The New Frontiers of Filmmaking, at Sundance

This year, the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier exhibition explored humanity’s evolving relationship with technology.

  • Inside the New Frontier space at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Chau Tu

  • The red-lighted and mirrored New Frontier exhibition lounge. Shari Frilot, New Frontier’s curator, said the space was intentionally designed to feel seductive, to offset the mountainous atmosphere of Park City, Utah, and to relax your body so that you’re open to experiencing something new. Photo by Chau Tu

  • Visitors watching Clouds, an interactive documentary on the culture of coding. The creators used a hacked Kinect video game console to film interviews with designers, technologists, and philosophers. The result is a visually enticing 3D project that users navigate with their bodies and hands, as one would while playing a game on a regular Kinect. Photo by Chau Tu

  • A close-up of a profile in I Want You To Want Me. Frilot said she liked how this piece presents stories in a different way than the traditional narrative, using smaller stories to tell a bigger one about the online dating system. Photo by Chau Tu

  • The interactive component to Through a Lens Darkly, one of New Frontier’s two transmedia films (that is, a film with multimedia components) this year. The filmmakers have been touring the country for the past year, asking people to share old family photos at their pop-up booth. The photos then get uploaded into a digital database, re-imagined as a family tree and social network of sorts. Photo by Chau Tu

  • Mesocosms are simulation tools used by researchers to see how natural ecosystems might evolve under certain conditions. In Mesocosm (Wink, Texas), artist Marina Zurkow developed an algorithm to create an animated portrait of a sinkhole in Wink, Texas, that shows the environment undergoing different phenomena, including butterflies flying by or people in hazmat suits surveying the area. Photo by Chau Tu

  • A participant testing out an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The device is considered to be at the forefront of innovation for virtual reality made for consumers. Frilot said this was the device she was most excited to showcase at New Frontier. Photo by Chau Tu

Smartphones, wearable computers, and talking operating systems: There’s no denying that technology saturates our lives—mentally and physically—these days. Where do we go from here? That was the probing question at New Frontier, a multimedia showcase based at the Sundance Film Festival.

Since 2007, New Frontier’s installations have explored how people experiment with moving images. This year’s theme, “Primordial Pool,” delved into the idea of life springing from an amorphous landscape—in this case, one where technology has reached “a critical mass,” as Shari Frilot, a senior programmer at Sundance and New Frontier’s curator, put it. “The idea here of the primordial pool is to reframe the debate about our humanity’s relationship to technology,” she said.

SciFri recently toured the exhibit hall to see how participants interpret our tech culture; check out the slideshow above for highlights.

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About Chau Tu

Chau Tu is an associate editor at Slate Plus. She was formerly Science Friday’s story producer/reporter.