In December 2016, we spoke with artist and curator Julia Sinelnikova (known in some circles as The Oracle) about her festival CHASM, which intended to be four days of music, multimedia art, DJ sets, and more in a secret, industrial East Williamsburg location. However, four days became just two—it was cut short out of fear of a raid, as the city was in the midst of increased crackdowns on DIY spaces following the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
That didn’t stop Sinelnikova from continuing the event series, turning it into a biannual affair that has graced venues such as Knockdown Center and penning an op-ed about her experience for Vice. Tonight, Chasm‘s fourth edition will be unveiled at new Bed-Stuy space Refuge Arts, featuring immersive multimedia art, performance, music, and more.
More specifically, Chasm has a focus on exhibiting “light art,” such as holography and sculptures crafted from lasers.
“I believe light art is the future: minimal, weightless tools transforming physical space into alternate realities,” Sinelnikova tells me in an email. She creates light art herself, and “know[s] firsthand how difficult it is for galleries and festivals to produce these works,” due to the need for special equipment and/or lighting requirements. Thus, she’s prioritized this type of work in her own curatorial endeavors.
Something she’s also prioritized is caution when it comes to throwing events in the city, which remains a potentially-treacherous endeavor even as legislative change has come in the form of a cabaret law repeal and “Nightlife Mayor.”
“These days, myself and my event production peers will only produce events in NYC at fully licensed venues, and we are still much more careful in the way we promote these DIY art events than before. Due to the risk of a police raid, it can be too risky to throw a big show at pop-up artist space or other alternative spaces,” Sinelnikova says. “New Yorkers know from recent experience that even if you are going by the book, the police could shut the event down night of. As a result of all this, it feels like there are far less artist-run events in NYC these days.”
Chasm’s opening happens tonight from 7 pm to 2 am at Refuge Arts, 80 Vernon Avenue. The exhibition runs through June 3.