August 9, 2019

An open letter from New Forms about the loss of Great Northern Way

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July 26, 2019

To the Presidents of UBC, SFU, BCIT and ECUAD and the Board of GNWC,

This letter of concern is written in regards to a situation that arose over the course of this past Spring between the New Forms Festival (NFF) and the Great Northern Way Campus (GNWC). Our concerns not only relate to the unfortunate situation that transpired, but more generally to the history and greater successes of the Campus, and the cultural health and sustainability of our city.

The New Forms Media Society has existed since 2000 in Vancouver. Our main program each year is the annual New Forms Festival, as well as ongoing events, symposia, and exhibitions. The festival’s mandate focuses on media art, electronic music, and providing a much-needed annual connecting point for diverse regional and international artist communities to learn from one another. The festival is internationally recognized and a founding member of ICAS, a global network of similar festivals, that has been working together since 2005. New Forms Media Society (NFMS) was one of the first cultural organizations to work in partnership with a number of other artist collectives and studios then located and warehoused on the Campus in 2008-2009. This was the beginning of the cultural revival and restoration of GNWC, following immediately after Finning’s gift, and was truly the beginning of what the Campus was to become today. Since then, the annual New Forms Festival has taken place over eight times on the Campus and has been instrumental in making this area of Vancouver not only a local, but an internationally recognized cultural location.

The New Forms Festival has been one of the only recurring cultural events held at GNWC. In 2010, GNWC served as a locus for the Cultural Olympiad, NFF Founder and Director Malcolm Levy was also the curator for the co-located CODE Live, Digital Arts Festival that took place the same season. With the support of the four schools (BCIT, ECUAD, SFU, and UBC), the New Forms Media Society has been working since then to advocate and continue to set the stage for cultural development on the Campus. New Forms has helped in creating cultural and participatory discourse not only during the Olympics but also helped usher in a new era with the arrival of Emily Carr University of Art and Design and the myriad of galleries and cultural stakeholders drawn to the cultural activities of the Campus. It has always been an active stakeholder and vocal participant in the development of the Campus cultural footprint. The legacy left by the Olympics and the programming of the Cultural Olympiad was supposed to keep GNWC as a cultural area in the city, reshaping the industrial lands as a cultural marker and integral to reframing the identity of the site. We strongly believe that it is not only desired but also needed for the benefit of the city, the community, students, faculty, and all the other tenants. Most importantly, New Forms' has provided a unique meeting point for GNW students, faculty and local and international artist communities to engage with one another. Faculty at Emily Carr, SFU and CDM serve on New Forms' board, and these members are vested in sustaining pathways that support both curricula and the greater Vancouver arts community.

New Forms has enjoyed a decade long relationship with the CDM as well as the long term GNWC tenant and stakeholders Blackbird Interactive and the eatART Foundation. New Forms has held a long term understanding and agreement with regard to the use of Campus spaces for the festival.

To our surprise and dismay, in 2019 this will not be the case.

The following outline highlights a series of key events and decisions leading to the current situation.  
  • This past year New Forms had come to an agreement over the use and production for NFF2019 with our partners on site, which had been in discussion for 5 months, and we were led to believe all arrangements were confirmed.
  • New Forms began programming for the upcoming festival NFF2019 based on the physical and technical capacity of the spaces agreed to, as well as the general setup and capacities for the area from past years.
  • New Forms moved forward in our meeting with the GNWC management team on what was supposed to be a formality, based on the longstanding agreement in principle. 
  • There was never any indication of any issues with moving forward.

The following is a short synopsis of what occurred during Malcolm Levy’s follow up meeting with GNWC, on Tuesday May 7th, with Chris Hindle and the GNWC team, where New Forms was fully expecting a short discussion on any administrative or logistic details needed to advance planning of the event. 

Before proceeding with the meeting around moving forward on NFF2019 with the GNWC Trust, New Forms had already gained full support of all of our partners whom we normally co-present the festival with, including the CDM and Blackbird / eatArt, which allows us to use the Hangar and the Warehouse, two buildings designed, equipped and targeted specifically for events such as New Forms. It needs to be noted that hardly any buildings of that nature exist for any sort of arts and cultural usage in the City of Vancouver. 

