The convergence of art and film at Sundance was alive and well this year. The New Frontier (projects that push the boundaries of storytelling and film) section of the Festival includes both films and an exhibition space. Focus on contemporary art continued in the acclaimed documentaries selections with two films about the lives of artists: Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present and the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize winning film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry – a revealing look into the life and work of the Chinese artist/political activist.
The screening of Eve Sussman’s whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir in a film festival setting as opposed to a gallery clearly highlighted the difference between art and film. whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir is an algorithmically generated edit of a complex and futuristic story set in Kazakhstan. Because each screening of the film relies on combinations of image, voice over and music as selected by the algorithm, no viewing is the ever same…at times the edits are clumsy and others, poetic.
The audience seemed uncomfortable with this concept; most viewers couldn’t understand why the artist wouldn’t take the best edit possible and fix it there. My favorite moment in the Q & A was when Sussman explained that she was inspired by the possibility of the ‘random’ edits…further explaining that the algorithm made edits she could never have thought of herself; is about discovery for her. How brave is that?
From the Sundance Film Guide: …Eve Sussman/Rufus Corporation… designed a kind of filmmaking robot—a custom, programmed computer dubbed the “Serendipity Machine” that uses key words to select seamlessly from 3,000 film clips shot in central Asia, 80 voice-overs, and 150 pieces of music to create an ethereal narrative that follows a geophysicist named Holz (Jeff Wood). Holz is stuck in a 1970s-looking metropolis called City-A, whose citizenry are subject to various unusual restrictions. Through voice-over dialogues, wire-tapped telephone conversations, and snippets of Holz’s job interview with his employer, a mysterious woman referred to simply as Dispatch, it becomes evident that Holz is controlled by the factory and city where he works, just as his fate is dictated by the machine editing the film.
In the New Frontier exhibtion space…
Evolution (Megaplex), 2010
3-D High Definition disc
03:04 min., loop
Brambilla’s first work to be executed in stereoscopic 3D Evolution (Megaplex) is a 3 minute side-scrolling video collage that tells the story of human history – yes, for real… through Hollywood blockbuster clips. Through some technological feat, Brambilla weaves moments from films such as “Ghandi”, “The Ten Commandments”, “A Clockwork Orange” and “King Kong” into one seamless and apocalyptic moving, mural-like image…in 3D to boot. Fantastic!
Hank Willis Thomas and Chris Johnson in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair
Question Bridge: Black Males
An innovative video installation created by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Chris Johnson in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair after traveling around the country interviewing 150 Black men in eleven cities. They created 1,500 videos of conversations with men representing a range of geographic, generational, economic, and educational levels. They then wove the conversations together to simulate a stream-of-consciousness dialogue, allowing important themes and issues to emerge, including family, love, interracial relationships, community, education, violence, and the past, present, and future of Black men in American society. – Oakland Museum of California
From the Sundance Film Guide:
Dissolving the distinction among subject, audience, and author, the visionary transmedia project, Question Bridge: Black Males, creates a uniquely vulnerable and intimate dialogue among black men nationwide, initiating a new kind of social network. In Question Bridge: Black Males, black men go to a safe space and record their questions, which are then answered by other men who may live miles away. The footage is evocatively presented in various ways, ranging from beautiful sculptural environments to Web forums and geolocative hotspots across the country.
Also on view at Oakland Museum, Brooklyn Museum and Salt Lake City Arts Center.