||Profile: Frederick Abrams|
Update: April 11, 2002: Frederick Abrams' Interactive Underground Data-Travelling Website is online at: www.undergroundcathedral.com.
Frederick Abrams is originally from Los Angeles, California and studied in an experimental program at the University of California at Berkeley. He began as a stained glass artist and worked as the editor for an international magazine on contemporary glass art, and later as the awarded art director of a rock music magazine. He is a multi-awarded, multimedia artist who presently resides in the city of Wroclaw (say Vrots-wahv), Poland.
His continued experimentation and further development of his work in glass, as a contemporary iconographic light artform, eventually transformed into computer aided art and bridged the senses of sight and sound.
In 1986, his first applications of this immerging creative style met with the public as a sound and light installation entitled The Underground Cathedral. This life-committed project has evolved, over more than a decade, to include live and electronic performance of original music composition as well as computer art and animation, documentary video, photography, and sound recordings collected during his travels.
In addition to having done several temporary installations and exhibitions in the United States and Poland, three of his graphic works are among the permanent collection of the Lodz Art Museum (Lodz: say Woodge) in Poland.
As interesting as the work Frederick has created, is his story of the struggle to solve technical problems and survive economic obstacles that lay in the path of realizing his vision, and the largest project of his life.
Frederick had been previously introduced to the Amiga by an animator at the top television animation studio in Barcelona, Spain. So, in 1992, when he heard of the release of the OpalVision card he was convinced that the Amiga could fulfill his plans, which at that point were strictly for a visual slideshow presentation.
The purchase of a computer was originally intended for a post-Olympic multimedia performance in Barcelona. But, while awaiting the shipment of a new A3000 from the United States, the Spanish economy crashed. Because of this, many programs associated with the Olympics were cancelled and major architectural projects were halted.
With his project plans unexpectedly and suddenly terminated, it was the use of his A3000 as a creative tool which would enable Frederick to continue independently and to pursue a new path into dimensions previously unseen.
However, having had no previous training, he knew almost nothing about computer technology. In addition, Commodore Spain had just closed and reliable technical support became difficult to find locally.
Plus: Digital Audio
In London, he met with David Pleasance, then President of Commodore UK, who was very interested in the work Frederick was doing. He was offered the assistance of Commodore's head of Technical Support in developing the performance. However, the first signs of Commodore's imminent collapse were evident and this was never to be.
In the midst of constant economic misfortune, from Commodore Amiga to Spain, Frederick returned to Barcelona and in total isolation spent the next year creating what was to become the soundtrack for his ongoing project.
Plus: Digital Video
This presented another obstacle, however, since the V-Lab Motion did not directly support sound using the AD516. When enquiring about this, U.S. technical support put Frederick in contact with a person in Arizona who had worked out a method using ARexx to integrate MovieShop with Studio 16. Now, ready to further the evolution of his work, he returned to Barcelona.
Frederick was successful getting the AD516 working with the VLM, as he had been instructed; and with a little creative intuition, he devised a method for integration with Bars & Pipes, as well. Soon, he had managed to get all three programs (MovieShop, Studio 16 and Bars & Pipes) running on the same public screen and fully synchronized. But, because of the intense system requirements of these programs and limitations of the Zorro hardware, playback was sometimes problematic and would require occasional tweaking within each program to obtain smooth results.
Solving this problem showed Frederick that the Amiga remained a vital creative force, despite the ever diminishing support of developers and manufacturers. But, that problem was just one in a series of technical nightmares. Fortunately, for Frederick, it was then that internet access became widely available in Spain and on-line technical support became a very important part of his success. Through his own experimentation, and coupled with advice from people he met on the internet, he was able to solve other difficulties along the way.
With everything set, he spent the next year and a half learning and experimenting with digital video editing and developing his first two videos: About To Depart and Paquito. Upon completion in 1996, these videos were circulated to various European festivals and within four months had won six separate awards including categories of documentary, soundtrack and originality.
Equals: The Underground Cathedral
Despite the crash of Spain's economy, Commodore's collapse, the challenges of working in a re-developing country emerging from the darkness of the Iron Curtain, and through seemingly never ending technical difficulties, Frederick premiered The Underground Cathedral - Work in Progress in May of 1997.
The now much evolved multimedia performance was backed by a large video projection screen and a soundtrack of audio recordings from underground metro systems; and fronted by Frederick and nine other live musicians. This one hour live performance was recorded, mixed with original video excerpts and combined with an interview for broadcast on television. The performance was later repeated as the opener for a festival held at the Center for Contemporary Art (Ujazdowski Castle) in Warsaw.
dhomas: "What does The Underground Cathedral set out to accomplish and why is it important?"The Future
It is an extension of the project itself, being a study of travel, that the next step in Frederick's vision is to evolve The Underground Cathedral into a touring performance.
Presently, the project exclusively documents his travels throughout Western and Eastern Europe and the United States. Frederick plans to further the project by exploring other parts of the world where metro systems exist.
As important as the work itself is the proliferation of his vision through other metaphor and form - So, watch here for an announcement about Frederick's upcoming Interactive Underground Data-Travelling Website which will further his work. He has also just completed further development of his existing performance video into a musical documentary containing still photography, animation, special effects and sound samples, replacing the live musicians with MIDI instrumentation. This 65 minute film, and separate chapters from it, are now being distributed to various festivals throughout the world.
Project related music, videos, artwork, photography, etc. is expected to available for purchase in the near future. In the mean time, enjoy a small glimpse into The Underground Cathedral with these sample images and sound clips.
"It is my continuing goal to broaden the scope and perception of all creative forms beyond those narrowly defined as art, music, poetry and so forth, as well as bridging the gaps between ancient and primitive crafts and techniques with those of the present and future. I see this as an ongoing ever-evolving project, one likely to continue throughout my own lifetime." -- Frederick Abrams.