A. meetings, group therapy sessions, formalist and Fluxus generative poetry experiments, or Robert Ashley’s television operas.”
—Nick James Scavo

The festival closes with multimedia performance art trio The Powers, who construct absurd and fantastical alternate realities through video, music, storytelling, and dance [11/16/19: The Powers + Sharmi Basu]. In a live performance building on their web series Sistership TV, The Powers explore themes of the cyborg, telepresence, hysteria, the seance, witchcraft, and cross-species communication. Sharmi Basu, an Oakland-based electronic musician and multimedia performance artist, believes in “decolonizing sound,” as “language is colonial and fails us, so we look to alternative modes of expression.” Basu aims for individual and collective liberation, addressing vulnerability, accountability, and the alienation and diaspora of the millennial generation.

Tickets for the Digital Alchemy festival can be found at To arrange interviews, photos, and other information, contact Andrew C. Smith at [email protected].

ManiculeDigital Alchemy Design by Cosmic