Thursday, June 24, 2010

151 - Art Critics, Part II

For reasons beyond my reckoning, I actually participated in two art shows this week.  (To see how my first art show went, please click here.) The second show, "The Society Of Temporal Investigations" (STI)  by Keith Langergraber, featured some work I did a long time go.  If I had known about it, I probably would have refused to have anything to do with the show, but instead, I was more or less tricked into participating.

Not that the STI show was bad.  It was a lot of fun and nicely put together.  It's an honest look at what drives otherwise normal people to create fan art based on science fiction television shows.  It helped a lot that Mr. Langergraber is definitely a fan of the genre, but he also took a very sholarly approach to a topic that's usually dismissed by people involved in cultural studies.  I would show more, but I forgot to ask permission from Mr. Langergraber, and considering that he is taking his show on the road, I do not want to infringe on his rights. 

My involvement in his show was from my incidental work in a twenty year old Star Trek fan film made by my friend Earl (who happens to be cousins with Keith).  It's a re-creation of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979), but with finger puppets... 

Two decades ago, we were young and we were bored, but we did not have the patience or talent to come up with a proper film, so we decided to make cardboard sets out of shoe boxes and use marked-up fingers as actors.  Somehow, the film came to the attention of Mr. Langergraber, who got permission from Earl to use it in his art installation. 

We ended up watching it projected onto a big screen with an audience of a few dozen spectators, which was not how I ever figured on seeing this film again.  Good thing the venue sold wine, I had a fair bit to drink to get me through the night. 

Looking back, I can't imagine making a more primitive film.  We used a VHS camcorder the size of a small microwave oven, so it was difficult to hold still.  It had an autofocus function that had trouble locating small objects, so much of the film is incredibly blurry.  We would hold the cardboard sets up to the camera with one hand, act out the puppets with the other hand, and then also hold up the lighting rig.  We didn't have scenes or a script, but instead relied on our recollection of the original movie, which would have been over ten years old by that time.  After a while, we just stopped listening to Earl the director, with predictable results.  It's a magnificently bad film, almost on the Ed Wood level if I am allowed comparison.

Still, there were positives about the film.  As it happens in the Star Trek canon, the interpersonal relationships of the crew, both as actors and as characters, shine through past any irregularities in the narrative.  Mr. Langergraber said the same thing about our film as well.  Plus, by cutting out exterior shots, most of the special effects, and several key plot lines (including omitting Decker and Ilia), we were able to successfully tell the two-hour-plus  Star Trek Motion Picture story in just over fifteen minutes, an 88% refinement over the slow pace of the original. 

Pictured above is one of the clearest and most sensible frames I could grab from the video.  I don't think any of the fingers are mine, but I did design the set and assemble it with a bit of help.  I won't link to the video, but Earl did post in online at YouTube.  You may search for it by looking for "Star Trek Finger Puppet" by EarlFlynn.  Please note that Earl posted the video in two parts.  You will need to watch them both to see the entire story.  If you do, you'll never have to prove your courage in any other way.