The Reeler

Sundance Features

January 19, 2007

Paul Chan, 1st Light

"We've been working with the model of this window... I think it’s the 21st century, and perhaps we can think of something that's post-window."

1st Light by Paul Chan, as seen at last year's Whitney Biennial (Photo: Nathaniel Stern)

(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)

What's the background on your piece, and how did it get involved with Sundance?

I think it got involved with Sundance because they saw it at the Whitney Biennial, and I think they're trying to expand their offerings at Sundance to include contemporary art and uses of moving image in contemporary art -- in cinema or post-cinema works. I think that's why they wanted it. It's a digital projection that projects directly onto the floor -- whatever floor it is. And it's modeled after not a cinema screen, but light that comes through a window. So when you walk in, one of the first things you say is, "Where is the window where this light and shadow is coming from?"

So first the Whitney Biennial and then Sundance. How has the experience with this work been in terms of opportunity and recognition?

It's very flattering; I'm very honored to be part of it, and I'm really happy to be part of a film festival that recognizes that the word of cinema has transformed and mutated to a point where artists are not only taking advantage of cinematic works but actively imagining what else there is besides the cinematic window. And the moving image - as beloved as it is -- has transformed itself digitally and through contemporary art to hopefully sort of mutate into something more 21st-century.

Is that an avenue you're interested in pursuing beyond 1st Light?

Yeah. You know, when did cinema start? The Lumieres started in 1896, and I think we've been working with the model of this window -- which is wonderful. It's a window onto the world at this point. We look at the screen that's lighted as if it's this expansive window which we look into to find another world -- perhaps even to find ourselves in this other world. I think it’s the 21st century, and perhaps we can think of something that's post-window, and contemporary art, philosophically speaking, is the place where form sort of commits itself in the kind of experimentation that imagines other places. And so I'm very happy that Sundance is interested in exploring those other places.

What are the influences that cinema has had on your work -- this one in particular?

I think it's as simple as growing up around constantly moving windows, which is to say television and cinema. And as you get older, you realize that there are other offerings. I can think specifically of two: Chris Marker and Jean-Luc Godard. Those are the two people who really expanded within the frame of the window what it meant for moving images to move over the screen with light and sound -- to encompass so many ideas, from emotions to histories to philosophies. I make single-channel work; Video Databank distributes them, and in fact, Sundance is going to show some of the single-channel works in their microcinema. But I think part of my production is to imagine what else this window can do -- what else this light that projects images can do.

Are you nervous?

No.

Do you expect anything in particular?

I expect to be very cold.



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