Sep 20 – Camilo Restrepo: Ghosts and Songs

Posted by | Amy Beste | Posted on | September 17, 2018

Camilo Restrepo in person

Camilo Restrepo, still from Cilaos, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

In recent years, award-winning Colombian filmmaker Camilo Restrepo has gained a reputation for striking explorations of personal and political trauma, survival, and resistance. Featuring Réunion Island singer Christine SalemCilaos (2016) uses the incendiary rhythms of maloya, ritual music derived from slave songs, to tell the story of a woman driven to meet her estranged father after he dies. Mirroring these themes, La Bouche (2017) stars Guinean percussion master Mohamed Bangoura as a father who is called upon to avenge the murder of his daughter—a story loosely based on his own. Restrepo takes up the enduring effects of colonialism and paramilitary conflict in South America, particularly Colombia, in Tropic Pocket (2011) and La impresión de una guerra (2015), which draws parallels between the deadly “invisible borders” gangs have carved across the city of Medellín, the tattoos of prisoners, and the color of the Medellín River, permanently dyed with textile factory pollution. In French, Réunion Creole, Susu, and Spanish with English subtitles. 2011–17, Colombia, France, ca 70 min + discussion

Presented in collaboration with the Video Data Bank.

Camilo Restrepo was born in Medellín, Colombia, and is currently based in Paris. He is a member of L’Abominable, an artist-run film laboratory. His films have been selected for international film festivals including Directors’ Fortnight, Cannes, France; Toronto International Film Festival; New York Film Festival; Viennale, Vienna; International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Berlin Critics’ Week; Belo Horizonte International Short Film Festival, Brazil; Festival Internacional de Cine de Gijón, Spain; Antofadocs, Antofagasta, Chile; Zinebi International Festival of Documentary and Short Films, Bilbao, Spain; and the Locarno Festival, Switzerland, where he has twice won the Pardino d’Argento award.

On Stan VanDerBeek

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | September 12, 2018

Conversations at the Edge opens its Fall 2018 season this week with a program surveying the career of pioneering American media artist Stan VanDerBeek. Focusing on VanDerBeek’s computer graphics films, this program also coincides with an exhibition of the artist’s work at DOCUMENT. For this post, we welcome SAIC student Sophie Jenkins (Dual MA, 2020), who has worked on the exhibition, to reflect on the history behind VanDerBeek’s most well-known computer-generated films Poemfields.  

Stan VanDerBeek, still from Poemfield No. 7, 1967-68. Image courtesy DOCUMENT/The Estate of Stan VanDerBeek.

the artist-filmmaker today
is caught between the age of realism and surrealism
and is off on the journey beyond reality

— Stan VanDerBeek, “Interview: Chapter One,” Film Culture 25 (Winter 1964-65): 21.

A pioneer in experimental filmmaking and computer animation, Stan VanDerBeek began his artistic career as a painter. During his early days as a student at Black Mountain College in Asheville, NC, VanDerBeek was greatly influenced by the practices and writings of poet M.C. Richards and composer John Cage. Their multidisciplinary work especially contributed to VanDerBeek’s development as a multimedia artist and his interest in developing what Gloria Sutton calls an “image-based poetry language.” In the 1950s and early 60s, VanDerBeek moved on from painting to produce zany collage films using stop-motion animation with altered clippings from magazines and newspapers. Astral Man (1958) and Science Friction (1959), both included in the program, are examples of these early films that helped establish VanDerBeek as a significant filmmaker in new-avant-garde American cinema.

Stan VanDerBeek, still from Science Friction, 1959. Image courtesy of Film Makers’ Cooperative.

