“Dome Poems: Memory and Emergence,” a 20-minute immersive film commemorating the New Mexico State Centennial, was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Art Works grant. “Dome Poems,” a project of UNM’s ARTS Lab, will recognize the centennial through poetic and photographic reflections on the past 100 years of culture and regional identity in the Indo-Hispano communities of northern New Mexico.
New Mexico Centennial Poet Levi Romero said the project poses an important question: “How do we find a way to tell and share our stories as the storytellers that we are through new and emerging media and technology?”
The collaborative effort between Romero, photographer and filmmaker Miguel Gandert, immersive media artist Hue Walker and UNM ARTS Lab Director Tim Castillo, all New Mexicans, will create a work that reflects on the past while also looking to the future, giving new voice and vision to traditional culture through new media, thus fostering cultural and technological innovation.
Romero said that in teaching as well as in writing, he’s “interested in being able to tell a story in cultural language.” He teaches in Chicano Hispano Mexicano Studies and the School of Architecture and Planning at UNM.
“I try to do that with poems, to tell the Nuevo Mexicano story,” he said. He’s author of “A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works,” “In the Gathering of Silence” and other publications.
One of the “Dome Poems,” “One Last Cruise, Taos Plaza,” delves into memories of a Taos Plaza the locals cruise through “finger-snappin’ time to War tunes on the 8-track stereo,” in the context of present day Taos Plaza dominated by a “carefree tourist manner void of history, of memory.” Romero said the poem is about the appropriation, and re-appropriation, of public space.
The state connection is central to the project. “We’re all native New Mexicans. It’s really great to have a group of people getting national funding for something that resonates with the place of New Mexico,” said Castillo, principal investigator on “Dome Poems” and associate professor at UNM’s School of Architecture and Planning and Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media faculty.
“Dome Poems” will be presented in fulldome theaters, plazas and community gathering spaces across the state, and internationally via ARTS Lab’s immersive media festival, DomeFest.
“The idea is to get it out into the community throughout New Mexico, connecting with communities all over the state,” Castillo said. He’s working with graduate students to build portable domes that will bring the immersive experience to viewers across New Mexico.
Walker said they’re trying to create something flexible and scalable enough that it can be presented on surfaces ranging from a single flat screen to a large fulldome with multiple projectors.
Romero said Gandert was the first artist he thought of when approached with the project. He’s an award-winning documentary and fine art photographer and filmmaker, director of UNM’s Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media program and distinguished professor of communication and journalism. Walker is working with the team to integrate Gandert’s photos with Romero’s poetry.
Walker is a founding member and senior artist with ARTS Lab at UNM. In that role she has participated in the production, design and realization of fulldome shows including “BrainFlame” with renowned Chicano artist Gronk.
She said all aspects of the project are discussed as a group. “My process is to try to pick their brains. I want them to be happy about how their work is presented,” she said. “I try to bring to bear what I know about the difference between flat screen and dome projection, how people react to this kind of set-up.”