Stay Tuned! Spring 2018

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | January 8, 2018

Happy new year! Conversations at the Edge wraps up another great season.

Check out the Fall 2017 season highlights in photos and stay tuned for when we announce our Spring 2018 lineup!

Jim Trainor, still from The Pink Egg (2017). Courtesy of the artist.

AES+F, still from The Feast of Trimalchio, 2010. Image courtesy of the artists.

Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder. Image courtesy of the artists.

Alex Gerbaulet, still from TIEFENSCHÄRFE (Depth of Field), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ana Mendieta, still from Energy Charge, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

Sondra Perry, still from IT’S IN THE GAME ’17 or Mirror Gag for Vitrine and Projection, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

On Sondra Perry

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 16, 2017

We close this season of Conversations at the Edge with a performance and video by New York-based interdisciplinary artist Sondra Perry whose work critically examines the technologies and power relations that affect representation and black identity.

This week, we welcome School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate student Lindsay A. Hutchens to reflect upon Sondra Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation.

Sondra Perry, still from Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Sondra Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One (2015) begins in the midst of a time-honored tradition: staging a family photograph. The viewer is positioned so that we are across the street looking back at a family in matching black sweats and chroma key green ski masks arranged in front of a home. They look cozy and warm on what would otherwise be a miserable cold and grey day.  “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to,” is shouted from the camera, from Perry. Directions to aunts and uncles are given and repeated.  “CCCHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSEEEE.  CCCHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSEEEE.

Perry frames this video against a chroma key computer desktop, which she uses to choreograph multiple windows and files of her family and more. While her works have been installed at MoMA PS1 and screened in theater spaces, I have only ever seen Sondra Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One, or any of her videos on her website. There, I’ve viewed them by myself, and in a way that mirrors many of the visual systems she references.

Sondra Perry’s work first came into my consciousness thanks to my good friend and curator, Natalie Zelt, who lives in Austin, Texas, but is from Houston where Perry has been a CORE Artist in Residence at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. I regularly make photographic and video work using my own family as subject matter, and Natalie knows this. Coming from what seems to be a much larger family than myself, Perry has fascinated me by drawing attention to the role of photographic mediation in intimate relationships. The camera is the loudest of all participants in the video, highlighted in layered windows, visible access to play buttons and runtimes, audible direction from behind the camera, and its presence repeatedly in the hands of those being recorded. Country also plays a role. Rituals involving the American flag are played out, first subtly and then explicitly. But it is the moments of specificity to Perry’s family that bring us closer, provide access, and establish the stakes. Perry’s grandmother is trying to tell about her process of burying flags too worn to fly, while her mother loudly proclaims “It’s under the collard greens!”

In one early scene, Perry shows her hand as a director. Handing the camera off to a relative, she asks her mother to respond in a certain way to the sweater she is wearing. For a moment, the audience is just as confused as Perry’s mother. She knows the sweater, but is she meant to know the sweater?  She’s acting surprised, but is she meant to have expected it? Direction is given from on-camera Perry as well as the male voiced videographer, both telling the mother in so many words, “you do you.” Mom, perform mom. Not mom, but you as a mom. That’s not how you use your hands. Perform yourself, with direction. Act natural. To which Perry’s mother obliges, and ends the scene by reminding, “Well, you are my baby. You can’t take that away from me.”

Perry introduces heavy bass with Venus X’s 2015 track “Beautiful. Gorgeous. Golden. Girl,” leaping generations with music as well as casting. Three young women cheese in selfie mode and dance on the sidewalk, two with long glossy ponytails popping out the top of their chroma key green ski masks.  They record themselves in a way no one else has yet. Flipping hair. Giggling. Performing without being directed on-camera. Their youth brings attention to the hyper-visibility of the chroma key green ski masks, and pushes against Perry’s control as maker. These women have literally cut a hole in the masks for their hair to poke through, which Perry combs with care in return.

The final scene shows Perry’s entire family together at the table, poised to peel sweet potatoes or yams, again in matching black sweats and ski masks. Another family tradition, warm and cozy, which makes me almost smell Thanksgiving. Perry asks if her grandmother has chosen a song for everyone to sing while they peel, and eventually accompanied by hand claps, together they sing a gospel about family caring for one another. Another direction is given from Perry to “try and connect with each other, somehow, without talking.” Nearly to the end, Perry’s grandmother is seen at the table, having finished with peeling, attempting to remove her mask. She has a ponytail of her own, greyed and in curly tendrils but just as playful as the three young women, and Perry’s mother along with a masked female relation reach over to help so as not to mess the matriarch’s hair.

Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One embraces conversations about agency and representation in lens-based work, as well as the ways traditions and ritual are passed down through family  But it’s through these in-between acts of care and affection–ponytails being guided in and out of ski masks–which Perry seems to have picked up on in the moment, in the middle of construction and long after suggestion of non-verbal intimacy, that do something more for me. They remind me of sitting in front of my grandmother’s chaise lounge so she could brush my hair while we watched The Golden Girls together. That is the thing that pricks me—these moments in which media is entwined with care.

November 16 – Sondra Perry: Performance and Video

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 10, 2017

Sondra Perry, still from Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Mixing personal history and pop culture, New York-based artist Sondra Perry savvily dissects power relations that shape Black identity and representation. Her performances and multimedia works use video games, glitchy 3D avatars, and computer desktop windows to express and explode biases built into the code of everyday life. In the video-performance Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One (2015-17), she layers footage of family members acting out real and fabricated familial lore, inviting audiences to consider the shifting and mutable threads of identity in the digital age. While, in IT’S IN THE GAME ‘17 or Mirror Gag for Vitrine and Projection (2017), she focuses on her brother—who, as an NCAA college basketball player had his likeness used without compensation in popular video games—and contemplates the ways images of Black men and women have long been exploited for profit and prestige.

2015-17, USA, live performance and digital file, ca 65 min + discussion

Sondra Perry in person

Sondra Perry (b. New Jersey) is an interdisciplinary artist whose videos and performances foreground the tools of digital production as a way to critically reflect on new technologies of representation and to remobilize their potential. Perry has had multiple solo exhibitions, including at THE KITCHEN, for her work Resident Evil. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA PS1 in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Perry was recently awarded the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize for a solo show at the Seattle Art Museum. She has participated in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Vermont Studio Center, Ox-Bow, the Experimental Television Center, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as a CORE artist-in-residence. She received her MFA from Columbia University and BFA from Alfred University.

On Ana Mendieta

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 8, 2017

This week, we are thrilled to present a selection of experimental short films by the late Cuban-born multidisciplinary artist Ana Mendieta.

Ana Mendieta, still from Volcán, 1979. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Ana Mendieta grew up amidst the political upheaval of Castro’s regime, fleeing to the United States with her older sister Raquelin in 1961. She would later go on to forge a prolific career creating groundbreaking work which spanned across multiple mediums. Mendieta’s radical practice included photography, performance, drawing, sculpture, site-specific installations, and hundreds of recently highlighted short films.

Haunting yet powerful in their silence, Mendieta’s films address themes of violence, transformation, resilience, and collective passivity. A majority of the films presented in this week’s screening were shot using celluloid film, allowing Mendieta to physically manipulate the medium to create ethereal effects. Through both the presence and absence of the body, the films confront the viewer with the visceral corporeality of her performances and actions.

Ana Mendieta, still from Butterfly, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

In the following excerpt, Sheila Dickinson discusses Mendieta’s films as presented in the 2015 exhibition Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery (University of Minnesota, Regis Center for Art).

Ana Mendieta Comes Alive in Her Films

Sheila Dickinson

MINNEAPOLIS — The more time I spent in the galleries of Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, the more I felt the lived presence of the artist herself. Unlike the bright white cube of a typical gallery, here the viewer is invited to walk through a filmy white curtain and enter a darkened, sanctified space. The artist appears only occasionally in her films, but she haunts them with her body forms found in earth, fire, blood, and water. Projected directly onto the walls of the gallery, up to three per wall, the films interact and converse with each other as they begin and end asynchronously. A hushed silence permeates the darkness as Mendieta, or her body form, shape shifts upon the walls. The films are an activating presence, bringing to the viewer an aliveness that cannot be found in her still photography. Much of that photography, and her films, has until now been understood as documentation; this exhibition demonstrates that Mendieta thought and created through films as much as through the performances and sculptures shown in them.

Read the full article here.

Ana Mendieta, still from Energy Charge, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

November 9 – The Films of Ana Mendieta

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 3, 2017

Ana Mendieta, still from Butterfly, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

The late Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta forged a radical practice that explored primal themes of displacement, the body, violence, and transformation. Known mostly for her earthworks, photographs, and performances, Mendieta also created numerous short films. With these works, she both captured her ephemeral performances and further transformed them through trick photography, staging, or video synthesis. In Silueta Sangrienta (1975) the artist’s body is suddenly replaced with a pool of blood; in Butterfly (1975) the artist’s body morphs and pulsates with the electrons of a video monitor. Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, film archivist for The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, presents a selection of these films, many which have been recently rediscovered and restored. The program will be followed by a discussion with Cecilia and scholar Rachel Weiss.

1971-81, USA, digital file, ca 60 min + discussion

Scholar Rachel Weiss and The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection film archivist Raquel Cecilia in person

Ana Mendieta (b. 1948, Havana, Cuba–1985, New York) created groundbreaking work in photography, performance, film, video, drawing, sculpture, and site-specific installations. Mendieta’s work has been the subject of six major museum retrospectives, the most recent of which, Ana Mendieta: Traces, was organized by the Hayward Gallery, England, in 2013, and travelled to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, and the Galerie Rudolfinum, Czech Republic. Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972–1985 was organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, in 2005 and traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; and Miami Art Museum, Florida.

