2016 marks the 10th anniversary of New Frontier, our showcase for today's most innovative cinematic storytelling.
For the first time at the Sundance Film Festival, the New Frontier venue attendance rivals that of the most heavily-trafficked Festival theatres and venues. The program attracts a wildly diverse audience, including chiefs of film, gaming, and tech companies, Ferguson activists, journalists, filmmakers, hackers, and consumers. VR is presented and accepted as a rich medium for heightened storytelling experiences. With the attention garnered through the Festival exhibition and the continued work of the Story Lab and Artist Residencies to support the development of this work, Sundance is recognized as providing the R&D space and the showcase for film, tech, gaming, and art communities.
Landmark projects featured in the 2015 exhibition include: BIRDLY by Max Rheiner, EVOLUTION OF VERSE by Chris Milk, PERSPECTIVE: CHAPTER 1: THE PARTY by Rose Troche and Morris May, POSSIBILIA by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, WILD - THE EXPERIENCE, and HERDERS, STRANGERS WITH PATRICK WATSON by Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël.
Gaming is one of the world’s most robust storytelling mediums in terms of revenue and consumption. Technology now allows users to literally embody the characters in the storyworlds, and the discipline has achieved integrity as an artistic medium. While game design has led the creation of best practices and a common language for interactive and participatory storytelling, it is not yet accepted as a medium that effectively conveys complex and cathartic stories, nuanced and fully evolved characters, and provokes empathy.
The New Frontier Program invites two exciting game projects to the Story Lab in order to help them respond to these questions by pushing the medium to greater depth in terms of story, emotion and empathy: 1979 REVOLUTION by Vassiliki Khonsari and Navid Khonsari and WALDEN, A GAME by Tracy Fullerton and Lucas Peterson.
NEW FRONTIER AT SFF14
The Artist Residency program is launched as a way to match New Frontier alumni with sponsor organizations that are also working to pioneer the field. During the residency, a New Frontier artist or artist collective works with the sponsor organization’s internal team (i.e. technologists, designers, content developers, researchers, community engagement officers, etc.), grantee partners, or other stakeholders to concept or develop a project that aims to push the boundaries of story in some manner.
The first four New Frontier residencies are held in partnership with The Social Computing Group at MIT’s Media Lab, led by New Frontier alum Sep Kamvar. Terence Nance, Casey Neistat, Lisa Biagotti, Alix Lambert, RaMell Ross, M. Elizabeth Hughes and Shantell Martin spend up to three months in Cambridge with Kamvar and his team to work on the YOU ARE HERE project. The following year, New Frontier Artist Residency provides a place for artists to explore VR with JAUNT.
A "net-native" generation of storytellers has emerged. While working with wildly different stories and styles, and using various net tools such as augmented reality, mobile apps, interactive films, social media, and customized websites that subvert the internet itself, these artists operate fluidly in a world where story, art, media, social communities, global connectivity, mobility, and technology occupy a single space.
As part of the New Frontier exhibition at the Festival, Yung Jake exhibits DATAMOSH E.M-BEDD.DE/D, and perfroms a truly 21st Century live rap show. Mayer and Leyva receive accolades for #POSTMODEM. In the fall, the pair attends the New Frontier Story Lab to build out the story into a transmedia universe, playing out on multiple platforms and spaces.
A new kind of filmmaker fully emerges – one whose survival depends not only on the originality and distinction of their story, but also on their ability to integrate technology-driven marketing and distribution elements into the work itself.
In 2013, augmented reality (AR) technology becomes more accessible through mobile device apps and artists begin to integrate it in their work. Yung Jake’s Augmented Real floats his avatar in your iPhone-occupied hand as it emerges rapping from walls, posters, postcards and pinback buttons. He also integrates AR into his live performance -- a DJ session incorporating YouTube videos that interact with each other and featuring his own presence via webcam.
Simultaneously, Lynette Wallworth presents CORAL: REKINDLING VENUS, an AR companion piece to her immersive dome experience of Coral Rekindling Venus. It allows audiences to connect to the world’s reefs via seven poster images of coral specimens that activate the app to open a virtual porthole to coral reefs including a data feed to current coral hotspots around the world.
Klip Collective presents WHAT'S HE BUILDING IN THERE?, a 3-D projection-mapped story that transforms the entire New Frontier venue into a narrative moving picture.
New Frontier at SFF13 (Google Hangout)
New Frontier curator Shari Frilot visits Nonny de la Pena’s research lab at USC, and experiences virtual reality for the first time. De la Pena’s HUNGER IN LOS ANGELES brings viewers directly into an eyewitness account of an incident on a food bank line at the First Unitarian Church in L.A. Impressed by its emotional resonance, Frilot invites de la Pena to present the piece at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The invitation prompts de la Pena’s intern Palmer Luckey to create a mobile version of USC’s VR headset, which becomes an early manifestation of Oculus Rift. This marks the beginning of the multi-billion dollar “gold rush” among the technology, gaming, and film industries to bring viable virtual reality to the masses.
VIRTUAL REALITY: BIRTH OF A MEDIUM
At the New Frontier Story Lab, two projects redefine the book as a storytelling medium. THE SILENT HISTORY is a groundbreaking novel, written and designed specifically for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children — born without the ability to create or comprehend language. An interactive documentary that can also be defined as a next generation eBook for tablets, TOUCH examines the demise of print and other forms of tangible culture.
