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Elektra: International Digital Arts Festival

See Saw Seams
See Saw Seams (1965) by Stan VanDerBeek

The eleventh edition of Elektra: International Digital Arts Festival takes place in Montreal beginning today through Sunday. The festival celebrates digital art in all its forms:

[It] presents artists and works of art that align the latest electronic music and visual creations derived from new technologies (animation, installation and robotics). Elektra unites creative media like music, video, cinema, design, gaming and audio or interactive installation with the latest digital technologies. Artists from all disciplines–composition, performance, dance, visual arts, etc.–all with a common interest in artistic applications of new technologies, uniting visual and sound.

I’m a guest of the festival and will be introducing a program on Stan VanDerBeek, who was a visionary pioneer of digital art and interactive media long before those terms even existed. VanDerBeek’s experimental films, which range from surrealist twists on cut-out animation to bleeding-edge (1960s) computer animation, will be screened twice at the landmark Cinémathèque québécoise–Friday, May 7, at 6:30pm and Sunday, May 9, at 5pm. More details about the films (which will be shown on 16mm film!) and VanDerBeek himself can be found on the Cinémathèque’s website. I’m genuinely excited about both attending Elektra and seeing VanDerBeek’s work on film. And Montreal Brew readers, please say hello if you see me up there.

For those of you unable to attend the VanDerBeek screening, here’s an embed of his film Breathdeath, which has been cited by Terry Gilliam as the film that inspired his approach to animation:

  • There was a retrospective on VanDerBeek at the last Ottawa festival, first time I’d ever seen his work. Really interesting stuff, although I imagine seeing it on actual film would be even better.

  • In the late 70’s I was fortunate to be invited to the Sinking Creek Film Festival (now the Nashville Film Festival) where he was a guest. In addition to presenting a collection of his amazing works he set up pipes with small holes drilled in them outside the theater. He sent hot steam through the pipes and projected his abstract computer animations on sheets of steam. He then invited the audience to walk “into” his films. He had also shot some movies in that same location during the day, and projected it on steam that night, so you saw the trees and buildings of that area. It was a transcendent experience.