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?


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