In the mid-1960s, VanDerBeek’s growing interest in what would be defined by Gene Youngblood as “Expanded Cinema” led him to build a “Movie-Drome” in Stony Point, New York, as a laboratory for audiovisual performances that unconventionally juxtaposed images and texts. He meant for this experimental theater to function as a model for a new visual communications system and envisioned the immersive experience as a locus for the exchange of art and ideas. VanDerBeek’s research into developing visual languages as ways of communication also led him to seek out expertise from individuals pioneering in the fields of film technology, digital media, and computers. In 1964, VanDerBeek began collaborating with computer scientist Ken Knowlton at AT&T’s Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Their joint project was facilitated by the artist/engineer collective E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology), co-founded by artist Robert Rauschenberg and Bell Labs engineer Billy Klüver in 1966. Trained as a physicist, Knowlton had worked in the Labs’ Techniques Research Department since 1962 where he developed many innovative computer graphic programming languages, including BEFLIX (short for “Bell Labs Flicks”). Knowlton conceived BEFLIX in 1963. From 1966-69, VanDerBeek and Knowlton used BEFLIX with an IBM 7094 computer and punch cards to to construct a series of eight computer-generated animated films titled Poemfields.


Still image from Stan VanDerBeek: The Computer Generation (1972), a TV short directed by John Musilli and Stan Vanderbeek.

Multilayered moving images of abstracted colors, visuals, texts, and sounds, VanDerBeek’s Poemfields are empowered by the computer’s ability to generate text on a screen. Introduced to him by Knowlton, this was a novel and enlightening technique for VanDerBeek and became critical to his cinematic output. Evidence of VanDerBeek’s early interest in manipulating the visuals of language, each Poemfields film combines the artist’s own poetry with a range of digital illustrations. VanDerBeek originally created the films in black-and-white, with color added later by filmmakers Robert Brown and Frank Olvey. He worked with John Cage and musician Paul Motian to develop soundtracks. Four films from the series (Poemfield Nos. 1, 2, 5, and 7) are part of the CATE program.

Stan VanDerBeek, still from Poemfield No. 7, 1967-68. Image courtesy DOCUMENT/The Estate of Stan VanDerBeek.

Rather than employing on a camera to traditionally capture images, VanDerBeek made use of the computer as “an abstract notation system for making movies” and saw film as raw data for “image storage and retrieval systems.” VanDerBeek’s multisensory approach to art-making and movie-making aligned with those neo-avant-garde strategies that challenged the primacy of the canvas and the predetermined trajectory of an artistic medium. A survey of VanDerBeek’s films highlights VanDerBeek’s contribution to the plurality of artistic and cinematic practices that has come to define contemporary filmmaking.

For additional perspectives on VanDerBeek’s significance as an artist and filmmaker, visit DOCUMENT for the gallery’s exhibition of VanDerBeek’s multimedia work. The exhibition, Poemfield, will present a 16mm film installation of Poemfield No. 7 (1967-68), a digital projection of Symmetricks (1972), and a selection of framed works on paper (1973-83). The exhibition will open on Friday, September 14.

Sophie Jenkins is in her second year of pursuing a Dual MA in Art History and Arts Administration and Policy at SAIC. During summer 2018 she worked as an intern at DOCUMENT and gathered research in preparation for the gallery’s Stan VanDerBeek exhibition.

Sep 13 – Stan VanDerBeek: Euclidean Illusions

Posted by | Amy Beste | Posted on | September 11, 2018

Johannes VanDerBeek of the VanDerBeek Archive in person

Stan VanDerBeek, still from Euclidean Illusions, 1980. Courtesy The Film-Makers’ Cooperative and the VanDerBeek Archive.

The visionary work of media artist Stan VanDerBeek spanned film, interactive television, expanded cinema, and computer animation. Introduced by Johannes VanDerBeek of the VanDerBeek Archive, this program focuses on his computer films, screening in newly preserved 16mm prints. VanDerBeek began experimenting with computers in the mid-1960s, as part of a collaboration with programmer Ken Knowlton at Bell Labs. The resulting work, a series titled Poemfield No. 1–No. 8 (1966–69), mixes analog footage and digital imagery in layers of pixelated patterns, geometric shapes, and words. He continued to build on these experiments in Who Ho Ray No. 1 (1972), which used a computer system to transform sounds into abstract visual patterns, and Euclidean Illusions (1980), a fantasy of self-generating geometries produced with 3D computer animator Richard Weinberg at NASA. Also screening are: Astral Man (1958), Science Friction (1959), and See Saw Seams (1965). 1958–80, USA, 16mm, ca 65 min + discussion.

