Food for Thought: Artist Matthew Moore to Show Work at 2010 Sundance Film Festival

Phoenix artist Matthew Moore, who's also a fourth-generation Arizona farmer, has just combined my two all-time favorite activities: food shopping and art viewing. His latest video installation, "Lifecycles," which magically melds the two, is premiering at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival's New Frontier exhibition. The event, curated by film festival senior programmer Shari Frilot, has, for several years, run concurrently with the star-studded, Robert Redford-originated film festival in Park City, Utah.

The 2010 show, which will run from January 21 through January 30, will showcase digital art, film screenings, multimedia performances, site-specific installations and video presentations done by 13 artists from Bulgaria, Germany, Iceland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and United States, including Phoenix's finest, Matt Moore, and Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist. In the past, New Frontier has shown the work of high-profile artists such as Matthew Barney of "Cremaster Cycle" fame and Jennifer Steinkamp (who, by the way, is lecturing at Phoenix Art Museum on January 13).

If you lucked out and saw ASU Art Museum's four-hour long exhibition during a fundraiser hosted by Martha + Mary back in April of 2009, you got a tiny taste (a mere amuse bouche, for you foodies) of what the artist plans for Sundance's New Frontier show. He's created four time-lapse videos, lyrically documenting the life cycles of different vegetables -- radishes, kale, squash, and broccoli -- from seed through maturation, similar to the first one he produced for the ASUAM exhibition. These videos will be installed above corresponding produce sections of Fresh Market, a grocery store in Park City, so that while you squeeze tomatoes, sniff lettuce, or poke broccoli for bugs, you'll simultaneously be able to see Moore's elegant video images. The artist has enlisted the services of Michael Krasner to create tracks for each film that feature microscopic sounds of growth mixed with other ambient field audio.

Moore's videos are his way of subliminally educating consumers about how the food in their shopping carts came into existence, replete with all the dust, dirt, shade cloth, irrigation and rain that accompany its production. According to Moore, the videos take people out of the pristine conditions of a supermarket and dispel the aura of waxed, unblemished perfection that surrounds most grocery store fruits and vegetables on display: "I didn't take out stuff we did, like throwing down shade cloth. It's not pretty -- it's farming, and you do what you have to. I avoided the trap of making it pretty, like the stuff in the market -- there's no dirt on it."

"Lifecycles" is only part of an enormous project the artist has undertaken with financial assistance from Creative Capital, a non-profit foundation dedicated to underwriting experimental art work in every conceivable media. Moore is developing an archive of "living films," like the ones that will appear at Sundance's New Frontier. To that end, he's sending camera units capable of not only time-lapse video, but of recording ambient temperature, soil temperature and rainfall, to farmers around the world, who in turn are filming their best or favorite crop.

He's already deployed a camera to Italy, where it has been set up in a vineyard, as well as to farmers in Idaho. The goal is to record for posterity, via film and metadata, the conditions under which essential food stuffs are raised. "Once global warming takes its course," says Moore, "farmers and people in general will need to get accustomed to things they're really not used to. My films will serve as education as well as entertainment."

For more information about Matthew Moore and "Lifecycles," click here.

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