By Judy Kim (B.A. ’13)
Micah Stansell (M.F.A. ’09) makes film and video projects that defy genre categorization; his work gives the viewer an opportunity for their own interpretation, rather than being fed a dramatized plot.
In his short film called “The Water and The Blood,” a 2011 selection in the Working Artists Project at The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Stansell tells the story of a family in the rural South before the emergence of technologies, be it photographs or smart phones, that aid in the recollection of memories.
“The film is, really, my imagined history in a way,” he says. “And I am imagining what these events would have looked like and imagining how they would have unfolded [rather than relying on memories].
“The stories have been filtered through my imagination,” he says.
Another filter, Stansell adds, is the viewer, who creates his or her own take and context of his work. The film, a multichannel video installation, used eight large-scale projections, requiring the viewer to become active participants.
And while his work departs from film tradition, he finds his inspiration from the story-telling tradition of the South, he says.
“I’m a big fan of Southern authors like Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy and Carson McCullers, and I’m sure they’ve had some influence on my work,” Stansell says. “I don’t know that I am consciously making Southern work – though I am glad that it has that association. I think that, most likely, it’s just the way I relate to narrative. The Southern tradition of storytelling obviously uses words to pass along these stories, but the language is always so imagistic, so I think it translates well into a visual medium.”
Stansell has won numerous awards for his work, most recently a 2011 Artadia award. Artadia is national, non-profit organization that supports art-making in local communities by providing financial support to emerging artists.
Stansell’s work can also be seen here at GSU. He is one of the founding members of the “Window Project,” – a new media installation space facing the southern end of Woodruff Park from the windows of the Digital Arts Entertainment Laboratory (DAEL). Stansell installed the array of projectors and synchronized the playback of all the glass screens. At night, the curved glass windows replay short, artistic films.
“We need more permanent, interesting art in downtown. It’s something different than a sculpture or a mural, it’s a new approach to public art,” Stansell said.
Kay Beck, professor of communication and director of the DAEL, says Stansell’s video essay, “Past Perfect Continuous,” was selected as the debut presentation for “The Window Project.”
“Micah is a talented, dedicated artist and we, at DAEL enjoy working with him and are proud to have him represent us,” Beck says. “[Past Perfect Continuous] is an engrossing narrative related in stunning imagery, and the content is at once very personal and at the same time universally relevant. I look forward to watching Micah’s future success, which is inevitable.”
Stansell also assisted with installing a new sound component to “The Window Project.” The technology transforms the actual surface of the glass into a set of large speakers, using vibrations to carry the sounds. Viewers hear the audio clearly within a few feet, but the sound dies down quickly to avoid noise pollution. There are also QR codes on the windows so that passersby can listen to the sounds on their phones.
Also, beginning July 28, Stansell will unveil a large scale installation at the High Museum of Art consisting of large projections that will cover the façade of the buildings surrounding the piazza.
“I’m really excited about that,” he says. “That’s the main thing I’m working toward right now.”
Stansell’s films screened at Flux Projects in 2011 and at Hunter College in New York. His awards include the Special Jury Prize for Innovation in Filmmaking at the 2009 Atlanta Film Festival.
To see more of Stansell’s work, visit http://www.micahstansell.com.