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Every other year, a tsunami of imagery deluges Houston. For 20 years now, FotoFest has been a highly anticipated event that has citywide impact. It has grown to include more than 100 participating organizations, and according to organizers, it attracts more than 225,000 visitors. The sprawling, infectious FotoFest 2006 has appropriately chosen as its themes "The Earth" and "Artists Responding to Violence." Works will address how human and nonhuman life relates to geophysical history, and specifically how human violence inflicts trauma on the earth and political society. But before things get heavy and depressing, FotoFest wants to get its happy on. The festival is kicking off its 20th anniversary with three free public parties in a blowout warehouse crawl.

First stop is DiverseWorks (1117 East Freeway, 713-223-8346), where one of the festival's centerpiece installations, Alfredo Jaar's Sound of Silence, will be on display. Revelers can counteract Jaar's tragic and haunting statement on human suffering by nominating four of their favorite local and international social-betterment organizations to receive $1,000 donations from FotoFest. Then it's time to get the buzz going. The party starts at 6 p.m.

Then it's on to FotoFest headquarters at Vine Street Studios (1113 Vine Street, 713-921-7790) for the "Artists Responding to Violence" exhibit, featuring work by 11 international artists. Check out Action by Russia's AES+F, a display of large-scale digital collages depicting children, selected from modeling agencies, engaging in fictional desert battles with bazookas blazing and jet fighters slashing through the sky. They go through the motions with indifferent, vacant expressions, as if trapped inside a video game. Houston's Two Star Symphony will provide the fittingly dark soundtrack for the apocalyptically penetrating material. Relax. Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire are listed as sponsors.

Finally, shake off your worries at Warehouse Live (813 St. Emanuel), a newly renovated 1920s warehouse in the Chinatown/Minute Maid Park area. Expect a ´60s theme with wild video projections and the British garage-rock-revival sounds of Nic Armstrong and the Thieves. Ultimately, your emotional journey will pay off for a good cause. At Warehouse Live, the awards for human rights and environmental organizations will be announced. See, that wasn't so bad.

See FotoFest web site for a complete list of participating venues.
Fri., March 10


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