On Soon-Mi Yoo…

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | March 25, 2015

Soon-Mi Yoo, still from Songs from the North, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Soon-Mi Yoo, still from Songs from the North, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

An acrobat flies through the darkened hall, followed by two circles of light and a haunting soprano voice. The acrobat seemingly divides into two bodies that intertwine with each other as the music builds to a crescendo. Suddenly, one of the acrobats falls, we hear a startled gasp from the camerawoman, and the footage switches. We are presented with the image of a military rocket standing on a launch pad—silent and imposing—a symbol of national technological and military prowess.

 Is North Korea the loneliest place on Earth? A country without friends, without history. Only myths, repeated endlessly from morning to night.

Soon-Mi Yoo investigates the mythology of state propaganda in her first feature length film, Songs from the North. The South Korean-born, US-based filmmaker poetically juxtaposes contemporary footage shot during her three visits to North Korea with archival material from governmentally supported movies and theater performances. The contrast between the emotionally manipulative archive material—intended for use as propaganda—and the documentary footage of 21st century North Korea is stark and intensified by Yoo’s lingering camera work.

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Mar 26 – Soon Mi-Yoo: Songs from the North

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | March 16, 2015

Thursday, March 26th | Soon Mi-Yoo in person!

Soon-Mi Yoo, still from Songs from the North, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Soon-Mi Yoo, still from Songs from the North, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

South Korea–born and Cambridge-based artist Soon-Mi Yoo’s debut feature is a nuanced look at political ideology and everyday life in North Korea. Winner of the prestigious Golden Leopard for Best First Feature at the 2014 Locarno Film Festival, the film interweaves biography (Yoo’s father fought in the war and many of his left-leaning friends abandoned South Korea for the North[AB1] ), footage shot on three visits to the country, popular television spectacles, cinema, and song. Curator Andrea Picard writes, “Yoo ventures into uncharted territory as she attempts to understand the psychology and popular imagery of the North Korean people on their own terms, the fissures between daily life and its propagandistic representation, and the ideology of absolute devotion to the ruler who continues to drive the nation towards its uncertain future.” In English and Korean with English subtitles. 2014, US/South Korea/Portugal, DCP, 72 min + discussion

Soon-Mi Yoo (1962, Seoul, South Korea) works with photography, film, and text to explore marginalized histories. Her films have been exhibited at festivals internationally, including Oberhausen, Pompidou Center, New York Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, and Seattle International Film Festival, and her photography has shown across the US, including the International Center of Photography, New York and Boston Center for the Arts. Yoo is a recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Media Arts Fellowship, a fellowship from the American Photography Institute, and the National Asian American Telecommunications Association Grant. She received her MFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Arts, where she is currently on faculty.

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On Encounters… by Alexander Stewart

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | March 11, 2015

Alexander Stewart takes a moment to write about the upcoming program Encounters: Experimental Film and Animation from Croatia for the CATE blog. Encounters, screening Thursday (12th) and Saturday (14th) of this week, explores the rich history of Croatian film and animation. This intensively researched program reveals the unique history of Croatian avant-garde cinema–a history that runs in parallel to the canonical works of America and Western Europe.

Vladimir Petek, still from Encounters, 1963. Courtesy of the Croatian Film Association

Vladimir Petek, still from Encounters, 1963. Courtesy of
the Croatian Film Association

In June 2014, I went to Zagreb, Croatia to make a short film, and to research two types of cinema I am very interested in, experimental film and animation. Zagreb has an animation heritage that is fairly well known to students of animation, and includes the first Oscar for an animated short awarded to a film not made in the US. It was also very active as a place for artists making avant-garde film and video work in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I was interested in learning as much as I could about the history of experimental cinema and animation in Zagreb during my trip, and I was especially curious about areas of overlap between the two.

Zagreb was the main hub of animation production in Yugoslavia, and also was associated with a particular formal approach to avant-garde cinema. In comparison to the film work from Belgrade, which can be characterized as somewhat more in the mode of the first-wave European avant-garde of the 20’s and 30’s, and perhaps owes more to surrealism and Dadaism, the work from Zagreb has a distinctly more formal flavor. An excellent example is the “film of fixation,” a style of avant-garde film related to structural film that takes its name from the way that the director “fixates” on a particular aspect of filmmaking (frames, light, the figure) to the exclusion of other aspects.

