Following the Friday night DFT screening of the short film Frames for the People: A City of Halos, I had a chance to talk with Corrie Baldauf, a 2011 Kresge Fellow in Visual Arts and co-creator of the piece with filmmakers Stephen and Cory McGee. Baldauf was on hand for a Q&A session after the screening, and her approach to this was understated and unusual, preferring to tackle questioners one-on-one, rather than create an audience-and-performer dynamic.
This upending of paradigms is all in a day’s work for Baldauf, who employs the use of large sheets of candy-colored acrylic (which she calls Optimism Filters) throughout the movie, to help highlight Detroiters in their natural environment, or perhaps to explore alongside the audience with how to see the world in a different way. And yet for a person instinctively wired to challenge established ways of viewing and interacting with the world, Baldauf is an entirely non-adversarial individual, rather endlessly seeking to collaborate with her environment.
Among her more esoteric approaches to this collaboration with daily life and the people she encounters therein is a body of work that records and visualizes overheard conversation in minute detail. More accessible is her habit of asking really interesting questions. While someone might be inclined to negotiate the “getting to know you” phase with softball subjects like where you’re from or what you do, Baldauf is more eager to dive into comparative experience and derivation of social theory. As the conversation progresses, I find myself increasingly on the answer side of Q&A, and most of her questions (“Do you think we all experience synesthesia to certain extent, as children?”) require serious thought. Ultimately, though, Baldauf relinquishes one of the greatest secrets of optimists everywhere: “Being optimistic takes a lot of work.”
Rest assured, Corrie, all that work is paying off.