Whanganui sculpture/video artist Brit Bunkley’s work was accepted for this year’s Rencontres Internationales - Paris/Berlin.
His video, Peaceable Kingdom, was selected from the 7024 submissions from 120 countries.
“It will fittingly be at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature – Paris, a museum of hunting and nature (and in Berlin in March),” said Bunkley. “This year, they also will be screening a retrospective of full-length films by the great Yvonne Rainer at The Centre Pompidou.
“New work will be shown by the New Zealand artist Gavin Hipkins, Peggy Ahwesh and Jacqueline Goss (USA), Iván Argote (Colombia), Jonathas de Andrade (Brazil), and Eliane Esther Bots (Netherlands) (https://art-action.org/site/en/prog/index.php),” he said.
It’s been a good year for Bunkley, at venues including:
■ FILE SP 2023 exhibition, Fiesp Cultural Center, São Paulo – Brazil
■ Hochkantfilmfest 2023, Portrait - video on video platforms around the city of Bremen, Germany
■ Surrealist Vacation Resort Berlin 2023, Wilfried Agricola de Cologne -in collaboration with the Institute für Alles Mögliche Berlin, and The Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, LA
■ Malatesta Short Film Festival, Cesena, Italy
■ Video Art Miden, Municipal Gallery of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece and the Primarolia festival, Patras, Greece
■ 2023 International Video Art Forum exhibition, Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
■ Ibrida Festival of experimental audiovisual, Forlì, Italy
■ RPM23 Room to Breathe, University of Massachusetts Gallery, Boston, USA
■ New Realism/Altered Reality, Gallery23, NYC, USA
Bunkley immigrated from New York City to Whanganui 28 years ago to take up a position at the new art school at the polytechnic (now UCOL). He graduated with an MFA from Hunter College, NYC, in 1985, while receiving the prestigious USA Rome Prize the same year.
Although Bunkley’s main practice has been sculpture and public art, he began experimenting with animation software for public art proposals. He started making short videos in the late 90s.
“They needed someone to teach video at the art school here, so I adapted and taught myself the complexities of video and animation.”
He soon began sending them to international competitions.
“I was surprised to be getting into more and more of these digital exhibitions overseas,” he said. “This year so far I have been accepted into 14 film festivals and exhibitions overseas.
“My latest video Peaceable Kingdom took me six months to complete. It can take up to 45 minutes per frame to turn a 3D scene into a photo-realistic animation frame. At 25 frames per second, the time adds up, so I have occasionally been using inexpensive overseas rendering farms that have thousands of computers dedicated to such tasks.
“I’d use real animals if I could, but they’d eat each other up before the first take,” he joked.
So, he is using the next best thing, what he calls “deep fake animals”.
The inspiration for animals getting along peaceably came from Bunkley’s wife, Andrea Gardner, who is also an artist. She first introduced him to the series of paintings, Peaceable Kingdom, by the 19th-century Quaker minister and painter Edward Hicks. They named two collaborative sculptures with this title.
Since this video, Bunkley has been working on the Signs of Life, a video of microbes and small animals focusing on their social interactions and heartbeats, while in Natural Intelligence he is creating more animated digital mammals in unusual contexts (such as coexisting naturally inside elaborate empty buildings).
Bunkley says video art has been a respected art genre since the 1970s. This art form is now common in major museums globally while having a major presence in most contemporary art reviews and art biennials.