About this blog
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Monday, February 11, 2013
Blog posting by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF Blogger, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
I recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of aforementioned upstate artist, Samantha Raut, whose project Art is Atrocity was displayed in FLEFF's Distributed Microtopia's Exhibition.
Taking a satirical approach through the use of tacky billboards, Raut gathered attention on the recent budget cuts that resulted in cuts to fine arts programs in the Syracuse school system. Read what the artist had to say about this project and what kind of attention it received.
KC: To start, what is some of your other work? Is it all as thought provoking as Art is Atrocity?
SR: A lot of my past work has been through storytelling and mainly animation. Usually what kind of is the core of that is I really want to take social issues or traditions that we have or go along with as a society and I end up flipping it. Art is Atrocity follows that same sort of storyline.
KC: What made you decide to take such a satirical approach to the project?
SR: I was trying to figure out what was the best way to catch people’s attention and keep it. That’s one of the most challenging aspects of doing something like this. If I took a straightforward approach, just saying, “Art is good,” I would probably just get a pat on the back and people would just move on. If I took it in the complete opposite direction of what people think, people would think it was crazy. I saw how effective satire was in other areas of media, for example, Stephen Colbert, and The Onion and decided to roll with it. It’s very, very effective.
KC: What have reactions to the project been like?
SR: Most of the reactions that I got were very negative. They didn’t outright see that it was satirical. There were a few out there that caught on the first time around and contacted me. Some contacted me with anger and hatred, but backed it up with stories about how art changed their life. When I told them, under my alias, they were very, very happy. People believed it because there are outrageous groups out there that exist.
KC: As far as you know, have there been any changes made in the Syracuse school system?
SR: As far as I know, I don’t think that there has been. I would have to probably dig a little deeper and look at their new budget. The point of this project, it’s my first almost “activist” piece, it’s very new to me, the medium was very new, my main goal was to get people to talk about the issue amongst themselves and to create a dialogue, which I think is the first step to any lasting change. The people who wrote to me after the project said that the project was circulating around their school places and work environments as a topic, which is what I wanted.
What are your reactions to Art is Atrocity?
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Blog posting written by Shea Lynch Documentary Studies and Production ’13, FLEFF Blogger, Glens Falls, New York
Co-curator of the Distributed Microtopias Exhibition, Professor Dale Hudson has been working extensively with FLEFF since 2007, translating each season’s theme into a cohesive body of work. Partnered with Sharon Lin Tay, the duo has worked with artists from all over the world.
“In some ways, this year's exhibit responds to the techno-utopianism or cyber-utopianism of the the mid-1990s that imagined the internet as a democratic space where information and knowledge could be distributed equitably to everyone without being utterly naive or indifferent to the built-in controls of these technologies and platforms,” said Hudson.
The Distributed Microtopias Exhibit is a learning and sharing experience for the artists and the curators. This season will be an unusual one as artist Rico Aditjondro selected Null_Sets, a collaborative piece with an Ithaca alum, Evan Meaney.
It is often challenging, said Hudson, tackling key concepts for each piece and presenting them in this “transcultural space.”
“Each piece in the exhibition can be experienced individually, but the exhibition works even better as a whole. Many of the pieces address similar concerns from different perspectives,” said Hudson.
Hudson also utilizes the Dérive app in exploring his own environmental spaces at the New York University of Abu Dhabi, where he teaches film and new media studies, and connecting it to the theme of FLEFF.
“Connected to FLEFF's theme, the Dérive app facilitates research into the mobilities of urban planning that shape our experience of everyday life. Many of the concepts behind the design of the city were derived from British colonial ideas of space transmitted through and refashioned by postcolonial Egyptian ideas of space,” said Hudson.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Blog posting written by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production ’16, FLEFF Blogger, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
A series of controversial billboards recently caught the attention of passerbys in Syracuse, New York.
A part of FLEFF’s Distributed Microtopias Exhibition, Art is Atrocity is the latest project from upstate digital artist Samantha Raut. The project uses satire to focus on the issue of fine arts programs being cut from the Syracuse school system due to recent budget cuts.
Raut utilized billboards around the city to capture the attention of everyday people. Each bland, white billboard states “Art is Atrocity” in a standard serif font, followed by a link to the project’s website.
Upon visiting this website, users find themselves on a homepage that reminds me of the good ol’ Windows 97 days. Through exploration of the drab, archaic-looking site users can read all about director (and Samantha Raut's alias) Samuel Ruta's mission to inform the people of Syracuse about the need to remove fine art education from the local school system. Or at least it seems that way.
Guised by it’s satirical web design, the site actually provides a link to a page that reveals the truth behind the project. The aesthetics of the project, from the billboards to the website are purposely "horrendous" as Raut puts it, in order to "get people thinking about how valuable art and music is to us as a whole."
I'm a big fan of Raut's ironic usage of crude aesthetics in the project, and I think it serves well as an attention grabber and a conversation starter. Judging by the "responses" page of the website, the project has definitely sparked many responses from both angry art education-supporters who misunderstood the project as well as praise from those who understood and appreciated Raut's unique approach to presenting the issue.
