March 20, 2012 · Print This Article
I arrived 11 hours late to the movie. I asked the ticket-man if I’d missed anything. Yeah, he said, you missed the really dirty parts.
Jesse Cain‘s Parts and Labor is 13 hours. It is his hands replacing the engine of a car, piece by piece. The work is shot in sparkling HD, with steady close-up shots. The compositions are arresting. The depths of field are shallow. His hands, the moving parts, the parts his hands are moving shift in and out of focus as he works. It is a durational film, certainly. It is the length of time it took him to perform the action–over two years. The labor dictates the form, the length, the shape.
Parts and Labor showed in a traditional theatrical space, the mainstay Anthology Film Archives. People were welcome to come and go as they pleased (as one might during any other movie), and did. Audience members left to eat a meal, to drink a drink, perhaps, even, to perform their own labors.
The film is tremendous. My brain was abuzz with the ways we can ensure the cinematic experience is maintained when moving images are brought into visual art contexts. The world of art has never been so formally or materially diverse, of course, but not all presentation strategies are utilized equally. I am continually surprised and annoyed by curators, artists and exhibition-makers’ insistence on showing films and videos with integral trajectories on a loop. There are, obviously, makers whose works are meant to be looped and meant for gallery contexts. I don’t know how effective Tony Oursler‘s puppet projections would be on a screen, in a traditional cinematic environment (actually, I bet it’d be amazing). There are also, of course, pieces that can function (and change meaning, etc.) through a variety of exhibition strategies. However, for works meant to be seen in their entirety (and, as obvious as it sounds. starting at the beginning and ending at the end), it’s a travesty to not even allow audiences the chance to experience them in their intended state.
It is, then, with great excitement that I believe the 2012 Whitney Biennial has pulled it off. Along with Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders, the show’s curators, Thomas Beard and Ed Halter (who also run the recently moved and renovated Light Industry) have not only assembled an excellent calendar of screenings, but with the Biennial’s staff have done a wonderful job of presenting films in a museum in a way that honors the unique capacities of both of the traditional exhibition models. On the day attended (Friday), Jerome Hiler‘s quiet, beautiful Words of Mercury began every half hour, on the half hour. There is a sign at the tightened curtain requesting audiences wait until the next half hour to enter. There were still the types of conversations one might rather not hear during a screening, but those mostly died off within the first ten minutes. I sat near the front and absorbed very few of the stings of walk-outs. Noise from other rooms was minimal and Hiler’s hypnotic, textural superimpositions were given the space to breathe they needed.
One hopes other exhibition organizations will follow the lead of the Whitney in their exhibition of time-based works. Through very simple means (in many cases more suggestive and informative than anything else), viewers were able to see the works as they were intended. And, with a show as vast as the biennial, the time until the next screening just means a greater, longer consideration of works whose temporal strategies are less oblique.
I lived in San Francisco once. It sometimes feels distant now because I have even lived another place between there and here. San Francisco occupies an interesting place in the American imagination. Even though high rents and a sort of institutionalized and self-aware weirdness pervade much of the city, it is still, in fact, filled with oddballs, Peter Pans and visionaries. Its role in American culture is as a provocateur, a laboratory and a refuge. I think this is true and the city certainly thinks it’s true.
It was stirring, then, to see so much of San Francisco last week at Northwestern University’s Block Cinema screening of Stories Untold, one of over 20 different programs of (mostly) shorts under the umbrella of the Radical Light project. The project, whose full name is Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000, encompasses a large, brimming book, those 20-some programs of experimental media and a gallery exhibition at the Berkeley Museum of Art. The monumental exhibition was facilitated by curators/editors/programmers Steve Anker (now the Dean of the School of Film/Video at California Institute of the Arts, once of the San Francisco Cinematheque), Kathy Geritz and Steve Seid (Film and Video Curators at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive,). Over the course of a decade, the three scholars and exhibitors wove together a history of alternative and experimental media notable for the quality, diversity and energy of the work.
The book teems with interesting essays, artist pages, personal reflections and histories and, ecstatically, loads of ephemera from various screenings. Cinema is an event and even when large institutions are involved (SFMOMA, SFAI, KQED and BAM/PFA all having played interesting roles in the development of Bay Area media), the works and culture in Radical Light’s purview are scrappy, marginal and rule-defying. Flyers from shows, dispatches from seminal organizations and photographs enliven the text and remind young guns that the culture has always been suffused with polymaths—artists as curators as critics as janitors as flyer-makers as audiences as artists—and that making a show is as simple and as complex as making a show.
On Thursday February 16th, the excellent Conversations at the Edge series at the Gene Siskel Film Center brings Steve Anker and the New Preservation/New Prints program. The program features works from 1906 to 1984. A number of these films and some of their makers—for me, at least—fall under the “seen about but haven’t seen” category. Making this an even bigger treat is that these films have been well preserved and new prints have been struck. For all the great benefits of increased online visibility of canonical (and forgotten) experimental film history, the joy of seeing these works in a proper cinematic context and in their correct format is immense. You can watch Oh, Dem Watermelons by the recently deceased Robert Nelson below, but you’re better served just tasting it here and letting your interest be sated by real thing.
One week later, CATE brings us George Kuchar: HotSpell. I love Kuchar’s work, especially the video diaries he began to make in the 1980s. Ed Halter wrote this lovely piece on Kuchar for Artforum and I think it perfectly sums up what makes his work so endlessly watchable. The work is funny, smart and messy. It’s about cinematic representation and camp and biography and the weather while still mostly being about that moment. Halter nails it nicely: “cinema à la Kuchar pivoted on the dialectic between overblown fantasy and schlumpy reality, the films always working double time as documentaries of their own making.”
