During our weekend in Knoxville, Big Ears hosts a series of special programs and collaborations, film showings, workshops, panels and discussions with the artists, interactive exhibitions and projects, and more! Many of these are free and open to the public, inviting patrons and passers-by alike to delve into the magic of the festival.

More to come with details unfolding soon!


Jem Cohen: Gravity Hill Sound+Image

The 2017 festival will feature independent filmmaker, Jem Cohen and a Big Ears-specific version of his project, Gravity Hill Sound+Image. Jem will join forces with a special selection of versatile and adventurous musicians to explore films and live soundtracks in a wide range of combinations: scored and improvised, indoor and outdoor, quiet and loud. Cohen will collaborate with musicians including Guy Picciotto, Matana Roberts, Jessica Moss, Mira Billotte, T.Griffin, Catharine McRae, festival alumni Xylouris White, and multi-media tech team, Dawn of Man, who will be projection mapping site-specific images on Knoxville architecture. Big Ears will also include several of Jem’s films in its programs at the Regal Riviera Theater, including his new film, World Without End (No Reported Incidents), a 2017 Sundance selection. Jem Cohen’s feature length films include Museum Hours, Counting, CHAIN, Benjamin Smoke, and Instrument, a portrait of the band, Fugazi.

Big Ears Festival film programming is made possible by support from Regal Entertainment Group, Visit Knoxville Film Office, Tennessee Entertainment CommissionTennessee Department of Tourism Development, and University of Tennessee School of Art.

Big Ears Film Programming

The Big Ears Festival continues to expand film programming and collaboration with The Public Cinema, a Knoxville-based group dedicated to sharing vital works of contemporary American and international film. 2017’s programming includes special screenings of innovative work and some timeless classics, site and festival-specific installations/performances, and, of course, some live musical performances accompanying some showings. Filmmakers Jonathan Demme, Jem Cohen, Kevin Jerome Everson, Janie Geiser, Roger Beebe, and more will all present work. Details here.

Big Ears Festival film programming is made possible by support from Regal Entertainment Group, Visit Knoxville Film Office, Tennessee Entertainment CommissionTennessee Department of Tourism Development, and University of Tennessee School of Art.

Artist Discussions, Panels, Q&As


Topic: Festivals Like This: an Exploration into the Innovative

Style: Panel / Q&A

Moderator: the Quietus

Time: 10:00am • Friday, March 24

Participants: Bob van Heur (Le Guess Who?) / Ashley Capps (Big Ears) / Reiner Michalke (Stadtgarten Concert Hall)

Description: Bringing together directors of some of the world’s most innovative festivals and venues, we hope to dive in and learn more about them – Le Guess Who?, Big Ears, and Stadtgarten Concert Hall. What sets these festivals apart? What sets this programming apart? Where do they fit in the world? Why are they important?


Topic: Q&A with Jóhann Jóhannsson

Style: Q&A

Moderator: the Quietus

Time: 11:15am • Friday, March 24

Participants: TBD

Description: A Q&A with Oscar nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Luke Turner of the Quietus will explore how Jóhannsson conveys dread through sound. Specifically how composers bring unease into their music, how this differs when writing soundtracks, how to do it with style, what makes it fail, cheesy or otherwise.


Topic: Norwegian Invasion

Style: Panel

Moderator: Peter Margasak with Chicago Reader

Time: 12.30pm • Friday, March 24

Participants: Nils Økland, Lars Petter Hagen, Jan Ole Otnæs

Description: Norwegian artist Nils Okland, composer Lars Petter Hagen and director of the Oslo jazz venue Victoria, Jan Ole Otnæs will band together to discuss the Norwegian music scene. Moderated by Peter Margasak of the Chicago Reader, this panel will dive into how modern and experimental music crosses musical borders in jazz and beyond in Norway.


Topic: Musical Interpretations of Middle America

Style: Panel

Moderator: the Quietus

Time: 10:00am • Saturday, March 24

Participants: Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Matana Roberts

Description: Following Matmos’ performance of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives (Private Parts), this panel will cover how Middle America is represented and interpreted in music and arts in 2017.  Moderated by the Quietus’ Luke Turner, who called “the capturing of the American middle in Perfect Lives one of the most poignant aspects to Matmos’ interpretation.”


Topic: Uproot: a Presentation by Jace Clayton

Style: Q&A / Discussion

Moderator: Rob Young with WIRE

Time: 11:15am • Saturday, March 24 – AT JACKSON TERMINAL

Participants: Jace Clayton

Description: The man behind DJ /rupture and Julius Eastman’s Memorial Dinner, Jace Clayton brings an opportunity for the audience to learn about his book Uproot more in depth. He’ll dip into upheavals of art productions, as well as an exploration into the transformation of digital technology, World Music, and the music industry.


