Film, especially documentary films, have always captivated my attention. Over the years, I’ve seen some amazing experimental film and video art works that had me wanting to support this particular art form at every opportunity. When I learned about the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF) and viewed some of the works from previous years, I was impressed with the caliber and the quality of the concepts. Co-founders, Tyrone Davies and Ryan Wylie have been running the FFFF)for over 10 years! I had the opportunity to catch up with Tyrone for some Q & A. Check out what he had to say and learn more about the festival!!
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What was the impetus for the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF)?
FFFF came out of a desire to screen films that most festivals do not screen. Ryan and I were realizing how few venues there were for genre-defying work. It seems like every fest has a box hey want to put you in. If you don’t fit, you don’t get shown. We thought there should be more festivals (I still can’t think of one) that were truly open to all forms, genres, lengths etc.
How did you get the name Free Form Film Festival (FFFF)?
The name Free Form Film Festival comes directly from our mission – to curate works challenging standard “form” or are even free of preconceptions about form and genre.
What is the difference between FFFF and other film festivals? Since FFFF has been happening for over the past 10 years, what was the motivation for you and Ryan to expand and start fundraising at this point?
Since we are often considered to be an experimental film festival, we don’t seem to get as many narratives or documentaries submitted to us. But our aim is to show anything we consider to be innovative. We aim to be as eclectic as possible. We value the cross-pollination of ideas as well. I feel this is pretty unique. As time goes on, our concept of what a film is has expanded. There’s a lot of video art and other media art that is repetitive or has no real “end” so that work is hard to show to an audience. But we have made adjustments in some cases with multiple screens, or curating segments from larger works. Even though we can’t do all the things a gallery can do, we try to adjust for exciting content regardless of the form it takes.
As for the fundraising, we have a lot of reasons. The biggest financial concern entails hosting the visiting filmmakers who show their work and lecture. We want to elevate the festival by bringing in known makers. This year, I was able to secure funds to bring Bay Area makers, Mike Kuchar, Craig Baldwin, Jennifer Kroot, and Jamie Meltzer to Denver to show and discuss their films in person! This was a one-time thing that only affected Denver, but it was great. The Kickstater funding can do this in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The other big thing is that some (not all) of our shows are free. The films with a modest fee still accrue production costs. We could use the flexibility. Also, we are working on some web development for our site but that is minimal. The main reason for the money is visiting lecturers in the three cities – San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Denver!!
What are you hoping will happen with FFFF? Do you want this to travel to other cities? Will FFFF have a base city?
After all the travel we have already done, we want to put down some roots. Right now, it seems like Denver, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City are the best choices. In the long run, we will definitely stay in San Francisco. We will always do some shows in less likely locations too but we don’t intend to keep traveling the way we once did. It’s just too difficult to do this and you can’t build audiences as easily. Again, this is why we are fundraising. We want to help bring artists to meet the community.
For those interested in submitting work for consideration to FFFF, what are you and Ryan looking for during the submission and deliberation process?
For submissions, we want people to send us work that is thoughtful and innovative. We don’t care if it’s a narrative, a documentary, an experimental film, video art, or anything else. We look for work that is conceptually strong.
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Below, is Brian Dewan’s, King of Instrument short film was featured in the past at the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF)
I went to the Night Light: Multi-Media Garden Party at the SOMArts Cultural Center. It was great seeing friends and meeting some wonderful artists. Below, you’ll find some footage I shot of Radka Pulliam‘s piece, Up and Down the Street. It’s quite clever in that the viewer must “look in” the building to “look out” at the street view. The placement was spot on since it was in a relatively inconspicuous place towards the front of the entrance. I noticed people stopped when they noticed someone looking down and ponder the location of the projection.
One of the memorable performances of the evening was the Spanish Contemporary dance routine of Elias Aguirre and Alvaro Esteban. They are amazing. The isolations and articulation of their bodies is best seen in person. If you were at Night Light, you would know exactly what I’m talking about. Fortunately, there is a video of this phenomenal Spanish Contemporary Dance duo.