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Mar 12 & 14 – Encounters: Experimental Film and Animation from Croatia

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | March 8, 2015

Thursday, March 12th & Saturday, March 14th | Introduced by Alexander Stewart, filmmaker, curator, and Assistant Professor at DePaul University

Vladimir Petek, still from Encounters, 1963. Courtesy of the Croatian Film Association

Vladimir Petek, still from Encounters, 1963. Courtesy of
the Croatian Film Association

Zagreb, Croatia has long been an important hub for animation, experimental film, and avant-garde culture. Informed by unique cultural, intellectual, and political legacies, filmmakers there have produced decades of strong, challenging, and fascinating experimental work. Filmmaker Alexander Stewart (MFA 2005) presents a selection of films and videos produced in Croatia from the 1960s through today–much of it rarely screened in the US. Drawing upon research undertaken as part of a series of visits to the country over the past year, the program features gems by such notables as Vlado Kristl, Ivan Ladislav Galeta, and Dalibor Martinis, and encompasses animation, performative video art, and structural film. 1961–2011, multiple directors, Croatia/Yugoslavia, 35mm, 16mm and digital video, ca 70 min + discussion

Vladimir Petek, Encounters, 1963
Ante Verzotti, Twist, 1962
Vlado Kristl, Don Kihot, 1961
Nicole Hewitt, In/Dividu, 1999
Sanja Iveković, Personal Cuts, 1982
Ivan Ladislav Galeta, TV Ping Pong, 1976-78
Goran Trbuljak, No Title, 1976
Dalibor Martinis, Manual, 1978
Ivan Ladislav Galeta, Water Pulu 1869 1896, 1988
Ana Hušman, Market, 2006
Mladen Stilinović, Walls, Coats, Shadows, 1975

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On John Gerrard…

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | March 4, 2015

This week Matthew Coleman (MA Art History 2015) blogs on John Gerrard’s large-scale digital works. How through his practice Gerrard reveals the artificial natures of both linear time and knowledge progression by bringing into question the provisional structures of power and networks of energy that facilitate our everyday existence.

John Gerrard joins Conversations at the Edge this Thursday March 5th, 6pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) (2014). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo- James Ewing

Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) (2014). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo- James Ewing

John Gerrard creates videos that are incredibly detailed virtual reconstructions of real locations. Take his recent Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) (2014), for example. This video, which was installed at the Lincoln Center in New York City on a frameless LED wall, is a simulation of a day at a solar power plant in a remote Nevada desert. As I was flying to Los Angeles this summer to visit the Center for Land Use Interpretation, I saw a similar solar array reflecting the sun in the distance in the Mojave Desert.

View from airplane over the Mojave Desert.

View from airplane over the Mojave Desert.

So I was excited to see that Gerrard approached this subject of how companies are harnessing natural resources, but are also impacting the landscape around it to fuel nearby cities that are otherwise powered by giant dams, sometimes located across state lines. However, so convincing are his virtual reconstructions that my intrigue with his work has shifted to his process and the differences these recreations blur between a “virtual” reality, or a simulation, “nature,” which is also a simulation, and “reality…” which… may also be a simulation.

When I realized that it was hard to tell the difference between a video shot with a camera and one that was constructed on a computer, I began to think of the uncanny valley: the perceptive anxiety that occurs when features of something almost looks, but is not quite, natural. One of the more disturbing realizations of the uncanny valley can be seen in Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express from 2004. Moviegoers reported that it was “creepy” because of how eerily similar the computer generated characters were to the human actors. The actors’ motion and likeliness were captured by cameras and rendered by software to create a computer generated moving image. What was ultimately missing from the virtually mapped actors was a sense of life. Critics complained that these characters appeared lifelike, but were nevertheless soulless.

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Mar 5 – John Gerrard: Networks and Power

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | March 1, 2015

Thursday, March 5th | John Gerrard in person!

