An Inspirational NOISE

An Inspirational NOISE

Poster design by Eunice Chung

An Inspirational NOISEAn Inspirational NOISE

Festival photos by Andrew Viny

The Carnegie Mellon University community came together on a recent April weekend to enjoy performances, workshops, instruments — and the unexpected. They were celebrating NOISE — at the 2013 wats:ON? Festival.

The event — more formally entitled the Jill Watson Festival Across the Arts — was established by Watson's parents in 1996 to honor the life of their daughter, a CMU School of Architecture alumna, adjunct faculty member and acclaimed Pittsburgh architect who died in the TWA Flight 800 plane crash. The festival celebrates her interdisciplinary artistic philosophy. 

Begun as an eclectic gathering, the event had lost steam until adjunct assistant professor of architecture Spike Wolff and a colleague, Pablo Garcia, revitalized it in 2010. Committed to ensuring, as Wolff says, "that the event should be entertaining and participatory, and attract a diverse audience from across campus," they secured renowned artists, inspiring installations — and watched it blossom.

With Golan Levin from the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry co-curating, this year's lineup included an exploration of sound and music in films, robotic and electronically enhanced sound-music performances, a workshop on making noise with pure data, and much more.

Inspired by the 100th anniversary of futurist artist Luigi Russolo's 1913 manifesto, the theme "really encapsulates our idea about exploring a mode of art that has the power to engulf you, the experience of noise and sound can be a very physical thing," explained Wolff. "The theme of NOISE allows for the quiet as well as the roar."

"The events attract a mix of people and cultures from across campus," she added. "They enjoy that we bring the unexpected, and bring artists and art forms that they may not have known existed."

The curators added to the excitement with an interactive public exhibit — a collection of ten reconstructed Russolo noise machines, ready for experimentation. Previous year's exhibits included a high-speed photo booth and a massive paper installation that "devoured" the College of Fine Arts' Great Hall.

With CMU collaborative enthusiasm, contributions to the festival's success came from throughout fine arts and beyond — involving faculty, staff, and of course — students.

"We try to involve students as much as possible in the planning and execution of the festival," noted Wolff.

Graduate and undergraduate student contributions ranged from designing and constructing instruments and composing pieces to designing the poster and conducting workshop experiences.

And as always, "The spirit and power of Jill's memory is the inspiration and force behind each festival," Wolff said.

Related Links: Read the press release | College of Fine Arts | School of Architecture | STUDIO for Creative Inquiry | Human-Computer Interaction Institute

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