Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Secret Life of... Anthology Film Archives

A festive Secret Life screening at Anthology Film Archives: the once-every-calendar open screening for staff and friends of Anthology.  The evening finished off with birthday cake for Bradley Eros.

Secret Life is not really all that much of a secret: it's listed on the Anthology calendar and anyone can attend.  But despite its public listing Secret Life is almost always more of a private screening for those filmmakers showing work that night.

Bradley refers to a screening where the attendees are also the filmmakers as a "players only" event, which sounds more like a poker game.  I'm intrigued by this notion: what lies in between a public and a private screening?  Is the in between ostensibly a private screening into which some uninvited guests may have wander in?  Or how to characterize a screening where the public was invited but only the "players" attend?  Is this now a more of private screening through the happenstance of who shows up?

But that's all for now.  If you what to know more you'll just have to come to Secret Life yourself.  Won't tell you about what was shown that night -- that would be giving away the secret!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Christmas on Earth" at Artists Space

At Artists Space on Friday to help project Barbara Rubin's "Christmas on Earth," with Barney Rosset, MM Serra, and Jonas Mekas on hand for the introduction of the film.  The event was in celebration of the release of Whatever Happened to Sex in Scandinavia? edited by edited by Marta Kuzma and Pablo Lafuente.

I've projected "Christmas on Earth" several times now with MM Serra, who has been a notable champion of this double-projection work, perhaps under-recognized for its importance in exemplifying sixties underground cinema.  Figures in body paint play out erotic interactions, superimposed in a smaller frame within a larger one, the outer image comprising of closeups of the body, most notably shots of genitalia.  The synthesis of these two images creates the impression of the body-painted figures as inhabitants of the genitalia, as if we are privy to the playful goings-on of unseen pixies and sprites that inhabit various hubs and recesses of the body.

The film has a certain indeterminacy built into its presentation: The film is a dual projection piece, with one image inside the other, the inner image approximately half the size of the outer one.  The black and white footage is transformed into color by the projectionists placing color gels in front of the lens of each projector while the film is showing.  Barbara Rubin requests that the soundtrack be a live radio, tuned to a rock station.  All of this is communicated by a set of instructions that are packed in the can with the film.

Given its design as a work of expanded cinema, each time the film is shown something new is there in its presentation.  What drew my attention in projecting the film on this occasion was the degree to which the density of the color gels demanded careful consideration from the projectionist.  A very deep, dark color (dark blue, for instance) could completely obscure the image if a bright gel (yellow, perhaps) was being used by the other projector.  I kept trying to adjust the use of gels on the projector to complement the gel on the other projector, not just in terms of color combination but also in terms of density of lightness or darkness.  Something I'm sure I've done without thinking about it, but this time -- perhaps due to the gels available -- it seemed to require much more deliberation than at other times I've helped to show the piece.

For those wanting to know more about the film, an very informative article on Barbara Rubin's "Christmas on Earth" can be found in Art Signal Magazine.



December has rolled around again.  And another MONO NO AWARE expanded cinema screening greets the last month of the year.  Still digesting the experience.  And "experience" is what it certainly was: the annual event is dedicated to the experience of live film performance: live reading with film, live combinations of images, live music and images, live overhead projector performance, and even live audience cell phone mayhem (on purpose).

The full lineup can be found in the Mono No Aware gallery.  Some works still reverberating on this rainy Wednesday morning include Eric Ostrowski's "Monkey," a rapid fire three-screen visual inundation of pairs of circles within circles, an orange-green ever-transforming mandala; and Lindsay McIntyre's "A Northern Portrait."  Where Eric's piece threw you back in in your seat with its sensorial intensity, Lindsay's pulled you slowly into its meditative and contemplative atmosphere, the overlapping loops of mostly black-and-white footage evoking a repeated mantra of images.

Can't wait for next year!  See you then.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cinebeasts "Gowanderlust!"

A belated post of last month's cinema walking tour. . .

A took a break from Views From the Avant-Garde to attend the "Gowanderlust!" cinema walking tour put on by Cinebeasts.

Our tour guide was Nathan Kensinger, who has been photographing the changes neighborhood around what was once known as the "Lavender Lake" in honor of its infusion of pollutants and industrial runoff.  It's been a while since the Gowanus last caught fire (that was back in 1946), but on a fine day the canal still can produce quite a stink.  Which makes it curious that people would choose to anchor their houseboats on this chemical-choked waterway.  And some people have taken to going canoeing on the canal, but the thought of capsizing in the Gowanus sounds about as unpleasant as it gets.

