One example recently was New York-based director Paul Kamuf’s website Light, As A Feather
As its title suggests, the site is imbued with a delicate charm, alongside plenty of technical wizardry. The concept is to portray ‘the brief and wondrous life of a text’. We see the text written in a pop-up window, and then follow its journey through the ether. As we watch, the pop-up browser moves independently around the computer screen, changing in size and shape as the story unfolds.
Kamuf’s playful use of pop-ups in Light, As A Feather has led to comparisons with the recent Arcade Fire Wilderness Downtown site, which incorporates a similar technique, alongside interactive elements. There may be less going in Kamuf’s piece, but this is not to its detriment – rather than attempting to impress with all the bang-whizz techy possibilities out there, it simply demonstrates how a web browser, previously seen as a static frame, can become an integral part of a narrative. In other web-based works, Kamuf also messes with our expectations of what we will find online, by bending loading bars out of shape and allowing images to fall away, revealing pages of code.
With these simple but witty gestures, he establishes that the constructs that we build our web experiences around could easily be replaced or re-examined.
He is therefore keen to avoid the rigid frameworks that exist on sites such as YouTube or Vimeo. “One of the reasons I made my latest project was to challenge existing ‘user interfaces’, like video sharing sites,” he says. “I wanted to make something that you can’t upload to a sharing site. There is tremendous creative potential within the traditional film sizes, or within a blog template, but at the same time, it’s kind of lazy to just fit whatever you’re making to someone else’s pre-built, pre-existing template.”
Kamuf is not entirely against YouTube of course, and the site has proved a useful channel for the live action promos, idents and ads he also creates, which include his recent, humorous video for Crookers track Remedy (featuring Miike Snow). This mixture of traditional filmmaking and web innovation is born out of his background. “I’ve made videos since my friends and I were old enough to semi-steadily hold a VHS camcorder,” he says, “but I really became interested in directing after years spent working in both web and television. I worked for a cutting edge tech start-up that went bust and for several channels here in the US, and along the way did some directing.”
Kamuf now experiments with digital ideas on the side of doing his regular work. Next up is another “frame-breaking” idea, as well as a project that is a “direct descendant of Light, As A Feather”.
He is excited by the future of digital. “I think 10 years after the dot com boom we are still at the beginning of this,” he says. “We’re constantly told everything is faster, stronger, harder, better. But the people part of the change is still a slow process. One funny thing is that a lot of hype around digital is about ‘collective’ knowledge, but to me all the great works are individually driven.
Digital provides some great tools to individuals, and not just to remix existing work, but to create some new forms. I haven’t seen that done very often, which is kind of depressing, but that leaves a lot of potential, which is exciting.
See more of Paul’s work at kamuflage.com