It used to be that if you wanted to experience experimental film, you'd have to catch an Aphex Twin video on MTV or head to one of the more esoteric film festivals like onedotzero to see what was going down. But times change and so do the ways in which we consume our media—these days the internet has given filmmakers plenty of platforms to showcase their art to an always-eager and culturally clued-up audience.
One of the best (and probably worst) things about the Internet is the freedom it gives people to create what they want and put it out there for people to view, like, share, LOL, and send into the viralsphere. It’s the sort of environment that’s allowed experimentation to thrive, nurturing people’s eclectic talents and letting their work find an audience no matter how bizarre (in fact, sometimes the more bizarre the better). Meaning no matter what your idea is, if it’s done with skill and originality, chances are your view count will rise into the thousands.
So where once there may’ve been an experimental film-shaped hole in your life, now you’re spoilt for choice. But don’t worry too much about the choosing, because we’ve done the hard work for you—presented below are some of our favorite experimental filmmakers practicing today.
Chris Milk’s work has seen him take film into the web browser creating—with Aaron Koblin—interactive films Rome: Three Dreams of Black and The Wilderness Downtown. In The Wilderness Downtown the viewing experience is multiplied across free-floating windows, giving a twist on split screen filmmaking. It also utilizes Google Maps so the action takes place in your hometown.
Using abstract imagery and kaleidoscopic juxtapositions, Max Hattler‘s work is disorientating and captivating. There’s no narrative conventions here as shapes and forms become your guide, and colorful geometric spectacles burst onto the screen. Neon patterns flash before the viewer in hypnotic rhythms in work that can reference everything from German expressionism, Islamic patterns, and sci-fi .
Art duo Field are due to release their non-linear film Energy Flow, a journey through motion using objects and animals from real life. It’s an experiment in visuals and narrative as the expressionistic imagery is experienced through 10 story lines that are interlinked so that something unique is seen every time the film is viewed. The generative film will be released as an app on iOS and Android.
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have their own idiosyncratic approach when it comes to filmmaking, mixing elements of surrealism (like in their short Dogboarding above) with the absurd to create comical films. Their amusing and mischievous approach plays with our expectations and has translated very well to music videos. You can watch their video for Battles’ “My Machines” below.
The twisted mind of animator Cyriak Harris has unleashed all kinds of monstrosities onto the web—strange fractal beings that mutate and duplicate before our eyes. Like a lamb that evolves into a mechanical abomination, spewing out limbs and heads, or a 1950s educational film that spirals into a grotesque spectacle of distorted mouths sprouting distended tongues. Whatever his subject matter, it’s guaranteed to leave you thinking “WTF?”.
Arts and crafts meets tribal transhumanism in the films of Huang, who uses practical effects and VFX to create his uncanny weirdness. His experimental films channel Jim Henson’s fantasy adventures and mix them with a dash of Chris Cunningham-inspired oddness to create an aesthetic that you just can’t take your eyes off.
Golden Age – Somewhere
Mixing animation with live-action this collective of architect students use the medium of film to explore emerging technologies and their social and political implications. Surreal imagery is mixed with stunningly realized futuristic cityscapes as the films meditate on the digital age and its future. Their films are visual explorations, investigating uncharted realms and potentialities not yet realized.
Please Say Something
Using a distinctive 3D style, O’Reilly‘s films can be heartbreaking, abstract, and acute observations on human emotions. They’re also full of absurdity and use unconventional, chaotic plots, like the one above about a cat and mouse set in the distant future. Stylistically his work incorporates glitches leaving in elements and traces from the software he uses to reveal the structures behind the animation, using this as an aesthetic.
The Carp and The Seagull
In Boehm’s interactive WebGL film The Carp and The Seagull, the space that the action takes place in is just as important to the experience as the narrative. Set within a browser people are urged to explore the areas where the film takes place, clicking on items and causing things to happen. The experience takes elements from gaming and places them outside a goal-driven context, so the user is free to roam around at their leisure to interact with the environment.