Meet Our Masterminds: Winners of the 2010 Awards
Once again, The Pitch presents some of this city's aesthetic adventurers with $1,000 each — no strings attached — just for doing what they do.
Each year, we ask our readers to nominate artists, innovators and entrepreneurs who are changing the city's cultural landscape. This isn't a popularity contest or a lifetime-achievement award; instead, we want to recognize individuals or groups whose contributions are influencing the city's cultural and creative landscape.
We back up our appreciation with cash because we know that these people often do their work with little financial reward. A thousand bucks, we figure, is a small investment toward keeping the city interesting.
We'll hand out the checks at our annual Artopia party — a night of fashion, music, food and all-around creative energy — on Saturday, April 3, at the Screenland (1656 Washington). Until then, you can read about this year's Masterminds in this Artopia pullout section. The party that night starts at 7; tickets cost $25 at the door, or $20 if you get them sooner by calling us at 816-561-6061.
The camera tracks forward slowly through trees and foliage. To the sounds of crackling twigs and a deep whoosh, faces appear in the branches: cartoon animals, smiling children. After 80 seconds, the video loops seamlessly to the beginning, creating a hypnotic illusion of infinity. It's called "Treebeasties," and when Barry Anderson made it — in 2007, when he was a few years shy of 40 — the video artist knew that it was an important moment for him. "I don't think I've ever had a piece that was such a watershed," he says. "I started showing it to people, and they really responded to it."
"Treebeasties" turned out to be a midcareer game changer, and his already striking, singular work has become even more refined since then. These days, he works in a nearly 1,000-foot space (provided with his residency at Review Studios), manipulating layers of digital video clips with a program called Adobe After Effects, essentially the Photoshop of video production. Then he builds the physical installations that he uses to exhibit the finished work. "At a certain level, I am a gearhead and a geek," he says.
That mechanical inclination shows in the craftsmanship of his video imagery as well as the installations themselves. The geekiness, too, is on display in the pop-cultural references that his work evokes. "This piece is called 'Tannhauser Gate,'"he says, indicating twin screens displaying a sensual dance of rounded feminine shapes, a study of succumbing to gravity — and defying it. The title comes from Blade Runner.
"People come to the video expecting narrative," Anderson says. "I don't like the idea of narrative." Instead, he strives for painterly movement and imagery, but there's no story arc in his statements. "If you think about it, arcs are pretty artificial constructs," he says. He prefers movement in space, loops of time, infinity.
Assembling the collages of haunting ambient sound that accompany his video pieces inspired Anderson to create a series of audio-only works. That means covering part of a gallery's wall space with 16-channel speakers to broadcast sonic washes that fundamentally alter the surrounding space. "It's non-narrative, the same thing I do with the video pieces," he says.
Anderson has exhibited his work in New York, Dallas, Chicago and other major cultural hubs, but his life is in Kansas City. "I love New York and L.A., but I know how hard it is to make work there and actually sustain your art. Where else would I live? This is such a vibrant place, one of the best art scenes in the country — great artists, museums, galleries, curators. And I really enjoy teaching." Anderson has taught courses in motion graphics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for eight years. "I teach mostly design students, so I basically teach them to put design techniques into motion."