01/24/2013 03:47 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sundance Report: The Brave 'New Frontier'

By Lucas McNelly

I have this button on my lanyard now with a picture of a rock on it. Exciting, right? Except that it kind of is. See, I also have an app on my phone that when I look at the rock, turns the rock into something else, into a 3D experience. These rock images are all over Park City--on postcards and stickers and buttons--but their genesis is at New Frontier, where the artist Yung Jake has created something called a "Augmented Reality 3D Rap Video".

Or, you can watch Joanie Lemercier's "Eyjafjallajokull" a 3D model of the Icelandic volcano eruption projected on a wall. It runs on a 16 loop as stars turn to ash and then back to stars again, the optical illusion convincing enough that every few minutes someone will touch the wall to make sure it's actually just painted on. It's kind of hypnotic, actually.

Then, there's an audiovisual installation called "Cityscape 2095" that uses a combination of paint and light projection to imagine a traditional city skyline of the future. It's familiar and not, combining our shared history of what a city entails, only not in a shiny progressive way. There's a decay to it, a sense of generations of urban life being built on top of each other. It assumes our systems have failed, even the ones we only imagine we'll create. There's, oddly enough, no recognizable corporate logos and every building is covered with dozens of TV antennas all branching off each other like sickly little trees. It's a pretty cool effect.

But probably my favorite display is Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's "Pulse Index". It's pretty simple to describe, actually. You stick your index finger in this reader and it takes a photo of it while reading whatever vital signs it can get. It takes your resting heart rate (57 for me) and a cardiograph of your pulse. Then, it puts your finger on the wall with everyone else's, the light behind it flickering to mimic your pulse. There's hundreds, maybe thousands of them there already, each one a fingerprint. They turn into a mosaic, covering the entire room, each unique individual blending until they all look the same. It's very cool.

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