Reflecting on our first-ever New Cinema Days

Mon 15 May 2023

In April 2023, we hosted our first-ever New Cinema Days, a week-long creative development lab for film makers of the future.

A large chunk of the work we do at Abandon Normal Devices is focused on artist development, particularly in non-festival years. We’re passionate about building new pathways and support structures for those practicing in digital art, new cinema and new sounds.

We sat down with long-time AND collaborator, Luke Moody who led on the development and delivery of New Cinema Days, to discuss the project in more depth.

What sparked the idea for New Cinema Days?

We initiated New Cinema Days out of care for the artists who sculpt moving images from clay and slurry on the muddy banks between cinema and art. In that vulnerable space where making and unmaking combine, it can be hard to sustain ground or find support between support structures.

The projects selected were grappling with different frontiers of technical, conceptual and narrative leaps, but converge in their independence of vision – what is a lab if not a safe environment for risk? Bringing together constellations, alchemies of convergence, sustained vulnerability and experimentation in possibilities?

The three selected artists for the week were Che Applewhaite, Yambe Tam and Grace Ndiritu. Fnd out more about each artist, including their aspirations for the project, by clicking on their names.

Che Applewhaite at the Motion Capture workshop

What themes guided the week-long artist development lab, and the public-facing seminar and screening days?

  • What are the cinemas of the future?
  • Who will be watching, where and how?
  • Who controls the machines to create new cinema dreams?

These are some of the beginnings of thoughts that filmmakers, artists, curators, producers and distributors gathered to discuss during New Cinema Days. The inaugural edition unfolded over a week in Manchester, UK, and presented between three local partners from different regions of the audiovisual ecosystem Abandon Normal Devices (Production and Commissioning), School of Digital Arts, SODA (Education) and HOME (Exhibition).

What happened during the week?

At SODA the participating artists accessed labs for virtual production, VR, and motion capture.

Cinema has perhaps been the most susceptible of all artforms to the commercial evolution and fetishisation of technologies, particularly in recent years of advancing sensor technologies, resolutions, and endless accessorisation of the camera body.

However not all means are democratised, particularly in those technologies on the precipice of being the future or being obsolete before even becoming commonplace. Giving artists access to new imaging technologies is imperative in a resistance of new dominant forms, and aesthetics of processing the world. For those eyes and minds that lens the world otherwise to play with, and play against the mechanics of production, and artifice of rendered worlds.

Jemma Desai in conversation with Dr Kirsty Fairclough

The lab opened with thoughts and a conversation about independence, and representation, full of heart, led by the shining light of Tabitha Jackson, and culminated in a public-facing seminar opened by Jemma Desai on ‘Yearning for new ways to make and circulate: towards an infrastructure of being longing.’ Her presentation reflecting on the context of presentation, the power structures implicit in film development labs and opportunities that may offer a ‘false infrastructure of hope.’ Jemma’s keynote has now been produced into Episode 16 of the AND podcast, listen via our Substack.

This was followed by a parallel series of roundtable discussions, an intentionally non-hierarchical space to share thoughts between industry, artists, academics, and students, acting as trajectories of reflection from the opening talk.

Lisa Brook speaking at the round table discussions

Will there be a New Cinema Days 2024?

To be confirmed! As a first edition of the lab we learnt much from the artists, and they shared their challenges with each other. In this listening, questioning and advising we’re excited to focus, adapt and advance the lab in the future, to care for the images yet to come.


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