Presented in collaboration with Document Gallery, on the occasion of its solo exhibition of Stan VanDerBeek’s work. Preservation prints courtesy of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative and the Stan VanDerBeek Archive.

Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984) was a prolific multimedia artist known for his pioneering work in experimental film, art, and technology. He collaborated with figures like John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Nam June Paik, among others. His filmography includes over one hundred experimental and innovative 16mm and 35mm films and videos in black and white and color spanning collage, animation, computer graphics, live action, performance documentation, found footage, and newsreels. VanDerBeek’s work has been exhibited at numerous art museums and centers, most recently Tate Modern, London, UK (2009); Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2010); New Museum, New York (2012); Met Breuer, New York (2017); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017), among many others. His most recent retrospective, Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom, was held by MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge in 2011.


Posted by | Amy Beste | Posted on | August 22, 2018

We’re thrilled to announce our Fall 2018 schedule! The season begins on September 13 with Stan VanDerBeek: Euclidean Illusions, presented in collaboration with Document Gallery.

Stan VanDerBeek, still from Poem Field No. 5: Free Fall, 1967. Image courtesy of The Film-Makers’ Cooperative.

Additional programs include Camilo Restrepo: Ghosts and Songs on September 20; Margaret Tait: Poems and Portraits on September 27; Steffani Jemison: Sensus Plenior on October 4; Stephen Varble’s Journey to the Sun on October 11; Hélène Crouzillat and Laetitia Tura: Les Messagers on October 18; Peter Burr: Pattern Language on October 25; Refiguring Binaries on November 1; Coco Fusco: Cuba Portraits on November 8; and jonCates: 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) on November 15.

We hope you’ll be able to join us for these events!

Thank you!

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | April 24, 2018

Thank you for the support as we end another great season of Conversations at the Edge!
Here are some highlights from this season. Be sure to check back in August for our Fall 2018 lineup!

Sold-out screenings by the pioneering interdisciplinary artist Joan Jonas, multimedia artist Hayoun Kwon, filmmaker Thorsten Trimpop, and Chicago-based artist Latham Zearfoss!

Joan Jonas, performance documentation of They Come to Us Without a Word II, U.S. Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015. Photograph by Moira Ricci

Hayoun Kwon, still from 489 Years, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

Thorsten Trimpop, still from Furusato, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

Latham Zearfoss, still from Something to Move In, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Filmmakers Ephraim Asili,  Laura Huertas Millán, and Lee Anne Schmitt, who led illuminating discussions during their respective post-screening Q&As.

Ephraim Asili, still from Forged Ways, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and the Video Data Bank.

Laura Huertas Millán, still from Sol Negro, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

LeeAnne Schmitt, still from Purge This Land, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Nation’s Finest, curated by Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere, as part of a nation-wide tour for INCITE Journal‘s issue on Sports.

Haig Aivazian, still from How Great You Are O Son of the Desert!, Part I, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

A revelatory screening of rare films by late Chicago filmmaker Edward Owens.

Edward Owens, still from Remembrance: A Portrait Study, 1967. Image courtesy of the Filmmakers Cooperative.


On Joan Jonas

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | April 19, 2018

Joan Jonas, performance documentation of They Come to Us Without a Word II, U.S. Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015. Photograph by Moira Ricci

We end our spring 2018 season with program featuring the work of prolific interdisciplinary artist Joan Jonas.

Jonas is a pioneer of performance and video art whose career spans more than five decades. As one of the most important female artists to emerge in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jonas has pushed the boundaries of these two disciplines through large scale installations and collaborative projects. Her work is currently the subject of a massive retrospective exhibition at the Tate Modern.

