Public Displays: where to go to watch buildings dance | Calendar | Chicago Reader

Public Displays: where to go to watch buildings dance 

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Joel Bruner says it all started his senior year of high school in Kansas City, Missouri, when Logan Bay was playing bass in a band covering the Troggs' "Wild Thing" for a talent show. Bay sent word around that he needed someone to fill in on vocals and guitar, and Bruner stepped up. All the other acts, says Bay, did step dancing and rap routines, but the crowd went bananas for their bad rock 'n' roll anyway. A few months later Bruner took off for upstate New York to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on an Air Force Academy scholarship; Bay finished his last year of high school and went on to Millikin University in Decatur. Despite the distance, they continued to collaborate on projects: every couple months Bay would throw a theme-driven house party and Bruner would create a videotape of visuals for the chill-out room.

Bay graduated with a BA in fine arts while Bruner, a computer science major, dropped out after two semesters; by June of last year they'd both moved to Pilsen to take advantage of the cheap rent and thriving art scene. They began throwing parties in their loft space to showcase their ongoing photography, music, and digital video collaboration.

Bruner and Bay call their project "Flatform." The two take photos, usually of stairwells or the skeletal beginnings of a building--what they term "naked architecture"--then animate the pictures with a computer, "graphically remix" them to look like a video, and add music made from drum machines and generic

little keyboards. Not only does video allow them to "reclaim perspective from one static image," says Bay, but "it's more dynamic and relational because there's an element of time. And there's just as much room for an aesthetic narrative as a conventional one." They'd rather leave room for an audience to interpret a story line than spell it out.

"We're walking the line between artist and designer," says Bay. He's opposed to what he believes is the prevailing "sit down and be schooled" attitude, which--he says--allows an artist to think he or she can feed an audience self-indulgent work and attach random meaning to it. "We're interested in the way stuff is built," Bay says, "and we'd like to bring people into our perspective." Says Bruner, "We think buildings dance," though

if others don't see things quite the same way the pair would at the very least like to make accessible music.

Bay and Bruner are throwing a free party at their loft space as part of this weekend's 31st annual Pilsen Artist's Walk. In addition to screening the most recent Flatform video they'll have on hand a computer program that allows people to edit versions of the video in real time. They'll also screen shorts by Davy Force! and Doug Lussenhop as well as TLVSN, a free-form television show comprised of short clips produced by the Lumpen Media Group, and originally aired on Supersphere.com. Before the videos, DJ M. Raczyla will play down-tempo hip-hop, house, and experimental records. One corner of the loft will house $hop, selling Flatform videos accompanied by small, intimate books of video stills and photos Bruner took around Chicago. Some of their friends will also try to cash in, hawking fancy soap wrapped in pretty tissue paper, cotton undies screen-printed with the female reproductive system, a book chronicling the real-life antics of a punk band, cloth handbags decorated with photos, and dance-mix CDs.

The opening night party will be held Friday, September 28, from 7 to 11 PM at 726 W. 18th St.; the exhibit will run Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30, from noon to 7. Call 312-733-0634 for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.

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