Vimeo videos go fine art at Volta N.Y.

editor's notebook Artsy YouTube rival serves up program of short films, including some dazzling digital animations, as part of international art fair.

editor's notebook This week, New Yorkers are enjoying even more than their usual outsized share of art, with something in the neighborhood of 10 different fine-art marketplaces happening simultaneously in the city. And artsy YouTube rival Vimeo is taking advantage of the situation to burnish its brand, promote some of the artists who use its site, and spice up people's elevator rides.

In concert with the art- and tech-minded PR firm Culture Shock Marketing, Vimeo is serving up "Projection," a program of short films--including some dazzling digital animations--as part of Volta N.Y. The international art fair for collectors and the casually curious began midweek and runs through the weekend, with attendees treated to the Vimeo-CSM film fest as they ride to the event on shuttle buses and climb to the realm of high art by way of the elevators at the Volta venue. (The films are also featured at one of the booths at the show itself.)

It being a Saturday, and thus a perfect time for a matinee, I thought I'd embed some of the films in a blog item for your enjoyment. The first few are decidedly high tech, with the sort of mind-blowing computer-generated abstractions that could make a fractal fan jump for joy (or an early 20th century pioneer like Viking Eggeling or Hans Richter weep over not being born in the Adobe era). But some of the less-techie films are fun (and/or compelling) as well, so I've included one of those too. I hope you like what you see.

'Pororoca' by Scott Pagano

In this promo film for musician Laura Escudé's titular debut album, Pagano uses 3D modeling tools Houdini and Maya, along with 2D tools After Effects, Final Cut Pro, other Adobe products, and a variety of After Effects plug-ins to create a sometimes aquatic-looking, sometimes Gigeresque fantasy world.

As he told Toolfarm last year, Pagano's technical process "involves a lot of procedural animation where I will set up a system that reacts and animates to an incoming stream of data (often derived from sound analysis). Tools such as Houdini are phenomenal for such work as they allow for a space of play to both manipulate data and experiment fluidly with ways to connect animation data to anything."

As for his nontechnical process, Pagano had this to say in the same interview:

With music-driven projects, there is a lot of listening to a track repeatedly for a long time while allowing images to form in my mind. I have never been a practitioner of Dali-style lucid dreaming--but I find it important to detach from the world as much as possible, close one's eyes, and really allow oneself to discover images and movement that would not occur if one didn't actively attempt to detach from the swarming hectic chaos that surrounds our lives.

Apparently, even for a cutting-edge digital artist, there's something to be said for shutting down the computer and switching off the smartphone once in awhile.

The second vid here offers a side-by-side, before-and-after comparison that reveals a surprisingly mechanical structure beneath the seemingly organic forms (and gives an inkling of the amount of work involved in producing such spectacle).

pororoca from Scott Pagano on Vimeo

pororoca - animatic

'Music Is Math' by Glenn Marshall

Marshall used the open-source Processing programming language to create a situation where the computer itself could become the artist. The piece employs mathematics and code to let the computer spontaneously produce the imagery. Marshall subsequently used the system he developed here to produce video work for Peter Gabriel, as well as the Zio app for the iPhone and the Eyegasm app for the iPad. Says Marshall: "My ultimate aim was to have the computer generate spontaneous, random animation, which looked as natural and interesting as any other form of human created art."

'Locus' by Masaki Yokochi

Yokochi used Cinema 4D and After Effects to create this very short exploration, which features an affecting sequence of a pagodalike structure collapsing and a surprising section wherein a wavelike form spools in on itself.

Locus from Masaki Yokochi on Vimeo

'Nuit Blanche' by Spy Films

Fans of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Delicatessen" and "City of Lost Children" will probably appreciate this short, which puts digital wizardry to more traditionally representational uses than do "Pororoca" or the other preceding films. The "making of" movie is mesmerizing in its own right. (And the music, by Samuel Bisson, is gorgeous.)

'Bottle' by Kirsten Lepore

And last, but not least, my chosen representative for the low- (or lower at any rate) tech category: this charming stop-motion production by Kirsten Lepore, who apparently cranks out promos for the likes of MTV when she's not laboriously creating Chaplinesque romances involving creatures made of sand and snow. I have to say I love the use of sound in this film (as I do the use of sound effects in this iPad spot). And the ending here seems just about right; it makes Lepore's effort a work of, well, art (as well as an appropriate companion piece to "Nuit Blanche"--bravo to the curators for that).

There are several other offerings in "Projection," including the engagingly mechanical "Four Letter Words," which features an ingenious old-school-ish contraption that busily produces all the letters of the alphabet. You can find each of the films here. For now, though, I leave you with "Bottle" (and I raise a glass to the Saturday matinee).

 

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