FOTA’s “Sight x Sound” Is a Sight to Be Heard

FOTA’s annual “Sight x Sound” celebrates the abundant musical and visual arts talent on campus in a multimedia showcase.

By Zoe Bean

Festival of the Arts (FOTA) aims to “show how art can be multifaceted,” and that “it doesn’t have to look a specific type of way,” first-year member Simren Kshetrapal said. The RSO immerses the campus in art through the various projects they carry out each quarter.  In the fall, interactive and collaborative art stations were set up around campus, such as a typewriter in Hallowed Grounds and scratch art in Harper.  This past Saturday, FOTA put on their “Sight x Sound” show in the Logan Center for the Arts. The show paired visual artists with musicians to create multimedia performances exploring the possibilities for interconnection between the two artistic mediums. 

“We wanted to see how [the artists] would make multiple different forms of art come together to form a cohesive whole,” explained Kshetrapal, one of the show’s two emcees. She explained how the RSO “selected people we thought either had interesting sound or would work well in tandem with the other artist.” Some artists applied for the show together, some applied separately, but all were selected for their potential cohesion as a pair.  

One highlight was a performance titled “Elapse,” which featured a live digital illustration by second-year Amelia Frank and live electronic house music by second-year Conor Krane. Frank’s illustration began as a simple circle formed by thick, semi-transparent gray strokes, which she quickly morphed into the face of a young girl. As Krane’s music picked up tempo and increased in intensity, Frank’s continuous additions of detail revealed the aging process of the girl. She added contour to the face and detail to the eyes, nose, and mouth—the young girl slowly aged, morphing into an old woman. The choice to use translucent, thick, digital brushstrokes resulted in a drawing that felt both shadowy and very detailed. Krane’s thumping, electronic house music, which incorporated sounds that mimicked the sound of pencil on paper, paired smoothly with the live drawing.  Both the drawing and the music were electronic, exploring relationship between the digital and the organic. 

A surprisingly joyful piece, especially in contrast to the more serious tones of some of the other performances, was fourth-years Sarah Larson and Tamar Honig’s “Spice Girl,” a video featuring improvised salsa dancing and general romping by Honig, and videography by Larson. The piece was described as an ode to life, and appeared to be part music video B-roll footage and part celebration of self-love and unapologetic femininity.  Set to salsa-house anthem “Bailar” by Deorro and Elvis Crespo, the video was upbeat and enjoyable. Honig danced salsa on a white canvas with red paint on her feet, creating a Rorschach-esque red stain, frolicked out of focus, entangled in string lights, and joyfully spun in knee-deep snow on the midway, prompting a similar jubilance from the audience.   

First years Neha Kavi and Nick Ornstein’s piece, “Midway, In a Sense,” was a series of paintings and accompanying improvised jazz keyboard solo. The paintings were beautiful and Ornstein displayed his impressive improvisational abilities. The collaboration between first-year Mairead King and second-year Trish Zulueta was a portrait and musical performance inspired by the timelessness aspect of love, and Alvin Shi and Jonathan Gardner, similar to Frank and Krane’s aforementioned performance, was a live drawing and improvised bass solo.   

The final performance of the night was the debut piece by musical group Kink Moscato, a “glorious, hot mess.” The group, made up of third-years Juhi Gupta and Zach Sherman and fourth-years Louis Clark and Ava Kaplan, performed an original song in tandem with a vintage, Planet Earth-esque black and white nature video about sea animals. “Welcome to the Olympics. This event is swimming,” Clark announced half-jokingly at the outset.  The song was quite beautiful, featuring falsetto vocals by Kaplan reminiscent of Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker on the band’s song “After Hours.”  Gupta’s echoing bassline lent an underwater tone to the song, and Clark’s repeating guitar riff was definitely stuck in the heads of many audience members by the end of the show.  The accompanying video, although not created by the group, was nonetheless an interesting background for the song.  

On the whole the show was a wonderful diversion from everyday UChicago life, which seems to lack in artistic improvisation and spontaneity. It was extremely refreshing to see students not only create art, but explore what performance art can become, and, technical difficulties aside, there were certainly some wonderful contributions to this winter’s FOTA show.