Fri, Apr 22, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Nomad, no limits

This year’s edition of Urban Nomad features films on topics ranging from detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to Helvetica, one of the world’s most widely used typefaces

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff Reporter

Roskilde by Ulrik Wivel.

Photo Courtesy of URBAN NOMAD

Now in its 11th year, the Urban Nomad Film Festival rolls into town on Thursday next week.

This year’s theme is “art, creativity and design” and the event’s roster of 11 feature-length documentaries and films focus on topics ranging from an ornery RV salesman to the world’s best-known sans serif typeface. Four to six independent short films selected from a pool of about 300 submissions will also be screened each night. Two nights focus on Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未). The festival was planned well before Ai’s detainment by Chinese authorities earlier this month, but his arrest makes the two documentaries that will be screened especially topical.

The organizers of Urban Nomad decided on this year’s theme in part because of the Taiwanese government’s increasing focus on the “cultural and creative” industries.

“The number of art and design students here is enormous. We know that because we get a lot of their films for our program,” founder David Frazier told the Taipei Times. “But nobody has ever really done a focused segment on films about contemporary art and design.”

The festival kicks off on Thursday next week with Oddsac, a “visual album” by video artist Danny Perez and experimental rock band Animal Collective. Perez will be on hand to answer questions after the 54-minute-long film, which pairs 13 songs with mesmerizing visuals.

Along with a performance by Brooklyn-based tribal-freakout band I.U.D., Perez will deejay at Urban Nomad’s Video Mindfuck party on April 30 at Huashan 1914 Culture Park.

The festival’s official opening film is 2009’s Winnebago Man, a documentary directed by Ben Steinbauer about one of the first viral videos ever made. Outtakes from a 1988 RV commercial shoot featuring a foul-mouthed salesman with a short fuse circulated on VHS tapes before eventually enjoying a second life online. Obsessed with the clips, Steinbauer tracked down salesman Jack Rebney at his California home. The film will have its Taiwanese premiere at Urban Nomad on April 29.


WHAT: Urban Nomad Film Festival

WHEN AND WHERE: Starts at 7:30pm on Thursday with a screening of short films followed by Danny Perez’s Oddsac. Perez will be hand for a question-and-answer session afterward. All screenings will take place in warehouse 2 of Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號). The festival runs through May 8

ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$200

ON THE NET: Visit for a complete schedule and to preorder tickets

“It was a viral video before the Internet and it’s kind of impossible to say that technology does not influence art right now,” Frazier says.

Viewers can get insight into Ai’s work as a political activist on May 1 with Why Are These Flowers Red? (花兒為什麼這樣紅) by activist, professor and director Ai Xiaoming (艾曉明). The film documents the beating that Ai received from police during a trip to Sichuan Province to testify at the trial of fellow activist Tan Zuoren (譚作人), who was arrested for subversion after setting up a database of children who died in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.

On May 8, Ai’s own account of his confrontation with government authorities in Sichuan Province, Lao Mao Ti Hua (老媽蹄花) will be shown. A video conference with Ai was originally scheduled to follow the screening; Urban Nomad now plans to have a chat with a member of Ai’s studio instead.

“Ai’s activism is very much in a different direction from a lot of his art or a lot of what is exhibited in museums,” Frazier says. “With the solo show [of Ai’s work] scheduled to be held at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum at the end of this year, we felt it was important to show these films in Taiwan so his political content would not be whitewashed or left out.”

Other films about artists in Urban Nomad include In a Dream about American folk artist Isaiah Zagar; Olafur Eliasson: Space is Process, which follows the Danish contemporary artist to extreme environments like Arctic glaciers; and Beautiful Losers, which is about the NYC artists collective that incubated talents like Shepard Fairey and Twist (real name Barry McGee). Helvetica, a 2007 film by Gary Hustwit, focuses on the ubiquitous sans serif font and its impact on graphic design.

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