When we entered our meeting with the GNWC Trust Operations group, we were bombarded with a number of things that were both shocking for our organization but also the larger catastrophe involving cultural spaces and real estate at the moment in Vancouver. We were directly told the following points, and asked for them to be repeated numerous times for clarity during the meeting:
  1. That the GNWC Trust no longer supports culture as part of its mandate, this was repeated several times during the meeting because it was insisted this be explained;
  2. That the GNWC Trust was now “going a different direction” based on all of the land being sold, specifically referring to Low Tide and their new building.  
This needs to be acknowledged: we live in a city at a time, where the lack of spaces and lack of private support for culture is far beyond the breaking point. These spaces are far more vital to Vancouver and offer more value than any condo or industry development will at this time, because without them the city will be left without any culture - and if that is the case, it will become a wasteland. The unexpected, untimely and miscommunicated decision from the GNWC cost New Forms two months to find another space, thousands of dollars in expenses, and a huge amount of wasted time. It isn’t hard to imagine what is happening with smaller organizations and collectives trying to do the same. It is literally impossible.  

It goes without saying that the ‘South Flatz’ project by Low Tide which uses culture as central to its branding, is trying to whitewash the culture that New Forms and others created - both with regard to selling high end properties, but also by shutting down the culture at the same time.  

The impact that Low Tide has had on the destruction of culture in Vancouver is staggering. At this point, 18 cultural and social benefit groups, ranging from performance spaces, to AIDS Vancouver, to harm reduction groups on the Downtown Eastside have been thrown out. We have heard from many of these groups, and are honestly shocked that this has happened, and that the four schools would condone this behavior through partnering with Low Tide, and even helping them in this mission of gentrification.

The GNWC Board, and the four schools representing GNWC (BCIT, ECUAD, SFU, and UBC) need to finally acknowledge this and make it a priority to shift what is already a situation almost beyond repair. The land was given to the schools specifically to bring in a new generation of culture, education and research, not as a real estate land grab. There is hardly any other cultural institution that speaks to and for the community in this city under the age of 40. An entire generation has been lost in the push toward real estate at all costs. 

For those reasons, the Board of New Forms requests that the Board of the GNWC reinstate culture in its mandate, not only for groups such as New Forms, but for the rest of the community and its survival at this point, as well as focusing on reinstating New Forms events, eatART events, and similar for the future.  

We would also like to give the GWNC Trust and other stakeholders an opportunity to communicate with the New Forms Board and Directors, and most importantly to the global cultural community.  

We have watched with great concern how Low Tide’s development practices have negatively impacted numerous communities across the city and the greater metropolitan area. To watch this happen with the support of the four main educational institutions is a slippery slope that has consequences for all of its students and faculty, not only now, but for years to come.  

New Forms Media Society Board of Directors, and
New Forms Festival 2019 Directors 

Board of Directors:
Malcolm Levy
Philippe Pasquier
Alexandra Chen
James Daniels
Aryana Sye
Miro Oballa
Keith Doyle

JS Aurelius
Lauren Goshinski
Ceci Corsano-Leopizzi

July 9, 2019

New Forms Festival 2019 Announces First Wave Artist Line-up, All Access and Weekend Passes

New Forms Festival is excited to announce its first wave line-up, for the festival’s 19th edition which runs September 25-29, 2019 across multiple venues in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Featuring a heavy dose of North American and Canadian premiers, this year’s program reflects a wide range of perspectives and sonic output from artists who are pushing boundaries across cultural landscapes spanning Canada, the United States, and the UK, Taiwan, Uganda, Mexico and more.

New Forms Festival respectfully acknowledges its location on unceded, traditional, and ancestral xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories.  

A limited number of FESTIVAL PASSES and WEEKEND PASSES are now available for purchase at www.newformsfestival.com

NFF2019                                                          First Announcement

New Forms 2019 reflects an ethos of artist collectives implicitly and explicitly throughout the program.

