Friday, June 22, 2012

Doing or being?

My wife and I were discussing the ritual of people who meet for the first time and ask: "What do you do?" as a way of passing quick judgment on the importance of the other person.  She wondered about the emphasis on "doing."  Looking at what a person does instead of who it is they are.  Doing or being?

I said it reminded me of what happens when people see a work of art -- experimental film, or any other work of art for that matter -- and question what it is the artist is "communicating" through the work, as if the message of the work were secondary to the visceral experience of being in the presence the work itself.  What it is a work of art is "doing" instead of what it is.

By way of analogy, I said, imagine someone looked at a sunset and asked, "Okay, it's nice to look at, but what is this sunset trying to communicate to me?"  Obviously a silly question, since it would be terribly presumptuous to assume that the sunset existed purely for the purpose of communicating something to the questioner.  But often people assume a work of art exists as a receptacle for delivering some message to the viewer.  A work of art might not be intended to communicate anything.  Its purpose might be just to "be."

* * *

. . . for more on this subject, time to turn to Susan Sontag's “Against Interpretation.”


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Red Hook Cine Soiree!! - June 2, 2012

A breezy Saturday afternoon, and a full house at the BWAC screening room in attendance for "Red Hook Cine Soiree!! featuring magic potions! ghost towns! and flying bananas!!!" with experimental and underground films from cine-artists:

Jacob Burckhardt & Royston Scott, S.I. Chowdhury, Z. L. B. Dautzenberg, Taylor Dunne, Seth Fragomen, Jodie Mack, Barbara Rosenthal, Lynne Sachs, Sheri Wills

. . . and some pre-show music on the Victrola.


Some of the films were droll and humorous in nature, others more contemplative and imagistic.  But the curatorial question was, can such different works coexist comfortably in the same program without undermining each other?  So often a coherent program is one that threads together a theme or concept shared by the films.  But this unity might also run the risk of making the work seem redundant.  A more diverse approach brings up the question: will a short and humorous film get the audience out of the right mood for the sublime and slow-paced film that follows it? (indeed, it can happen.)  A good analogy for answering this question comes by way of the arrangement of musical works in a concert; where fast-paced or slow-paced works play off of each other.  If all the works are of the same tempo the concert risks getting a little tedious.  And so an arrangement of films attentive to the pacing and mood of the work (perhaps more than more thematic or concept-driven factors) turns out to be a decent method for programing films of a diverse nature.  The audience will often want a shift in mood from one work to the next to keep things interesting.