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Tactical media, a term heard more and more these days, was apparently coined in 1993 at the first Next 5 Minutes Festival in Amsterdam, Holland—a semi-yearly festival conjoining art, activism, media experimentation and critical theory. The nexus of these discourses is tactical media. The nexus of tactical media in upstate New York is seemingly Troy.

Back in March, a group from the arts community in Troy—many associated with the integrated-arts program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—traveled to Chicago to attend the second annual Version Festival, a media-arts happening that also doubled as part of the fourth Next 5 Minutes Festival. In an attempt to decentralize the event, Next 5 Minutes, usually held in Amsterdam, is setting up tactical media labs around the world. Version Festival was a tactical media lab.

It was a train-ride discussion between some of the Version Fest attendees during their trip back home that gave birth to a tactical-media lab of sorts right here in our own backyard: Pavilion: Skillshare, Forum, Picnic, the bulk of which takes place in Troy’s Riverfront Park on Saturday (May 4).

Nathan Martin, Tara Mateik, Andrew Lynn, Annemarie Lanesey and Tyler Jacobsen have been hard at work ever since that conversation, making plans and scrounging whatever they can get their hands on to create an event that better fits their idea of what a “tactical-media lab” should be—all without any money. “Right now we’re at $140 total, including our permit to rent the park,” says Martin.

The five were reacting to their experience at the Chicago festival, which in addition to having a lot of funding for a tactical-media event, was not at all conducive to discussion. People rushed from presentation to presentation, without having a space to sit down and talk about what they saw and what ideas came out of their experience. According to Martin, it was more about showing than sharing in Chicago.

“The focus should be on discussion,” says Martin, “one of the things that gets lost at media-arts events.” So fostering discussion is one of the main tenets of Pavilion, and the organizers kept organizing to a minimum in an attempt to do so—the less organizing, the more chance for organic interactions. So, while there is a schedule of events, the times are flexible. “Anyone that wants to adjust the schedule can add themselves in,” says Martin, hoping that the overlap will generate new unforeseen interactions.

The fact that Pavilion will take place in the open environs of Riverfront Park, free of charge, is important to the organizers. They desire anyone with even the tiniest inkling that this event may be of any interest to attend. According to Martin, he hopes that there will be so many strange happenings in that area on that day that someone may just want to come and sit in.

“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable or don’t feel like they should, or could, lead a discussion about what they do,” says Martin. “I mean a lot of people do really interesting, weird, quirky things that they should talk about, but they don’t think they’re important. It’s tough to convince people to get outside that bubble.”

And while outside the bubble at Pavilion, one should take the opportunity to explore new and different ideas presented by already scheduled groups. Such as the Anatomy of a Surveillance Camera workshop (presently scheduled for 1 PM) by Troy-based Institute for Applied Autonomy; or Flashpoint, a workshop about how to turn disposable cameras into mini projectors (1:30 PM), with Carbon Defense League, also Troy-based. The IAA will also lead a discussion, Our Robots, Our Selves, presenting “documentation of their past research in the intersections of activism, robotics and recreational paranoia.” And the CDL, along with, will discuss the Re-Code v. Wal-Mart scuffle (written about in an April 24 Newsfront).

While a few of the groups attending, including Buffalo-based Critical Art Ensemble and New York City group Paper Tiger, will make a journey for Pavilion, the majority are from the area. “It’s almost entirely regionally specific,” says Martin. “Which was our goal, too. To try to get people to realize what they have access to in this area—all the stuff that actually is going on—and to get to meet new people.”

Some of the other groups attending include Ironweed Collective, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Women Against War, Department of Experimental Services, Troy Bike Rescue and Food Not Bombs Albany.

Pavilion: Skillshare, Forum, Picnic kicks off on Friday (May 2) with a show at the new Troy arts space 51 3rd St. (see Noteworthy for information). Saturday (May 3) will see a lion’s share of the events, at Troy’s Riverfront Park. Along with the expanding list of workshops and discussions, the event features a tent with ongoing video works, open-mike areas and tables set up for the exchange of goods or information. There will also be roaming artists, such as the Jen Mesch Dance Conspiracy and Cromagnetron, who will provide caricatures to those willing. You can even get in a game of foursquare or air hockey if it suits your fancy.

The iEAR Arts MFA Graduate show at RPI is slated for Sunday’s (May 4) event. It takes place at 4 PM at West Hall. Go to for information about signing up for participation, schedules and the like.

—Kate Sipher

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