John Gerrard, Pulp Press (Kistefos), 2013, Kistefos-Museet Sculpture Park. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jiri Havran

John Gerrard, Pulp Press (Kistefos), 2013, Kistefos-Museet Sculpture
Park. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jiri Havran

The works of John Gerrard (MFA 2000) often take shape as large-scale projections of meticulously crafted virtual worlds, astonishing in their scope and execution. Driven by sophisticated military modeling and video game software, they recreate the outposts of human industry—a 19th-century paper mill in Norway, mysterious roadways along China’s Silk Road, a solar power plant in Nevada, factory farms in Oklahoma—to address the networks of energy and power that have fueled modern life. Gerrard presents five recent interrelated projects—including Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) (2014), Exercise (Dunhuang) (2014), and his latest work-in-progress Farm (Pryor Creek)—and discusses the themes and technology that have informed his practice.

2009–15, China/Norway/US, multiple formats, ca 60 min + discussion

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On Rebecca Baron…

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | February 25, 2015

I am delighted to welcome back to the CATE blog Lindsay Bosch, Marketing & Development Manager of Video Data Bank, who this week writes on the lyrical work of Rebecca Baron. Video Data Bank has been Baron’s US distributor for many years and we at CATE are thrilled to present her work in partnership with our cosponsor. Founded at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1976 at the inception of the media arts movement, the Video Data Bank is a leading resource in the United States for video by and about contemporary artists.

Rebecca Baron.

Rebecca Baron.

 

Most of our knowledge of history is also film history, of a type.

I was raised on Ken Burn’s slow pans over silver-tinted photographs of haunted Civil War soldiers. On the History Channel’s endless loop of newsreels showing B52 bombers.   On classroom film strips advancing frames of American Presidents with each audio beep. In our historical education we have always been awash in documentary and documentation. My earliest encounters with events of the past were guided by educational film tropes; those decorous talking heads in book-lined offices, or self-confident British narrators interpreting black & white footage. We are taught history, and at the same time we are taught how to view history’s archive.

Rebecca Baron’s work helps us to unlearn, to upend, our documentary habits. She seeks to erase the narrative framework we picked up each time the substitute teacher put on a ½ hour VHS tape covering the whole of the Industrial Revolution. Baron’s classic works of the 1990s foreshadow our contemporary moment of rich engagement with experimental documentary, asking us for extraordinarily detailed consideration of their archive material. From the recovered photographs of nineteenth century adventurers trapped on an ice-flow in The Idea of North (1995), to a scrap of super-8 footage of an unidentified Cambodian worker in okay bye-bye (1998), Baron allows her documentaries to follow the winding lead of their source material. The films revel in specificity and repetition, referencing again and again the particulars of the images that they present. As viewers, we are brought into intimate detail with the grain of the images, with the varying contrast, the way they move and actually look. Baron’s footage does not stand in for an idea of Antarctic explorers, nor does it symbolize the Pol Pot regime, it simply is; as it is. Baron’s close material explorations invite questioning, softly raising those classic journalistic demands: Who? When? Why? Offering the central documentation repeatedly to her viewers, Baron rejects the imposition of historical narrative. As an audience member I always find myself asking, simply: What is this, exactly? Like Baron herself, I am compelled to know what motives, what inspiration, lead to the creation of these exact historical images.

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Feb 26 – Rebecca Baron: Detour de Force

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | February 23, 2015

Thursday, February 26th | Rebecca Baron in person!

Rebecca Baron, still from Detour de Force, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Rebecca Baron, still from Detour de Force, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Los Angeles–based filmmaker Rebecca Baron is known for provocative essay films exploring such far-ranging subjects as Britain’s Mass Observation movement, 19th-century Arctic exploration, and the role of recording technologies in shaping our understanding of the world around us. Her latest film,Detour de Force, introduces viewers to the incredible world of “thoughtographer” Ted Serios—a Chicago bellhop who, in the mid-1960s, produced hundreds of Polaroid images through sheer force of mind. Baron screens the film with a selection of works from Lossless (2008, with Douglas Goodwin), a series of digital interventions—data compression, code removal—into video copies of classic American films with fascinating results. Presented in collaboration with the Video Data Bank. 

