Video artists join the Sundance program
January 17, 2007
This year the Sundance Film Festival invites video artists to a brand new section of the festival dubbed "New Frontier."
The Main Street Mall’s lower level will serve as New Frontier’s cutting-edge den offering what Sundance describes as "the fresh independent cinematic vision bubbling up at the intersection of art, film and emerging technology."
Sundance programmers plucked eight video artists from across the country to showcase their installation, performance and interactive shows at the festival. A 100-seat "micro" cinema will also project nine experimental films packaged in a more conventional format. The venue will be dark, primarily illuminated by video screens with a live deejay spinning tunes throughout the day.
Artist and New York University Professor R. Luke Dubois will be showing multiple pieces, including "Academy," a 76-minute film, which condenses full-length Best Picture Academy Award-winning films from 1927 to 2002 down to one-minute each. Programmers found his work at the New York City gallery, Bit Forms.
"The interesting thing about "Academy" is that if you watch it, you can see how things speed up," Dubois explains. "If you look at films from the 40s, you can totally tell what movie it is Then when you watch ‘Chicago,’ which was shot like a music video, it’s a crazy blur of color and you can’t figure it out."
Dubois says his films serves partly as social commentary, a kind of metaphor for how modern culture works: things appear to be speeding up and there doesn’t seem to be enough time.
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"Mobiopera," is perhaps the most interactive piece on New Frontier’s slate. The artist, Shu Lea Cheang calls her work an "interactive multimedia performance installation, mobile phones, projection and party." The piece requires mobile phone users to script and shoot a narrative film with daily casting sessions from 4 to 6 p.m.
Senior programmer Shari Frilot calls New Frontier a "festival within a festival." She stresses that this portion of Sundance could not be juried, since a contest might hamper New Frontier’s mission of creativity and experimentation. The artists in New Frontier were solicited based on how the art engages with the moving image and how the artists created their work in ways that might introduce new and interesting ideas about story-telling to filmmakers.
Frilot has been a part of video art and film festival programming for over a decade, introducing cyberspace video art to New York’s Mix Festival in 1994.
This will be her 10th year at Sundance as a programmer.
Sundance is ready to introduce New Frontier this year is because of the growing sophistication of filmmaking in the art world and the video artists’ interest in expanding their audience in order to have their films move in a more public discourse, Frilot explained.
"The making this work are really interested in having their work have a larger impact," she told The Park Record. "We’re constantly looking for new independent visions in film, and the art world is just one of the places where it’s starting to run deep."
Filmmakers and audiences also appear ready to engage in more creative ways of story-telling.
With the advent of YouTube attracting audiences larger than most television networks combined, and new technologies like cell phones that offer video content, Frilot says new ways of experiencing film are surfacing "whether we like it or not." These days, the Frontier Competition expects one movie to be sold at each festival, she reports.
"You can see things in the larger more traditional part of the landscape where George Lucas isn’t even making films anymore. He’s really focusing on smaller screens and there’s a reason for that. There’s a big trend overall," she continues. "There will always be cineplexes and projected movies, but now there is going to be these added components and added mediums that are going to happen."
In fact, some of the video artists might receive as much inspiration as they give.
"What I really want to do is go see the normal movies, because I never get a chance to," Dubois admits. "I’m bringing a date [to Sundance] and I just want to take her to the movies a lot."
The Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier will open to the public Thursday, Jan. 18 at 333 Main Street before the opening night film from 2 to 5 p.m. New Frontier will be open to the public from Friday, Jan. 19 to Friday, Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.