February 16 – The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | February 14, 2019

Eric Baudelaire, still from the The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and LUX.

Presented as a companion to Naeem Mohaiemen’s United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part I), Eric Baudelaire’s The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images explores the fractured biographies of Fusako Shigenobu, leader of the ultra-left Japanese Red Army (JRA) in Lebanon, her daughter May Shigenobu, and radical Japanese filmmaker Masao Adachi, who moved to Beirut to join the JRA in the early 1970s. Using Adachi’s “theory of landscape” (fukei-ron), which proposes that a nation’s landscape reflects the social and political systems in power, Baudelaire weaves together contemporary and archival images of Tokyo and Beirut with May Shigenobu and Adachi’s recollections of revolution, exile, and their eventual returns home.

2011, Eric Baudelaire, Japan/Lebanon, DCP, 66 minutes

Presented in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the exhibition Naeem Mohaiemen: Two Meetings and a Funeral

Eric Baudelaire lives and works in Paris. After training as a social scientist, Baudelaire established himself as a visual artist with a practice incorporating photography, printmaking, and video, often focused on social and historical research. His films have been featured in festivals around the world, including Marseille International Film Festival, Locarno Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and International Film Festival Rotterdam. He has been the subject of monographic exhibitions at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands; the Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany; Beirut Art Center; Gasworks, London; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Baudelaire has participated in the Whitney Biennial (2017), Sharjah Biennials 12 and 13, and the Yokohama Triennale (2014). His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid; Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and M+, Hong Kong.

February 14 – Naeem Mohaiemen: United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part I)

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | February 11, 2019

Naeem Mohaiemen in person

Naeem Mohaiemen, still from United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part I), 2011. Courtesy of the artist and LUX.

Naeem Mohaiemen uses films, photographs, and essays to explore the histories of failed utopias within the framework of international left-wing politics. In conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition of the artist’s acclaimed three-channel installation Two Meetings and a Funeral, Mohaiemen presents United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part I), which traces the events and aftermath of the Japanese Red Army’s (JRA) hijacking of Japan Airlines flight 472 in 1977. The JRA, which sought to unite the Third World through armed revolution, forced the plane to land in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and made its demands during a five-day standoff broadcast on television. Mohaiemen combines the original sound recordings of the hostage negotiations with text on black screen to underscore the event’s political and interpersonal tensions. At the same time, he recounts his own experience watching the television spectacle as an eight-year old boy and meditates on the event’s complex reverberations across the globe.

2011, Naeem Mohaiemen, Bangladesh/Japan, DCP, 70 minutes followed by discussion

Presented in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the exhibition Naeem Mohaiemen: Two Meetings and a Funeral

Naeem Mohaiemen is an artist and scholar. His work has shown at Tate Britain, London (2014),  Documenta 14, Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece (2017); Mahmoud Darwish Foundation and Museum, Ramallah, Palestine (2017); MoMA, New York (2017); 56th Venice Biennale (2015); Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2014); and Sharjah Biennial 10, United Arab Emirates (2011) among many others. His essays have appeared in The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power (NYU Press); Assuming Boycott (OR Books); Occupy (B3 Verlag), and Sound Unbound (MIT Press) among others. He co-curated, with Lorenzo Fusi, System Error: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Palazzo Papesse, Siena, Italy. He was a 2014 Guggenheim fellow and a 2018 Turner Prize nominee.

February 7 – Jodie Mack: The Grand Bizarre

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | January 24, 2019

Jodie Mack in person

Jodie Mack, still from The Grand Bizarre, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

Artist and animator Jodie Mack (MFA 2007) is celebrated for transforming the patterns of everyday life into dazzling short films. Her debut feature is an exhilarating examination of the global circulation of textiles. Shot on location in nearly 20 countries, the film interweaves footage of industrial mills, artisan looms, airports, cargo ports, shops, and street vendors—all connected through thousands of yards of fabric. In stroboscopic interludes and stop-motion dances, Mack illuminates formal commonalities across cultures while reflecting on overlapping systems of knowledge and the price of appropriation in a globalist economy. Screening with Hoarders Without Borders 1.0 (2018).