On Alex Gerbaulet

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 2, 2017

Alexandra Gerbaulet, still from SCHICHT (Shift), 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

This week we are excited to welcome German artist and filmmaker Alex Gerbaulet to Conversations at the Edge for a screening of her experimental documentaries.

Bridging the gap between analysis and poetry, Gerbaulet’s films confront problematic histories and the complex narratives hidden within personally and collectively repressed memory.

Included in this screening is Gerbaulet’s 2015 film, Schicht (Shift). Part autobiographical and part critical observation, the film juxtaposes the artist’s personal archive of family photographs and her mother’s diary excerpts with found footage and historical images. What results is a metaphorical parallel that Gerbaulet draws between her own familial history with that of her birthplace and hometown, Salzgitter, Germany.

Visit the film’s website here for additional texts and reviews.

Alex Gerbaulet, still from SCHICHT (Shift), 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

November 2 – Alex Gerbaulet: Digging Deep

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 27, 2017

Alexa Gerbaulet, still from SCHICHT (Shift), 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Alluring and enigmatic, the films of German artist Alex Gerbaulet unearth the complex narratives hidden within personally and collectively repressed memory. Utilizing both archival material and footage filmed by the artist herself, Gerbaulet’s documentaries bridge the gap between analysis and poetry. Buildings, space, and the body serve as sites that bear witness to past crime and trauma. Questioning voiceovers dissolve the idyllic facades of these structures, as her films examine the consequences of passively forgetting. Through political and biographical frameworks, Gerbaulet quietly confronts the lingering vestiges of a problematic history. The program features Gerbaulet’s recent films Schicht (2015) and Depth of Field (2017), followed by Tattooed Prisoners (2007) and Datterode (2005).

Presented in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Chicago.

2005-17, Germany, multiple formats, ca 65 min + discussion

Alex Gerbaulet in person

Alex Gerbaulet (b. Salzgitter, Germany) is a German artist, filmmaker, and curator who studied Philosophy, Media Science, and Visual Arts in Brunswick and Vienna. She is the recipient of a 2008 scholarship by Hans-Bockler-Stiftung, a 2012 scholarship by the city of Berlin, and a 2014 grant from Art- und Culture-Foundation Stade (Germany). In 2011, Gerbaulet was selected for Berlinale Talent Campus DOK Station. Since 2014, she has worked as a producer for Pong Film GmbH in Berlin where she currently resides.

On Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 26, 2017

New York-based artists Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder return to Chicago with a new film performance, in collaboration with sound artist Brian Case for this week’s Conversations at the Edge.

View the following teaser to get a sense of how these collaborators physically transform reels of film into sculptural and kinetic abstractions of light.

October 26 – Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder: Tense Nature: The Changeover System with sound artist Brian Case

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 20, 2017

Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder. Image courtesy of the artists.

Known for performances that transform films into stunning sculptures of light, New York-based artists Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder return to Chicago with their latest live work. The piece unites the Gene Siskel Film Center’s two theaters by cycling the reels of one feature-length film through each of its four 35mm projectors. The artists introduce glassware and other diffracting media to bend, scatter, distort, and redefine the film’s image. Joined by Chicago-based musician Brian Case, who builds darkly ambient soundscapes from stuttered tape loops and layered lock grooves, the three guide the audience between the two spaces to produce a spectral montage in three dimensions.

Presented in collaboration with Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

2017, USA, live performance, ca 60 min + discussion

Sandra Gibson, Luis Recoder, and Brian Case in person

Collaborators since 2000, Sandra Gibson (b. Portland, Oregon) and Luis Recoder (b. San Francisco, California) unite the rich traditions of the experimental film, particularly its structuralist and materialist strands, and the multimodal sensibility of expanded cinema that emerged in the 1960s. Their body of work explores this interstice between avant-garde film practice and the incorporation of moving images and time-based media into the museum and art gallery. Based in New York, Gibson and Recoder have exhibited and performed internationally at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; Toronto International Film Festival; Tate Modern in London; Viennale, Vienna; International Film Festival Rotterdam, Netherlands; Nam June Paik Art Center in Yongin, South Korea; Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan; and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan.

Brian Case (b. St. Louis, MO) is an artist and musician based in Chicago. He has been involved with the groups 90 Day Men, The Ponys, and the Disappears. His most recent band, FACS, uses minimalism and space to create abstract and modern art rock. His solo efforts (Tense Nature, 2016 and Spirit Design, 2017) range from ambient compositions of rhythm and space to hypnotic beat-driven tracks.

