Leave your mark with 'geo-graffiti'

The Futuresonic festival is a mix of gigs, club nights, DJ workshops and interactive street-walking
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The Independent Culture

The Futuresonic festival in Manchester is dedicated to the interactive blur that is passing between electronic music and media arts. This year's event mixes gigs, club nights, DJ workshops, installations, interactive street-walking and a multi-media exhibition.

The Futuresonic festival in Manchester is dedicated to the interactive blur that is passing between electronic music and media arts. This year's event mixes gigs, club nights, DJ workshops, installations, interactive street-walking and a multi-media exhibition.

Futuresonic began in 1995, just when the UK clubbing scene was, according to the festival's founder and director, Dr Drew Hemment, coming of age. At that time, the festival was presenting a groundbreaking concept, and since then, it has expanded and evolved, retaining its freshness.

Each year, Futuresonic has a specific focus. "The biggest buzz area at the moment is located media," Hemment enthuses. "Basically using devices that know where you are, for either artistic purposes or community-based events. This is blowing up at the moment."

A lot of the focus is on GPS-enabled gear, most often used for gaming or commercial spamming. Things start to become sinister when supermarket goods are tagged for locational purposes. "This is the scary end," says Hemment. "In Finland, they've introduced a service that enables parents to track their kids 24 hours a day. They go online, see a website with a map giving a little mark where their kid is: they do it without consent, if the kid's under 16..."

That's the mainstream usage, but these techniques can also be incorporated into the artistic sphere. Futuresonic's Mobile Locations features "Sonic Interface", by Japanese artist Akitsugu Maebayashi, where headphones block out exterior sounds and filter them through an extremely disorientating 20-second delay. Mobile Locations will also offer an interactive experience on the streets of Manchester. Wanderers will be equipped with a flat-screen computer, a GPS device and a pair of headphones. Acts of geo-graffiti can leave a fragment of speech, a music track or animation, assigned a set of co-ordinates where they can be picked up, and can only be accessed from this specific location.

"It's dead simple," says Hemment. "You walk past a number of places in the city, see a sign which invites you to text a number, and you get texted back a secret little history about something that happened at that point." Then, this communal store is open to the addition of new text contributions, giving a choice between the "official" history and public additions.

Futuresonic's second major theme is a celebration of the Technics 1200MK2 turntable, which is now enjoying its 25th anniversary. "The 1200 is one of the iconic objects of the last century," says Hemment. "Even though there's other turntables that are more advanced, the Technics is the one people go to. It's a design thing."

This part of the festival ranges from the wax-cylinder primitivism of Matt Wand and Aleks Kolkowski to the Future DJ evening which explores the latest software developments for computer-assisted scratching. D-Styles will be representing California's Invisibl Skratch Piklz, performing with a full live unit of four DJs.

Futuresonic 04, various Manchester locations ( www.futuresonic.com), 27 April to 8 May

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