Peter Burr is a master of computer animation and creating images and environments that hover between abstraction and figuration. We sat with him to talk about his Video Cube, how you make an installation that can be viewed with equal scope from outside the exhibit as from within, and what it’s like to curate a project for a screen that’s bigger – by a lot – than any human field of view. Read the full interview below, and come see the video cube – from inside or out – at OPUS 1, on October 7, on the stage at Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Project: Video Cube 

In the Video Cube, there’s a combination of video and animated work, artists at varying stages in their careers and from around the world. Could you tell us about your curatorial process for something so diverse as this particular program?

The Video Cube revisits a curatorial project of mine called CARTUNE XPREZ. Originally a video label and touring engine, CARTUNE XPREZ began in 2005 as a way to showcase artists working in experimental animation that don’t fit into traditional contexts of cinema, fine art, or pop culture. With the Video Cube, I was particularly interested in thinking about the current state of immersive media and chose to highlight artists whose work maintains a strong thread to the mechanics of a movie theater: this social space built to collectively absorb projected sound and image. At its core, I’m excited about creating an environment for a big crowd of people to dissolve together inside a flickering cube.

Sabrina Ratte – “BIOMES”

What is the curatorial thread amongst the works, and how does this tie to the overall festival themes?

The full program looks at film and video through a somatic lens: cinema for the body.

Were all the works for the Cube displayed originally in multichannel format? How do you curate for this format? What challenges come from translating a single channel piece into a multichannel format?

All of the works being shown in the Video Cube were made to be shown in a multichannel format, so all of the work takes the nature of the expanded screen into deep consideration. There is an in-built quality of overabundance with that, especially given the nature of a screen that extends past the limits of any human’s pair of eyeballs. In choosing the work for this program, I have relied on the experience of making work like this myself to know what it will feel like in its final form, since there was no consistent strategy between artists translating this kind of work to my laptop screen as I was considering the final program.

Scott Gelber – “UNCANNY VALLEY ARCHIVES”

What role does sound play in the Video Cube program?

The nature of ‘cinema for the body’ necessitates a strong marriage between sound and image. This program is driven by the artists’ consideration of sound as much as image.

Are there artists whose work you’re particularly excited about, or whose work will translate to the Cube context in particularly compelling ways?

Are you asking me to pick a favorite child? I’m very excited to see all of this work in 360 degrees. I think Rainer Kohlberger’s contribution – over 20 minutes of visceral light/sound play – will be particularly affecting. Strobe Warning.

How does the festival context impact your approach to curation? Specifically, how do you curate for the Merriweather Post Pavilion stage, a space usually reserved for live music?

I like the idea of giving audiences access to the stage to crawl inside the cube and experience this work. I don’t go to very many music festivals myself, and I think that boundary between performer and audience partially drives my lack of enthusiasm for the traditional music fest. In the case of this work, the audience is INSIDE the work. You can actually get up on stage and choose the center, feel it from there.

In our hypermediated, hyperconnected culture, how is the experience of video art and time-based work shifting in an exhibition context?

There are many exhibition contexts driven by many different forms of capital. I have seen new forces turn their attention towards unconventional digital art practices in recent times and I think we can chalk that up to the growing sense of our lives entrenched in digital media and lots of people trying to figure out new forms of expression that resonate with this new form of life.

Sebastian Buerkner – “SOUND THAT WAS OUR DOG”

Who is the audience for the Video Cube program? What should festivalgoers expect to see?

This program is built for audiences with an interest in pushing deep into the black box of our brains to search for a third ear, third eye.

The Cube can be experienced from a variety of perspectives – from many angles as well as from outside and within the Cube. What’s it going to be like to approach a work from so many perspectives?

It is going to be very rad.

What role do audience and interactivity play in the experience of the program? How is this influenced by the site?

Viewers are unable to process all incoming information in a single sitting, having to choose between screens if they want to sate their curiosity and learn more about the shifting structure. Unlike choosing between branches in an interactive narrative where the peripheral is an explicit set of controls, here the peripherals are the human neck and eyes, allowing for expression beyond mere hardware.

Robert Seidel -“VELLUM”

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