This week, we feature an excerpt from an article written by Jonas for the Guardian in which she discusses the numerous and various influences that have helped shape her work.

Joan Jonas, still from Stream or River, Flight or Patter, 2016-2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Mirror mirror
Joan Jonas

am always reading something: newspapers, periodicals, poetry, philosophy, fiction and non-fiction. I’m interested in many forms of narrative, of storytelling – movies and television, dance and theatre. Naturally not everything I read or see ends up becoming a part of my work, but sometimes a story sticks in my mind – I can’t get rid of it, and then I begin to analyse what it’s about, how it works and why it has taken such a hold on me.

In the early 1960s, when the writings of Jorge Luis Borges were first published in English, reading his work was a transformative experience. For one of my earliest solo performance works in 1968, I made a costume that had mirrors of various sizes attached to the material. For the text, I took every reference to mirrors from Borges’s Labyrinths and assembled the excerpts into a script, which I memorised and recited aloud.

Mirrors and poetry, as well as myth and fairytales, refract reality in unexpected ways. Mirrors can collapse or confuse the distance between performer and audience and disrupt visual frameworks. When I use a myth or a story or a literary text in my work, I often extract particular passages from a larger narrative that resonates with me. In performance, the audience hears the text, recorded in advance or recited in real time, in fragments, and sees components – such as movements, props, drawings and video – that may relate only indirectly to the text. I don’t change the language, but rather I change the context, which opens up the text to different possibilities of meaning. I don’t illustrate; I juxtapose.

Read the full article here.

April 19 – An Evening with Joan Jonas

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | April 13, 2018

Joan Jonas, Reanimation 2012 performance at the Hangar Bicocca Milan, Italy Light Time Tales, 2014. Photo by Moira Ricci.

Among the most significant artists working today, Joan Jonas has a groundbreaking body of work that spans video, performance, dance, installation, and drawing to explore fundamental questions around visual perception, ritual, archetypes, and transmission of knowledge. Initially trained as a sculptor, she began experimenting with performance in the late 1960s, merging elements of contemporary dance, Japanese Noh theater, and props like masks, mirrors, and eventually, video cameras and monitors. In works like Songdelay (1973) she incorporated distance and sound to draw attention to the ways perception is altered by space. In Organic Honey’s Vertical Roll (1972) she performed alongside a video monitor, exploring the medium’s ability to both reflect and obscure her image. In the years since, her electrifying videos and multimedia works have combined folk tales, dreams, and autobiography and frequently feature collaborators, including Tilda Swinton, jazz pianist Jason Moran, and Sami yoik singer Ánde Somby, among others. Jonas presents an overview of her practice, including a selection of films and videos from across her career.

Tonight’s program will include new 16mm prints of Wind (1968) and Songdelay (1973). These films have been preserved by Anthology Film Archives through the National Film Preservation Foundation’s Avant-Garde Masters Grant program and The Film Foundation. Funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. This is the first time these prints have screened outside of New York.

1968–2017, multiple countries, multiple formats, ca 90 min + discussion
Joan Jonas in person

Joan Jonas is a pioneer of performance and video art. Since 1968, she has worked with video, installation, sculpture, and drawing to explore ways of seeing, the rhythms of ritual, and the authority of objects and gestures. Among her many honors are awards from Anonymous Was A Woman (1998); the Rockefeller Foundation (1990); American Film Institute’s Maya Deren Award for Video (1989); Guggenheim Foundation (1976); and the National Endowment for the Arts (1974). Jonas is the subject of a major retrospective at the Tate Modern in London opening in March 2018 and represented the US at the 2015 Venice Biennial. She has had major exhibitions at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Documenta; Performa; The Kitchen, New York; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; Museum of Modern Art, New York; among many others. Jonas is Professor Emerita in the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology within the School of Architecture and Planning. She lives and works in New York and Nova Scotia, Canada.