2018, Jodie Mack, USA, 35mm and 16mm, ca 66 minutes followed by discussion

Jodie Mack (MFA 2007) is an experimental animator who received her MFA in Film, Video, New Media, and Animation from SAIC. Combining the formal techniques and structures of abstract and absolute animation with those of cinematic genres, her handmade films use collage to explore the relationship between graphic cinema and storytelling, as well as the tension between form and meaning. Mack’s work has been exhibited around the world, including at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Michigan; Edinburgh International Film Festival, Scotland; Images Festival, Toronto; New York Film Festival, and the Viennale in Vienna. She has presented solo programs at the 25 FPS Festival, Anthology Film Archives, BFI London Film Festival, Harvard Film Archive, National Gallery of Art, Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennale, and the Wexner Center for the Arts among others. She is an associate professor of Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College and a 2018–19 Film Study Center Fellow at Harvard University.

Spring 2019 Sneak Peek

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | January 15, 2019

Jodie Mack, still from The Grand Bizarre, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

The start of our Spring 2019 semester is just around the corner! We have a terrific season lined up, including visits by media artists Jodie Mack, Naeem Mohaiemen, presented in partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago, Laida Lertxundi, Morgan Fisher, Evan Meaney, presented in collaboration with the Video Data Bank, and Tabita Rezaire. We’ll also screen a program of work from the Queer Media Database Canada-Quebec Project, presented by curators Jordan Arseneault and Nima Esmailpour, a program of work by emerging Chinese artists, curated and presented by Nicky Ni, and a program interrogating observational and ethnographic filmmaking, curated and presented by Rachael Rakes. We’ll close the season out with a special program featuring a conversation between new media critics Dawn Chan and Mary Flanagan, presented in partnership with the Thoma Foundation.

Naeem Mohaiemen, still from United Red Army (The Young Man Was, Part I), 2011. Courtesy of the artist and LUX.

Eric Baudelaire, still from the The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years without Images, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and LUX.

Laida Lertxundi, still from Words, Planets, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

Morgan Fisher, still from Another Movie, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Evan Meaney, image from ++ We Will Love You For Ever, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and SAIC’s Video Data Bank.

Tabita Rezaire, still from Premium Connect, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Fawzia Mirza, still fromThe Queen of My Dreams, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

Yang Luzi, still from The Oracle is the Mouthpiece, 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

Tracey Moffatt, still from Heaven, 1997. Courtesy of Women Make Movies.

Marina Zurkow, still from Mesocosm, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation.

On jonCates: 鬼镇 Ghosttown

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | November 14, 2018

jonCates, still from 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown), 2018. Image courtesy of the artist

The influential work of Chicago-based new media artist jonCates mixes the urgency of punk with the poetics of glitch. His latest project is a collaborative, multiplatform critique of the myths and ideology of the American west. Released as a feature film, virtual reality game, soundtrack, and book, 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) showcases the work of a number of activists, artists, musicians working with similar ideas.

jonCates, still from 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown), 2018. Image courtesy of the artist

The film stars Siera Begaye, a model, activist, and member of Diné tribe of the Navajo Nation, as herself; artist and cultural theorist Vanalyne Green as The Voice of the Future Cowgirl; photographer Emily Mercedes Rich as The Cowgirl; new media and performance artist Lal Avgen as The Voice of The Cowgirl; and new media artist Ei Jane Janet Lin as The Girl From Gold Mountain.

jonCates, still from 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown), 2018. Image courtesy of the artist

Music for the soundtrack for 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) was composed by multimedia artist Ambrosia Bardos, who performs under the name Morher,  as well as Hung Tzu-NiCyrus PirehIvor LanePREYER (Ebony Miranda and Adam Briggs), dolphin midwives, That Faithful Engine, and those Blessed Instruments, Josh Spelman-Hall, and jonCates. The artist, radio producer, and curator Jeff Kolar served as sound designer. 


jonCates, still from 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown), 2018. Image courtesy of the artist

Finally, the the design for the centerpiece of the project, an immersive, 3D ghosttown, for which the project is named, was led by the artist and game designer Evan Meaney, whose work centers around the critique and analysis of media.

jonCates: 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown)

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

jonCates in person

jonCates, still from 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown), 2018. Image courtesy of the artist

Chicago-based new media artist jonCates’ influential body of work mixes the urgency of punk with the poetics of glitch. His latest project, a glitch Western, takes shape as a feature film and interactive game that critiques the myths and ideology of the American West. Part essay, part documentary, and part genre fantasy, 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) traces the intersecting paths of Siera Begaye, Native American artist and organizer of the Diné (Navajo) Nation; the archetypal Cowgirl, a descendant of European settlers; and Girl from Gold Mountain, a deity dreamed into existence by Chinese immigrants building the transcontinental railroad. The Cowgirl journeys toward a hallucinatory ghost town, the Girl from Gold Mountain embarks on a mission to collect the bones of her believers, and Begaye sets a new course for the future. 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) disrupts the Western’s most pernicious tropes with glitches and noise, connecting yesterday’s traumas and technologies to those of today.

2018, USA, DCP, 55 min + discussion

jonCates is associate professor in the Film, Video, New Media and Animation department at SAIC. His work has been exhibited, screened, performed and presented internationally, including at the Hong-Gah Museum,Taipei, Taiwan; the MuseumsQuartier, Vienna; Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland; the Instituto Cultural de León, Spain; the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada; the Wrong Digital Art Biennale, Babycastles Gallery, New York; SPEKTRUM, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Rhizome. In 2005 he created the concept of Dirty New Media and is widely recognized as developing concepts, communities, and discourses of the unstable arts now known as glitch art.

Coco Fusco: Cuba Portraits

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | November 5, 2018

Coco Fusco in person

Coco Fusco, still from La confesión, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist

For more than 30 years, interdisciplinary artist Coco Fusco has explored notions of race, identity, and power through video and performance. In recent years, Fusco has examined a number of legendary stories that lack pictorial representation due to institutional censorship or an absence of governmental documentation. She presents two intimate artist portraits centered on concepts of the body, state control, and expurgation, investigating their effects on artistic production and political discourse in Cuba. Both created in 2015, La confesión explores the public confession of poet and accused counterrevolutionary Heberto Padilla, while La botella al mar de María Elenafocuses on the state intimidation of political reformer María Elena Cruz Varela. These portraits examine the relationship of art and artists to our contemporary political moment while charting a legacy of regime power and control of information.

Presented in collaboration with the Video Data Bank.

2015, Cuba / USA, multiple formats, ca 65 min + discussion

Coco Fusco is a Cuban American interdisciplinary artist and writer. She is the Andrew Banks Endowed Professor of Art at the University of Florida and the recipient of several fellowships and awards, such as a CINTAS Fellowship (2014), Guggenheim Fellowship (2013), Absolut Art Writing Award (2013), Fulbright Fellowship (2013), United States Artist Fellowship (2012), and a Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (2003). Fusco’s performances and videos have been presented in the 56th Venice Biennale, two Whitney Biennials, BAM’s Next Wave Festival, the Biennale of Sydney, Johannesburg Biennale, Kwangju Biennale, Shanghai Biennale, InSite_O5, Bienal do Mercosul, transmediale, London International Festival of Theatre, Videobrasil, and Performa 05. Her works have also been shown at the Tate Liverpool, England; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Spain. She is represented by Alexander Gray Associates in New York.

Refiguring Binaries

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | October 29, 2018

Curator Kelani Nichole in person

Eva Papamargariti, still from Always a Body Always a Thing, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist

In recent years, the contours of a new contemporary art movement have begun to emerge, forged in reaction to the ideologies of Silicon Valley, the platforming and globalization of culture, and technologies of power like artificial intelligence, photorealistic computer-generated images, and virtual and augmented reality. These “Simulists” simultaneously embrace and subvert technology as their means of interrogation–expressing humanist, nonbinary, and decolonized futures. Curated by Kelani Nichole and featuring works by Morehshin Allahyari, LaTurbo Avedon, Meriem Bennani, Faith Holland, Lu Yang, Lorna Mills, Eva Papamargariti, Tabita Rezaire, and SAIC faculty members Claudia Hart and Snow Yunxue Fu, this program explores identity, the body, and the politics of technology. Virtual space is inhabited with queer bodies and cultural identity is reclaimed through subversive uses of technology. The boundaries of technology and the body are blurred, as are the lines between author, image, and copy. Possible futures emerge as the layers of simulation that mediate contemporary culture are revealed.

2015–18, USA, Canada, China, South Africa, United Kingdom, ca 60 min + discussion

Kelani Nichole is a design strategist and exhibition maker based in New York City. Nichole is director of the Current Museum of Art, a cooperative collection of contemporary media art that examines technology’s impact on the human condition. She is the founder and owner of TRANSFER an experimental gallery supporting artists with exhibitions of challenging variable media formats. Since 2016, TRANSFER Gallery in Brooklyn has been dedicated to women refiguring technology through exhibition and curation.

An Interview with Peter Burr

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | October 26, 2018

Peter Burr, still from Dirtscraper. Image courtesy of the artist

During his visit to SAIC in this week, Peter Burr sat down with CATE Curatorial Assistant Nicky Ni for an interview about his background in painting and drawing, his iconic computer animation style, and his multimedia practice that spans from video, performance, to immersive and interactive game installation.

NN: Could you give a brief summary of where you’re coming from and how you got to where you are today? I notice that your earlier body of work is different from the program you screened at CATE last night.

PB: I went to Carnegie Mellon University for undergrad, a school that had so much expensive technology and radical professional discourse. I grew up using computers, but nothing to the magnitude of the access that I had at CMU. Initially I studied panting and enjoyed putting a lot of labor into each individual image. I gravitated toward time-based work in part because of the labor that was involved. After I discovered After Effects as a tool to collage things that I found on the Internet I got excited about using the media I grew up on—the games, movies and television—and reverse this firehose of mass media by switching from full-time user to full-time maker…There was something cathartic about it.

After CMU I started the video label Cartune Xprez, which was born out of my connection to the Bookmobile Project: An Airstream trailer that took yearly curated zines and publications on tour. I joined this project in the early 2000s and ran it together with a group of artists and activists from North America. One of the core goals of that project was to take art forms and ideas that are confined to a small output (in this case we exhibited zines and artist books) and distribute them to a larger community. My former interests in animation, performance, installation, and my exposure to the Bookmobile Project, made me realize that instead of making work for film festivals, I could create my own mechanism and take the work on tour. So, I started Cartune Xprez, sort of a touring roadshow, and my work became intertwined with a community of artists who worked at an individual capacity with a sensibility of bridging high-brow and low-brow cultures.

That changed a lot several years ago. I was turning 30, and there were just a lot of factors in my community and in my values that were changing. I realized that my practice as I had built it thus far wasn’t serving the person I was becoming, so I took a break. When I reemerged, my practice looked more like the work we saw at CATE.

Peter Burr, Cartune Xprez event documentation. Image courtesy of the artist

NN: You once said that you wanted your work to be scalable — from festival screening, performance, to Time Square take-over — how is this versatility important to you both conceptually and strategically?

PB: For me that doesn’t seem to be a very conceptual maneuver. I get motivated to make new work by thinking of some radical formal gestures that I have never made before. Like Dirtscraper, I was motivated to make a room-size multi-projection interactive computer simulation. I was able to devote an entire year making a work that thus far has only been seen in one room in Richmond, Virginia, in part because of the knowledge that I could fluidly translate it into other forms. In terms of access, I want people to see this work, so I think of it in an open-ended capacity. As the CATE program revealed, all of this installation and performance work has the potential to become a work of cinema to continue its life long after the genesis form has disappeared. I guess you could also trace my interest in this approach back to the moment when I graduated from university. At the time I no longer had access to a computer after primarily making computer-made time-based work for the previous few years, so I just started to make zines and comics. I think this idea of scalability and self-sustainability has always been at the core of how I operate.

Peter Burr, still from Dirtscraper. Image courtesy of the artist

NN: I was re-reading Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image” and was thinking about this question of accessibility. She argues for wider accessibility at the expense of sacrificing some quality, and it seems to me that your being very fluid about translating your work into various forms is aligned with that.

PB: I love that. One of the things that plagues me is that I don’t always have access to spaces that have a high standard of quality to show the work. I make work to each individual pixel, and the way I have been dealing with this over the past few years is to simplify the resolution of the materials. Now I have a 4k monitor and I spend a lot of time working with all these images, feeling really bound to the integrity of each individual pixel. So, when shown at places without certain standards of output, the work just won’t be as powerful—I know that and I’m fine with it. It still has these visceral and blunt gestures, but there are details that are lost–the micro nuances that create certain key effects.

NN: Indeed, you have a very iconic animation style that visualizes every pixel and generates dazzling moirés, which seems to underscore the digital nature of the work. Can you talk a little bit about this aesthetic choice and how it conceptually folds into the narrative?

PB: As I said, I was using digital tools as a way to collage different sets of imagery, but when this strategy no longer served me at an emotional level I stopped making work. When I came back to my practice after a healthy break I had begun Freudian psychoanalysis and was encouraged to dig into older aspects of my own life. I thought a lot about the first tool I used to make digital graphics: a software called MacPaint on a black-and-white Macintosh computer. So, I started to make drawings using a MacPaint emulator and I got really excited playing with different fill patterns. There I saw a formal continuity between the maximalist collage work I used to make and the much more sober work coming out of this MacPaint doodling. Over time I taught myself to translate these tools into more contemporary technologies. The works we included in the CATE program underscores the continuum of this translation.

There are also practical reasons this work looks the way it does. This aesthetic sensibility you’ve pinpointed is also a workflow in which broad strokes can contain a lot of detail.  I can make longer films from larger gestures that otherwise would take a huge team to accomplish. Like if I were to make the next Red Dead Redemption game, I would need to hire 400 people and it would still take over five years, haha.

Peter Burr, still from Special Effect (cinema edition), 2014. Image courtesy of the artist

NN: One of the films you screened at CATE, Special Effect, originally was a performance. Do you still perform it?

PB: I think after I had traveled for some 50 shows over the course of a couple of years, the act of performing started to lose its shine. As a result, I was thinking more about how to archive its liveness within a digital spectrum. And that’s how I got thinking about video games and how to translate this project into something where I replace myself as the actionable center with someone from the audience.

NN: You have done some VR projects and have expressed interest in turning existing work into more immersive installation. What do you think full immersion can provide to the participants in relation to your work? From what I observe there are so much skepticism and hype around this type of technology.

PB: Sure, I would say that there is a lot of hype around all kinds of new technology. Comparing forms of media, AR, VR, cinema, painting, and games, I think books are still the best interactive medium. When I’m reading a good book and I’m immersed in it, it creates this fusion of my own experience and the world that I’m living in. Perhaps what I find exciting about VR—or WR for “whatever reality”—is that the rules around it haven’t been so codified yet. Cinema, for example, has been around for more than a century and many core conventions of how to tell a cinematic story have already been discussed. For these newer technologies, the grand scheme of things hasn’t been set yet and it feels very exciting to be making these discoveries.

NN: Thank you Peter!

Nicky Ni is a graduate student in art history and arts administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Peter Burr: Pattern Language

Posted by | Nicky Ni | Posted on | October 22, 2018

Peter Burr, still from The Mess, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist

Artist and animator Peter Burr creates videos, performances, and video games that conjure virtual spaces and illusive patterns. Burr’s singularity not only resides in his mesmerizing moiré sequences but also in his aesthetic of privileging every crisp pixel. This program features a series of single-channel computer animations extracted from Burr’s expanded projects. Derived from Aria End, Burr’s collaborative project with game designer Porpentine, The Mess (2016) follows a solitary woman who is absorbed by the process of cleaning an abandoned arcology, while Pattern Language (2017) uses architect Christopher Alexander’s design theories to produce a self-generated labyrinth of flickering pixels. Originally created as a media performance and digital tribute to Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, Special Effect (2014) follows unnamed characters searching a lost landscape. Burr discusses the inspirations for his work and introduces his latest project, Dirtscraper, a series of iterative animations.

2012–18, USA, digital files, ca. 60 min + discussion

Peter Burr in person

Peter Burr is an artist from Brooklyn, New York, specializing in animation and installation. His work has been presented at venues across the world including Documenta 14, Athens; Le Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; MoMA PS1, New York; and the Barbican Centre, London. Previously, he worked under the alias Hooliganship and founded the video label Cartune Xprez in 2006, through which he produced live multimedia exhibitions showcasing artists working in experimental animation. He has received numerous grants and awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), the Creative Capital Grant (2016), and the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Fellowship (2016).

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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.