Craig Lambert in Harvard Magazine:
The blip festival may be unfamiliar to you, but for lovers of “low-bit music,” it’s the world’s premier event. Late last year, 1,200 low-bit aficionados converged on Manhattan from locales as remote as Japan, Mexico, and the Netherlands for four days to share their works, which they create using obsolete home computers and older video game consoles like Nintendos and Segas. Such devices can produce “sounds you’d never expect to hear,” says Randy Bell ’00, a co-founder of The Tank, the versatile avant-garde New York performance space that hosted the festival.
Tank shows include film and video, mixed media, music, theater, comedy (stand-up, improv, and sketch), dance, and public affairs (like political blogger panels), for starters. Located in downtown Manhattan, The Tank (www.thetanknyc.org) is “a place where the next generation can go for their avant-garde, alternative, and underground entertainments,” says a second co-founder, Justin Krebs ’00. The place does have a resolutely downtown attitude—as well as T-shirts, tote bags, and, naturally, tank tops—and has done so many remarkable things in its three years that the mainstream has taken notice, with salutes like an unsolicited $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation and funding from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The Tank’s stature as an “absurdly irreverent, unconventional space,” as Bell puts it, is drawing attention.
Eight young artists and activists, including Bell and Krebs, all age 24 or 25, launched The Tank in May 2003 in New York’s theater district. It moved through three midtown spaces before settling into its Tribeca location, at 279 Church Street, a year ago: “This is the first time in our existence that we’re not looking for a home,” Krebs reports. The Tank stages 25 to 30 events a month and is staffed entirely by volunteers, with the exception of its full-time managing director, Mike Rosenthal. “One of the smartest things a volunteer-run organization ever did,” says Krebs, “was to hire somebody.”
(The photograph shows the band We Are Scientists at The Tank).