On The Nation’s Finest

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | April 12, 2018

This week, we present The Nation’s Finest, a program that deconstructs the athlete body – how it is used for national, political, and social agendas, and how it is viewed and re-crafted by artists (who are sometimes athletic!). Curated by Astria Suparak and Brett KashmereThe Nation’s Finest is part of A Non-Zero-Sum Game: Sports, Art, and the Moving Images, a series of exhibitions and events launching, and part of INCITE: Journal of Experimental Media’s newest issue, Sports.

For this post, we welcome School of the Art Institute of Chicago alum, Jacqueline Surdell (MFA 2017) to reflect on the work in this screening, relating back to her own interdisciplinary artistic practice and past experience as a former athlete.

Tara Mateik, still from Putting the Balls Away, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.

The Nation’s Finest
Jacqueline Surdell

Writing now from the perspective of a practicing artist and washed up athlete, I work, struggle, and play with sport on personal and philosophical levels. I see the general sphere of “sports” as a genre of labor relating to contemporary society. The latter is considered through representations of the commercialized and increasingly brutal field of sport.

The Nation’s Finest features work by artists Haig Aivazian, I AM A BOYS CHOIR, Tara Mateik, Nam June Paik, Keith Piper, Lillian Schwartz, and the Internet. The work included in this program is an apt conduit in which to study, probe, and consider the overlapping spaces sport occupies within popular culture. Employing sport as a framework, the artists present sport-like/sport-ish performances and videos to ask questions about gender roles, nationalism, anger, and resulting violence in contemporary society. Overall, these artists demonstrate that the actions of sport — gesticulations both in, around, and through the actual game — are inherently political.

Tara Mateik considers the changing roles of women in contemporary society through a playfully tactful rendition of the historic 1973 tennis match, Battle of the Sexes. Beginning with collaged images and interviews of actual news coverage, Mateik’s consideration devolves into a performance where the artist himself plays both Billy Jean King and Bobby Rigs in the infamous match. What begins as an almost cliche montage of sexism and pushback of the women’s movement during the 1970s evolves into a smart and savvy consideration of the ways remnants of this latent sexism reverberate in the now. Mateik accomplishes this through a well-crafted video installation that includes a large screen, a green plane, white lines, a blue cooler, sideline  chair, and complete with ball handlers. Mateik incorporates the illusionism of theater set culture in order to play out an epic saga of gender play. The result is a visual reminder of the ways in which gender is coded, performed, and stereotyped as unnatural occurrences that are socially constructed courts of difference.

I AM A BOYS CHOIR, still from Demonstrating the Imaginary Body, 2015. Image courtesy of the artists.

Humor is a key player in what makes Mateik’s gender theater accessible, relatable, and deeply resonant. Similarly, demonstrating the imaginary body by I AM A BOYS CHOIR employs a glitterful-twisted humor and role-play forcing the spectator to think through gender performances, sexuality, and openly confront the disavowal of queerness present in contemporary sport. Collaged scenes of men squeezing into blue sparkly uniforms, standing on cement platforms and performing figure skating poses for the camera are paired with a spit-fire verbal rendition of the ways we are coded to understand how someone is “supposed to look”. The work further serves to challenge stereotypes associated with the masculinity of sport and constructed effeminate nature of art. Something curious of note is the effort to think about the performances of gender  and sexuality through what is largely considered a “feminine sport”.

The endlessly elaborate costuming of glittery, strappy, and short dresses over skin toned tights combined with the actions, the stereotypical thinness of figure skaters, even the demonstrations of extreme athleticism never confront watchers with a question of her sexuality. Yet the sexuality of male figure skaters is always questioned. Spectators can be objectively safe in assuming the women they are watching are attractive not only in their athleticism and idealized bodies but also in their perceived straightness and purity. demonstrating the imaginary body challenges viewers to consider the reasons perhaps women figure skating is relatively visible whilst other female sports (i.e. rugby, lacrosse, etc.) are left out of the broader conversation. Demonstrations of queerness or possible queerness are quenched and silenced in their invisibility. In response, I AM A BOYS CHOIR highlights and glorifies queerness in lieu of straightness.

