interview w/ January artist : Nathan Wade

Read past post on Nathan Wade's work @ Interstitial Theatre

Kira Burge First off, could you start by giving me a brief synopsis of the two pieces that were screened at Interstitial Theatre last month (January 2011)?

Nathan Wade The films are both about a certain type of ‘territory’ and human perception. Specifically it’s about inter-structural time, space, agency and meaning that we experience while moving between stable conditions. The first film ‘Liminality’ synthesizes that idea through merging the bright visual style of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai epics and Sergio Leone's archetype wildwest drifter protagonist. Throughout the film a bright orange dust falls from the drifter in opposition to an undercurrent of violence that follows him as he wanders. ‘Shifting City’ is about inter-structural telematic or collaboratively created virtual space. Custom software is used to generate a subtitled narrative from online forum postings discussing dreams and excerpts of Delany’s Dhalgren describing a persistent but changing city and its inhabitants.

KB You seem to successfully marry video footage with computer programming, when did you first start doing this and how did it come about?

NW 'Shifting City’ was the product of graduate level study lead by Contemporary Digital Artist James Coupe at the University of Washington’s Center for Digital Art and Experimental Media (DXARTS). Top down artificial intelligence techniques are employed to some extent in the project such as NLTK and REGEX filtering etc. In this instance computer programming allowed a greater level of complexity and interconnectivity to the work, deepening its conceptual impact.

KB Both pieces 'Liminality' and 'A Shifting City', although very different in content, are visually tactile. Can you talk more about your artistic and visual choices for each of those works?

NW For ‘Shifting City’ I used live filtering techniques combined with pulled focus and digital panning to create footage that pulls you in and out, scans up and down. Of camera lighting causes CCD distortions within the digital camera’s light sensor and the result is dream-like, full of visual artifacts and color distortions. It’s all about bringing you into the dream, and heightening the narrative meaning within your own head.

In ‘Liminality’ I shot at a high frame rate and slowed everything down. The falling dust and movements of the actor become hyper-real, again like a memory or dream. I am of course also tapping into a familiar cinematic language that leads the viewer toward perceiving slowed footage as ethereal, out of real time.

KB 'A Shifting City' pairs excerpts from the 1970s novel “Dhalgren” by Samuel R. Delany with video imagery. Can you explain your fascinations with Delany’s novel and what the driving force behind this project?

NW Delany’s book describes a physically recombining city burning in the heartland of America, engulfed in smoke and occupied with refugees and visitors. In this instance I’ve mined his novel for descriptions of that city and systematically married it with people’s narrative descriptions of dreams from internet sources. Ok, the conceptual part. The city is an allegory, and its constant physical recombination mirrors the psychological polymorphisms in the narrative. Essentially I’m creating a telematic Cartesian ‘city’ that is built on a dream shared remotely by people around the world. The city is non-linear, just like the book, and is in a constant state of crisis and equilibrium. For me this embodies the beauty and horror of inter-structural processes without graduation.

KB Time and again I am asked by attendees of Interstitial Theatre to explain how “generative HD video work constructed, edited and subtitled by custom software written in Python” works. And unfortunately I think my answer doesn’t paint the clearest picture. So I’d love to get the low-down on exactly what that means. Can you enlighten me?

NW Ok, here’s some tech talk. ‘Python’ is a scripting and programming language that is well suited for artificial intelligence programming due to its robust interfacing abilities. Essentially this allows me to write a concise program that can act as an HTML parser, system client, video compiler, and has an NLTK implementation of basic AI logic to process text intelligently. The generative part crops up from fluidity in what people post and discuss in dream forums online, affecting the overall narrative, and the semi-randomized software automated state-logic used the edit the film’s footage.

KB Okay, so people love to know this stuff… when you’re geeking out, what blogs/sites are you on or what places do you frequent here in Seattle?

NW I'm online and looking, learning. Today my web browser’s history shows , ,, , ,, ,,, Art-wise here in Seattle I’m visiting The Frye Art Museum, The Henry Art Gallery, The Seattle Art Museum, 911 Media Center, Jack Straw Productions,[and] The Lawrimore Project.