Cassie McQuarter, DJs Nina Stanger and RHL discuss their involvement with North East of North digital arts festival
The cultural eye may have turned towards Dundee with the opening of the new V&A, but the city has long been a hotbed of creative talent. Now in its tenth year, the annual North East of North digital arts festival celebrates Dundee's rich history of innovation.
To reflect Scotland's Year of Young People, the theme of this year's NEoN festival is 'Lifespans', exploring how technology affects concepts of time and expands our lives beyond the physical into digital and internet realms via virtual gaming and social media. These ideas are explored via artworks, installations, performances, workshops and more.
One of the highlights every year is the late night party NEoN at Night, which takes place at the Reading Rooms and integrates technology into an immersive night of DJs, live music and digital art. The line-up includes Art of the Memory Palace, who will be performing their synth heavy indie/electronica accompanied by digital art from video game artist Cassie McQuarter. 'The piece [Woman in a Video Game] uses machinima visuals to tell a wild, non-linear story about several women video game characters fighting dragons, bonding with their alien overlords, lounging inside a neon-lit home,' explains McQuarter. 'It is a very weird, chaotic ride that I am happy to bring to life again for this occasion.'
Also on the bill are DJs Nina Stanger and RHL. 'At the moment I am playing a lot of UK techno and Industrial,' explains Stanger. 'High energy, aggressive and intense.' Stanger will also be incorporating video art alongside her DJ set. 'Standing Wave is an internal vision I experienced of the mythological figure of the Siren, interpreted into 3D digital sculpture. The work casts a sympathetic light upon the beastly apparitions of femininity that have appeared throughout history in numerous cultures. I think this figure of aggressive and all-consuming femininity is extremely pertinent to the times we are in right now.'
'My DJ sets are mostly house and techno oriented but can veer off into disco and breaks and, if the crowd are up for it, a bit of jungle,' adds DJ RHL, who has become NEoN's resident DJ over the years. 'I've been playing for NEoN since their first party in 2010 which was held in a multi-storey car park in Dundee. My wife Donna [Holford Lovell], who co-runs the festival, was let down by a DJ they'd booked and asked if I could play.'
Appropriately for a festival that celebrates the meeting point between technology and music, artists at NEoN at Night utilise a variety of equipment, computers and machinery in their show. McQuarter fully embraces technology in her work but likes to push it in new and unexpected directions. 'More important, I think, than the actual, tangible technology is the attitude I have towards how I use it,' she says. 'I often don't use tech in the way it is perhaps intended to be used – I like to break things apart to see what's really inside of them, decide what that means to me, and then how I can subvert it.'
Much of Stanger's AV and design work is only possible in the digital age. 'My practice is based on interpreting my own visions and dream states into the realm of tangible objects. Digital software and technology makes translating these fantasies a possibility and a shared reality.'
Despite his love of electronic music and history with NEoN, DJ RHL is comparatively low-tech: 'Whenever I play out I only use vinyl, so the tech I use is very basic, two turntables and a mixer. If the mixer has an effects unit built in then I might use that. I'm a bit of a dinosaur as far as technology goes.'
NEoN, various venues, Dundee, Tue 6–Sun 11 Nov; NEoN at Night, Reading Rooms, Dundee, Sat 10 Nov.
NEoN Digital Arts Festival celebrates the festival with a night of technology driven acts. Expect performances from Mercury-nominated English duo Field Music, and an energetic after party set from local DJs Wee Beastie and RHL.