Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 27, 2016
We are excited to welcome graduate student Mev Luna to write for us this week. In their essay, Luna reflects on the work of Mexican filmmaker Nicolás Pereda whose films intertwine documentary and narrative to portray everyday life in Mexico.
Nicolas Pereda is a Mexican filmmaker whose films are known for their enigmatic sensibility, minimal dialogue, and beautiful, often drawn out shots. He has directed nine features and three short films including Greatest Hits (2012), Los ausentes (2014) and Summer of Goliath (2010) which will be screened at The Block Museum on October 28th. Filmed in a style evocative of documentary and blurred with fiction, his films poetically unpack issues of class and gender. Minotaur and The Palace pair well together, as they depict subjects from very different socio-economic backgrounds in Mexico.
In El Palacio, or The Palace, a group of intergenerational women live together, waking and sleeping in tandem. This rhythm is established in the opening shot, as the group brushes their teeth over a communal sink; a mundane action rendered as a chorus of repetitive gestures and scrubbing sounds. The camera allows us to stay with them until, one by one, each person has spat, rinsed and left.
As they go about their respective daily chores, we are introduced to another character – a female voice coming from off camera. The voice questions, scolds and sternly informs them of the proper way to engage their task. But she also speaks with concern, taking a protective tone, one that only someone who has also been in the same position could embody. In this way, the film brilliantly captures the more nuanced aspects of power-relations.
Through a series of role-playing interviews toward the end of the film, the voice employs a number of manipulative interrogation tactics. During these interviews, the women are instructed on the subtlety of coded language, directed to alter their answers and mask their own status in false claims, such as reducing the number of children they have. Deflecting the power structure of hired labor, the voice continually refers to a “they” when displeased by the women’s answers. As if “they,” the hypothetical employers, are dictating her demeanor and instructions. Through this process, the women in The Palace are not only being instructed on how to perform domestic tasks, but learning the role of subservient.
By contrast, set in an apartment in Mexico City, Minotaur is a film depicting three young adults and their leisurely lifestyle. The films’ namesake, Minotaur, was a figure in Greek mythology and the cannibalistic offspring of an extramarital affair between Minos’ wife Pasiphaë and the Cretan Bull. To contain Minotaur, Minos commissioned a large labyrinth. As if taking its cue from the creature’s final habitat, the film languidly follows the friends as they lounge, nap, and read in their Mexico City apartment. Books are an important presence in the film, an indulgence indicative of the young intellectual class the actors personify.
Minotaur features Gabino Rodríguez, Luisa Pardo, and Francisco Barreiro from Pereda’s 2009 film, Juntos. These three have a comfortable dynamic, even lying on top of each other as they rest. At one point, Rodríguez falls asleep with a book in his hand and Luisa carefully pries it out, picking up the reading where he left off.
Speaking about the film, Pereda shares that his interest was “in creating a surreal atmosphere, and not a melodrama about class relations.” Indeed, the film is an inverse of lucid dreaming, and there is a sleepiness to this waking state. The film is almost entirely contained to the apartment and soft, natural light spills in through the windows, diffused by curtains or encased by the outline of the window sill. With the exception of when Luisa, book in hand, leans out of the window, her figure almost lost in the direct sunlight and peripheral view of the camera. In the near distance we hear loud construction noises, reminding us that while these three cycle through siestas, the outside world is at work.
One can imagine that includes the seventeen women in The Palace. Each with their own mythos, Pereda’s films stand alone. When screened together, their shared formal investigations of disparate domestic spheres build a complicated and rich relationship to class and the unfolding of time.
Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 21, 2016
Thursday, October 27 | Join us next week for a screening and discussion with Mexican filmmaker Nicolás Pereda!
Nicolás Pereda’s extraordinary films intertwine documentary and narrative to portray everyday life in Mexico. In his first Chicago appearance, Pereda presents two recent works, each a suggestive fable of labor and leisure. The Palace (2013) follows an enigmatic household of women and young girls who train each other to become housekeepers. The puzzle-like chamber piece Minotaur (2015) focuses on a trio of young adults as they read, sleep, and commune in the soft light of a Mexico City apartment. In Spanish with English subtitles.
2013–15, Mexico, DCP, ca 91 min + discussion
Presented in collaboration with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, which presents Pereda’s 2010 feature Summer of Goliath on Friday, October 28.