With each stop of the walking tour a screen, PA system, and a projector had been set up to show a film.  The works selected had either been shot in the neighborhood or picked in response to the industrial landscape around the canal.  There were films by Henry Hills, Donna Cameron, Kevin T. Allen, and myself.

Back in the spring Penny Lane curated a screening of psychogeographic cinema at Flaherty NYC.  But here was a psychogeographic experience of cinema.

Seeing the work out in the street instead of in the enclosure of the "black box" movie theater was not unlike drive-in movie experience, the sensation of unconfined space, the sensation of the night sky above the audience even while the main focus of attention was directed to the image on the screen.  The Gowanus environment, struggling between gentrification and toxic industrial destitution, formed a conversation of the senses between the screen and the screening site.  The smell of dank polluted water became part of the experience of seeing Kevin T. Allen's camera roll portrait of a rowboat bobbing in the stagnant waters.  The texture of dried mud on cobblestones, the haphazardly abandoned wooden pallets in the periphery, the guttural growling sounds of diesel engines of trucks in the distance; all these contributed to the viewing of the films in a subtlety visceral manner.

The evening ended with a presentation of Nathan's photographs of the changing neighborhood.  Let's hope for more cinema walking tours from Cinebeasts come the spring.  New Town Creek next?


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Machine Gut

Katherine Bauer has curated a group show of film installation works in a splendidly Rube Goldberg contraption-like fashion: "Machine Gut."

Projectors throw images in all directions, take-up reels cast shadows, the sounds of chewed sprockets and chattering splices fills the space, the film-artists* move about the machinery, tinkering and threading the mechanisms, feeding the devices with ribbons of images.


Some photos from the opening reception, held on Wednesday.  This coming Saturday, October 1st, will be the show's closing expanded cinema performance.  Not to be missed!

*David Baker, Joanne Lipton, Rachael Abernathy, Bradley Eros, Lary 7, Katie Torn, Sam Freeman, Jason Martin, Victoria Keddie, Sarah Halpern, Mary Magdalene Serra, Donna Cameron, Joel Schlemowitz, Steve Cossman, Rachelle Rahme, Smith and Lowles, Allison Somers, Celeste Carballo, Casandra Jenkins, Matt Petronelli, Poncho, Jamie Mohr, Dan Bunny, Jessica Gispert, and Kat Bauer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cinebeasts "Gowanderlust!"

Coming up October 8, 2011 (postponed from September 24, 2011 due to wind and rain) is Cinebeasts walking tour + cinema:


Walking tour by Nathan Kensinger, and films by Kevin T. Allen, Donna Cameron, Henry Hills, and me ("Camera Roll (for Taylor)" and "Silo," both of which were shot in the Gowanus environs). 

Meet outside The Bell House at 149 7th Street at sundown.  Ticket sales for this event are advance only. Attendance is $10 per person; tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Index Festival "Colo(u)r Sound Culture Mash Up"

Back again to Millennium Film Workshop for the Index Festival's Colo(u)r Sound Culture Mash Up, with works by Geoff Pugen, Jeremy Rotsztain, Collin McKelvey and Kelly Lynn Jones, Liz Wendelbo, Dana Bell, Alyssa Taylor Wendt, Michael Robinson, Tom Ruth, Sadek Bazaraa, Jon Santos, Katherine Bauer, Optipus, Kenneth Zoran Curwood.

The mixing and correlating of the senses is known as "synesthesia," where the sounds of colors are experienced (although it may take the form of other combination of the senses).  The notion of these correlations has been intriguing for its aesthetic potential to a great many artists.  James Huneker wrote of "Painted Music" (1919), which included Whistler's "symphonic" works on canvas, and of hearing unsung music while viewing the works of Renaissance painters.  The color organ, which was used to perform the colors of music, is chronicled by William Moritz in "The Dream of Color Music, And Machines That Made it Possible" (and I've even built a little lightplay machine for expanded cinema performances).


The films of Kenneth Zoran Curwood and Kat Bauer were among the more notable of the evening, which also included two remarkable expanded cinema performances: Dana Bell's dance piece "A Delicate Balance" with live music and projections, and "Spectrum" by the art collective Optipus, with 16mm, 8mm, slides, and live sound (music and Foley effects).  Some photos: