Un chat pour Chris (Gatcha, le chat que nous ayons rencontrés chez Raphaël la semaine dernière)…
Hennessy Youngman (well, a PG-13 version thereof) will definitely be incorporated into my Art and Theory Since 1960 next school year. Good to know Electric Arts Intermix agrees that he’s an institution of artistic art pedagogy. His female gaze video went for the easy (and frankly lame) joke–“girl eyes” gotta have it–something the best of his videos don’t do. But teachers make mistakes, too. Most of this stuff is wickedly clever and multi-layered! The below videos are nsfw (cultural work notwithstanding).
Bruce Nauman did this. Bruce Nauman did that. Bruce Nauman saved the planet from a motherf*cking astroid.
Poststructuralism really gotta know which good ol days you talkin about.
This week, I saw “‘Wish You Were Here’: The Buffalo Avant-Garde of the 1970s” at the Albright-Knox Gallery just before it closed on Sunday (thanks to Scott MacDonald for prompting the journey!). The exhibition was jumbled, but a good beginner’s primer to the handsomely-NYSCA-and-NEA-funded lightening field of media creativity that was Central New York in the 1970s.
I learned that Cindy Sherman was part of artist-run art space Hallwalls and did fundamental early work in Buffalo. It was great to see her A Play of Selves (1975), decoupaged photographs placed at eye-level around the walls of a rectangular gallery space.
It helped me to better understand the formal advantages that decoupaged silhouettes give artists like William Kentridge and Kara Walker. Decontextualized cut-outs of human figures always carry a paradoxical dual connotation of a “play of selves,” as well as a hero’s journey. This representational mode allows Kentridge and Walker to easily inflect their social and national shadow histories with private/psychoanalytic registers.
The unparalleled highlight of the exhibit was Paul Sharits’ hallucinatorily superb Dream Displacement (1976). I could have stayed from opening till closing in that room of shattering glass and traveling color bands. The NYTimes has some brief footage of the installation piece.
It got me thinking in all sorts of provocative directions about expanded cinema and structuralist film. Sadly, two of the 16mm projectors were inoperative when I saw it. This was proof of the technological obstacles that expanded cinema presents in a gallery setting, and, as Scott pointed out, one of the more pragmatic grounds for video’s appeal in the 1970s.
To do: see and learn more about Paul Sharits (I’ve only seen a couple of his flicker films at this writing), but also more Mary Miss and Nancy Holt, outliers in the exhibition.
A few final films I savored seeing at the Flaherty:
Sylvain George’s Tu resteras hyène etc (L’Impossible – Part V) (2009, 17 minutes) was a much-needed caffeine jolt of life-affirming negativity. The montage, which frequently established a total discontinuity between image and sound, sought to orient the film’s viewers away from representation entirely and focus them on the actual events and physical environments which triggered the film. In this sense, George is clearly working in a Situationist-inspired vein. Some at the seminar felt George’s work was too classically modernist (and in that sense, a failed attempt at politicized and politicizing art), and I can see where that critique is coming from. I don’t entirely agree, however, and I still found the work’s political aesthetics relevant. I appreciated his invitation to spectators to approach the film in an alternative interpretative mode, one bypassing representational identification.
Isaki Lacuesta’s Los Pasos Dobles (2011, 90 minutes) was extraordinary. I was gob-smacked upon leaving the screening! It was kind of a queer, Malian, pomo, impossible-to-decipher faux biopic about little-known artist François Augiéras that prominently features well-known artist Miquel Barceló in the role of Augiéras as a sort of omniscient storyboarder. The film is a paean to creative plasticity in the visual arts, in dance, in dialogue, in persona, in sexuality and in mythic narrative. It’s informed heavily by both Sergio Leone and Souleymane Cissé. It was absurd in a way that is extremely difficult to describe–the kind of sublime absurd that somehow involves legacy, or royalty, and never knees down into straightforward farce. Just great! I want to see it again.
It was a huge pleasure to meet and talk with Laila Pakalniņa. It was an equal pleasure to watch her masterfully-crafted, compassionate films. They were without a doubt the most generous films in the festival. Theodore (2006, 29 minutes) left its titular subject a mystery while revealing volumes about the elderly man’s habitus, his community, and its shared rituals.
Three Men and a Fish Pond (2008, 52 minutes) left the audience both giddy and thoughtful after its quick-witted suite of thematic and graphic matches paralleling the lives of humans and wildlife. Watching it, we felt like true participants in the montage, like a communal table of card players.
Sami van Ingen’s brilliant Fokus (2004, 40 minutes), was a film that I instantly wanted to teach as an exquisite example of how unseen networks of power can be glimpsed, upheld or contested with images. The film is painstakingly thought out and its duration is perfect. It begins with a totally deconstructed sequence from vacation footage and methodically assists the spectator in putting it back together to make sense out of each shot’s fleeting seconds. Then it takes the images apart again with the help of an optical printer, so that the micro-transactions of power and powerlessness are revealed in faces, gestures and glances.
Bravo, and thank you to all involved in this fantastic week of cinema.