Check back soon for coverage of my interview with the artist herself! Have you or anyone you know seen any of the project's billboards?
Friday, February 8, 2013
Blog post written by Kristen Tomkowid, Journalism '15, FLEFF Intern, Poughkeepsie, NY.
Arab Spring was big news the past two years, but we have been hearing less and less about it recently. I interviewed artist Ali Kadhum about his work on the subject for the Distributed Microtopias exhibit
Kadhum created the video Under the Microscope as a response to the suppression and inhibitions the Arab world went through and is still going through. As an Iraqi citizen, Kadhum was a part of this world and because of this he saw the reason behind the uprising.
Kristen Tomkowid: Are you happy with the result of Under the Microscope?
Ali Kadhum: I am very satisfied with the result.
KT: Do you think you will do more to further the project? Like creating a series?
AK: Yes, there is a lot of work about this theme in my exhibition that includes a seven part series of video art and experimental works that have been produced by an organization. Now, it depends on whether there are other organizations which can fund the project.
KT: Are you working on anything new?
AK: Right now there is an experimental film about the American invasion of Iraq. It is a series of work which includes Iraq after war.
"As human beings we are trapped in a grid, drawn by political and social events."-Kadhum's webpage
What are your thoughts on Arab Spring and our invasion of Iraq? Leave a comment with your thoughts!
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Blog posting written by Erica Moriarty, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF Intern, Houston, Texas
Just by opening a laptop, we are presented data with the goal of processing that data into information. But what happens in between during that process?
More importantly, what gets lost?
Null_Sets looks at the gap between data and information. The data is represented in the computer, or the quantities. The information is the more human aspect – how we interpret data.
Alongside Evan Meaney, Amy Szczepanski took on a new project to explore this gap between data and information. As Shawn explained in the previous part, Null_Sets takes a text as data and turns it into a jpeg image file. The project is a new form of art that puts large-scale data through an aesthetic lens. However, computer coding is the backbone behind this project.
Essentially, the team takes the 0s and 1s that is data to computers and translates it as the image instead of the text. According to the project’s website, you can see Hamlet as a jpeg and find meaning with the literature’s computer code. One could say the pictures look at how we interpret what the computer does.
However, looking at the image does not solve the question Shawn posed. Instead, new questions arise. When the computer translates the data, does it become information? Or is information only valid when we interpret it?
What do you think? When does your data truly become information?
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Blog posting written by Shawn Steiner, Film, Photography, and Visual Arts '13, FLEFF Intern, Elkridge, MD
Imagine that before you leave for work your roommate says that he/she is going to make soup for dinner. You get excited wondering what kind and mentally prepare yourself for the meal. But, when you arrive at home you find a series of bowls on the counter. One has broth, one has chicken, one has noodles, etc…
That’s not soup. That’s data.
Now, because you are starving you elect to just compile the ingredients yourself. Now you are looking at a nice, steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup. That’s information.
Evan Meaney and Amy Szczepanski with their project Null_Sets took on the idea of data versus information. What is what? And is it really?
So, if we look at this analogy of data and information and look at Null_Sets we can make some comparisons.
The project takes the text as data and converts it into a jpeg image file. Simple enough concept. The text must be data and the image is the information.
Wait. The original text is a book. Isn’t that information? It takes words and creates meaning with them. It seems to be both.
Now, the jpeg image must still be information, right?
But what if you could re-process the image and convert it back into the original text document? Wouldn’t that make it data?
It seems that data and information are very difficult terms to use properly. It also seems very situational.
But, another question is what is the original data?
Is it the 26 letters that make up the alphabet? So wouldn’t everything written be a derivative of that data. So everything isn’t quite as original as we thought.
Is everything a copy? Is everything data? Is everything information?
What do you think?
Stay tuned for Part 2, written by fellow blogger Erica Moriarty.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Blog posting written by Erica Moriarty, Documentary Studies '16, FLEFF Intern, Houston, Texas
She’s no artist.
In fact, her background is in mathematics and computer science. However, Amy Szczepanski, a professor at the University of Tennessee, helped mobilize the different worlds of visual arts and computer science last year when she won the Jury Prize in FLEFF’s Distributed Microtopias Exhibition .
Szczepanski and Meaney joined forces to produce the award winning Null_Sets, a project that explores the gap between data and information using digital images. According to Szczepanski, the idea for the project stemmed from an interest in combining large computing with Meaney’s work in the visual arts.
Szczepanski said, “The pictures look at how we interpret what the computer does.”
She went on to explain that the project takes the 0s and 1s the computer uses to understand data and looks at it from pictures instead of text. The data that is represented by a computer is numbers in quantity. Null_Sets makes the information more human by interpreting it in an aesthetically pleasing way through images.
The project looks at several ideas, including the gap between data and information. In looking at this gap, the idea of the glitch particularly interested the pair.
“The glitch looks at what went wrong in computing,” explained Szczepanski. “By understanding the glitch, we get a better sense of how things should be.”