There is SO much going on BUT I had to take the time to share a few photos I took during my studio visit with new media artist, Allison Holt. I’m looking forward to settling down and writing a piece about my conversation and visit with Holt. Her re-telling and artworks of the different energies and hybrid realities through her Fulbright research of Javanese culture is not only fascinating but yet another example of how artists can impact a community and engage in dialogue and discourse across cultures. Again, looking forward to posting parts of my interview with Holt as well as some reflection on her work.
I previously posted videos of the Hypercubes here. They’re extremely meditative, which I will get into during my write-up. For now, enjoy the studio visit photos and videos! If you have any burning questions and/or comments, please feel free to share and comment below. 🙂
Over the weekend, I volunteered at the Art Hack SF Weekend held at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. There were artists, programmers, art directors, designers, musicians, and other creative types. How àpropos that Soundquake was one of the winners for the weekend (with the 5:33 am 4.0 magnitude morning shaker)! Below, are short impressions while I was sitting in on the presentations. Overall, it was a great group of mega intelligent folks working together to meet at the intersections of art and technology. Great weekend, awesome food, brilliant people, and phenomenal ideas coming to fruition. Please check out The Creators Project and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts to learn more about the collaborative event and upcoming Creators Project exhibition at Fort Mason mid-March!!
* Please note: The list is organized by order presentation.
Soundquake – From different vantage points, Soundquake enables the viewer to experience an earthquake through sound and visualization. The project team used about 900 different data points, mapped, and overlaid on a 3D plane. For each earthquake, the team took into consideration the magnitude and epicenter. Currently, a banjo plays music at varying speeds. As the project team explained during the presentation, the concept entailed looking at something terrifying (Note: SQ created by transplants) and turn the experience into something beautiful with audiovisual effects. Being both a literal and abstract representation of earthquakes, both natives (I fall into this category) and transplants alike will appreciate something beyond themselves. This is a visualization and representation of nature. The 8-bit graphics, banjo recordings (done over the weekend!!) along with low-fi elements that combined cutting-edge technology were impressive. (WINNER) and (Dorothy Santos Favorite)
Letter Spacing – With the varying skill sets of designers and artists in the group, the team based their project on their collective interests, both aesthetically and personally. The series of letters rendered in WebGL and ‘spirit lines’ projected and animated based on orientation of shapes also relies on the a displacement map. The interactive component allows the end-user to interact with the piece through an exploration of the alphabet through a webcam feedback functionality that changes the texture of the letter and lines. Someone in the audience commented that it would be great for children learning the alphabet and language. I agree. It would be great to see where this project goes.
Spinny Video – For anyone learning WebGL, this was a unique project. Spinny Video, although vertiginous, shows the viewer a virtual world where they can move 360 degrees in a virtual space. We’re not talking video game play but in a space that is photo realistic and represents real world images. Imagine being in a snowglobe coupled with audio (within a cube or sphere). Cool, right? At the moment, the open format video is available for download and makes a great break from the lackluster workday.
Gabulous – The Gabulous team created an immersive and massive multi-player game based on Twitter. The objective is to allow the user to navigate a 3D virtual world where friends have the ability to walk through a Twitter virtual world accompanied by music and sounds. This team was definitely organized in their approach and accomplished a great deal of work during the weekend. From technical art to 3D modeling to programming, this team used their time well.
Flying Toasters – This group took a nostalgic look at the early 90s screen saver – the Flying Toasters. The project was an “homage to screen savers of yesteryear”. The premise of encouraging non-interactivity caught my attention. In a world glut with constant activity, Flying Toasters was a pleasant surprise at an art hack. Most, if not all projects, incorporate interactivity, which is great. However, I’m also a big fan of taking breaks and meditating, which many people cannot imagine in a highly connected world. Yet, this project reminded me that it’s OK to sit back, relax, and enjoy home appliances in flight!! (Dorothy Santos Favorite)
Jordan and Jeff – Jordan and Jeff worked with graffiti markup language, GML, that could also be plugged into other software. The visualization is available on GitHub as a series of blocks. The audio/visual web-based music experience has a lot of promise. The original composition was memorable and I’m looking forward to accessing the piece at a later date to view further developments.
