See Peter Burr's Experiment In Live Cinema Based On Tarkovsky's Stalker

<p>The artist&#8217;s show, <i>Special Effect</i>, will blend different types of media for an insane mashup performance.</p>

Jan 17 2013, 12:05pm

Taking place tomorrow at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image is a live performance piece from artist Peter Burr. Special Effect takes inspiration from Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic sci-fi-art film Stalker, particularly from the idea of “the Zone,” a strange place in the film where desires are granted and anything is possible.

In Burr’s performance, he’ll be staging a live show featuring specially commissioned videos (check out the teaser trailer above) by artists like Yoshi Sodeoka and Sabrina Ratté, among many others, and interspersing these into what he’s calling “a live television show from the future.”

The performance will mix up different types of media and will feature a live setup of laser beams, green screens, and a Kinect. This will all take place in the suitably futuristic setting of the MOMI theater, which looks like the inside of a spaceship or what Burr describes as “a movie theater that looks like a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

The whole thing sounds like an intriguing blend of theatrics, insane futuristic musings, and interactive artwork. We asked Burr some questions so he could further explain this “experiment in live cinema.”

The Creators Project: Can you explain the concept of a “live television show from the future”? What can people expect from the performance?
Peter Burr:
It’s a live movie. The main feature is interspersed with commissioned commercials, channel-surfed cartoon fragments, and musical interludes. All of this is played out in real time via a custom Max/MSP/Jitter patch, props, costumes, and a live video feed.

Burr performing “Special Effect”

Is it purely the concept of “the Zone” in Tarkovsky’s Stalker that inspired this piece? Or have you also incorporated other aspects of the film, like the aesthetic, the mood, or any other parts of the narrative?
The aesthetic and mood of the original film are big reference points for the show. In fact, the genesis for Special Effect was in a suite of computer images I made while watching the film over and over again last winter. The specifics of the movie weren’t in those images, but some of the mood and framing was there. They were striking pictures to me, so I decided to explore them in four dimensions. Around this time, I was talking with a bunch of other video artists and animators and noticed there was a thread here that these artists were also inspired by. So that, in turn, gave birth to the whole project.

What was the brief you gave to the video artists and how did you go about choosing them?
I reached out to artists whose work I admire on the basis of accepting a small commission to create a commercial inspired by the world of Stalker and the book it’s based on, Roadside Picnic. That premise is that aliens landed on our planet and left a bunch of junk in their wake: almost-used-up batteries, half-empty bottles, things like that. The people on earth don’t know whether or not it’s junk though because the aliens came and left so quickly. Maybe these aliens are just car-camping in the wilderness, leaving behind their hot dog wrappers, puddles of anti-freeze, etc. and we are just on the outskirts trying to make sense of that stuff the next day when they leave.

It is unclear, but what happens either way is that a whole industry pops up around trying to figure out what these things are and how we could use them ourselves, but nobody is ever really sure if we are doing the right things with them. Are we using laserdiscs as battleaxes? Sledgehammers to open bananas?

Still from one of the video works

Are there any themes or ideas that you feel the piece explores, particularly with regards to our relationship to technology or with regards to technology fulfilling our desires?
Totally. I like Tarkovsky’s use of defamiliarization here. The idea is to make us unfamiliar to ourselves—to gain perspective on the artifacts of our desire. We use the tools of fiction to understand who we really are, what we really want. Of course, its unclear whether anybody knows what he/she really wants and so we play Angry Birds in the meantime.

Burr performing the piece

What are your own ideas about the future of cinema and television?
Cinema and television have a remarkable capacity to create illusions. With special effects, we have gained the ability to make anything possible. I see us entering a world of maximum lens flare, total drop shadow.

“Special Effect” Friday January 18, 7PM. Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue Astoria, NY 11106. Tickets: $15 public / $9 Museum members / Free for Silver Screen members and above. Order online or call 718 777 6800 to reserve tickets.


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