Venture up a staircase rigged with sound and through a hallway that seems to extend into infinity—there awaits a completely immersive art experience the likes of which Savannah has never seen.
On Oct. 11, for one night only, the upper level of Ampersand will become the Omnidimensional Pathos Factory, the first real celebration of the Port City’s experimental scene, including musical performances, animated films, surrealist short stories, fine art installations, video projections, and interactive sound design.
The show has been in the works since August, beginning with Culture Vulture’s Nick Gilbert, who dreamed of getting the community together for a musical vaudeville showcase. “I have this weird fantasy of the Savannah sound being specifically for experimental groups,” said Gilbert. “And I’d love to see Savannah as a real destination for that experimental scene.”
The line up includes Culture Vulture, Unicycle Escape Pod, Kyle, and Blackrune. Gilbert has chosen each one specifically because they really pushed their musical forums: “Kyle experiments with time signatures in a way you don’t really see anymore,” he said. “Blackrune is so eerie and immense, and Unicycle Escape Pod’s new set is just intense. It’s crazy. They’re really taking a different route.”
After establishing the line up, the team then realized they needed to marry music and art, and brought in artist Corey Eisenberg to curate a visual show.
With the help of Eisenberg, the show will be one of the biggest collaborations of Savannah’s independent art scene to date, featuring the work of Sean Muldrow, Morgan Murphy, Jonah Burden, Simon Ross, Kenzie Smith, Hannah Neff, Ryan Kelly, Hollis Sanders, and more.
And so, the Pathos Factory was born.
Both Eisenberg and Gilbert decided to structure the show like a video game, hosted by a villain named Neon Napalm who “took the throne 10,000 lifetimes before we crawled out of the mud”. Video feeds have been pre-recorded for Napalm to interact and address the crowd throughout the night, between the acts that run back to back. “The 25 minute intervals between bands are necessary to set up, and it’s cool because it gives people the chance to get another beer or go smoke a cigarette. But we don’t want to give people that option,” says Gilbert. “We want it to feel more like a theater.”
But the Pathos Factory is about more than a fearsome god-like host and trippy visuals. Both Gilbert and Eisenberg really want to start stirring up the creative economy. Savannah is still small, but the last two years alone have seen some huge leaps in the scene of independent art. Their hopes are to encourage others to create their own shows, regardless of experience. They both agree that many aspects of their own productions are often “jerry rigged” to the point of hilarity, but Savannah has always thrived on DIY culture, and it’s only when more people create their own events that the city will continue to grow.
“Savannah is like this awesome playground that nobody else is really playing in yet,” said Eisenberg. “For now, we do a lot of stuff for free, but the hope is that eventually Savannah will get to a point where charging $10 for a cover isn’t a big deal because we’re going to thrive on each other and get out-of-town recognition too.”
But, above all else, the ultimate goal is simply to have people show up, jump in, and start participating. Art isn’t supposed to be sterile, and both Gilbert and Eisenberg are extending their invitation to let Savannah’s freak flag fly. “We’re really trying to look forward and be very progressive,” says Eisenberg. “That’s the whole vibe. A really creative, fully interactive experience. And I think that’s what’s next in art. To really make people a part of it, to create the art themselves.”
Viewers will have a chance to take part in the fine art installations, as well as participate in a live voice modulation of the short story performers by using a special synth programmed by Eric Lorenz. But even if some of the pieces aren’t technically interactive, the audience is still encouraged to play.
“I like touching art,” says Eisenberg. “I think that’s a big problem with a lot of art today, you’re not supposed to touch it. But art’s so tactile. I had this professor once who used to boast about how he licked a Van Gogh at the MOMA. Ever since then I’ve always wanted to lick a Van Gogh.”
Though maybe licking the art isn’t the interaction Gilbert and Eisenberg have in mind, chances are neither of them would say no. In fact, they want everyone to push their boundaries and they expect some people to get uncomfortable. “We’re shooting for 25% of the viewers to be like ‘YES’. And the other 75% to run out screaming,” Eisenberg said. “We want people to think about art and music differently and really feel changed. I want them to go in not knowing what to expect, and to still go out saying ‘that’s not what I expected.’”