Both Keith Piper’s The Nation’s Finest and How Great You Are O Son of the Desert!, Part I by Haig Aivazian consider the devastating realities of race relations deeply intertwined with nationality, classism, and violence as played out and mirrored in sport. In The Nation’s Finest, the viewer is confronted  with images of blackness contrasted with gyrating images of the English flag —  presenting black athletes as equatable with the symbol of national pride. Incorporating a very literal juxtaposition of glowing black bodies performing on top of the red, white, and blue coloring, Piper calls upon the histories of countries such like Nazi Germany and the GDR that historically used their athletes as tools — a means to an end — in attempts to construct a sense of international respect and internal nationalism. The work forces viewers to contend with the ways in which the labors of the successful athlete of color functions as both liberation and entrapment. By employing historical images reminiscent of modernist propaganda, Piper strategically and subtly leads to the sense of violence happening beneath the surface of sport — referencing the lack of agency of individuals in a broader system of constructed powers.

Keith Piper, still from The Nation’s Finest, 1990. Image courtesy of the artist.

Aivazian, on the other hand, uses a historically violent sport scene — “the headbutt heard around the world” — to reveal a dark underbelly of anger, conflict, and the ugliness of human nature. Aivazian sets the scene: a soccer match between France and Italy, two countries with historically competitive histories. Within the first minute of the video we are presented with an extraordinarily violent act of Zidane headbutting Materazzi in the chest, causing Materazzi to crumble to the ground, writhing in pain. In post-game analysis, lip readers determined Materazzi verbally assaulted Zidane calling him, “the son of a terrorist whore” before being headbutted square in the chest. Aivazian uses this instance as a narrative through which to consider the complicated internal and external conflicts of race, class, and nationalism within France and beyond. This instance of “combustion” on the field represents a general feeling of disquiet. Like Mateik, Aivazian uses the symbolism and signs — the language  — of drawing up sport plays in order to reveal internal violence, racism, and police brutality within France. A sense of “unfair play” is highlighted here as a representation of the uneven playing field that is life for individuals of color, immigrants, and youth.

Haig Aivazian, still from How Great You Are O Son of the Desert!, Part I, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

My understanding of discipline, hard work, dedication to craft, and social sensitivity comes from my years as an athlete. I was not someone who identified with the entirety of “sport”, which typically evokes an image of the football playing male dominant. I was a volleyball player. This specificity is important as I consider, in hindsight, my “sport experience” as a powerfully feminist,  and queer, fantasy-like space of shared growth. My teammates and fellow volleyball players remain some of the most badass, beautiful, strong, fierce women I know. Our coaches, head of the club, and trainers were predominately gay men or female. In this way, my understanding of sport subverts broader connotations of sport as conventionally masculine.

Within our utopian-volleyball space, social issues were always present. When participating in tournaments in some of the white-washed suburbs, other teams would ask our team (predominantly women of color) if we were “from Chicago” and if so were we from “the inner city”. Such instances marked my first blatant experiences with the ignorance that belies bigotry, racism, and classism. We had no set rhetoric (or time for that matter) to discuss critically the ways in which these experiences impacted us. In fact, it is without a doubt that my whiteness functioned(s) to shield me from other present transgressions. Instead, we used the experiences to fuel and uplift our level of play — moving on with our bodies and shared knowledge of being collectively, and unwarrantedly, underestimated.

Jacqueline Surdell during her volleyball playing days.

On a broad scope, sports represent an acute, stripped down, rendered, and commercialized version of contemporary society. There are endless examples of sport touching on issues of gender, race, national identity, and beyond. The Nation’s Finest is a positive representation of the interrogation of sport and art, further increasing scholarship on the evolving relationship between these cultural siblings.

April 12 – The Nation’s Finest

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | April 6, 2018

Tara Mateik, still from Putting the Balls Away, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.

