Blipfest 2011

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Blipfest co-founder Nullsleep, performing to a Saturday crowd

Over the weekend Eyebeam Art & Technology Center hosted the fifth annual Blip Festival. The three day concert series is a hub for the chiptune scene, an international community of musicians composing, arranging, and performing music for vintage computer and game systems such as Gameboy, NES, Commodore 64, and Amiga. For a sound that is left one-dimensional on record and is conflated with gamer culture, Blip provides the optimal conditions for absorbing the scene's depth and diversity. While the genre obviously draws influence from video game soundtracks, this is due in part to the parametric limitations of the medium and its composition environment. Stylistically, the weekend's oeuvre ranged from super posi 8bit pop-punk, to the darker more aggressive corners of electronic music and noise.

On display throughout the three evenings was the Blip Festival Gallery curated by Lindsay Howard. Three video monitors featured works from Sterling Crispin, Alexandra Gorczynski, and Nicolas Sassoon. This rotating exhibition was limited though to a small peripheral area by the entrance, and would have benefited greatly by expanding into the main gallery space. Instead the corners of Eyebeam's main gallery were occupied by vendors offering goods such as Makerbots, Gameboy accessories, and cupcakes. Among the festival's standout performances were: Tristan Perich (2010 Rhizome Commission recipient), offering a performance drawing from his 1 bit symphonies and 4mat, a veteran of the demoscene, and composer of music for the Amiga, presenting his debut public appearance (accompanied by stunning visuals from Enso). Unsurprisingly though co-organizers, and scene veterans Bit Shifter and Nullsleep stole the show (Nullsleep's visuals provided by Tabor Robak), both exuding pure energy with unstudied stage presence.