Now, Szczepanski continues to look at what went wrong through the collaboration of different areas of expertise. She utilizes this year's theme of mobilities by moving between multiple areas of expertise to make a collaboration. Through her persistent work on Null_Sets, she mobilizes the discussion of artists and scientists everywhere.
In addition, Null_Sets physically moves. Through coding, text moves into images, creating a true representation of the movement of people, ideas, objects and environments.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Blog posting written by Shawn Steiner, Film, Photography, and Visual Arts ’13, FLEFF Intern, Elkridge, MD
I’m not the only person coming back to FLEFF this year!
Evan Meaney is a professor of transmedia design at the University of Tennessee. And, he is both an Ithaca College graduate and FLEFF alum. He will be returning this year due to his involvement with Null_Sets, winner of the Distributed Microtopias jury prize.
First, what is transmedia?
Meaney described transmedia as the communication of ideas through different forms. It has a lot to do with everything. It includes the science behind the work, the math in the program, and anything else that may be involved.
An interesting definition. Now, what is the big deal with Null_Sets?
He said that people are obsessed with ordered sets. Which makes sense, we like being able to understand information. But, this takes that data and converts it over to a new form (this time a jpeg image file). Now, we can look at and compare two things in a new way. Or we can simply look at the image created by a text file of Moby Dick and be intrigued with how pink is turned out.
And being familiar with the idea of FLEFF themes, Meaney has his own take on Mobilities.
Meaney was immediately reminded that there are so many systems in place to keep people from moving.
What immobilities can you think of?
Update: Profile: Amy Szczepanski written by Erica Moriarty. Stay tuned for a joint post on Null_Sets.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Blog post written by Amber Thibault, Cinema and Photography ’15, FLEFF Intern, Lewiston, Maine.
That is the first word that came to mind when I watched Sky of Dubai by Anne Spalter. This work is part of the Distributed Microtopias Exhibition. I feel this film really lends itself to this theme as the city literally feels like it's being distributed.
Click here to watch the film.
After I got over the dizzying effect and utter hypnosis I thought about what I had just seen.
The film starts out "normal" but quickly grows into a more abstract, borderline in psychedelic, piece. At one point you have no idea where you are anymore. The original image of flying over the city disappears and you are left with swirling objects and spinning images.
It took me watching it a couple times to realize that the last shot is a static shot - the only static shot in the piece. I believe it serves to brings the viewer back to reality, so that the viewer doesn't walk away completely disorientated.
I'm not sure what to think about the blue. I couldn't decide if it made me feel calm or added to the dizzying effect. But overall, the piece swallowed me whole. I felt absorbed by it and found myself asking, what does this mean? What is this film calling attention to? I felt like it had my attention and I wanted to know more.
I will be interviewing Anne Spalter, the creator of this piece, next week, but in the mean time:
What do you think the piece addresses?
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Blog posting written by Andrew Ronald, Film, Photography & Visual Arts '15, FLEFF Intern, Mahopac, New York
Knowledge. Exploration. Imagination.
These are all elements of the Distributed Microtopias Exhibition here at the 16th annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. And there was one artist in particular who stood out to me: Shambhavi Kaul. Her piece entitled Scene 32 is a part of the exhibition.
And rightfully so. Shot in both high-definition video and 16mm film, the sound of subtle winds accompany various shots of mesmerizing textures, patterns, and remote locations. It is very moving in the sense that it invites the audience to experience ephemeral moments and reflect upon them for a munch longer time. The editing strategy is even structured in such a way to promote an overt, yet fluid transition from one moment to the next.
Scene 32 truly encompasses the idea of mobilities.
I happened to stumble upon this video as well for some commentary from the artist herself about the piece, but I am also attempting to set up a Skype interview session with Kaul sometime later this week where I will be able to ask her a whole lot more! Stay tuned!
How does Scene 32 make you feel?
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Blog posting written by Shawn Steiner, Film, Photography, and Visual Arts ’13, FLEFF Intern, Elkridge, Maryland
Have you ever geotagged a photograph?
I do it all the time!
Some artists even do the opposite. Nate Larson and Marin Shindelman took photos to go with the location of the tweets that caption the photographs. Geolocation is an incredible “tribute to the data stream,” as they call it.
It calls into question the idea of place and movement.
Movement today is different. Smoother. Less physical. In one second we can receive a message from the other side of the world. We can actually be in another place in real time.
But, what does all this mean?
It means that we can go wherever we want at any time. We can go to Flickr and travel to a beach in Costa Rica. All from the comfort of our bedrooms. And, if you close the curtains, you may be able to forget that it is snowing here in Ithaca, NY.
Mobilities explores this idea. FLEFF brings people and ideas from all around the world to transport the attendees to all around the world. The Distributed Microtopias Exhibition brings together work from India, Ethiopia, the United States, Iraq, and plenty others. And that’s just one thing.
I hope I can make it to Latin America with a little help from FLEFF.
Where do you want to travel?