For millennia, sports have been intrinsic to daily life, physical well-being, education, civic identity, and social harmony. Over the past decade, sports have assumed an even larger, more multidimensional place in our culture. The traditional schisms and antagonisms between sports performance and spectatorship, creative production, and scholarly activity (jocks vs nerds, square vs cool), have been blurred. Featuring works by Haig AivazianI AM A BOYS CHOIRTara MateikNam June PaikKeith PiperLillian Schwartz, and the Internet, this program deconstructs the athlete’s body—how it is used for national, political, and social agendas, and how it is viewed and re-crafted by artists (who are sometimes athletic). For example, Nam June Paik’s Lake Placid ‘80 (1980) is an unruly and slyly subversive commission for the Olympic Winter Games whereas Keith Piper’s Nation’s Finest (1990) mimics the look and tone of state propaganda with a silky, biting critique of the way predominantly White countries use Black bodies in the service of national pride while simultaneously disenfranchising their Black residents. The Nation’s Finest is curated by Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere and organized as part of INCITE: Journal of Experimental Media’s forthcoming issue, “Sports.”

1971–2013, multiple artists, USA/Lebanon/United Kingdom/Hong Kong, multiple formats, ca 71 min + discussion
Introduced by curators Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere.

Brett Kashmere is a media artist, historian, and curator. His work explores the intersection of history and (counter-)memory, sports, and popular culture by combining archival research with materialist aesthetics, hybrid forms, and explorations of voice. Kashmere is the founding editor and publisher of INCITE: Journal of Experimental MediaHe has curated projects for the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Strasbourg, France; Cinémathèque québecoise, Montréal; Light Cone, Paris; Toronto International Film Festival Cinémathèque; among others. His writing has appeared in journals, magazines, and anthologies such as Moving Image Review & Art JournalThe Canadian Journal of Film StudiesMillennium Film Journal, and A Microcinema Primer: A Brief History of Small Cinemas. Kashmere has taught film and video production and exhibition practices at Oberlin College and Concordia University.

Astria Suparak has curated exhibitions, screenings, live music events, and performances for MoMA PS1, New York; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City; The Kitchen, New York; Eyebeam, New York; and the Liverpool Biennial, United Kingdom. At Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery, she curated Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men, the first survey of the culture-jamming group; Whatever It Takes: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals, and Obsessions with artist Jon Rubin, which explored sports fanaticism as a form of cultural production; and Alien She with Ceci Moss, a traveling exhibition on the impact of the global punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl. Suparak coproduced the publication New Art/Science Affinities, and her writing has been published recently by The Exhibitionist; NoiseyThe Iris, the blog of the J.Paul Getty Trust; and Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community. Her curated videotape, Some Kind of Loving, produced by Joanie 4 Jackie, was acquired by the Getty Research Institute earlier this year.

On Hayoun Kwon

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | April 5, 2018

Hayoun Kwon, still from 489 Years, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

We are thrilled to present a screening of work by Paris and South Korea based multimedia artist Hayoun Kwon. Through animation and virtual reality technologies, Kwon bridges the realms of documentary and fiction to question ideas around borders, territory, memory, testimony, and reality itself. This week, we welcome School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate student Jooyoung Lee to share some thoughts and contextual insight into Hayoun Kwon’s work.

Hayoun Kwon: Crossing the Forbidden Lands
Jooyoung Lee

Born in 1981 in Seoul, Hayoun Kwon is an artist and filmmaker based in France and South Korea. Working across documentary, virtual reality and animation, Kwon investigates the geopolitical questions of border and territoriality and their relation to national identity, memory, and history. Her works have been shown at the Cinéma du Réel Festival at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2014), the 62nd International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, Germany (2016), Doc Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2017), and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2017). In addition, Kwon has participated in the Real DMZ Project, a contemporary art project based on research conducted on the Korean Demilitarized Zone in South Korea and its border area.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone, also known as the DMZ, is a buffer zone between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) defined as a result of the Korean War. Kwon’s two works, 489 Years (2016) and Model Village (2014), invite the audience into the prohibited area of the DMZ. By merging both the fictional aspect and the reality of the border, the works reflect the DMZ’s particular geopolitical condition as an aftermath of the Cold War and an interwoven part of everyday life in the two Koreas.

