Film by ITS Graduate Assistant Headed to World Festival

August 23, 2022

Amenda Tate’s dance film Sapient_2.021 is an official selection of the X World Short Film Festival in Rome, Italy, on Sept 3, 2022, and is an award finalist in three categories

When forced into pandemic isolation along with much of the world, Artist Amenda Tate created Sapient_2.021, an experimental short film combining dance, robotics, and visual art to explore labor, control, empathy, and humanity in a tech-saturated world. 

Amenda Tate is a 2nd year graduate student in the Integrated Visual Arts MFA program at Iowa State University and a Graduate Research Assistant in the ISU Digital Accessibility Lab. She completed most of the film before enrollment at Iowa State University; however, she completed post-production finishing touches during her first year of graduate studies.

Tate has a background in metalsmithing, engineering, and fine art. She is best known for employing technology to produce community-driven kinetic paintings using her robot, Manibus. Her works have been featured by The New York Times, WHO-TV Channel 13 News, the Denver Post, the Des Moines Register, Better Homes & Gardens Modern Makers, dsm Magazine, and Popular Science.

Special honors include a permanent collection commission by Arrow Electronics in collaboration with the Colorado Ballet, two Editor’s Choice Awards at the New York International Maker Faire, and a special recognition award in the 2017 International RobotArt competition.

With support from Des Moines Performing Arts, Tate staged three solo dances for screen at the Des Moines Civic Center and Stoner Theater in a production that is part collaborative documentary and part screen dance drawing inspiration from science fiction. It features Tate’s motion-controlled painting robot, Manibus, translating dance into paintings representing life during the pandemic.

“Inspiration grew out of a desire to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the word “robot” introduced to the English language through the play RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Czech playwright Karel Capek. The term robot comes from an old Church Slavonic word ‘robota’ for ‘forced labor’ or ‘servitude’ and has ties to serfdom. I was interested in how we think about robots and how our perceptions of them may have changed over the last century.” Tate said.

Conceptually, the piece expanded following the lockdowns and racial unrest of 2020 as she questioned, “How has the pandemic altered our ideas about labor and work? And, what rights do essential workers have? What rights are all humans entitled to?”

While Tate is the creative mastermind behind the work, her film is a collaboration featuring a diverse cast and crew from across Iowa. According to Tate, “It was truly an honor to work with so many amazing artistic peers and to highlight some of the brightest creatives that Iowa has to offer. I am excited to share the culmination with an international audience.”        

Sapient_2.021 was produced with support by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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