Performing Arts
Artist and Indeterminacy Festival founder Stanzi Vaubel.
Artist and Indeterminacy Festival founder Stanzi Vaubel.

Strung Out: Indeterminacy Festival Aims at Connection

by / May. 11, 2018 8am EST

For two days in May last year, Buffalo’s Silo City was transformed into the first annual Indeterminacy Festival. The brainchild of Stanzi Vaubel, audiences wandered through an amalgamation of music, light and dance all the while inside immersive bubbles. Centered around the idea that “indeterminacy” can be a site for fruitful possibility, Vaubel’s describes this year’s festival theme of Emergence as “focusing on the way in which unlikely things can come together in the formation of something new.”

In a cultural climate where hearing one another is becoming increasingly difficult, the Indeterminacy Festival offers a valuable lesson in the generative nature of difference. Initially based on scientific theorist Donna Haraway’s idea that to communicate, we must look outside ourselves, Vaubel tapped disparate members of Buffalo’s arts community from the Bird’s Nest aerialists to youth ensembles. Upping her game from last year, Vaubel’s stretched the festival over an entire week beginning with educational workshops and lectures, finally culminating with two large-scale performances on May 18 and 19.

Vaubel’s examination of matter’s ability to continually form and re-form is a shibboleth for the organizer herself. Currently a media studies doctoral student at UB, Vaubel’s artistic trajectory has been shaped by continual artistic exploration and collaboration. A classically trained cellist at the Julliard School and Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Programs, Vaubel opted for college over conservatory. She attended Northwestern University where she became immersed in radio and film documentary, leading to projects for the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Public Radio and finally Chicago Public Radio where she produced a radio series called The Gift, segments that were as artistic as their subjects. Eschewing traditional interview techniques, Vaubel took conversations with poets and produced poetry-like pieces in an ekphrastic approach to art and media.

It is in the idea of connection that one can start to see the seeds for Buffalo’s Indeterminacy Festival. Having visited Silo City for a class, Vaubel began to see the potential in a site-specific project at the repurposed art venue. Wanting to bring people and ideas together physically, Vaubel noted, “in our current media environment, social networks are mostly invisible, located online, in a cloud. But they do have a material basis, in the friendships, contacts, and complex web of social dynamics that play out in the real world.” Aiming to make material the bonds between people, during the festival audience members move through massive nets between the various Silo City buildings. Unlike a static installation, the Indeterminacy Festival is more akin to a continually changing organic performance. The festival’s score, composed by Vaubel, is anchored by a long wire string instrument—a sort of sonic metaphor for string theory—using sound as communicative tour guide. Audience members can opt to play the stringed instrument at various points to experience the ways in which the sound reacts with the different configurations of the building. Additionally, as audience members move between the sites, they encounter a large cast of singers, dancers, and musicians, as well as aerialists responding to each other in a constantly evolving dynamic through space. To try to pin down a simple description of the event seems counterintuitive to the festival itself which is more a work of syntheses than soundbite. Stringing together everything from poetry to physics, this year’s Indeterminacy Festival aims at being the first step in weaving together our differences.


The festival will open Monday, May 14 with a film on Donna Haraway and continue through the week with screenings of the film Particle Fever, both at Hallwalls. The weekend performances are Friday, May 18 at 500 Seneca Street and Saturday, May 19 at Silo City; both performances are 8:30pm-10pm. Workshops and lectures given by visiting artists in partnership with and sponsored by the Technē Institute and the NA Fund also run trhoughout the week. For more information visit the website: