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Blast Theory blasts off in Minneapolis

Blast Theory is a performance/trans-media artist group based in Brighton, UK, and has worked for the past ten years in the field of mobile experience art. Their project Ulrike and Eamon Compliant was at the 2009 Venice Biennial, and they have several of their works being played out around the world at any one time. […]

Blast Theory is a performance/trans-media artist group based in Brighton, UK, and has worked for the past ten years in the field of mobile experience art. Their project Ulrike and Eamon Compliant was at the 2009 Venice Biennial, and they have several of their works being played out around the world at any one time. A Machine to See With is a locative cinema project set for the streets of Minneapolis. Ju Row Farr and John Hunter arrived last week to perfect the project, originally set during the Zero1 festival in San Jose, CA, then in Park City, UT, as part of the New Frontiers Initiative of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

For the next five days they will be in the area around St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis where participants take part in Blast Theory’s ideas about economics and cinematic experience. Our eyes are the screens, and we are the actors. It mixes up documentary material, classic film noir, heist thriller clichés, questions once posed by Clinton -cabinet finance secretary Robert Reich, Made in the USA by Jean Luc Godard, and the words spoken by Jean Paul Belmondo’s character in Pierrot Le Fou “my eyes are a machine to see with.”

It is also about trust and the tyranny of choice and consumerism. The work uses open source call center software and employs automation to create your “personalized” experience. This is where the Reich questions come to play. It is also about financial crisis, not in the financial market but in your own mind as you determine how far your character will go. I hope you have signed up. I may be one of the only people who has done it in all three cities. It changes for each location. Here it is St. Anthony Main with grain elevators representing Minneapolis economic history along the Mississippi River in your sightline as you enter a world where your ideas of movies and money collide.

  • not impressed says:

    I just got back from Machine to See With, and I was very disappointed. While the concept is interesting, the execution was horrible. I ended up less than a second behind other participants following directly in their footsteps. The overlap made it impossible to suspend my disbelief and feel engaged in the story.

    I hope that the other cities got to see a program with better execution, and a bit more variation in the script to prevent overlap.

  • ET says:

    Very interesting experience that has a lot of potential as a concept. The attempt to create atmosphere with words was only moderately effective, especially when it got into abstractions about ethics. Less intellectualism and more visceral experience would make the piece even better. I liked the minimal humor as well and would enjoy more of that. More interaction between the participants (which formally happens only once) would also enhance the experience. The piece discouraged informal interaction between participants and I think encouraging it would yield interesting results although it could be problematic. The execution was fantastic- I missed part of a message once and had to figure it out but once I did the system caught me up perfectly. Another time I pressed a wrong button and the system had an effective out after a period of time. There were several excellent moments of paranoia or tension during the piece which was the best part. I’d be eager to do this again- another story, another venue- overall I really enjoyed it.