AV Festival 06, the UK's largest international festival of film, digital arts and music, electronic art, games and new media, kicks off March 2nd, 2006 in various venues in Newcastle Gateshead, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

Running until March 12, 2006, the Festival will feature concerts, performances, film screenings, exhibitions and installations, club events and parties, outdoor projections, an international symposium (March 10 -11), and a dynamic education programme. The theme of the 2006 festival is LIFE with audiovisual practitioners from all disciplines exploring the relationship between digital and biological life; the implications of genetic engineering, bioscience, and nanotechnology as well as artificial realities lived virtually in online communities and games.

AV Festival 2006 will include an impressive range of energetic and challenging new work which has never been seen in the UK before (including several ambitious new commissions), from renowned international artists, filmmakers and musicians from countries including Japan, Australia, the US, France, Norway and Germany.

"AV Festival 06 will explore and present new ways of thinking about LIFE. The Festival will examine the boundaries of what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘synthetic’, and aims to extend and re-work our notions of what life is. How life shifts, evolves and mutates. We will look at how artists and scientists fabricate new life-forms, and the myriad ways in which they interpret this ever-changing world in which we live,” explains AV Festival 06 consultant director, Honor Harger.

Highlights of AV Festival 06 include:

* Robotic Spiders Installation by Kenneth Rinaldo. Renowned US inventor and artist Rinaldo will create a new artificial life robotic exhibition installation featuring 25 large spider-like sculptures – entitled, The Autotelematic Spider Bots – which will interact with the public in real-time.

* Orchestrating the Genome - First-ever Audio Visual Concert by Michael Nyman and Northern Sinfonia. The Northern Sinfonia and guest soloists perform re-scored extracts from Michael Nyman's music for Gattaca (the sci-fi movie on genetic engineering starring Uma Thurman, and Jude Law), and Facing Goya (his opera about cloning), with visuals by filmmakers YEAST, using Nyman's own images of human life. Nyman will also perform his score for Jean Vigo's A Propos de Nice in a solo piano performance, and take part in a pre-concert on-stage interview with Dr Tom Shakespeare.

* Bio-Terrorism - the World Premiere of The Marching Plague by Critical Art Ensemble. A new work by the art collective whose founder, Professor Steve Kurtz, was arrested on charges of bio-terrorism in US in 2004. While the US Department of Justice has been preparing its case against Kurtz, Critical Art Ensemble produced this new documentary-drama film which addresses the paranoia surrounding bio-terrorism. Steve Kurtz will take part in a Q and A after the World Premiere screening.

* First Ever Site Specific Exhibition by Anthony McCall. Well known British artist, (founder of 1970s ‘Expanded Cinema’) McCall will produce his first-ever site specific exhibition, Swell, a 50ft horizontal projection inspired by the wave action of the North East coastal landscape and the Roker Lighthouse. This ‘solid light’ film will focus on the force of projected waves of white light rolling through a haze of mist.

* Organic Outdoor Projections by Marius Watz. AV are collaborating with mima to produce a projection programme in the town centre which will include new work by Norwegian artist Watz whose signature style is organic, non representational visuals. He has worked for several years on creating software-drawing machines that simulate artificial life.

AV Festival 06 is part of Newcastle Gateshead's Festival of Visual Arts, celebrating the North East's creativity, cultural vibrancy and artistic talent.

For more information on AV Festival 06 visit www.avfest.co.uk