Nicolás Pereda (b. Mexico City) is a filmmaker whose work explores the everyday through fractured and elliptical narratives using fiction and documentary. He has been the subject of more than 20 major surveys worldwide, including at the Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge; Jeonju International Film Festival, Seoul; and TIFF Cinematheque, Toronto, among others. His films have premiered at major international film festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Locarno, and Toronto, and his work has been exhibited in the Reina Sofía, Madrid; the National Museum of Modern Art, Paris; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; and MoMA, New York. In 2010 he received the Premio Orizzonti Award at the Venice Film Festival. He is the Director of the Filmmaking Program, a new BFA program at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 19, 2016
We are delighted to welcome George William Price of Video Data Bank to write for us. In his essay, Price reflects on the work of this week’s Conversations at the Edge artist, Sara Magenheimer.
I am delighted to welcome interdisciplinary artist Sara Magenheimer to Conversations at the Edge this week as part of Video Data Bank’s (VDB) 40th Anniversary Celebrations!
This Fall 2016 VDB at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) celebrates forty years of fostering awareness and scholarship of video and media art. From VDB’s humble beginnings in a small closest at the back of SAIC’s library, to becoming one of the world’s leading resources for video by and about contemporary artists, VDB has pioneered far-reaching support for moving image artists, advocating for this most democratic and widely distributed of art forms.
Over its forty-year history VDB has grown to include the work of more than 600 artists and 6,000 video art titles. These titles describe the development of video as an art form from the late 1960s to the present day. During that time VDB has proudly supported countless emerging and established artists, including Sara Mageheimer who we have had the delight of collaborating with since 2015.
Sara’s work is dense, complex, and multifaceted—from sculpture to performance, text and sound—she navigates these intersections and challenges our limited realms of perception. Works such as Slow Zoom Long Pause (2015) and The Rhythm of Plain White (2014) present the viewer vast amounts of information in fragments and glimpses, mediating the tactual depth of sight, sound, and sense. Both videos play with language as if it were a physical form, layering digital voices, birdsong, and white noise like sediment settles over millennia. We the viewer are immersed in the moving image—an active participant—surrounded by shifting temporal planes and swirling disembodied voices.
This kind of immersive video practice is directly tied to Sara’s involvement in a performance-driven collaborations with both her peers and her audience. These collaborations include producing an immersive soundtrack for a recent exhibition of painter Amy Sillman’s work and inviting audience members to input words into a web-based “mad lib” political acceptance speech, which they could perform from a teleprompter to a live audience of friends, strangers, and museum visitors. Touching on Marshal McLuhan’s observations of a return to a pre-literate age through total sensory immersion, Sara and her collaborative projects endeavor to envelop the audience in a seamless web of tactile sound and unexpected visuals. Just as with her videos, Sara moves her audience to not only consume spectacle but to actively participate in it through the pushing and pulling of the boundaries of language, both in its oral and written forms.
Best is Man’s Breath Quality (2016) most completely addresses this post-medium condition and the redefining of cinematic boundaries seen in Sara’s sophisticated body of work. As a menacing voice guides us through the video we are confronted by images and sounds that appear and disappear before us. From primates engaging with their reflected selves to glowing jellyfish drifting through deep and dark oceans, our visual perception of the human figure is decentered, leaving only the grain of analog and digital voices recognizable to our senses.
Attempting to navigate between the fluent and articulate we are reminded of Rosalind Krauss’ argument that the post-medium condition is a plain where aesthetics and capital permeate all aspects of culture, from the highest-brow to the lowest form of pop culture. Sara’s videos are proposed sites of transformation and resistance—drawing on forbearers such Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable or Nam June Paik’s Global Groove—pointing towards a dismantling of the mythology of America. She embraces the bastardized and hybridized nature of her practice through a masterful weaving of digital detritus, everyday objects, and the physical properties of sound.
Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 12, 2016
This week’s Conversations at the Edge program features Temporary Highs, a research project and series of linked exhibitions by net art curator Lindsay Howard. To accompany the program, we are linking to an interview with Howard published by Observer. In this interview, Howard speaks with writer and curator, Ryan Steadman, about the importance of net art and her projects leading up to the conceptualization of Temporary Highs.
To read the interview, please visit: Curating Internet Art, Online and IRL.
Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 6, 2016
This week, we are excited to welcome graduate student, Julia Sharpe, to write for us! In her essay, Sharpe reflects on Jenny Perlin’s The Perlin Papers, an unsettling exploration of the United States’ culture of paranoia during the Cold War.
Jenny Perlin’s The Perlin Papers is an archive at Columbia University of declassified FBI documents on nearly 200 people peripherally related to the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the early 1950s. The first six films of this series reconstruct transcripts, recordings and hand-written materials from the archive. The seventh film is the fictitious depiction of two female transcribers at their desks. The eighth film is surveillance footage of a storage warehouse. As Perlin states at the beginning of the series, the films search around the “edges of the main story, unknown names, forgotten records, bad copies, scraps and bits.” Through the exploration of these mundane, bureaucratic and incomplete records, Perlin highlights the problematic nature of both surveillance and the archive; both are created in a context that allows for a specific interpretation of the materials gathered within it. That is to say, materials gathered under suspicion seek out the suspicious and therefore find the suspicious.
The fourth film in the cycle reenacts a transcript and recording from a 1953 dinner party, demonstrating this pattern. We listen in on the conversation from outside of the dinner party apartment. The camera moves from the entrance to the building up to the door of the apartment. We get close to the people speaking, but we never see them. At times, it is difficult to hear what they say. We hear words like “committee,” “meetings” and “witnesses.” But we also hear muffled sounds. When this scene closes, the voiceover notes, “the informant fills in words he cannot understand.” The fifth film shifts to the writing of this transcript, which appears as a vocabulary list because the most common word is “inaudible”—an indication that the informant cannot hear what is being said. The focus on this inaudibility calls the rest of the transcript into question. By emphasizing this unreliability, Perlin leads us to see that when taken out of context words can be used to reinforce a certain interpretation. In this way, the dinner party becomes self-fulfilling. Because the informant is looking for certain words, the informant finds them. The atmosphere of this reenactment displays an aspect of surveillance and the archive that are often unaccounted for in the legal system. Both are prescriptive; both are curated interpretations. In order for each to exist, there must be a set of criteria necessary for a document to be included.
The Perlin Papers suggests that material collected under surveillance is unreliable. Because we cannot see the people speaking at the dinner party or hear everything they say, we cannot contextualize their words. Once language becomes separate from its immediate context, it’s meaning can be interpreted so as to fit another’s purpose. During the McCarthy era of unilateral indictment, this kind of interpretation inculcated a society of fear. Perlin unmasks this process, revealing the ways “those who work to make things visible and those who work to make themselves invisible.”
Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | September 28, 2016
This week, we are excited to welcome animator Sally Cruikshank to kick off our fall 2016 season! In preparation, we are excerpting part of an interview with Cruikshank published by Art of the Title. In this interview, Cruikshank looks back over her career with Art of the Title Managing Editor, Lola Landekic.
Lola Landekic: So, maybe before we get into the major film work and the commercials and Sesame Street and the National Film Registry, we can start at the basics. How did you get into animation?
Sally Cruikshank: Well, I was an art major in school at Smith. In my senior year, I taught myself about animation and made a film. A professor helped me set up a photo enlarger and that got me started. I graduated early from Smith and went on to the San Francisco Art Institute because I wanted to get as far away from New England as possible! I made a couple of art films there, just on my own. One was called Fun On Mars, which was sort of my reaction to San Francisco.
That was followed by one called Chow Fun, for which I got a tiny grant from an organization that eventually became South by Southwest, many years later. While I was editing Chow Fun at Snazelle Films — I went in and rented a Moviola to edit it — I got a call that the boss wanted to see me. I finished the editing, and I thought, “Oh man, I must’ve broken the Moviola.” I thought I was in trouble. Instead he said, “I want to hire you to experiment in animation.”
LL: And that’s how you got hired at Snazelle?
SC: Yeah, so Gregg Snazelle hired me and I had this great job where they let me work on my own films. Gregg called it “heading the animation department” but it was just me, so I was just heading myself! He was hiring me to do commercials when we got them, and then the rest of the time to experiment with animation.
They had recently done some great and recognized commercials for Levi’s using rotoscope, one was called The Stranger and it was very well designed, by Chris Blum. Gregg Snazelle won many awards for them. It was done in rotoscope which hadn’t been seen much since the ’40s. They revived rotoscope, really.
So then I did some commercials for them. I believe I did the first commercials for The Gap when it was still just a clothing store in San Francisco, and I did a commercial for Connie Shoes.
