Labtime 002: Atmosphere

In advance of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, New Media Scotland take a look at the world of ambient cinema

Article by Mark Daniels | 27 May 2010
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Back in February I wrote about notions of active architecture, of environments that cherish and respond to the people they contain. The source of the idea was the work of John Eberson, a Romanian-born American architect who pioneered the concept of the atmospheric cinema design back in the 1920s and 30s. Eberson used elaborate architectural, art and design elements to create a fantastical setting in which to watch a film. It collectively aided a process of transference from the day-to-day reality of the Great Depression to the allure and escapism of Hollywood.

For the Edinburgh International Film Festival, New Media Scotland is re-imagining this concept at Inspace using a little smoke and mirrors, and a few bells and whistles. We’ve taken a barrage of projectors, a network of sensors and some custom algorithmic software. Add a dash of embedded art devices we call Ethernet Monkeys and you’ll find a cinema that can respond and interact with you, the audience. A series of free nightly expanded screenings will give you the unique ability to mould your own particular cinema experience. Movies range from Moon which scooped the Michael Powell Award for Best New Feature Film at the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival to classics such as Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death.

We will also host a performance by Antye Greie (AGF), an East German singer, songwriter, performer, e-poet, calligrapher and digital media artist, whose current practice explores electronic music production combined with the spoken word and sound installation. AGF’s performance at Inspace will afford a sneak preview of her work on Cryptic’s forthcoming production, Orlando. Cryptic’s staging of Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece features a soundtrack by AGF and Craig Armstrong and will premiere this September at the Traverse Theatre.

Working with Bren O'Callaghan we will have a special screening of Christiane Cegavske’s Blood Tea & Red String, a handmade stop-motion fairy tale for adults, thirteen years in the making. Expect every sense to be stimulated as you watch this disturbing yet wondrous adventure. Bren will also introduce a screening of The Call of Cthuhlu, a remarkable adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story.

John Eberson’s original concept may have been re-purposed by theme parks and shopping malls the world over but our take on the idea has the capacity to introduce new media practice to cinema audiences in a way previously unimagined.