Audio Shader – Essentially, Audio Shader is a music visualizer with specific parameters the user can change. Now, before you go thinking, “Doesn’t iTunes visualizer do this?” The answer: No. This is different. Very different. The varying source coding for the shader is the greatest aspect of this project. With a visual artist as part of the group, the code he produced for his visualization was reminiscent of light-based artworks found at new media arts gallery!! The group’s desire to explore how visuals can accompany a DJ’s music set or an artist’s visual work was definitely a commendable effort. Looking forward to seeing the fully developed project at The Creators Project exhibition! (WINNER)
Falling Leaves – What an interesting concept! This team decided they wanted to look at simulation and movement of a population. However, Falling Leaves is based on an interest of dead organisms. As one watches the falling leaves, the viewer is able to see a figure walking through the application. The data (or falling leaves) fall helping to form a figure. Conceptually, a strong project because it can be used to look how history (through historical data and events) effects the figure.
Partyline – The presenter said it best, “…some of the best art is transgressive”. I absolutely agree with this statement. Partyline certainly delivered on the concept of the arts and technology hybrid. Essentially, Partyline is based on true hacking. As multiple phone numbers are dialed before the audience, an increasing cacophony of sound forming a cloud of noise is produced. Partlyline easily made my favorites list. It was a crowd favorite, actually. This piece would make an (insanely) phenomenal performance piece. Aesthetically and conceptually, it’s was one of the brilliant projects at #arthacksf because it looked at the human voice, sound, the post modern audio landscape, and how communication has changed (significantly). I spoke with one of the team members (Casey Rodarmor) and discussed looking at other regions (then again, international numbers would be difficult to dial, logistical nightmare, actually). Fantastic art hack!! Also, this project served as a great reminder of the following: Don’t go leaving your phone number on Craigslist! (HONORABLE MENTION) and (Dorothy Santos Favorite)
Graffiti Jam – Graffiti Jam (GJ) was created to serve as a browser plug-in allowing Kinect to come through. The fractal patterns based on hand movements was intriguing. Similar to Audio Shader, it is an interactive music visualizer but the browser for Graffiti Jam is through the Microsoft Kinect. Out of all the projects, Graffiti Jam seems like a great opportunity to build and develop an actual game. Since the GJ responds to the user’s movement, I’d like to see where this particular project goes. Great start and potentially something worth exploring further!
Lone Wolf – LSD (Layer Synthesis Device)– Video DJ + live performances = Awesome but Team Lone Wolf took it a step further. With one of his current jobs as a video artist creating projections for bands, Lone Wolf used the weekend to develop video and audience participation-based application. He was interested in how the audience is affected by music and how they can integrate their own videos onto live projections as a part of the overall music experience. Mr. Wolf even had a QR code available for collaboration but this is still in the works since he was unable to beta test the application with multiple users. The fact that he created a collaborative video experience piqued my interest and fascination. Definitely a favorite. (Dorothy Santos Favorite)
Shared Cinema – Activating and enabling public space is something we’ve all seen before (i.e., The Great Wall of Oakland or the SMS Slingshot – both extraordinary projects). But Shared Cinema will serve as a video jukebox available in public space. Ideally, people use their mobile device thus producing a video queue where users could vote on videos they would like to view. The mobile app is in development and really wanting to see the final product. Theoretically, this is something I would love to see (literally). Click here to see the inspiration behind Shared Cinema. ANY hack project that ties back into the arts has my vote!! (Dorothy Santos Favorite)
With a multitude of writing projects going on simultaneously, I didn’t want this one to get left on the virtual stack under the virtual paperweight. I’m hoping to perhaps lengthen this piece and bring in some research. For now, I’ll share it with the world and for anyone interested in reading it. It’s about the work of Nik Hanselmann now based in New York. He graduated with his MFA in Digital and New Media Studies from UC Santa Cruz and received his BA from UC Berkeley in Art History. In any case, he’s one of the artists I would like to include in future research projects and writing. For now, gnaw on this text and let me know what you think. I’m curious how you feel about the body within new media arts. What role does the body play? Or, with technology capturing organic forms and life, does it matter whether or not what you see is a simulation or not? Heady stuff. I know but would love to hear what you think…Enjoy!
