Sundance: Art Meets Tech in Park City

Brad and I are in Toronto working with our colleagues in the Great North on developing the content for the Technology in the Arts - Canada conference for May 9 & 10 in Waterloo. During a few moments yesterday when I hit the streets with my Visa (aka shopping), Teresa Hollingsworth from the Southern Arts Federation called me to give me her celebrity sightings report from the Sundance Film Festival. Once my petty jealousy cooled down, I wondered what interesting intersections of art and technology were taking place at Sundance this year. Here's what I've learned:

  • Last year, Sundance opened a screening room in Second Life with the indie film Four Eyed Monsters. The festival continued using its SL screening room this year with the premiere of Lynn Hershman's new movie Strange Culture featuring Tilda Swinton and Thomas Jay Ryan portraying the true story of Steve Kurtz.Synopsis: In 2004 artist and college professor Steve Kurtz was preparing for a MASS MoCA exhibition that would let audiences test whether food has been genetically modified when, days before the opening, his wife tragically died of heart failure. Distraught, Kurtz called 911, but when medics arrived, they became suspicious of his art supplies and called the FBI. Dozens of agents in haz-mat suits sifted through his home and impounded his computers, books, cat, and even his wife's body. The government held Kurtz as a suspected bioterrorist, and, nearly three years later, the charges have not been dropped. He still faces up to 20 years in prison. Because he is legally barred from comment, the movie uses actors as avatars to tell this story of contemporary art, science, politics and paranoia. � Click here for Variety's review of the film
  • Continuing in the Second Life vein, this year the festival premiered "Invisible Threads" by Stephanie Rothenberg, a new media performance artist, and her collaborator, Jeff Crouse, a digital artist and programmer. "Invisible Threads" is a virtual sweat shop that produces real-life, custom-ordered, personalized blue jeans. The project is intended as art, but the creators see it as a window into so-called "telemetric manufacturing methods of the future."“What I think is fascinating about her work is that it is a step towards what our future is going to be,” said Jeffrey Winter, a panel programmer for the Sundance Festival who focuses on media, art and technology. “It’s called art now, but in the future it’s going to be how you get your jeans. It will be daily life. So often what you call art is just people who see the future before the rest of us do.”
  • Sundance also premiered a landmark in DIY cinema -- the first solo computer-generated animated feature. M Dot Strange (nee Michael Belmont) -- writer, director, editor, producer and animator of We Are the Strange -- is the first YouTube filmmaker to hit Sundance's big screen.Synopsis: Blue is a young girl navigating the streets of a terrifying, sinister fantasy world all alone. When she meets Emmm, a fellow lost soul, she joins him on a quest for some ice cream. Upon arriving, they realize the ice cream shop has been taken over by dark forces, and the whole city is teeming with evil. Bizarre monsters surround Blue and Emmm on all sides until Rain, a sadistic hero, arrives to rescue them and exterminate the source of the evil. More about the film and filmmaker

Okay, now I am more jealous. Next year, Teresa definitely has to take me with her to Park City!