Then, on Friday the 24th, Chicago Filmmakers hosts Radical Light’s Found Footage Films program. The Bay Area has had a long entanglement with collage and appropriative filmmaking. This program is of particular interest to me now because of the (seeming,) (current,) wholesale mainstream embrace of borrowed images. The ease of digital editing and prevalence of moving image media has enabled entire new folk arts of super-cuts, stretched videos and detourned mass media. Bring a teenage friend who’s never heard of Craig Baldwin or who can’t imagine what a debate about sampling would even be and see if the works’ radical histories can still be felt.
(Thad Povey‘s Thine Inward-Looking Eyes)
I had the privilege of helping bring some of Radical Light to Portland last year and with it Steve Seid. Among the great joys were meeting Loren Sears (the book is almost worth its price just for the picture of him from Bolinas in 1973 sitting cross-legged in his Video Van, a mobile video editing and processing station replete with patterned rugs and a lingering hippie/techno-utopian/media shaman vibe that feels quintessentially Bay Arean), having the chance to learn even more secrets than were divulged in the book and, if it isn’t too horn-tooting to admit, to participate in Seid’s reading by doing a performative reading as Kuchar, one of the few impressions I can do. Kuchar’s presence was all over last week’s screening and remains one of the many vital personalities Radical Light teases into the large, varied, tangential and fascinating tape-stry of a half century of inventive cinema.
This week: Duncan and Richard talk to art superstar Luc Tuymans!
The following is shamelessly lifted from the MCA site:
Luc Tuymans (Belgian, b. 1958) is considered one of the most significant European painters of his generation and he has been an enduring influence on younger and emerging artists. Born and raised in Antwerp, where he lives and works, Tuymans is an inheritor to the vast tradition of Northern European painting. At the same time, as a child of the 1950s, his relationship to the medium is understandably influenced by photography, television, and cinema.
Interested in the lingering effects of World War II on the lives of Europeans, Tuymans explores issues of history and memory, as well as the relationship between photography and painting, using a muted palette to create canvases that are simultaneously withholding and disarmingly stark. Drawing on imagery from photography, television, and film, his distinctive compositions make ingenious use of cropping, close-ups, framing, and Luc Tuymans sequencing, offering fresh perspectives on the medium of painting, as well as larger cultural issues.
The artist’s more recent work approaches the post-colonial situation in the Congo and the dramatic turn of world events after 9/11. These series have led Tuymans to a sustained investigation of the realms of the pathological and the conspiratorial.
October 1, 2010 · Print This Article
Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books
Currently on display at Lillian Goldman Law Library’s rare book exhibition gallery at Yale the series showcases examples of images of superheroes in the dock, comic books about lawyers and examples of legal disputes and Congressional inquiries involving caped crusaders. My artist sense tells me somewhere a lawyer who loves comics is currently on kayak.com reserving a seat on the next flight to New Haven, CT. Read more here & here
Merchandise Mart adds LA to the portfolio of Art Fairs
Planed to open in fall of 2011 (want to lay odds it is close if not the same time as Scope: London & Zoo?) the Chicago based Merchandise Mart has hired MOCA’s Adam Gross as director of the event. Read more here
The Art on the Walls of Wall Street 2
Even though the original Wall Street film was a better story and all around film it did lack in a few areas most of all it’s representation of art. Work, design and taste that is so garish and laughably over the top that it is highly distracting from the story being told. In the sequal the art is more established and used as pantomime of the duplicitous emotions, mood or subtext of the film. The NY Times wrote and interesting article on the process. Read more here
Egyptian Van Gogh Heist now thought to be an inside job
A while back there was the report of a Van Gogh theft from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum which had the art security equivalent of a ADT window decal and nothing more (seven out of 43 security cameras functioning and none of the alarms attached to the museum’s paintings) now the talk is that it was an inside job. This very well may be true but llet me ask how hard was the planning session for that theft? How complex could it have been since the only thing to slow one down from a theft was remembering if it was a push or pull door at the exit? Habib el-Adly, Egypt’s interior minister, said the loss was a “difficult lesson”…. Read more here
Google brings a rough version of a actual usable universal translator
called “conversation mode” which in the art world we could all use more then we would like to admit.
August 6, 2010 · Print This Article
Art = ((Money + Love)* Infatuation) its a equation we all know and like gravity you ignore it at your own peril. Everyone advocates for what they love or to be more mercenary, what they have invested money in and we all live in the shadow of that fact. The Economics of Art is much the same as everything else just tweaked a bit more. This is nothing new to anyone that has been in the Art world for any length but sometimes is worth restating.
Norman Rockwell plays into that fact neatly and had been promoted and actively shoehorned into the modern art cannon discussion with increasing persistence starting in the mid 90′s and continuing today. Nothing wrong with that, its the active debate that keeps the art world fresh and acts as oxygen sometimes when the fishbowl we live in starts to be a tad hypoxic.
Right now George Lucas & Steven Spielberg have loaned their collection to the Smithsonian American Art Museum to be on display from July 2nd to January 2nd. Most of the time anything having to do with Lucas or Spielberg I would not mention since I largely view the quality of their work to be in a holding pattern and their grip on contemporary anything to be a bit loose but the video brought to you again from Art Babble for the first time makes a semi cogent argument for Rockwell’s inclusion in the larger discussion on modern art.
The video is well worth your time if for no other reason then to see some lesser know works of Rockwell’s and get a feel for the body of work from a cinematic point of view. Some of it was very interesting even to a jaded individual as myself and when I am in DC next week will actually go out of my way to see their collection in person among other higher priorities.