About this blog
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Blog posting written by Peter Keahey, Film, Photography and Visual Arts, '12, FLEFF Intern, Yellow Springs, Ohio
Peter: Does all this technology ever become overwhelming?
Philip: Daily. I have my own mechanisms for dealing with that. One of the principle mechanisms is I watch a lot of 1930s movies, early B-movies. It’s not that I think they’re good, but they take me out of the mindset, this frontier media saturation, that I work in all the time. To watch Flash Gordon conquer the universe for an hour between midnight and one a.m. helps me. I also actually study the sets of these old movies, and I pay a lot of attention to the environments and the details of their sets and lighting and camera compositions. So it’s also research, and informing how I approach 3D modeling and set design and so on. It helps to ground me in some ideas and techniques and concepts that are long term and cross media boundaries. Watching old movies refreshes my cinema vocabulary. I don’t do a lot of activities that can’t relate to making my work. So I found a way of making 30s movies useful, and I get a break from what I do thirteen hours a day.
Peter: Do you try to maintain a balance between traditional artwork and digital artwork?
Philip: Not in terms of the forms that I work in. My work is entirely digital. If I’m working with something analogue it’s in order to move it into a digital form. My sources for content and perspective are analogue. Just as I watch 1930s movies, I also seriously study photography, music, and theatre from other times. I draw from those not only content, but ideas about how things are put together. That kind of study goes back thousands of years. How are ideas shaped? How are messages shaped? How are ideas and messages coded in works from other places and times and cultures? In that way, I’m very much paying attention to analogue forms, in order to understand how and why they were made, extract that information, and move it into my contemporary work. To move these ideas from the renaissance or a temple into current work is for me a very exciting thing to do. It gives me a kind of perspective I think is very useful. It gives my work a particular character and signature.
Peter: What are your current projects?
Philip: They are entirely digital projects and deal with synthetic worlds. I’ve done this for the past four or five years now. I’ve been working in digital worlds such as Second Life and other grids. That’s been enormously exciting and challenging to me. A whole new world literally opens up. At the same time it returns me to a much older interest, animation and model making. Those have been interests of mine for a very long time. I was doing 16 mm animation in the late 60s early 70s. I was building models since I was old enough to pick up glue and use a paintbrush. Creating synthetic worlds allows me to deal with those kinds of interests. It’s entirely plastic and malleable, to the level of coding involved.
Because of the frontier nature of synthetic worlds and other virtual reality forms such as augmented reality and 3D, there’s room to invent. There’s room to innovate and experiment, and to actually shape what these things look like going into the future. The world we live in today was very much invented and shaped by the media artists that I was working with in the early seventies. There’re people that I knew, that moved from New York State to the west coast in the mid-70s to go to work in the unheard of video-game enterprise. And look at the world today. The artists and technologists of that day were involved in the creation and incubation of what we know today. Just in the concept of college programs and media art, that is a direct result of what we were doing in places like Ithaca Video Projects and other media arts centers at the dawn of the current world.
Peter: Are you still based in Ithaca?
Philip: I left Ithaca in 1987. I am currently in Athens Ohio.
Peter: What kind of work are you bringing to FLEFF this year?
Philip: I’m participating in a couple discussions about the history of media art, particularly in the Finger Lakes area. I’m also giving a talk on my current work in synthetic worlds, and how I transitioned from a literal body of work in an installation, to an installation in Second Life, coming out of the same body of work and presenting it in an entirely different way.