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VIA Audio/Visual Festival highlights Pittsburgh's music, art and technology

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Chances are good you've caught wind of this weekend's VIA festival. Maybe you heard it's some huge music festival. Or that it's an art thing that has to do with Carnegie Mellon University. Or that it's good for Pittsburgh. Or that there's an open bar.

These crumbs may be true enough, but there's one thing VIA's directors, Lauren Goshinski and Quinn Leonowicz, want to make perfectly clear: It's not just an electronic-music festival. 

"We're in 2010, there are no glow sticks," Goshinski says, with a laugh. "That idea has unpacked itself more than people, I think, realize. I think we're trying to put it another context, and allow the artists to stand on their own."

The three-day event does feature some big names in music, sure, particularly of the danceable varieties: Matthew Dear, Dãm-Funk, !!!, Oneida, Freddie Gibbs -- too many to name. But for every audio adventurer, there's also an equally advanced visual element: interactive visuals from London's Mehmet Akten; animation and lasers; video and film; and sound-reactive video games from KOKOROMI Collective. Some audio and visual artists came already in tandem -- such as Alison Childs and Steve Moore -- and the rest were nudged together by Goshinski and Leonowicz.

VIA isn't so much about a pop-art collision of high and low art, Goshinski says, as it is about the intersection of entertainment and art. (Admittedly, one of the games is called "I Have Big Balls," but still.) "It's an extremely vibrant, happy lineup across the board," she says.

Probably the second important thing about VIA is the status given to Pittsburgh-based artists. One of its stated goals is to reaffirm "Pittsburgh as a destination and thoroughfare for multi-disciplinary performance and innovation at the intersection of art, music, and technology." What that actually means is that VIA is roughly 50 percent homegrown, featuring music from the likes of Majeure, Shawn Rudiman, Xanopticon and  Shindiggaz, as well as visuals from Jen Inman, Lightwave International and many more.

"In some ways, we're honoring people who have been working really hard for a long time," Goshinski says. But there are also new faces, "people that are newer that have a good feeling about them, who have drive, who have an energy that we want the city to have." 

The main event's initial venue, the former Iron City Brewery, also symbolized that local emphasis -- showing "new Pittsburgh inside the shell of old Pittsburgh," as Goshinski puts it. When the Lawrenceville building's condition deteriorated, VIA had to find another space, and fast -- and located a cavernous film studio near the 31st Street Bridge. Goshinski hopes that, like the Iron City location, people will also be excited about this unique opportunity to explore a space they've seen only from the outside.

Goshinski and Lenowicz had been kicking around bits of the idea for a few years, but VIA really started with conversations at this year's Art All Night exhibit in Lawrenceville, less than six months ago. 

Initially envisioned as a one-day annual festival, VIA soon swelled to three days, three main venues and several satellite events. It also gained support from the Sprout Fund, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center and several other areas of CMU, where Goshinski works on the staff for the School of Art. (City Paper is among the event's many media partners, and one of the satellite events is presented by contributor Manny Theiner.) 

The dozen or so organizers, too, are kind of a Who's Who for the region's "multi-dimensional people," as Lenowicz puts it. With so many artists, organizations, people and ideas coming together, "It's kind of like a big zipper," says Goshinski.

 

VIA Audio/Visual Festival Complete schedule and ticket info at www.via-pgh.org

Fri., Oct. 1
Carnegie Mellon University Daytime workshops and artist talks (Noon-5 p.m., CFA 303); kickoff party and dance workshop (7-9 p.m. Rangos 3). 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. All ages. 
Garfield Artworks. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $6. All ages. 
Wood Street Gallery, "Shortplayer/Longplayer." 5:30-9 p.m. 601 Wood St., Downtown. Free. All ages. 

Sat., Oct. 2
31st Street Studios 4 p.m.-4 a.m. 77 31st St., Strip District. $40 ($50 day of show; $52 weekend pass). 18 and over. 

Sun., Oct. 3
Sunday Brunch at Round Corner Cantina. Noon-6 p.m. 3720 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $8-10. 21 and over.
Lawrenceville Moose Lodge 6 p.m.-2 a.m. 120 51st St., Lawrenceville. $20 ($25 day of show, $52 weekend pass). 18 and over. 

Early adopter: Dm-Funk performs Saturday at 31st St. Studios
  • Early adopter: Dm-Funk performs Saturday at 31st St. Studios

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