Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

New Frontier Take 2

Film has always been an exploration of technology, so it made sense when Sundance began a contemporary art exhibit as part of their annual festival four years ago that they would focus on technology-driven works. This year’s iteration of New Frontier, which was on display this past week in Park City, centers around the “liberated pixel” to join art and film. Featuring interactive, user-generated projects, this year’s display relies heavily on technology. While new media seems to reign over the installations, the few nods to “traditional” arts stand out, using more simplistic means to exemplify merging media. Many of these works were not part of the New Frontier: Take 1mirror exhibit at the Salt Lake Art Center during the festival, but they are being installed this week for Take 2, which will include all the New Frontier works and continues through March 25.

Lance Weiler’s “Pandemic 1.0” is a hectic game centered at Mission Control. Visitors come in to see a series of screens and data, all gathering at a central computer station, pulling information from twitter feeds, smart phones, and the project’s website: hopeismissing.com. The pandemic at Sundance was a sleep virus affecting the adult population of Park City, but the game really represents the spread of information and depending on how people participate, the pandemic spreads further or becomes more contained.

The installation also includes a memorial room where those affected by the pandemic have their stories told. A dark room accessible only by flashlight contains photographs of victims and artifacts from their life. Placing such a personal and secluded element next to the technology of the game allows visitors to connect more directly with the fallout. The memorial room reminds visitors that a person is connected to each piece of data. The informational charts and graphs would not exist without them.

Moving away from computers, a painted stage added an almost peculiar theater surrounding to one of the small black rooms in Miner’s Hospital. The elegant set of “Theater III + Edgar” includes a small central screen, which plays a seven-minute animation with a fitting musical score. Visitors can get lost exploring the painting and may have to stay for another seven-minute run to see the portions of the animated short they missed. Khebrehzadeh’s mixed media installation is a surprising take on a darkened theater and is reminiscent of a theater show from the past.

One fact of a society with ever-new technologies is that materials quickly outlive their use, function, or space and move from our homes to the trash. Artist Daniel Canogar rescues materials, showcasing their abilities through re-purposing and new perspectives. His New Frontier installation consists of two pieces, “Hippocampus 2” and “Spin,” which give new life to wires and DVDs through the use of light. A deceptively simple concept, the mess of wires in “Hippocampus 2” transforms to activated conductors as light shines through the tangles. When dark, the wires seem like a heavy and purposeless trio, arranged in three clumps side by side. The addition of light effortlessly finds the wires and fills the space to reveal weightless electric lines. In a venue full of transmedia projects and technology heavy installations, the breathing wires offer one of the most beautiful New Frontier exhibits. “Spin” owes its success to its confusion-inducing back and forth. At first glance, visitors can’t tell if the individual movie projections are bouncing off the discs or generated by another source. A massive wall of DVD’s, each is actually displaying a small version of the movie it once was bought to screen. The reflection from the discs shows on the opposite wall in a kaleidoscope effect. Short audio clips accompany the visuals, helping visitors to get lost in the projection stream.

New Frontier offers more than the chance to look. Visitors can play and explore as interactive parts of the exhibits, fighting a pandemic, sitting in a painted theater, and deciphering which recordings belong to mismatched DVD’s. Expanding the venue from Park City to Salt Lake City shows the value of this exhibition and is a great benefit for Utah’s art scene. The installations came from artists and galleries from around the world, people travel from all over to attend the Sundance Film Festival, and now Utah is the only place to exhibit the international one time display.

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