Hayoun Kwon, still from 489 Years, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

In 489 Years (2016), Kwon adopts the form of documentary and virtual reality to take us into this forbidden and thus distant land. Based on the memories of a South Korean soldier who served in the DMZ, Kwon recreated an allusion of the no man’s land – a “natural paradise” that is  simultaneously a field full of mines. The title, 489 Years, refers to the length of the time that it will take to remove all the landmines that were planted in the DMZ during the 73 years of division of two Koreas. “When you enter the DMZ you never know what will happen to you.” Following the narration of the soldier, a viewer passes a guarded gate and walks into the unknown in-between place for the survey mission where no map exists. In a lecture titled Behind the DMZ, Kwon remarks, “I was born in South Korea. So, North Korea was always a forbidden zone for me. I was very interested in the fictional dimension of North Korea.”

Hayoun Kwon, still from Model Village, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Model Village (2014) renders the fictional dimension of the DMZ and North Korea even more by remaking a North Korean propaganda village, Kijong-dong. Located near Panmunjom in the North Korean side of Demilitarized zone, Kijong-dong is a ghost town that was built for a propaganda purpose after the 1953 agreement, reflecting the tension between the two Koreas. Starting with the voice of an assumed agent rejecting the artist’s request to film Kijong-dong as it requires the UN’s approval, the film focuses on the mechanism of fiction in the constructed village. Rebuilt with transparent models of empty houses, the work also brings lines from A Broad Bellflower, a 1987 North Korean film directed by Kyung Soon Jo, further reinforcing its cinematic and empty utopian aspect.

Kwon’s interest in revisiting an individual’s memory, sensitively investigating the personal narrative and political situations, while questioning border and nationality, tracks back to an earlier time within her practice. The 2011 film Lack of Evidence invites viewers into the recollection of memory of a Nigerian asylum seeker named Oscar who escaped from his home country, in danger of being murdered. Reconstructed from an excerpt of an interview using 3D rendering and wire-frame, the film reveals how Oscar was refused asylum by the French administration because of the lack of evidence.

Hayoun Kwon, still from Lack of Evidence, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

In 2017, Kwon presented her new virtual reality-based installation Bird Lady as a part of a group exhibition titled The Principle of Uncertainty, along with artists Walid Raad, Zachary Formwalt and Ho Tzu Nyen, in the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea. During a discussion about the exhibition, Kwon remarks: “I believe that virtual reality has to show more than an imitation of the reality. It is meaningful when a work can show what is beyond the reality. That is why I mainly use animation when I work with VR.” In an interview with Amelia Seely of Glasgow Film, Kwon explains that she utilizes the possibility of virtual reality to question what reality actually is in a society where “the truth is not fixed” but is in a continuous transition. The artist also finds it critical to be able to look around 360 degrees in VR as it breaks the rectangular frame of the camera and enables the spectators to sink deeply into the reconstructed personal and collective memory.

Hayoun Kwon, still from The Bird Lady, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Investigating the construct of both the fictional and the documentary, the virtual and the real, Kwon asks the viewers to question the lines of separation. 489 Years and Model Village allow us to enter into the forbidden lands. While Lack of Evidence  invites us to walk alongside the individuals whose lives become conflicted by politics, Bird Lady questions reality and memory. By fully immersing the viewers into the works, Kwon invites us to re-imagine the other realities beyond our own.

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    Conversations at the Edge is a weekly series of screenings, performances, and talks by groundbreaking media artists.


    CATE is organized by SAIC's Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center and SAIC's Video Data Bank, Conversations at the Edge is a dynamic weekly series of screenings, performances, and talks by groundbreaking media artists.


    Programs take place Thursdays at 6pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State / Chicago, IL / 312.846.2600), unless otherwise noted.