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Rebels With a Camera

Freewaves Festival provides outlet for alternative media.


A festival will quietly and perhaps a bit subversively sweep into a variety of locales around Los Angeles this month, including Cal State Northridge, to explore what happens beneath the surface of mainstream media.

The L.A. Freewaves Festival of Experimental Media is a biannual event that offers a public forum for emerging video artists, filmmakers and artists who work in new media.

Among the dozens of sites for the seventh annual festival are the Getty Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and CSUN, which has been part of the Freewaves adventure since its humble beginnings in 1989.

Louise Lewis, a member of the CSUN art faculty, has been with the project from the start.

"When this festival came along, I was very intrigued just to see the extent to which video art has developed," Lewis said. "Artists saw that they could indeed use the technology of the medium to get across any variety of messages, whether they're surreal personal musings or really strong political statements."

Each weekly program is built around themes. Next Monday's will be "Baroque in Modernity" and "Girls in Hell." Ten curators make final decisions on what makes the cut. Founding festival director Anne Bray said she tries to solicit work both internationally and from California with an emphasis on Los Angeles. The flow of entries has increased this time around, thanks largely to the Internet, she said. Check out

Being resourceful and adaptable are keys to the festival's success. Two years ago, the festival took place mainly at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A., but this time out it has dispersed its energies citywide.

"We really do change it every time," Bray said. "We stretch our dollars as far as possible."

Freewaves has also worked to get video art on public television, but the festival model--getting people out of their houses and into a cultural community--is important to the mission. The festival provides an outlet and structure for the energy of experimental media, Bray said.

"The evening sitcoms that take place in L.A. seem to give this standard image, [but] it's a city of great diversity," she said. "I'm really interested in the exchanges within different sectors of the city, of this culture rubbing up against that culture and coming up with a third culture."


L.A. Freewaves Festival of Experimental Media every Monday in November from 7-9 p.m. at Cal State Northridge, Main Gallery, 18111 Nordhoff St. Free. (818) 677-2156.

Josef Woodard, who writes about art and music, can be reached by e-mail at

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