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Reel World

by Gareth Brown
May/June 2005
Res Magazine

Anyone who ever owned a ViewMaster as a child is likely to have fond memories of this unique form of 3-D media projection. Sliding and image wheel into the slot and holding the plastic toy up to the light, there was a magical intimacy that came with what you saw inside, a special experience for you alone to enjoy. Vladimir, a female artist living in Portland, Oregon, pays homage to this child-like cinematic experience, while at the same time repurposing it to create a kind of glacial frame-rate short film experience called Vladmasters. She creates original ViewMaster narratives, seen in works like Lucifugia Thigmotaxis (about a cockroach named Stanley), and brings brainy books to life, as in her Vladmaster set based on Italo Calvino's novel Invisible Cities. Most of the stories that unfold in Vladimir's reels use dioramas that she builds and photographs. She also creates soundtracks to accompany the viewing experience. Her pieces are frequently performed in Northwest performance spaces and festivals such as the Olympia Film Festival and the last two PDX Film Festivals, where Lucifugia won the 2004 World Champion of Experimental Film Award. The screen is projected white and audiences hold up the provided ViewMasters, collectively making that satisfying cha-thunk sound as the soundtrack prompts viewers to change frames. Vladimir's beautifully produced artworks also sell for only $15 a set via her Web site, so next time the precocious kid on your gift list begs for SpongeBob SquarePants, consider buying a Vladmaster reel of Kafka's Parables instead.