“From the beginning, NOVA was a project about being in the present and finding joy in exploring new ways of experiencing art with curiosity.”

Opening with the Romanian debut of South-Korean multidisciplinary artist, Sougwen 愫君 Chung presenting her performance-lecture, “Seeing Double – Bridging Dualities with Relational Intelligence”, before presenting a full programme of talks, performances, educational initiatives, as well as its ongoing exhibition held at Goethe-Institut. Each of these respective components work toward the wider NOVA Festival theme of “Intimacy”.

With the festival now on-going, we managed to speak with its Founder, Emilia Paunescu, on the history and ambitions of NOVA and new media art in the country, as well as its highlights, thematic connections, and recommendations for all new-media newbies

To start, can you give a brief history of NOVA Festival? In the sense that what were its original motivations and presentation? How did this presentation evolve through to 2022? I see there was a 2018 edition and then a 2021 edition, so I'm assuming there was a pandemic-related hiatus. How did this affect things?

I created NOVA in 2018 as a response to the challenges imposed by the theatre space I was working in back then. The small stage and unconventional architecture of the place required an innovative idea, so I came up with NOVA. From the beginning, NOVA was a project about being in the present and finding joy in exploring new ways of experiencing art with curiosity.

Since its first edition was created in a theatre space, the program reflected a great amount of performances. But since, NOVA has outgrown these beginnings. It is mainly an approach to life behind NOVA. Expanding technologies help us get jiggy in this dance of co-creating interesting universes through interactions. However, it's not about the technologies but how these new tools create a context for growth. Technology makes art more alive in many dimensions. How thrilling for us to have the opportunity to experience creativity this way! For sure, you will take that experience with you and expand it in your life.

The 2022 edition starts on November 22nd with a splendid performance-lecture held by Sougwen 愫君 Chung at Excelsior Theater and live-streamed on the Streamerse platform.

What I love about Sougwen most is her unique way of embodying technology and working with it in a very personal way. How she draws with her self-created machines is so beautiful to discover.

Then, we open the immersive exhibition at Goethe Institut on November 23rd. This space is really, for me and the artists that have works there, a journey of self-exposure, while for the audience, we propose a journey of self-discovery. We put some very personal parts of ourselves in this exhibition space, and hopefully, this creates a context where people feel safe to bring themselves in a similarly personal way.

What I love about the exhibition this year is that it is created to be in constant change. Just like our emotions, the space's sound, image and tactile language transform in real-time, following the dynamic of the people in it. So the exhibition will never sound, feel, or look exactly the same.

Finally, NOVA has also developed into a growth platform for artists and audiences. We have an extensive program of workshops, talks, lab-like performances, and now even an educational residency program in Slovenia we offer to a young Romania artist, together with our partners at DDT Lab. The deadline for applications is December 1st.

Full details about this edition are found on novanova.ro

What about your personal background in the new media realm? How did your interests start in this field? How did these interests translate into the construction of the festival? Can you recall any projects, ideas, or concepts integral to your interest in the field?

NOVA is very much a part of myself. I consider it my first child. For real :) I don't feel, however, that an interest or background in new media triggered NOVA. I, in fact, prefer the idea of open media. NOVA is more about opening windows and doors than the technologies that make that happen. Tech tools are part of the creative process at NOVA because these are the tools of the moment. When these will change, it will reflect in NOVA too.

It's important, I feel, to stay flexible and allow change. Let's not get stuck on form and let the stars shine.

What are some of the greatest challenges to setting up an event such as NOVA? Also, do you find it challenging to bring new media projects to the wider public?

I think opening up to new things is a hard step for anyone, ‘cause it asks you to get vulnerable, as you need to be when you incorporate something new. So to truly engage with that, you first need to become truly comfortable with it. This is what NOVA does, in a sense. NOVA creates playful contexts for engaging in disco-sensoriale.

The greatest challenge is also the most beautiful thing about NOVA. That it is a living thing, constantly created by the people within it, is a powerful wave you need to keep yourself in balance!

This year's festival concept is "Intimacy". Why? And How does the complete programme work toward this theme?

Us resonating with each other and with the environments around us is a valuable experience. And it's also beautiful to watch others. It doesn't need to be only your direct experience. Basically, we have created these meeting places. We'll see what people do with them.

This is the amazing thing about intimacy. It's different for everyone. So best we could do is create an honest context for people to get intimate in. This year's program includes many personal confessions from the artists, and we hope people will join this dialogue.

For those who have not experienced NOVA before or even new media-specific events, what advice would you give to someone trying to navigate all the offerings?

You really don't need any preparation or prior knowledge to participate at NOVA. Come as you are. You are welcome.

Finally, what is your goal and aim for NOVA moving forward? How do you see the festival evolving, and what do you hope its place is within the wider Romanian cultural scene?

I hope NOVA evolves into this community of people that contribute to us transforming each other in surprising ways. No matter how the tools with which we do that will change. We are also growing an international network around the festival, so we can expand the opportunities we offer to artists.