In addition to co-presenting programs with local crews and artist-run organizations, the festival features various collaborations and collectives throughout the program. As part of this approach New Forms is excited to announce its first North American label residency in partnership with Purple Tape Pedigree (PTP)

Running the length of the festival, the label residency features a series of events that showcase PTP’s collective breadth, vision, and ingenuity traversing noise, rap, experimental electronic music, performance and multimodal archives with a showcase featuring Dis Fig, Dreamcrusher, King Vision Ultra, Yatta, Via App, and Lana Del Rabies; a durational sound installation by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste; and forum featuring talks and demos with the artists and label founder. The residency supports a DIY cohort spread across New York, Phoenix, Berlin, and beyond, to spend time together as a collective, and share their process with new communities in the Pacific Northwest.

New Forms’ weekend showcases throw themselves into various states of ecstasy and elevation.

From Sustain-Release co-founder Aurora Halal’s psychedelic, pulsating live sets, to the "deliciously confrontational" energy brought by Berlin-based LSDXOXO, fearless experimental ballroom performances by Houston-based House Of Kenzo, and three deck wizardry from Amsterdam’s legendary DJ Marcelle, Friday and Saturday showcases are a journey in and of themselves. Joined by a cross-section of UK artists who have been making waves in 2019: Afrodeutsche’s blend of futuristic electro, Sherelle’s 160 bpm frenetic hybrid of footwork and jungle, and the raw energy of Bristol’s bombastic improvised punk-techno duo Giant Swan. Uganda’s Nyege Nyege/Boutiq Electroniq affiliate Kampire also makes her Canadian debut at New Forms, while Toronto’s Ciel brings her elevated dancefloor sound, and Vancouver’s favorite pop bicon Prado weaves choreography and haunting vocals across the stage. 

Meanwhile, the Egyptian/Iranian artist via London Lafawndah demands not to be put in a box, pushing listeners to shirk their understanding of a modem-enabled “global” album, while Mexico City’s Debit combines techno and industrial elements with a North Mexican regional music in her take on tribal guarachero. Istanbul-born, Berlin-based Nene H is hailed as part of a new generation pushing techno forward -- achieving notable acclaim as a classically trained pianist, she has chosen a liberating path where she adapts contemporary art into her work. 

New Forms is honored to support two multimedia performances making a World Premiere and North American debut.

Vienna-based artist and 80’s industrial music vanguard Zoe DeWitt resurrects her Zero Kama project for the world premiere of BARDO MUZAK - a reference to Tibetan Buddhist’s bardo state, which denotes an inbetweenness of consciousness, usually referring to the time between death and rebirth; and Taipei’s 破地獄/Scattered Purgatory (Lu Li-Yang and Lu Jiachi), a duo formed in 2013 whose name is derived from a Taoist ritual which expiates the souls of the innocent from a state in between life and death and then at last, release.

Canada’s strong and growing dance music currents are represented by two All-Canadian after parties featuring break-through artists. 

Weekend afters forefront knife-sharp industrial techno from Minimal Violence; a new a/v set from s.M.i.L.e affiliate x/o, “techno’s trans Madonna” Baby Blue, and collective co-founder Jade Statues; holographic rave from Naive affiliate Overland; a collision of punk, rap and hardcore club from Deathbomb Arc’s Debby Friday; coastal breakbeat and trance from Planet Euphorique’s D. Tiffany; acid infected house and techno from NuZi collective’s Venetta; an experimental take on trip hop and RnB from Tkáron:to (Toronto’s) Ziibiwan; and scorching turns from Montreal’s NEW/Booma Collective! Ginger Breaker

The festival is bookended with an opening night performance by Japanese noise legend KK Null in collaboration with Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi, and closing block party with queer collectives Public Disco, Honcho, and Directory LA featuring DJ duos Diana Boss, Aaron Clark & Clark Price, and Bianca Lexis & They/Them DJ.