Topic: Fugazi’s Instrument: a Q&A with Guy Picciotto

Style: Q&A

Moderator: Ashley Capps (Big Ears)

Time: 12:00pm • Saturday, March 24 – AT REGAL

Participants: Guy Picciotto, Jem Cohen

Description: Following the screening of Instrument, Fugazi guitarist Guy Picciotto and Jem COhen will be available for a Q&A session. From the Fugazi Live Series to Cohen’s history with the band, learn more about Fugazi and Instrument with this Q&A.


Topic: Folk Traditions in a Hyper-connected World

Style: Panel

Moderator: the Quietus

Time: 12:30pm • Saturday, March 24

Participants: Emilia Amper

Description: This panel will explore folk traditions at a time when cultural borders are fragmenting. Moderated by the Quietus’ Luke Turner, the participants will consider a variety of questions. How do we preserve them? How do dialogues between different traditions work? Is cultural appropriation something to be celebrated not held in suspicion, for that’s how music evolves? What can music do to open dialogues in a time of increasing nationalism, mutual suspicion, and migration?


Topic: Making Art in a Time of Rage

Style: Panel

Moderator: the Quietus

Time: 10:00am • Sunday, March 25

Participants: Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Cécile Schott (Colleen), Jessica Moss

Description: Inspired by Alex Ross’ article in the New Yorker, this panel will address creating art in uncertain times. What is the point of making beautiful things, or of cherishing the beauty of the past, when ugliness runs rampant? Do you carry on as before, nobly defying the ruination of public discourse? Or do you seize on a new mission, abandoning the illusion of aesthetic autonomy?


Topic: Pauline Oliveros – Impact and Influence

Style: Discussion

Moderator: Rob Young with WIRE

Time: 11:15am • Sunday, March 25

Participants: Emily Manzo (Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner)

Description: Leading into a special presentation of her work Rock Piece, this discussion will cover the impact and influence of Pauline Oliveros. Though she passed away last November, Pauline Oliveros was a key figure in experimental music. She coined the term “Deep Listening” to practice the art of listening and responding to different conditions.


Topic: When in Rome: a Glimpse into the Knoxville Music Scene

Style: Discussion

Moderator: the Quietus

Time: 12:30pm • Sunday, March 25

Participants: Mayor Madeline Rogero, Black Atticus, and more!

Description: A discussion about music in Knoxville, what’s going on in the Knoxville underground, how the city supports music, and more. Participants include Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Poet Black Atticus, and more.

Virtual Views: Digital Art from the Thoma Foundation

Drawn from the extensive Chicago-based collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma, Virtual Views: Digital Art from the Thoma Foundation explores the growing importance of electronic new media in contemporary art as seen in the work of artists who are pioneers in the use of LEDs (light-emitting diodes), LCD (liquid crystal display), and computer-driven imagery.

Virtual Views features nine electronic works each of which presents a paradox—it is comprised of synthetic materials and powered by digital technology, yet the rhythms and patterns of its imagery are derived from nature. The featured artists include Jim Campbell, Craig Dorety, John Gerrard, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Alan Rath, Daniel Rozin, Björn Schülke, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Leo Villareal.

Organized by the Knoxville Museum of Art and presented in conjunction with Big Ears 2017, this exhibit will run from February 3 through April 16, 2017 at the KMA.

Jim Campbell (Chicago 1956; lives and works in San Francisco)

Home Movies, Pause, 2014

LEDs, metal, wire and custom electronics, 66 x 76 x 3 inches

Jered Sprecher: Outside In

Outside In, Jered Sprecher’s first solo museum exhibition, reflects the dynamic range of the artist’s recent work in terms of format, scale, imagery, and process. His design for the exhibition layout is inspired by the centuries-old practice of adorning living spaces with motifs derived from the natural world. Here, muted images of birds and flowers appear sporadically, often embedded between layered abstract passages. Sprecher also uses unorthodox object placement and format to infuse the gallery setting with subtle domestic references. One work appears in the form of a 30-foot long span of custom wallpaper based on digital scans of a loosely painted surface. Several related canvases are suspended from the ceiling in a way that enables them to serve a dual role as vibrant contemporary paintings and as partitions dividing the gallery space into separate compartments. Sprecher’s resulting installation scheme enables viewers to experience his recent work as a single intimate environment, and as individual statements representing his ongoing treasure hunt through the debris of visual culture.

Jered Sprecher is a professor in the School of Art, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is represented by Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York; Gallery 16, San Francisco; and Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston.