Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | April 5, 2017
This week, we are excited to present Devotional Animals, a screening of recent and evolving work by Chicago filmmaker (and SAIC faculty) Melika Bass. Taking an expansive and episodic approach to her films, Bass composes abstract narratives that unfold slowly to explore complicated characters, relationships, and themes.
To accompany the program, we are excerpting an essay by Karsten Lund on Bass’s ongoing film project, The Latest Sun is Sinking Fast, written on the occasion of its exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center in the spring of 2015.
The Latest Sun is Sinking Fast
In four short films, projected simultaneously in the exhibition space, Melika Bass offers four portraits of sorts. Each film centers on a single character during an extended contemplative moment: a man sits by himself in the passenger seat of his car, listening to recordings of a sermon. Another man works in his wood shop and then writes a homily of his own, speaking it aloud. In a third film, a young woman cleans herself in a church bathroom before singing a hymn at the front of an empty sanctuary. This same young woman appears in the last enigmatic film, too, crouching under a bush and washing her hands at the riverside.
Not simply portraits, these films, more precisely, are invitations to quietly observe these three people when they are unguarded and alone. Perhaps it would be better to call the films character studies instead, with the close attention that implies. Nobody gets to observe someone else in this kind of state: unaware, introspective, left entirely to one’s thoughts and habituated gestures. At least not in private, and not for long. Perhaps prompted by the characters’ own apparent religious beliefs and the ecclesiastical settings of the films, one might even go so far as to say that only God gets to observe moments like these. The medium of film here gives the viewer a kind of divine power—all-seeing but unseen by the subject. In this case the vantage point isn’t high overhead, looking down from the heavens, as one might expect; no, it is close, intimate, as if standing nearby.
Download the complete essay here.