Andrew Voegtline wins $50,000 McKnight Grant from IFP

Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota (IFP) announced today that Andrew Voegtline has been awarded the New Media Project Grant, a $50,000 award from the McKnight Foundation for an innovative media arts project. A graduate of St. Olaf college, where he studied music and composition, Voegtline is interested in fusing technology with various artmaking practices such as video, poetry, dance and music.  His project, Digital Cities, will use GPS location and other information from users’ smartphones to determine what content they will experience, creating a site-specific on overdrive “songscape across the city.”

Voegtline started—an interactive, multimedia website that brings together technology, art, music, and poetry—along with Bobby Maher and Erik Martz in January of 2012, with their first issue released in May. The Web-based magazine has 10 issues now. Like Minneapplesauce, Digital Cities will use interactive media of various genres but will do so through a smartphone app, so that people will need to be in a particular place with certain conditions in order to get specific content.

With content created by musicians Chris Koza and Holly Newsom, visual artist Kate Casanova and choreographer Stuart Pimsler, the product is going to include an array of media, including audio, video and other images that will be tailored to your location and other factors such as the time of day, how many people are around, the temperature, etc. I sat down with Voegtline and Bobby Maher, one of his collaborators for Digital Cities, to talk about the project. 

So how do you feel about getting the grant?

Andrew Voegtline: It’s shocking. I’m still processing it.

Can you say something about yourself, and what it is you do?

AV: I try to blend art into a lot of what I do. I’ve always been interested in technology. I went to school for music at St. Olaf, and got a composition degree. Currently I’m interested in technology that’s blended with art creation. 

How long have you been thinking about the idea that ended up being your proposal?

AV: The grains of the idea predate the proposal, although the proposal itself is very refined with all the details nailed down. Some of it came out of Minneapplesauce work, about how to get people to interact and engage with art, and then thinking of other ways besides the website.

Location is always something that alters how you perceive art. Whether or not you go to an art gallery, a concert hall, a bar—those different settings change the way you perceive art. The idea that started to form the project is helping the person viewing the art understand the mindset of the artist, and directing the setting for how a piece of art should be experienced.

Bobby Maher: It’s the idea of taking the work from Minneapplesauce out into the world. If you are in Loring Park on this date after five o’clock, you can have a poem or song delivered to you, so it becomes a songscape across the city by different composers. It gives the artist more control over how people experience the work. The extreme example is that you have to be on a boat on Lake Calhoun at five in the morning to listen to a song.

AV: Some of it’s from our creative standpoint. Do I want someone to experience this in rush hour traffic, or have a completely different experience if they go to a particular location the artist has picked? This piece of content represents this place.

BM: There are two sides—there’s the website side, where we can take and build content like poems, songs and video. The other artists we are working with include Chris Koza and Holly Newsom, Kate Casanova and Stuart Pimsler. We’re working with them to create content. On the website side, we load the content, and then for someone experiencing it, they use a smartphone app, so as you move through the city, you load in the radiuses, the time of day, the temperature. As you move with your phone, it’ll let you know what content- the video or audio file, for example, that would fit with that setting.

AV: The iPhone knows where you are and will tell you which you should listen to. iPhones have an obscene amount of information. It can tell if you’re by Loring Park, then there’s this piece that is best experienced by Loring Park.

Can this be used on an android or other smartphone besides an iphone?

AV:  Some of it still needs to be assessed. At this point the iPhone is the target that I have, but I do want it to be on other platforms. We want it to be as accessible as possible. 

Will this mainly be in St. Paul and Minneapolis, or greater Minnesota?

AV: We are excited for the McKnight support—this allows us to build this model. Once it’s been created, we can take the model to other places. 

What’s the timeline for the project?

AV: The grant is through January of 2015. That being said, I’m quite confident that the app will come out prior to that. Apple does control the release schedule. Even if it’s done, it’s not always up to the developers to decide when it can be released.

Have you ever made an app before?

AV: I’ve done some work in iOS. Most of my work has been on the Web side. I do have a technology team.

Will some of the content be able to be experienced on a regular computer?

AV: There will be some level of visibility by computer. The real strength of it is when you get into the location.

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Sheila Regan's picture
Sheila Regan

Sheila Regan (sheila [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.