The artists who are part of this year’s festival have founded, are leading or contributing to independent projects, clubs, labels, streaming and event platforms whose vibrancy and impact are predicated on a commitment to collective action and survival. New Forms encourages the public to consider the multi various roles leveraged by artists in order to sustain artistic movements and scenes that are as essential as they are game-changing on both a local and global scale.


New Directors

The 19th Edition of New Forms Festival takes on a change in leadership marked by the arrival of a new directorial team working with the organization’s board of directors. This new team consists of VIA Festival co-founder and Hot Mass resident Lauren Goshinski from Pittsburgh, PA; Phoenix to Vancouver transplant and Ascetic House collective director JS Aurelius; and TUF co-founder and Discwoman affiliate Ceci Corsano-Leopizzi based in Seattle, WA. Uniquely positioned across the North American landscape, each of these directors has been a critical force in shaping their regional scenes, linking international networks, and fueling larger creative movements through their professions as musicians/DJs, cultural workers, and curators -- spanning music, performance, digital art, design, and film. The common ground for all the directors is a shared commitment to creating and supporting platforms for traditionally underrepresented artists and artforms who challenge dominant local and global cultural narratives.

Community Partners

NFF19 continues its commitment to working with Vancouver-based organizations and artist collectives that are pushing the envelope. New partners introduced to the 2019 program include the open-air dance party initiative Public Disco celebrating queer identity and vibrant self-expression; NuZi collective who are dedicated to providing a platform for black women, women of colour and trans folks within the Vancouver electronic music scene; Sacred Sound Club, the label and event series exploring the darker recesses of club music; the vital underground force of the s.M.i.L.e. crew; the interdisciplinary artist and residency space James Black Gallery; and the prolific local ambient music series Quiet City. New Forms teams up again with Deep Blue, a multipurpose studio and artist hub, to showcase their space with a series of avant-garde sound programs, as well as CURRENT Feminist Electronic Art Symposium to support a mentorship track for cultural producers. New Forms and their partners co-organize events that highlight mutually inspirational artists and shared cultural mandates, allowing everyone to achieve greater goals together.

New Venues

In a city where independent cultural spaces are continuously threatened by real estate development, New Forms Festival has survived by setting a precedent for activating spaces that have scarcely, if at all, been used for electronic music and contemporary art installations. This characteristic of the festival is continued through partnerships with new venues and support from the city’s administration. This year’s flagship venues welcome the festival to the historic, centrally-located neighborhood of Railtown. Established in 1906, the Vancouver Japanese Language School & Japanese Hall [Vancouver Nihon-go Gakko narabi ni Nikkei Jin Kaikan] is a non-profit, community-based organization committed to education, culture and community. Their mission is to actively uphold the history of Vancouver’s Nikkei community and to facilitate cultural exchange to strengthen and enrich intercultural communication and understanding with other multicultural local and international groups. Across the street, The Pace is a woman-owned coworking and event space in Railtown, for small businesses and independent creatives. In addition to providing affordable space, they are committed to environmental and economic sustainability through special projects like their textile waste ReUSE program. 

Additional music showcases and daytime programs will be held adjacent to the Main Street corridor, at The Fox, Red Gate, Deep Blue, Open Studios, James Black Gallery, and more to be announced. Full program details will be listed at www.newformsfestival.com.  


Continuing Commitment

New Forms Media Society has always been committed to showcasing acclaimed musicians and artists from across the world alongside local and emerging talent, drawing together lineups that are as diverse as they are cohesive. New Forms Media Society is a non-profit society and media arts organization founded in 2000 that nurtures and connects local and international artists, thinkers, practitioners, and the public through the annual New Forms Festival.  A member of International Cities of Advanced Sound (ICAS), NFF is part of a larger international media and electronic music festival movement, that explores the ever-changing and evolving world of art, while creating a platform for cultural exchange and artistic growth. The society wishes to make new media art, music, film, technology-based installation and performance accessible to a wider audience.

New Forms is made possible with the support of the Canada Council Council for the Arts, Arts Presentation Canada, The Province of British Columbia, Creative BC, and The City of Vancouver. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada's Private Radio Broadcasters. 

Copyright © 2019 New Forms Media Society, All rights reserved.