2008–14, US, DCP and digital video, ca 70 min + discussion

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Outmoded Insights

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | February 20, 2015

Robin Deacon, performance shot from White Balance: A History of Video, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Robin Deacon, performance shot from White Balance: A History of Video, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Robin Deacon is a filmmaker, writer, performance artist, and professor at SAIC. White Balance: A History of Video is an exploration of videographic conducted through text, speech, and an artillery of outdated video equipment. But he wants wants you to know–it’s not a camera geek thing. It’s about the narratives that these certain pieces of technology allow him to fill in, based on their inability to deliver the absoluteness of clear picture. Sammi Skolmoski (MFA 2016) sat down with Deacon for E+D magazine to discuss his upcoming performance and lecture at Conversations at the Edge.

Sammi Skolmoski: You explain the term “white balance” as “the process by which a camera is adjusted…to reach a truer sense of what is being seen.” Do you have any performance techniques that you feel allow you to achieve that same “truer sense” of conveyance?

Robin Deacon: There’s often this idea or assumption made about the performer being very direct with the audience. So the performer is, if not being themselves, they’re closer to beng themselves than if they were acting. I want to question that idea more–the assumptions about the performance artist having some heightened access to truth or the realism of a situation. I am interested in artifice, and in the idea of fiction in relation to understanding a particular performance experienced through documentation. There’s a real tension there that I like to exploit. In White Balance I tell a lot of stories which may or may not be true or exaggerated or overplayed. So I suppose I’m working toward to truer sense of that artifice.

How does documentation affect a performance?

This comes up a lot in teaching–witnessing a performance as live event or through documentation.  It often doesn’t get beyond being there or not being there. So I am trying to break the idea that these things are in opposition, or that one is secondary. Often discussions around documentation in the classroom center on ideas of verification–whether or not the function of pointing a camera at something is to have a record of it, or the proof that something has happened that you can put in your portfolio. I’m more interested in revisiting documentation and reimagining it, filling in those blanks. That fictional, fantastical approach to looking at documentation, rather than thinking about it as the absolute record.

How has White Balance evolved from the last iteration, as a nine-hour performance over the course of three days?

I think by me saying it was nine hours is kind of cheating because is was essentially a 45-minute lecture that just looped and looped and looped. As a performer, the idea of the start and end being contingent on whenever you walked in–that was quite unusual and enjoyable. But it was also quite disconcerting. That point where it looped back around became irrelevant the longer I went on with it, and so it changed each time. The piece for Conversations at the Edge is responding to the idea of cinematic space. There’s references to various bits of cinema, I sample various films that relate to my storyline, my voice is becoming a little more disembodied, my presence is different, and so on.

On Robin Deacon…

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | February 18, 2015

I am delighted that Conversations at the Edge will be opening with my fellow Englishman Robin Deacon‘s multimedia performance White Balance: A History of Video this Thursday, February 19th at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

White Balance is a performance that draws on Deacon’s journalistic and documentary approaches to art making. Throughout the performance he engages with different outmoded forms of video technology in an effort to explore how the perception of memory and time are constructed through the medium of moving image. Deacon’s performance reveals the “ghosts in the machine,” those haunting specters with which we engage when viewing the ambient images of early video: artist documentation, family holidays, and television broadcasts. We see his pet dog. He speaks to us of a childhood in his native England. Time is demonstrated to be as malleable and ever-shifting as the degrading polymeric material to which it has been committed, while technological developments become temporal markers for our own memories. As viewers, we realize that we use these anachronistic vessels as compasses to orient our individual and collective memories. Deacon states during a performance in which time seems to be ever expanding, “Everything is out of its place. Everything is out of its time.”

George William Price is an arts administrator and scholar specializing in alternative forms of moving image media. He is the program assistant for Conversations at the Edge at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is a candidate for a Masters in Arts Administration and Policy (exp. 2015).

Robin Deacon, performance shot from White Balance: A History of Video, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Robin Deacon, performance shot from White Balance: A History of Video, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

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