Music » Music Features

Braiding mediums

The arts unite at ImageMovementSound 2005


ImageMovementSound may be one of Rochester's best-kept secrets. Most residents don't even know it exists. But outsiders seem to know. Kelly Ferris, a first-year SUNY Brockport grad student from Tennessee says, "One of the reasons I came here to Rochester was to be a part of this festival."

In its ninth consecutive year, ImageMovementSound 2005 (IMS) is an experimental event that combines three schools and three mediums: the School of Film and Animation at RIT, the Department of Dance at SUNY Brockport, and the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music. There are 12 projects slated to premier this year.

What to expect? Just one of the projects is Accoucher: To Bring Forth, a "screen-dance" that combines a ladder, a hundred-foot rope, and the idea that a film can be like a haiku. To capture it, IMS co-founder Susannah Newman wore a video-camera contraption on her forehead that she claims to have invented. "It looks kind of silly, but it allows me to go inside the dance."

The 11 other projects explore disparate themes --- from jealousy to supermarkets --- but they all hope to achieve a similar goal. Ferris, who contributes to the piece Wrapped Inside, says, "I'm looking to unite film, music, and dance, I didn't want any one medium to predominate."

Thus the amalgam, ImageMovementSound, which is an attempt to create a word for something the artists are still trying to define. Festival co-director Stephanie Maxwell describes some projects as, "image-music compositions." She says, "The two are highly intertwined and interwoven. They excite each other... We feel these are new art forms."

The recruitment process of IMS is unique. The festival directors orchestrate a "call meeting" in the fall for artists to convene. "You get five minutes to say, 'these are the things I'm interested in,'" says Newman. It's a marathon of ideas --- up to 30 artists from different backgrounds present ideas all day. A reception follows. Artists mingle, looking for a match. It's kind of like a speed-dating event for lonely, single artists.

So how does this white-knuckled approach to fine art actually work? Abby Aresty, a senior music composition major at Eastman explains, "At the meeting I saw some of [RIT animator] Hyun Ju's works and I was very inspired by their aesthetic beauty and by the mixture of a real and virtual world that was present. I asked her and another RIT artist if they would be interested in collaborating on a project. We met a few times to discuss ideas, and in the end just Hyun Ju and I decided to work together. At one point Hyun Ju mentioned that she was interested in working with a choreographer, so I emailed Sarah McCormick from SUNY Brockport asking if there were any choreographers still in search of a composer. Missy Pfohl Smith contacted me, and that's how Hyun Ju and I came to work on a project together with Missy."

"The idea is to start with a blank page," explains Newman, "then you build the idea together." This is the exact opposite of how most festivals approach; most look for finished projects rather than stimulate original works. The festival works on a shoestring, but artists are allotted small budgets, usually under the range of a thousand dollars, "sometimes very under a thousand," Newman says.

Artists make their proposals before a committee, and if approved, they've got about six months to pull off something worth exhibiting to the public. Not every proposal pans out. Projects get dropped; groups disband.

"We encourage people to do things they've never done before," says Susannah Newman. "The idea is to not repeat yourself and take yourself out on a limb somewhere... and if you fall off, so be it, you fall off."

Often, projects are changing right up until the last second. One, called Rigors, is advertised on the IMS webpage as "a work for 18 dancers." Clarification by Maxwell swelled the number to 60, further re-clarification by Newman shrunk the number back to eight or nine. So who knows at this point? You'll just have to go to see how many dancers show.

Is this festival for everyone? "Sure," says Maxwell. "It's open to everybody: kids, the elderly. Last year we had a group of senior citizens come. I sat behind this older guy who, after seeing a performance, stood up and, pulling up his pants, said, 'I don't what that was about, but I really liked it.'"

ImageMovementSound 2005 is on Saturday, April 2, in the Hartwell Theatre, on the SUNY Brockport campus, at 8 p.m. Screen works and cinematic versions of a selection of the performances will be shown on Saturday, April 9, at the Little Theatre, 240 East Avenue, at 12 p.m. Tickets are $5 for either event. Info: 229-2491,