Arts & Culture News

10 Things You Need to Know About Expanded Cinema's Big Night

Three years ago, the Dallas VideoFest introduced a new program to their line-up of events that changed the way we view video in this city. "Expanded Cinema" followed Bart Weiss' interest in non-traditional ways of bringing video to people.

For years, Weiss had been dreaming up a plan to pair video arts with the big billboards in town, but that plan never came to fruition, until he saw the Omni go up. Then, a light bulb clicked on. Here was a way to make that dream a reality. Here was a way to connect video and the arts, with the city on a grand scale. It was time to put video one of the largest buildings in the downtown.

Named after a seminal text by new media art theorist Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema calls attention to video's potential for fine art, and this year's showing will continue show just how strong video can be. Following in the footsteps of previous curators, Carolyn Sortor and Mona Kasra, Jenny Vogel brings her own sensibility to the wall by pushing the boundaries of what we think can be shown on it.

With her theme for this year's screening, "Mirage," Vogel plays with her own personal memories of Dallas. "Growing up in Germany, I have vivid memories of Dallas and Texas as it was represented in the TV series Dallas. Though I was not so interested in the actual show, I always loved the intro credits with the oil explosions and the flyover the city of Dallas with all its glass buildings. A mirage is essentially a projection of the mind, and I think that for many foreigners Dallas and Texas serves as a place to project ideas and ideals on to. The Omni hotel is the perfect venue to reflect on this theme because it has essentially a wrap around screen that can serve as a window into this imagined or fantastical version of the city. I selected artists that already dealt with similar themes in their work, or that I felt would be interested in taking up the challenge."

Never been before? No worries. Here are the Top 10 Things You Should Know About Expanded Cinema before you watch it at 8 p.m. Sunday.

The official viewing spot The official viewing spot for the third installment of Expanded Cinema is at 777 Sports Street. That's where Reunion Arena used to be and where The Boss played earlier this year. Get there early to claim a good spot, around 7:00 p.m., and spread out your blankets, chairs, and coolers. There will be speakers at the official viewing spot, but no trash bags, so be big kids and pick up after yourselves. Keep Texas Clean, ya'll.

The non-official viewing spots In case you don't like crowds, are running late, or just like to play it cool by finding your own private viewing locations, let me help you out. Take note: the farther away you can get, the more coherent the image on the Omni will be. The first year, the viewing site across the river was fantastic, though unfortunately, now it is a construction site for the expansion of I-35, so don't go back there. Rumor has it the view from the Belmont Hotel is good, but you'll need to scope that one out first since it might be blocked by the new construction of I-30. Because, progress.

Just stay away from getting too close to the Omni itself. The distance between pixels (the entire floors of the building) is too great for the image to resolve, so it will look like a colorful mess.

When they say it starts at 8:00 p.m. sharp, they mean it. The video cast is played simultaneously with a soundtrack broadcasted live on KXT. The artists designed most of the soundtracks, and a few cases in which the visual artist worked in collaboration with a sound artist to create the music, like Sean Miller and Symbol.

So that means, get to your viewing spot early.

Safety first Whatever you do, do not stop in the middle of the road to watch the event. In the past, people have tried to bypass the crowd at the official viewing site by creating their own private spots, like on the Zang Blvd Bridge. It's just not safe. If you really want to be away from the crowd, please just pull over, get off the road, and stay inside your car. No one should get injured to watch a video.

Who are the featured artists this year? This year's artists are: Stefan Riebel, Birgit Rathsmann, Sean Miller, Mike Morris, Luke Savisky, David Stout, Chelsea Sams and Joe Saphire, Carolyn Sortor, Peter Rand and Asya Reznikov. There are seven new videos and three videos from the past years that worked well with this year's theme and were really successful visually. But curator Jenny Vogel doesn't have a favorite, she thinks you should just watch them all and decide for yourself which one is your personal favorite, and with this year's variety, there is something for everyone. "Stefan Riebel turns the whole building into a public service advertisement; Asya Reznikov submitted a very quiet and lyrical piece about travel and immigration; Peter Rand is drawing us into a short narrative, and David Stout submitted an excellent piece that draws a link between architectural facades and the body, in particular the skin," says Vogel.

Mike Morris brings back his "Monument for Juanita: Candy is the Sun" that features the silhouette of Candy Barr, the infamous exotic dancer and porn star from Dallas in the 1950s, Carolyn Sortor will once again present her "Glass Valley," and Luke Savisky's piece from last year will also show again. Both Morris and Bart Weiss cite this one as their favorite and easily the best piece that's been made for the Omni so far, so you don't want to miss seeing this one for sure.

The question we all want answered, "Is there an after-party?" Because this is Dallas and we love to party in the Big D. And if you ever hung out with video artists (or artists in general) they know how to throw good party. Just ask around at the viewing party and you're sure to find out where and when the after-parties will be happening.

Jenny Vogel This lady knows her video. She's a master video media artist and has curated a great group of artists to be involved this year, many of them from outside the Metroplex area and new to showing in Dallas. It's great to see Expandaed Cinema living up to its name and expanding the opportunities that this city has and that the Dallas VideoFest offers.

Let's nerd out Just for readers who are interested in the geeky aspects, artist Mike Morris has some details for you having made two works for the Omni already.

"I can say that this is one of the most difficult video canvases I have worked with. The resolution is so low, the pixels so wide, and the floors so far apart, that getting any kind of an image to show up with any sense of detail is a real challenge. I've found that vertical movement of images helps them resolve better, and that simple graphic shapes with high contrast have had the best results. Despite the challenges, the opportunity to use a canvas that conspicuous, in the location that it's in and to work with a spectacle on a city-wide scale is unparalleled. As someone interested in Cinema with a capital "C" and the social dynamic in which a group of people focus their attention on the same screen simultaneously (with a nod to Herr Benjamin), I can't imagine a more welcome challenge."

And more for the nerd in you Did you know that the Omni's display system is made up of long strings of LED lights that wrap around all four curvy sides of the building? There is one string for each of the hotel's 20 stories, and a total of 6,600 LEDs.

As the LEDs change color, they turn on and off, acting like the pixels on a TV screen, and that action is how the images are formed. When the lights flicker, a moving image appears. Because of the amount of LEDs that are involved, the image resolution is extremely low-res and easily blurred. That's why we're warning you to not get too close, otherwise, otherwise the whole thing won't be very impressive. And it is. It's one of the coolest video projects happening this fall.

Just go.

Ditch your excuses. And even if you don't plan on attending the official viewing party, maybe reroute your Sunday night to drive through downtown. Just take a peek at the Omni Hotel. You might just catch a glimpse of a piece of art history.

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Danielle Georgiou