Feb. 24 2016 01:21 PM

Five San Diego video artists who’ll make you press play

“20 Minutes of Kite Flying Time Collapsed: San Diego Study #6”
Image © Cy Kuckenbaker, 2013

The art of video is alive and well. The culture of social media and online interactivity has already moved well beyond the still image and into the instantly shared, often live-streamed video. Be it on established platforms such as YouTube and Vine, or on newer platforms such as Periscope or Cincopa, here are a few locals who are using those platforms to make broad and beautiful statements. From animated documentaries and interactive public art to time-collapsed kites and psychedelic projections, these five video artists are the kind that will make you rewind, refresh and watch again.


For Georgia native Stefani Byrd, her ascent into what she calls “large, media-based, interactive public art” was a bit accidental. She was originally studying black-and-white photography in Atlanta when she was invited to participate in a public art show, and she hasn’t looked back since. “Usually you have to work in the gallery or museum system for a long time and then eventually you dabble in public art,” says Byrd, who’s in her final year as an MFA student at UC San Diego. “I sort of had an odd path.” Byrd uses the video medium to make statements on technology and human-to-human contact or what she calls “live-ness and simulated live-ness.” For the piece “(i want to be private)” she used sensors and digital projectors to create a “digital surrogate” that viewers could interact with. Her most recent piece, “The Razor’s Edge” debuted at the Art San Diego art fair in November and features three people breathing against glass. As the glass fogs up, it gives the illusion that the people are breathing on the screen of the TV in real time. “Often the screen is used as a medium and an interface to a different world,” Byrd says. “But I wanted to make it something more like a mirror.” That piece will be seen at UCSD’s annual MFA Open Studios on March 5, as well as a solo exhibition at UCSD at the end of April.


Once you see one of Cy Kuckenbaker’s “San Diego Studies” videos, you’re not likely to forget it anytime soon. Using what he calls a “time-collapse” technique, hours and hours of otherwise mundane footage is distilled into a beautifully meditative short film. Singular plane landings at the airport become a 26-second bombardment of dozens of planes seemingly all landing at the same time. In another, highway footage becomes a color-coordinated flash mob of automobiles. His most recent video, the sixth in the series, features 20 minutes of Kuckenbaker flying a red kite collapsed into just over a minute to give the appearance of multiple kites all being flown at the same time. He says future pieces in the series use technology that stretches time rather than compressing it. Right now, he’s focusing on a video art piece that he describes as “a contemplation of phone and tablet UI scrolling” and this summer, he’ll head to Lithuania to shoot a short film about the guerilla war the country fought against the USSR after World War II. “This one is really high risk. It could very easily blow up in my hands,” says Kuckenbaker, who lived in Lithuania for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. “It’s a tough place for an American to lock things down. Fingers are crossed.”


In many ways, Ian M. De Cerbo’s beginnings in the local graffiti and hip-hop scene led him to create the grainy, psychedelic video collages he’s mainly known for today. Working under the name MR.IMD, he started a band called Hezus and wanted to have live visuals when the band played, but he didn’t know anyone who could produce the videos he wanted. “I knew what I wanted so I just started sampling old videos, recording off old TVs and using vintage video cameras,” De Cerbo says. “Just chopping things up and experimenting.” His chopped-up, grainy, and beat-friendly visuals led to him working with experimental music producer Gonjasufi and, after a brief hiatus, De Cerbo recently got back into creating video visuals that he says “take the analogue world and digital world and mix them together.” He showcases his visual collages during the monthly BLVD Market event and posts some of the results on Instagram. On Friday, Feb. 27, he’ll be showing off pieces at AUDOxVZLS, a show at the Out Here space in Tijuana where he’ll do on-the-spot visuals while bands such as Mystery Cave and Angels Dust perform live. He recently left his job to focus exclusively on his art. “I just want to pursue things that make me happy,” De Cerbo says. “Something that makes me more fulfilled.”


Lenny Gerard might not consider himself to be a video artist per se. Rather, he sees himself as a musician who loves to make statements in his music videos. The San Diego native, who splits his time between here and Los Angeles, once worked as a staff videographer for Def Jam, and this experience helped him create the music video for “Feel Me Now.” While the song itself is a dance-friendly pop song, the video features Gerard acting out scenes from an abusive relationship with another man and is part of a larger awareness campaign called #menRvictims2, meant to shine a light on domestic violence in the gay community. “I couldn’t care less if the video goes viral,” Gerard says. “I just hope that some people have a connection with the video or with the hashtag to where they’ll want to share their stories.” A victim of domestic violence himself, Gerard hopes to collaborate with local LGBT org Out With It on a larger campaign for #menRvictims2 and will also be doing some San Diego concerts to promote his second album, Unbound (out March 29). “The video is just a precursor for what we’ll be doing long-term to raise awareness of this issue,” he says.


Before taking a documentary film class at San Diego City College, Evan Apodaca was much more focused on sculpture and installation art. After seeing Que Lejos Estoy (How Far Am I), we're certainly glad he switched focus. A mixture of live interview footage (mostly with Apodaca’s grandmother) and animation, the 12-minute doc explores assimilation, Chicano history and Apodaca’s own sense of identity. He uses animation to turn vintage photographs of his distant relatives into lively storytellers. “I asked myself, how can I possibly interpret and visually portray my family’s past, and my first answer was that it has to be through bringing old photographs to life,” says Apodaca, who grew up primarily in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles. “So I sought out to animate family quotes, conversations, their feelings and also reimagine a history through my own eyes.” The film was selected from hundreds of submissions for the annual San Diego Latino Film Festival and will screen on Monday, March 14. And while Apodaca is still promoting Que Lejos Estoy, he says he’s already working on a follow-up doc about “the relationship between theater and life, but specifically about performing Chicana identity and gender.” “It’s in very early stages,” Apocada says. “But I can say that there’s a lot of surrealism involved.”


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