Expanded Cinema is an exhibition of new video art works created especially for the exterior walls of the Omni Dallas Hotel, Texas, with audio simulcast by 91.7 KXT public radio, presented as part of the 25th Dallas VideoFest.
The four curved walls of the hotel are continuously wrapped with LED bars that function like a low-res computer monitor. Only a handful of buildings in the world offer similar displays, and since this particular system was specifically created to fit the hotel's architecture, it is unique.
The artists included have a local connection and experience in making video; but none had ever worked with anything like the Omni Dallas system.
The display constitutes a potentially looping screen approximately 193 feet high and 999 feet in width or circumference. But while it's the biggest screen in town, it's unusual in shape and very low-res, effectively just 20 display "pixels" tall and 333 wide.
The simulcast of the audio gave rise to additional requirements and opportunities. The audio would need to be appropriate for KXT's listening audience, and there could be no lengthy silences; but the pieces also had to work without the audio, since many viewers might not hear the simulcast. On the other hand, KXT's license allowed the artists to use recordings without the payment of fees.
Because of the unique requirements and opportunities, most of the artists had to completely re-think their aesthetic practices for this new platform.
The resulting videos are widely varied, yet many show overlapping concerns. What kinds of expression are and are not possible through this giant display? It can be seen by much of the city's populace simultaneously; but how do its low-res nature and usual silence, combined with the fact that many viewers just glimpse it while driving by, limit what it can convey? Can the spectacular nature of the display be exploited for aesthetic purposes, as well as for the kinds of commercial purposes for which such systems are more often used? Can it comment on its own glam, and go on to raise questions about value? What kinds of histories can be evoked? Can the personal retain any sense of intimacy, or does it more readily suggest the universal, when writ so large? What if any kinds of genuine connection can be made through such a monumental medium?
The program includes works by Kari Altmann, Frank Campagna, Tim Capper with Ryan Hartsell and Wes Martin, Rebecca Carter with Mark Collop, Jeff Gibbons, Andrea Goldman, Mona Kasra, Kyle Kondas, Phil Lamb, Shane Mecklenburger, Michael A. Morris, Edward Setina, Carolyn Sortor, and Jenny Vogel. Sortor also led the effort to create a template for the artists and served as the project coordinator.
It is the hope of the organizers that, if only for a short time, Expanded Cinema will enrich the cultural and communal life of Dallas, opening the city to new ways of viewing and thinking about art and architecture, and that in this "expanded" exhibition, viewers throughout the city will find something to enjoy, think about, and share.