Visual Art | Politically Curate: Sundance’s New Frontier on Main captures current concerns in a variety of ways | Visual Art | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Visual Art | Politically Curate: Sundance’s New Frontier on Main captures current concerns in a variety of ways 

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It’s not like there’s simply one glaring question staring you down when you attempt to curate an art installation for a major international film festival. This year’s New Frontier on Main curator Shari Frilot faced a number of dilemmas regarding the direction of a show in conjunction with Sundance. Which media? Should the focus be broad or narrow? Outsider or insider art? Given the festival’s independent aesthetic, should the artists be established or newly discovered? Should all the work be cinematic or can you follow your internal compass, to create a cohesive exhibition?

“It was my intention to put together a very eclectic and somewhat thematically balanced show,” explains Frilot. “I also wanted to feature a number of different forms and number of different philosophical views. You might have Robert Boyd’s Xanadu at one end of the gallery, and at the other, Daniel Rozin’s Mirrors, work that is purely aesthetic. Jim Campbell’s piece [Home Movies 300] is somewhat of a throwback to home movies and nostalgia, whereas Eddo Stern’s work [Dark Game, Best Flame War Ever] is quite political and sort of radical in its formal engagement with gaming.”

In fact, although Frilot may not have seen it coming with her initial curatorial aim, a fair number of the included artists ended up answering her call with just such work—creations that are fairly sociological or political in bent. Take, for instance, Stephanie Rothenburg and Jeffery Crouse’s Invisible Threads: Sweatshop Jean Factory in Second Life—which in many ways is self-explanatory based upon the subtitle alone. According to Rothenburg, the online universe of Second Life simply provided a unique platform to explore ideas such as the boundary between the virtual and the real, the politics of labor and the cultural pervasiveness of play.

Then there’s also the aforementioned Xanadu. Originally a six-channel installation designed to fully engaged the viewer by surrounding them with rapid-fire images of fundamentalism, cults, fanaticism, intolerance, political idolatry, etc.—all in the middle of a discotheque-like environment—the work was converted by Boyd into a single-channel installation that now feels like watching politically charged music videos on MTV.

Pieces like these beg an answer to one question looming in the room: Is it the uncretain times we are all trying desperately to live through that should be held responsible for all this great politically-charged work? According to Boyd, “That ‘proverbial elephant’ is always in the middle of the room, so might as well put it to use! My work has always been grounded in socio-political concerns, so that’s not really a new development for me. I’m a gay man who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household in the Midwest. What do you want from me—a love story?”

But, as Frilot noted, a political bent definitely was not her curatorial aim. “For example, Hasan Elahi [Tracking Transience: The Orwell Project] is someone also politically engaged in a very interesting way, but what put him on my radar—what puts any artist on my radar—is how well he integrated what he was trying to say with what he is doing formally. That’s when you get a little shiver in your tummy, when you see something that is superintegrated in a clear and unique way, and it hits you like a lightening bolt.”

So the fact that the show is so politically engaged comes as much from Frilot’s own sensibilities as it does from the artists’—a number of the artists she was interested in simply went ahead and created work that leaned politically. As noted, it’s kind of hard to miss that proverbial elephant in the middle of your living room, especially if it is just the thing responsible for making your tummy shiver.

Open to all Sundance Film Festival credential holders and the general public as space permits.

NEW FRONTIER ON MAIN 333 Main Street, Lower level, Park City. Jan. 18-25 from noon-8 p.m, Saturday, Jan. 26 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m

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