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Stamps Alums Reimagine the Screen: Nicholas Williams and Michelina Risbeck

The Third Century Screens (3CS) project celebrates the U-M bicentennial by exploring the future of the moving image on screens of all shapes and sizes. The centerpiece of 3CS is an exhibition entitled the Third Century Screens Competition, on view during Homecoming Weekend (Thursday, October 26 – Sunday, October 29, 2017) in the Alumni Center Founders Room. Among the 13 U-M alumni and faculty video artists featured in the exhibition are two recent Stamps alums: Nicholas Williams (BFA ‘16) and Michelina Risbeck (BFA ‘16).

During the 2016-2017 academic year, the 3CS faculty team -- Peter Sparling (School of Music, Theatre & Dance), Terri Sarris (Screen Arts & Cultures), Robert Adams (Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning) and Cynthia Pachikara (Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design) -- put out a call for new video work from faculty and alumni of the University of Michigan created especially for a freshly designed, five-screen projection structure called the “Pop-Up Projection Pavilion (PUPP).” After a rigorous review process, thirteen finalists were selected for the exhibition. Prizes of $3,000 each will be awarded to one U-M alumnus/a and one U-M faculty member. There will also be a 2nd ($2,000) and 3rd ($1,000) prize in the U-M alumni category.

3CS finalist Michelina Risbeck has been focusing on screendance filmmaking since graduating from the Stamps School in 2016. She found inspiration in the PUPP structure when creating her film Angled Athletes (2017), a work featuring gymnasts in motion from the University of Michigan Women’s Gymnastics Team. When considering how to approach her 3CS submission, Risbeck was inspired by the PUPP’s 90-degree angles. “The vertical line of the PUPP become the line of the beam on which the gymnast performs,” Risbeck said. “This treatment changes our perspective of how we'd traditionally view gymnasts on screen, breaking the mold.”

Still from Michelina Risbeck's Angled Athletes (2017)

According to Stamps Professor Cynthia Pachikara, a considered connection between the work and the PUPP design was critical to the selection of the exhibition finalists. “When evaluating submissions, we were looking for impact, craft, and creative use of the PUPP,” Pachikara said. “The public presentation of the finalists’ works -- on the pavilion itself -- will be an invaluable teaching and learning tool. The diverse array of production strategies employed in the selected works will demonstrate the latent potential of this compound screen.”

3CS finalist Nicholas Williams has maintained an active studio practice and exhibition schedule since graduating in 2016, as well as serving as Schara Artist in Residence through the Stamps School’s Social Engagement program. Asked about his inspiration to create his work Witch Dance (2017) and submit to the 3CS competition, Williams answered: “The video is a part of an ongoing multimedia world I refer to as Staying On Brand in These the Days of the West, which is defined most basically as living with an emphasis on uncovering the residual spiritual knowledge that lies within each of our bodies.”

Still from Nicholas Williams' Witch Dance, 2017

Asked about his motivation to submit to the 3CS competition, Williams answered thoughtfully, with an eye towards the big picture. “In the future, it’s my hope that people will become heros for the views they espouse, and we will all learn and acknowledge the contours of our roots, no matter how tangled and battered they may be.”

3CS is on view during the 2017 U-M Homecoming Weekend, Thursday, October 26-Sunday, October 29 2017. Details at