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Working Title: Body and Imagination: The Work of Nik Hanselmann
I am a big believer that work should perform and be as it is — that whatever phenomena you are trying to describe be embedded in the work itself. But I also think that the somewhat anachronistic attributes of past media have a significant weight on how work can be put into conversations today. ~ Nik Hanselmann, Artist
With the release of latest touch screen devices, consumers gather in droves as if making a sacred pilgrimage. Not only do these devotees want the privilege of partaking in the latest technology but these very devices are ways to socially engage and entertain. The multi-layer instantaneous retinal stimulation of our youtube-flickr google-able culture makes participation in society highly accessible. Everyone possesses the ability to create. This is where the artist creates distinctions and a much-needed discourse. Video art, specifically, has taken on countless iterations of the relationship between filmmaker and viewer. In recent years, new media artists have used technologies requiring the viewer to become a part of the production. But what happens when the artist intervenes by taking away the right of interaction and inter-connectivity away from the participant and relegates them to mere viewer?
The creative use (programming) of language to design and, sometimes, fabricate a specific reality or experience is when the medium becomes the subject. Similar to the abstract expressionists, some new media artists find ways to repurpose the tools and techniques in an unorthodox fashion. The alternative method of producing film footage featuring organic forms may not be a foreign idea but programming language as the basis for creating a new format for video art is suggestive of how new media artists push the boundaries of defining the art object. Nik Hanselmann’s work uses the body in different ways and piques the imagination as a point of departure for inquiry into the separation between artist, artwork, and observer in his works, bodyfuck and Observations.
In bodyfuck, Hanselmann created a unique programming language involving use of the body as a means of production. In this scenario, the artist becomes the spectacle. The piece entails a short video of the artist jumping and moving side to side within the frame of the screen. Grandiose gestures and exaggerated movements result in a specific character or symbol revealed to the viewer. As the artist moves, another character flashes on the screen. The cause and effect experience is not too dissimilar to a keystroke on a keyboard. Yet, Hanselmann’s breathy smile results in script that produces a short greeting – Hi. The entire body produces the programming language, the symbols, and the text. In speaking with the artist, he states,
…bodyfuck was comic “virtuosity” or bodily absurdity – something which ended up being a lot more physically punishing than I imagined before I set out to do the project. I think this is really important – and it’s not something that I would wish upon the audience. On a pragmatic level, it wouldn’t really work to have a bunch of non-programmer gallery-goers to be suddenly faced with the challenge or programming. ~ NH
It is the body, in the end, that exerts (maybe even suffers) to some degree, which harks back to the days of experimental video art where the artist performed for the viewer. Yet, bodyfuck serves as a metaphor for the artistic process. Complexity within a process somehow seems to constantly produce something simple that may seem absurd to the viewer but it is the complex set of ideas that lay the foundation for innovation. The serendipitous discoveries lay dormant and only in the artist’s domain. They are revelatory and representative of the way we watch and perceive the existence of the art object. Fictitious forms and organisms in Hanselmann’s piece, Observations, serve as another example of innovative tools used to build a work that reveals something separate and outside of ourselves through abstraction.
For Observations, the decision for non-interaction is to tinge the whole thing with hegemonic mystery. I’m fascinated by the idea of being an agent in science – most of us have little-to-no first-hand experience with most of the concepts that we take for granted. I think the video/screen in this context works like it did on the moon landing or the drop of an atomic bomb. The whole experience is so abstract but told with such authority. That is not to say of course that I think about the fictional phenomena I created on the same level of profundity – I’m merely calling back to this idea that the screen can be a frightening disconnect. In an age of interactivity, I think this gap is widened even further, as most of us can’t wait to get our greasy paws on something to pan, zoom, and eventually hit the home button to go tweet about it. ~ NH
Hanselmann’s works open up the discussion and examination of new media arts multi-faceted and rapidly evolving nature. Definition eludes new media (even though it’s been around for close to 40 years) in large part due to its resistance to fit snuggly into the canon of art history. It remains a vague topic primarily due to its ever rapidly evolving virtual landscape, meaning, and structure. The term new media alone connotes something discovered and innovative but what happens when there is constant flux and change in that very thing we are looking to define. How do we create a taxonomy for this? It becomes a task and a challenge for the artists to look at ways in which the tools can be used differently and perhaps with one another to create abstraction from what is seemingly finite and concrete.