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November marks the tenth go-round of the biennial festival of electronic media art, Freewaves (the “L.A.” part now being more or less dropped). About 150 artists have been selected for inclusion by local curators, as well as internationally from Argentina, Korea, Egypt, Mexico, South Africa, and more.

The theme “Too Much Freedom?” is an obviously rhetorical question, as if such a challenge has ever needed to be posed to the art world. If we are inclined to quickly respond “Never!” the whole question of whether safety and security may trump a few inalienable rights is a matter of keen public interest out there in the larger countryside and beyond.

Of course, there is a difference between testing the limits of what is permissible--and why--in the public sense; and how far free expression may be stretched in the private sense. Led by longtime festival Director Anne Bray, Freewaves presents artists who operate on both sides of the topic, with the collection of works themselves ultimately informing the quantitative aspects of freedom in ways we wouldn’t want to predict.

It all kicks off with receptions at the Hammer Museum (West Los Angeles, November 3 and 4, 7pm), the Pomona College Museum (Claremont, November 5, 5pm), and LACE (Hollywood, November 11, 8pm).

Rather than the past sprawl of exhibitions and installations, however, it is the Freewaves Web site at that really is the center of the action now. The reduced emphasis that Freewaves should take place at a bevy of local venues feeds the notion that this is an international rather than a local festival. If physical and political boundaries are rendered meaningless, it is also possible that the very presence and impact of the art becomes more ephemeral. As Freewaves Director Anne Bray says, “We are not talking to each other, we are downloading.” So we admittedly miss the perhaps fading expectation to encounter the marketplace of aesthetic ideas in the agora. Beyond the handful of special events, make sure your DSL or cable connection is up to date, head for, and, ladies and gentlemen, start your thumbnails.

Bill Lasarow