Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Art of Friendship, Part II

Just a few hours later, we gathered at the Western Front, on trendy East 8th Avenue. Steven had already started to figure out what was going on, pursuing clues I'd dropped. Jeff and Susan, however, weren't quite as quick to figure it out...probably because they were suppressing the horror of what was to come.

When my cousin Keith Langergraber showed up to greet us, the final pieces of the puzzle fell into place. We'd journeyed to Vancouver because Keith is an artist and a fan of science fiction. Knowing that I, too, was a fan, he asked me to provide some supporting materials for his exhibition, The Society of Temporal Investigations, a mixed-media work that uses drawings, films, writing and modelmaking to examine the relationships between fans and the shows they follow. I was only too happy to offer Keith a selection of appropriately-themed articles from this blog and a fan film I directed nearly twenty years ago...Finger Puppet Star Trek.
Jeff and Susan were instrumental in the creation of Finger Puppet Star Trek; they designed and built the sets, costumes and "makeup" (i.e., they drew the faces on our fingers). They also served as voice actors. Needless to say, when we filmed Finger Puppet Star Trek back in the early 90s, we never expected it to have a premiere in front of several dozen people. But that's exactly what was about to happen. Watch as the implications start to set in...

video
Jeff and Susan - and for that matter, Sylvia - managed to fortify themselves with enough alcohol to get through the evening. Steven, cool as a cucumber, prepared for a night of amusement at his sister's and brother-in-law's expense. (He was fortunate enough to be unavailable during the Finger Puppet shoot.)

Before the screening, we gathered in the gallery to see the show's foundation, Keith's impressive array of modelwork and drawings. I was quite impressed with Keith's presentation. Through his work and his remarks, Keith showed how some fans of science fiction are not merely consumers of culture, but active participants, reinterpreting the science fiction canon to suit their own vision and desires. Keith started the festivities with a brief talk about his work, referencing Robert Smithson's essay "The Shape of Future and Memory" and his work, Spiral Jetty. Keith's own work is littered with spirals, as befits a genre preoccupied with stars and galaxies and whirling tunnels to other times, other dimensions.

This is the centrepiece of Keith's exhibit: The Battle of Procyon V. Keith kitbashed many Star Trek model kits to create this impressive tableau. The pictures really don't do it justice. The battle, by the way, is a canonical event from Star Trek: Enterprise. Keith's work here both extends and comments upon one of the most common fan phenomena: our propensity to extrapolate and reinterpret relationships, events or ideas only touched on in the original works. We become authors in our own right, shaping our own personal canon - if indeed there can be such a thing as a "personal canon," a concept hotly debated in fan circles.

Steven watches the battle. Clearly I fooled around with some Photoshop effects here.
Here's Keith, with some of his artwork in the background. Keith is not only an artist, but a teacher at Emily Carr University and Thompson Rivers University.
Keith and Steven discuss the exhibit. In a moment of synchronicity, Steven discovered that Keith had included an old USS Bonaventure/Edmonton Star Trek Society publication in his collection of fan works - a publication that several members of the University of Alberta Star Trek Club, including myself, had worked on. Keith said that he found it at a thrift store in Trail. You never know where your work is going to end up...
After Keith's well-received talk, we retired upstairs for the screening.





First up was "Chains of Betrayal," a fanmade episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode starts off a little slow, but the laughs get better and more plentiful as the show goes on. I'm extremely impressed by the work of these young men and women, who clearly have an excellent grasp of the correct pase and structure of a typical ST: TNG episode. Aside from the sometimes-primitive green screen work and the haphazard costuming, this could almost pass for a real episode...







Next to "Chains of Betrayal," Finger Puppet Star Trek looks quite primitive. On the other hand, our film is much older and was created in five hours, as opposed to the five years spent on the more polished episode. Still, I offer no excuses...


I think "Chains of Betrayal" deserved all the praise Keith heaped upon it. He was also very kind - quite probably too kind - to our film, pointing out how interesting it was that we chose to adapt the most cerebral of the Star Trek features. During the Q&A session, I admitted that there was no deep meaning behind our choice; it was simply the first of the Star Trek films, and we were proceeding in a linear fashion. No spirals here, except perhaps the spinning of Jeff's head when he saw the film projected on a big screen...

The audience was quite kind as well, and asked good questions about both films, which I and the Vancouver filmmakers attempted to answer. I think everyone had quite a good time.

For another take on Keith's show, read Jeff Shyluk's analysis.

Thanks very much to Keith Langergraber for inviting me to participate in his show, and for allowing me to post images depicting his art. Keith's show is on the road now, so if it comes to your neck of the woods, check it out!

Here are a few more images from the show...



Jeff noted that if you stood in the right place, the lights looked like a string of photon torpedoes. I wasn't quite tall enough to photograph the effect properly, so I faked it...

Next: the epilogue.


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