In 2012, the Festival features BEAR 71, by Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison. Focusing on the interactions between humans and wildlife in the age of networks, satellites, and digital surveillance, the piece invites audiences to use smartphones to follow a grizzly bear tagged and monitored by Banff National Park rangers.
Two years later, CLOUDS, by James George and Jonathan Minard, debuts at the Festival, and presents a conversation among 40 artists, designers, and hackers who collaborate on open source tool kits. It explores themes of creativity and invention, interactive art, simulation, computational design, data visualization, and the future of storytelling.
The dynamic work presented at New Frontier inspires Sundance Institute to deepen its support for the storytelling pioneers working with new mediums and methodologies. The first Sundance New Frontier Story Lab is held in October at Sundance Resort. Focused on developing resonant stories within the context of emerging technologies, the Lab brings together technologists and storytellers of all disciplines, and establishes a space for developing storymaking language, best practices, and techniques for new mediums. Among the projects supported during the first Lab are QUESTION BRIDGE: BLACK MALE by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayete Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, 18 DAYS IN EGYPT by Jigar Mehta and Yasmin Elayat, and KILL SHAKESPEARE by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery.
New Frontier Story Lab Creative Observer
With the release of WebGL (Web Graphics Library), interactive 3D computer graphics can be rendered directly through web browsers, creating exciting new capabilities for URLs. And while user-generated content continues to take hold, transformative work like Chris Milk & Aaron Koblin’s The Wilderness Downtown, ROME and The Johnny Cash Project demonstrates the unique role of artists as creators of interactive storyworlds that may be highly customized, reciprocal, and break out of the single frame paradigm.
New Frontier AT SFF11
Although the term “transmedia” is established in the 1990s, it doesn’t gain traction until 2003, when Henry Jenkins published “Transmedia Storytelling.” In 2011, independent artists and companies like 42 Entertainment, Fourth Wall and Starlight Runner are actively experimenting with Massive Alternate Reality Games and transmedia stories.
New Frontier invites Lance Weiler’s PANDEMIC 1.0 to appear at the Sundance Film Festival. It is the first work to bring together film, live action role play (LARP), social gaming, and data visualization. Other landmark projects featured this year include, THE JOHNNY CASH PROJECT by Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk, and ! WOMEN ART REVOLUTION and RAW/WAR by Lynn Hershman Leeson.
As the digital revolution continues, film and television audiences begin turning towards internet-enabled platforms and devices. With the accessibility of in-home streaming, mobile viewing, and interactive experiences that integrate content with social media, Festival audiences begin to see New Frontier as offering a glimpse of what the future may hold.
The New Frontier line up includes Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRECord, a social and digital platform that invites its members to create work ranging from poems to films in a collaborative environment. As individual users purchase the work, creators share in the profits, and HitRecord becomes among the first platforms to establish a creative digital community and a business model that connects creators directly to consumers.
Data intelligence, art, and storytelling converge through the breakthrough project WE FEEL FINE by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. Culling data from a large number of blogs, the project creates a database of millions of human emotions. A beautiful and smart interface allows the visitor to search the feelings in playful and metaphorically-rich ways, revealing a macro view of our collective emotional landscape.
Media scientist John Underkoffler and Oblong Industries, choose New Frontier as the place to premiere their new operating system. Gspeak is presented through the editing app TAMPER, enabling the editors to create cinematic worlds through a gestural interface.
In 2008 the program begins to attract top tier fine artists such as Doug Aitken, Jennifer Steinkamp, Hank Willis Thomas, Marina Zurkow, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, and Cory Arcangel. Highlights of the line up include SLEEPWALKERS by Doug Aitken, ALONG THE WAY by Hank Willis Thomas and ©AUSE COLLECTIVE, PEG MIRROR by Daniel Rozin, POSTER CHILDREN AND HEROES OF THE REVOLUTION by Marina Zurkow, and NEXT YEAR’S BAD NEWS BEARS by Cory Arcangel and Paper Rad.
New Frontier starts as a showcase for work emerging from the intersection of cinematic storytelling, the art of high-concept visualization, and new technologies marking the reinvention of our media architecture. The inaugural exhibition features MOBIOPERA by Shu Lea Cheang, CLUSTER by Lincoln Schatz, and Ricardo Rivera & klip//collective.
The Festival leaps onto the Internet to showcase projects in live-action, animation, and what is known as “new forms.” Curated by Programmers Shari Frilot and Trevor Groth, SOFF broadcasts early non-linear, mixed media and Machinima content. The online showcase garners two Webby Awards and Time Magazine names it one of the 50 Coolest Websites on the World Wide Web.
Slithering Screens is a special selection of original cinematic works that premiered in the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program over the past decade. Presented at MoMA on the occasion of the program’s 10th year, these works hack the cinema space itself by presenting stories that move from the silver screen onto the stage and into the hands, pockets, and homes of the audience. Featuring works by Lynette Wallworth, Yung Jake, Nao Bustamante, Miwa Matreyek, and the filmmaker/creative technologist duo James George and Jonathan Minard, Slithering Screens is an energetic mix of cinema-inspired performance, interactive documentary, and immersive media storytelling.
Organized by Shari Frilot, Chief Curator, New Frontier, Sundance Film Festival; and Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film, with Sophie Cavoulacos, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, MoMA.