Audio Ergo Sum: In Park Slope – Brooklyn, NY on April 30, 2010

Photo by Conor Stinson

This past Friday night there was a rare happening in Brooklyn: a completely independently-produced multimedia festival. It was called Audio Ergo Sum (a spin on the Latin phrase Cogito ergo sum – “I think, therefore I am”). The location: Washington Park, off of Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, an astro-turfed field centered around a Revolutionary-era Dutch farmhouse.
Ari Joseph, who founded and produced the one-day festival, raised $5,000 in contributions by using a new interactive Internet tool called Kickstarter, which collects pledges to fund creative projects through a unique system that uses incentives and quotas that ensure donors pay nothing until the goal is reached.
I arrived at Washington Park at dusk, and as the sunlight gradually surrendered to the neon Staples sign on Fourth Avenue, I watched the bands sound-check while a gaggle of little kids chased thick white weather balloons. The crowd swelled. A guy with a beard was attaching projection screens to the big chain link fence, and soon it was dark. I saw that the weather balloons actually had little LED lights inside them, which rolled and bounced to the delight of the youth in attendance.
As the first band, a local quartet from Greenpoint named simply Author, took the stage, a young man in a teal T-shirt walked through the crowd, handing out frisbees to anyone who waved at him. The band’s guitarist had built his own instrument for the occasion–a Midi-controlled guitar with round plastic keys across the frets instead of strings.

Author played a set of mellow indie rock while a father danced with his young daughter and all the twenty-somethings politely tried–and completely failed–to hide their bottles of beer in plastic grocery bags.

Off to our left, a colorful projection played on the taut cotton tarps, and every now and then someone would run in front of the projected beam with a goofy grin, and their movements would be registered in the light on the screen. “It’s a program I wrote,” said Calli Higgins, who stood behind the projector, which was connected to a laptop, “It’s just sensing motion, and then painting where it detects movement.”

Photo by Conor Stinson

Next door to the motion-painting projection was a small wooden house with a slanted roof that had a narrow seeing-hole cut across it, like a duck blind. This was a sound installation built by Michelle Temple, but due to the high volume of little people playing in it, this writer did not have a chance to climb inside.

After Author, another local band–an eight-piece lounge-jazz outfit complete with stand-up bass, trumpet, and violin–took the stage: this was Cuddle Magic. Behind them, on the old stone Dutch farmhouse, a massive light projection played, which Joseph informed me was created by Molly Schwartz and then mixed by a Japanese VJ named Imagima (who also co-wrote the Projection Motion Painter software). Comandante Zero, kept the music going by DJing between sets, and also drew neon designs via projection on the Old Stone House.

The final act of the evening came around ten thirty. The chiptune, DJ Nullsleep, took the stage and mixed his chaotic 8bit rock-and-roll from two hacked Gameboys. No Carrier, a VJ from Philadelphia, produced the visuals for Nullsleep.

At least two people I spoke with that night told me they had traveled all the way from Washington Heights to attend the festival—over an hour away by subway. It was easy to see why. The only thing better than seeing original live music with your friends on a Friday night in spring, is seeing that music outdoors. Joseph has plans to host a second annual Audio Ergo Sum next spring. Stay tuned.

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– Hunter Stuart


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