One of the cultural terrains that Sundance has successfully staked over the years has been the intersection of film and art. As a festival devoted to the complete artistic integrity of cinema, Sundance has always been inclusive towards the experimental and avant-garde sectors and the artistic fringes that push the boundaries of visual expression. It has made for stimulating fare: From films about art (i.e. last year’s Marina Abramovich, The Artist is Present) to art about film (or TV – like James Franco’s Three’s Company installation a few years back). It's a synergy that has been purposefully fostered Robert Redford and more and more the festival has become an increasingly interesting showcase for visual experimentation. We remember seeing Redford fairly enraptured a couple of years ago as conceptual filmmaker Marco Brambilla gave him a personal tour of his remarkable 3D “video-fresco” on the history of cinema and the world, Evolution.
That was part of the New Frontier exhibit, the new media section that has become more integral to festival over the years. The current edition of New Frontier has been moved to a more central location, next to the festival box office at the bottom of Main Street, and it features strong field including Doug Aitken’s multiscreen examination of the creative process via filmed conversations with such luminaries as Tilda Swinton, Beck, Paolo Soleri and Jack White, made to be viewed in a specially constructed circular building.
The New Frontier pavilion is usually filled with people wandering in amazement (or sometimes puzzlement), bathed in the bluish glow of dozens of screens, projections and technological devices, a reflection of today’s increasing fragmentation in the all-encompassing way we consume moving images. At any given moment there are people watching an interactive documentary in photo-booth like viewing pods, absorbed in their own immersive screenings, futuristic virtual reality viewers strapped to their heads, or simply staring at wall-sized screen arrays. It’s all very cutting edge, and although sometimes the conceptual ambitions of the installations exceed the results, there is always something interesting to see. New Frontier pushes boundaries in all directions and the prototypes premiered here sometimes become reality like the Oculus Rift virtual reality viewers which can be used to view a film trailer in a virtual theater or play a latest-generation immersive video game.”
But the most successful project this year has transcended the boundaries of the exhibit and literally spilled into the festival’s physical space. We are talking about the “mapped projections” by Philadelphia-based group Klip Collective whose installation regales festival goers nightly with a light show projected on the façade of the historic Egyptian theater. The mapped projections are carefully tailored to the building they are projected upon, visually reconfiguring its architecture and recontextualizing the building itself. The semi-narrative installation was also utilized in this year’s film intros, shown before each festival screening. Take a look at our video.