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New Frontier offers eclectic art at Sundance Film Festival

Published January 22, 2014 1:35 pm

Park City • Art installations range from video projections on buildings to virtual reality helmets.
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Park City • Technology and the human condition clash head on in this year's New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival, a collection of art installations that aim to be surreal and thought-provoking.

This year's theme, "The Primordial Pool," examines a new age in which society is being transformed through uses in technology, such as the mobile phone and virtual reality.

"Instead of thinking about technology as separate from us, perhaps it's more productive to think that our society is turning a corner where technology and humanity are coming together in a new primordial pool," said Sundance senior programmer Shari Frilot, "where another consciousness, another society, another kind of humanity, is being born out of a critical mass."

In other words, get ready to have your mind blown by some far-out presentations.

New Frontier has moved back to Park City's Main Street after a few years near Prospector Square, and there are media presentations in three spots.

The single biggest installation, and the most costly ever for New Frontier, according to Frilot, is "The Source" by artist Doug Aitken. Housed in a circular wooden structure behind Main Street, "The Source" is a series of six projections of four-minute interviews with artists, including actress Tilda Swinton and musician Jack White, talking about the creation of their art. Nearly two dozen artists were interviewed, and the videos run simultaneously inside the building. Every night, the walls inside open, and the videos are projected onto the sides of the structure for people to see as they pass by.

"I wanted to make a project that looked at those ideas from individuals who were creating things and kind of take it back to the starting point," Aitken said. "It's a piece that's made to empower the viewer."

Another group of artists known as the Klip Collective has returned to Sundance with a new installation in which a video is projected over the Egyptian Theatre at 328 Main St. at night. The film tells the story of a projectionist who confronts the movies that have played there in the past. The Philadelphia-based group used special software to map the video specifically over the architecture of the Egyptian, said Klip Collective artist Ricardo Rivera.

"[The projectionst] gets terrorized by movies of Sundance past," Rivera said gleefully about the hero of the video. "It's kind of like a love letter to Sundance for me and my group."

The rest of the more than two dozen installations are inside the Gateway Business Center, 136 Heber Ave. One of them is the most talked-about new technology of recent years, the Oculus Rift virtual-reality helmet.

The gaming helmet has a front viewing screen and fits over the viewer's head. The user then can see a virtual 3-D world in a full 360 degrees by turning his or her head. The helmet, which will be sold to consumers later this year, is on display with a 3-D space combat game called "Eve: Valkrie." It also is used to show off the first virtual-reality music video by musician Beck.

Another installation is a continuous 61-minute video of New Yorkers shot from a moving van with a high-speed camera. The resulting slow-motion view of life in progress by British-born artist James Nares shows residents going about their day in high-definition detail.

"I always wanted to film with the camera in motion to give this feeling of kind of floating through an almost paralyzed city," he said.

The New Frontier will be open through Friday, noon to 8 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 3 p.m.

vince@sltrib.com

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