I’ve been looking for the rest of those commercials. I used to have them on a 3-quarter inch tape, but that wasn’t a very strong format. They’ve all disintegrated. Formats become obsolete so fast, it’s just stunning. One-inch tape, too. That used to be like the rock solid format for commercials, for broadcasting, but that’s another super fragile format that they can barely save anymore.
We got very few commercial projects, actually, but I had to go to work, 40 hours a week, one hour for lunch, so I got busy and made cartoons.
One thing that was so different is that Gregg didn’t care about owning anything I did. I had signed no contract; there was no, “All of this belongs to me,” which is everywhere now in the business. When my films were finally finished, he still didn’t want to own them! They were my films and I’d made them there. It was a wonderful arrangement.
LL: What was animation like then, in the 1970s? How did the industry seem to you?
SC: The industry was mainly down in Southern California, really. In Northern California we were so out of that. There was so little production going on there. Gregg was doing commercials, but it was more just art. I felt I was an artist experimenting with things. The scene in LA was very male-dominated, and in San Francisco there was very little animation going on…
Posted by | Amy Beste | Posted on | August 23, 2016
We’re thrilled to announce Conversations at the Edge’s fall 2016 season! Guests include Sally Cruikshank, Jenny Perlin, Sara Magenheimer, Nicolás Pereda, Paul Kos, Jacolby Satterwhite, Brett Story, curator Lindsay Howard, and the group Text of Light (Lee Ranaldo, Alan Licht, and Tim Barnes) performing alongside films by László Moholy-Nagy. Check out full season details here.
Posted by | Amy Beste | Posted on | August 14, 2016
We’re thrilled to announce that our fall 2016 season kicks off September 29 with an appearance by legendary independent animator Sally Cruikshank! Additional highlights include appearances by artists Jenny Perlin, Nicolás Pereda, and Jacolby Satterwhite, among many others. Watch for our full season line-up next week!
Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | June 22, 2016
We are delighted to have graduate student Lara Schoorl help us conclude our spring 2016 season with some thoughts on artist Lyra Hill!
Lyra Hill’s work as an artist, curator, and performer expresses a deep engagement with place, whether that is a physical location or conceptual mindset. In her recent show at Conversations at the Edge, Hill used the conditions of her immediate surroundings—screens, audience movement, the darkness of the theater, and recent news of Prince’s death—as raw material for her transformative performances. These included the group meditation Breathe With Cube, an immersive performative reading of her comic Cat Tongue, and Happy Ending, an enveloping new piece on death and what lies afterward.
Although Chicago is not explicitly present in Hill’s work, her work engages the city’s arts communities. Hill is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was involved with groups such as Xerox Candy Bar and the Experimental Film Society. After her graduation in 2011, Hill founded and ran Brain Frame, a groundbreaking series of “performative comix readings” held at different locations in Chicago from 2011 to 2014. She currently teaches teens at the Museum of Contemporary Art, hosts numerous events around the city, and runs the radio show Magic Chats, for which she invites people to bring in and talk about sounds and the unseen.
Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | April 15, 2016
Thursday, April 21 | Join us for Chicago based artist and curator Lyra Hill!
Comics artist and filmmaker Lyra Hill produces spectacular performances that mix psychedelia with fantastic tales of self-discovery, the body, and the mysteries of nature. She uses multiple film projectors, looping audio effects, and pulsating hand-drawn images to create super-sensory environments of light, color, and sound. For this event she will present three pieces, including Breathe With Cube (2015) a “comedy trance” featuring an anaglyphic 3D cube that pulsates, grows, and splits in two; Cat Tongue (2014) a tale of sexual exploration and heavy machinery; and a new piece, created especially for the Gene Siskel Film Center, that meditates on “the end” with drawings animated by three alternating slide projectors.
2014–16, USA, multiple formats, ca 60 min + discussion
Lyra Hill (San Francisco, CA) is an artist and curator living in Chicago. Raised in a neo-Pagan tradition, Hill began teaching at witch camps and leading public rituals at the age of 16. Her 16mm films have screened at festivals internationally. She has presented her hybrid performances at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Printers Ball, Chicago Underground Film Festival, and Chicago Alternative Comics Festival. She has also presented her work at venues across the country, including Artists’ Television Access (San Francisco), Cinefamily (Los Angeles), and Echo Park Film Center (Los Angeles) in addition to countless underground shows in strange, secretive places. Hill works as a teaching artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. She is currently hosting and producing a weekly radio interview show called Magic Chats. She received her BFA from SAIC in 2011.keep looking »