Festival

Sundance Film Festival

2012

A Final Note on the New Frontier of Film and Technological Art

JONATHAN HARRIS
JONATHAN HARRIS

On the first day of the festival, I praised the exhibits at New Frontier and promised to return to the subject before Sundance ended. Well, the festival is almost over and, while I haven’t had the chance to view all of the exhibits, there are two that deserve special mention.

The first one, “The Casting” by Omer Fast, is a multi-screen exhibit in which a U.S. Army sergeant recalls both an affair with a woman and an accidental shooting in Iraq. Two double-sided screens hang side by side in a dark room: on one side, video of the sergeant and his interviewer; on the other, live action film of actors in frozen poses, the scenes pertaining the two stories the sergeant is telling to the interviewer. Much as Gregory Crewdson has pushed photography towards cinema, Fast has pushed cinema towards photography. I didn’t take many notes because I was so transfixed by the exhibit, so maybe it’s better you see it for yourself.

The second exhibit, “We Feel Fine” by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kemvar, is the best use of the internet to create art that I’ve ever seen (“Shoot an Iraqi” is a close second). Harris and Kemvar wrote a web crawler that searches Blogspot.com and other sites for the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling” plus one of 5,000 adjectives, and then aggregates that information (without the bloggers’ knowledge) and presents it in several ways—“murmurs,” “mounds,” “montage,” “mobs,” “metrics,” and “madness”—providing what Kemvar calls “the emotional temperature of the present.” To date, the four-year-old project has collected 12 million feelings. If a photo accompanies the blog post, it will appear along with the quoted line. I came across a blonde, bosomy young woman in a bra who had written, “I like to feel sexy knowing someone is watching me wanting me that turns me on.”

If only she knew.