Amy Beste is a woman of many hats. “She is the director of public programming for the department of Film, Video & New Media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she organizes the visiting artist series ‘Conversations at the Edge’ at the Gene Siskel Film Center.” Has curated numerous screenings across the country; and is “currently working on a PhD at Northwestern University where she is writing a history of experimental and industrial/educational filmmaking in Chicago.” Amy was kind enough to take the out of her schedule and answer some of my questions about Conversations at the Edge’s current season.
There has been a lot of press about individual screenings from Conversations at the Edge but not very much about the program itself. Could you give a little background on how the series came to be?
Sure, the series Conversations at the Edge started in 2001 as an effort between the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s department of Film, Video, & New Media, the Gene Siskel Film Center, and the Video Data Bank to showcase innovative and experimental media and makers. The Film Center had long screened experimental film and video (its roots are, in fact, in an experimental film series from the 1960s called the Magick Lantern Society) and the Video Data Bank, and the Film and Video departments (now the Film, Video, & New Media department) had been hosting important media makers as visiting faculty from their inceptions. The series presented an opportunity for these different groups who were associated with SAIC to join forces and present a very dynamic series that showcased a range of aesthetic approaches, histories, and politics, while also providing a unique opportunity for direct conversation between media artists and a broad public audience.
How is the series curated? There is such a great balance of work. You have very well known artists such as Dara Birnbaum, up and coming artists such as Ryan Tricartin, but also artists that are not well known.
Thanks–we work hard to get that balance. I organize the series in very close consultation with the Video Data Bank and the department of Film, Video, & New Media which serve as the series’ curatorial advisory board–making suggestions for artists and programs-as well as a sounding board for each season’s overall shape. Read more
For this week’s pick we bring you Dara Birnbaum’s Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978-79. Birnbaum will be screening and speaking about her work at the Gene Siskel’s Conversations at the Edge on February 11th.
via Art Torents:
“In her video Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, Dara Birnbaum created one of the first examples of appropriation imagery from mainstream television, something that is now quite common. Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, features, as one might expect, Wonder Woman, the main character of the prime-time television program of the same name which was based on an action-adventure comic book. Using actual sceans from the series, Birnbaum ‘plung[es] the viewer headlong into the ver experience of TV- unveiling TV’s stereotypical gestures of power and submission, of male and female egos.”
This morning I found an email from Richard Holland that simply stated “utterly awesome” with a link. I clicked on the link and found myself at the home page for the film Sita Sings the Blues. I had seen the movie poster while I was at the Gene Siskle Film Center and had thought about seeing it based on the animation. But as usual I was too lazy and forgot about it. On the front page you are greeted with a letter to the audience: “I hereby give Sita Sings the Blues to you. Like all culture, it belongs to you already, but I am making it explicit with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show Sita Sings the Blues. From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes.” The film came about when Nina Paley was dumped by her husband after he had moved to India via e-mail. The film is a recreation of the Indian story The Ramayana.
Wired has a great interview with Nina Paley:
Wired: What is your movie about?
Nina Paley: Sita Sings the Blues is a musical, animated personal interpretation of the Indian epic the Ramayana. The aspect of the story that I focus on is the relationship between Sita and Rama, who are gods incarnated as human beings, and even they can’t make their marriage work [laughs].
Wired: And that ties in with the film’s second narrative.
Paley: Right, and then there’s my story. I’m just an ordinary human, who also can’t make her marriage work. And the way that it fails is uncannily similar to the way Rama and Sita’s [relationship fails]. Inexplicable yet so familiar. And the question that I asked and the question people still ask is, “Why”? Why did Rama reject Sita? Why did my husband reject me? We don’t know why, and we didn’t know 3,000 years ago. I like that there’s really no way to answer the question, that you have to accept that this is something that happens to a lot of humans.
Wired: And this whole movie was rendered on a laptop?
Paley: I started on a G4 titanium laptop in 2002. I moved to a dual 1.8-GHz tower in 2005, moved again to a 2-by-3-GHz Intel tower December 2007, with which I did the final 1920 x 1080 rendering.
view the entire interview here.
I just downloaded it and am looking forward to watching it after the Blackhawks play the Red Wings tonight. Yeah, I like sports.