CURRENT: Feminist Electronic Art Symposium provides platform for women and non-binary artists

CURRENT is trying to shake up the landscape of electronic art and music in Vancouver by providing a much-needed platform for women and non-binary artists. From July 25th to 29th, this electronic art symposium, which is accessible entirely by donation, will feature artists, performers, filmmakers, speakers, and community leaders from multiple disciplines and art forms. Headliners include local acts Goo, Venetta, Zam Zam and Liliop, as well as performers from around the globe, such as Stud1nt, Maria Chavez, Swan Meat and Reverend Dollars.

“This kind of symposium is essentially a place where we want to carve out this space that doesn’t quite exist in Vancouver, for not only ourselves, [but also] to be able to provide this space for other women and non-binary artists,” said Nancy Lee, one of the producers of CURRENT, who is a filmmaker and interdisciplinary media artist and UBC alumna herself.

This void was one that Lee was observing firsthand as an electronic music event producer.

“In Vancouver, electronic music is extremely white male-dominated. We see it in the lineups, we see all the artists that are being booked for festivals. Even a 50/50 lineup is hard for them to achieve. This is something that was extremely apparent, so we were like, ‘what can we do about it?’”

With that in mind, Lee and fellow producers Ashlee Luk, Soledad Muñoz, and Alexandra Chen decided to create an event solely for women and non-binary artists. Now in its second year, CURRENT has already extended into different forms of art, featuring film screenings and gallery exhibitions for the first time.

The symposium has also expanded geographically. This year’s programs will be showcased in Emily Carr University of Art + Design, FIELD Contemporary Gallery, National Film Board Digital Studio Theatre, Red Gate Arts Society, Subculture at Creative Coworkers and Warehouse at Eastside Studios.

“We want to say that, look, this is something that we can do and it’s possible,” Lee said.

CURRENT will also provide opportunities and training for participants, distinguishing it from a regular festival. In addition to performances and showcases, the program also includes presentations and workshops about entrepreneurship and technical skills in electronic art, as well as workshops by Girls Rock Camp and DAME.

“A symposium is more about the dialogue, the learning, and capacity-building opportunities, and networking that you can have,” Lee said.

CURRENT also wants to transform the various systems within electronic art and music, an area of work that Lee has been involved in. She credits her knowledge and skills to her Bachelor of Science in Global Resource Systems from UBC, which helped her see the world through a human justice perspective.

“This is all systemic essentially, understanding systems of oppression, understanding systems of inequality,” she explained.

Policies were a significant part of the degree, which has come in handy for this year’s symposium. Through panels and research, CURRENT will be forming policy recommendations that will be sent to the City of Vancouver.

Ultimately, CURRENT’s eclectic program and initiatives all aim to create new avenues for women and non-binary artists.

“We’re all grassroots cultural organizers so we want to offer the opportunity, with funding, capacity-building workshops, and topics discussed in the panels, so [women and non-binary artists] can also feel empowered.”