On The Real-Fake

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | October 19, 2017

This week’s Conversations at the Edge program features The Real-Fake curated by Claudia Hart, Rachel Clarke, and Pat Reynolds. This screening brings together 23 artists working with 3D simulation tools to produce a new aesthetic and ethic of the fake.

AES+F, still from The Feast of Trimalchio, 2010. Image courtesy of the artists.

To accompany the program, we are excerpting media artist, curator, and theorist Patrick Lichty’s interview with Claudia Hart on Furtherfield, in which the two discuss what “real-fakeness” is, how it arrived as an art notion, and how it has informed the two versions of The Real-Fake exhibitions in 2011 and 2016.

Really Fake, or Faking Reality? Simulacra, Fake Art, and Breaking the Frame:
A Conversation between Patrick Lichty and Claudia Hart.

Patrick Lichty: What, in your mind does the show represent as an expression of contemporary culture?

Claudia Hart: The Real-Fake remake opened on November 19, slightly after the election. I was actually in the air when Trump won, landing in Bucharest, several hours later.  The culture there is still overshadowed by the history of the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu. The contemporary art museum actually sits in a corner of his Palace of the People, which was built in the style of WWII Italo-fascist Neoclassicism. The whole experience was ominous and frightening in relation to the autocratic, punitive Trump. I began obsessively tracking “fake news”, both because of its relationship to the kind of propaganda used by the Trump/Bannon team to hijack the presidency, but also because of the hacking of the democratic party and collusion of the Republicans with the government of Vladimir Putin.

In both the 2011 and the 2016 versions of the Real-Fake exhibition, we tried to deconstruct, for simplicity’s sake, what I’m now calling “post-photography”, or what Steven Shaviro termed as the “Post-Cinematic.” This relates to digital simulations of the real made with current technologies of representation and post-mechanical reproduction. Post Photography can be defined by what it is NOT in relation to everything documentary and verité about photography. It suggests a radical paradigm shift with significant cultural ramifications. Post Photography does not purport to “slice” from life, but rather is a parallel construction of it, numerically modeled with the same techniques used by scientists, and also by the game and Hollywood special effects industries. The artists working with it all use specialized compositing and 3D animation software. But instead of capturing the real in an indexical fashion, Post Photography artists use measured calculations to simulate reality.

Our deconstruction of the post-photographic real-fake was made in relation to cultural myths about the truth, through viewing the work of 50 artists. They are all part of a larger community acutely aware of the implications of using a computer model of the real as opposed to traditional capture technology. The issues implied by this choice have obviously been made manifest at our own historical juncture, when the culture of science and climate-change deniers rule America. The manufacturing of fake truth in the form of misinformation and ubiquitous infotainment are now profoundly epic.

I’m currently reading Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, Hoaxer Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous (Verso, 2014) a history of hacker culture related to both the esthetics of “Real-Fakeness” and also the actual milieu that it emerged from. I’m inspired at the moment by that book, and the brilliant essay “Tactical Virality” by Hannah Barton (Real Life, February 14, 2017) because they’ve helped me to articulate what I now feel is the relationship of The Real-Fake to our current cultural and political quagmire.  What excited me about the Barton article is that she finds language to talk about the fake news, meaning in larger terms, the fake media strategy so successfully implemented by the Trump/Bannon team.  Both of these men are fake-media production experts, and individually built lucrative empires with their expertise. Fake news is a product, and one can trace its lineage from the first alt-right radio flamers, through Fox, Breitbart and now, embodied in the personage of Steve Bannon, straight into the oval office. Fake news is a semiotic morph, a kind of hybrid of advertising and spectacular entertainment covered by a gloss surface of “news” or facts, that can be output in a range of forms from talking-head news commentators, to pseudo down-and-dirty cinema verité documentary. It is a knowing contemporary version of propaganda, and in fact, as reported by Joshua Green in Bloomberg Politics in 2015 even, in a chilling profile of Steve Bannon (, Andrew Breitbart himself called Bannon out as “the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement.”

So, with Bannon/Trump, we have entered into a paradoxical social-media semiotic in which that which most strongly resembles what Stephen Colbert dubbed as “truthiness” must be suspected as being the biggest lie.

PL: And to focus this back to art, perhaps what we might say is that instead of Picasso’s axiom of artists telling lies to reveal the truth, to make a fake “real” is to go through the machinations of media manipulation that Robert Reich talked about, like pulling the media in and driving conversation until it’s “almost real.” Maybe that’s the quality of “Real-Fakeness,” or even “Fake-Realness” (to do a structural inversion).  And with “Simulationists” as we are, and postinternet artists, perhaps veracity and verisimilitude aren’t the point anymore. Maybe it’s just what’s in the boxes and “teh netz”.

CH: Exactly. All of these players are deploying the representational tactic of structural inversion, one of the techniques used to grab audience attention and leverage in the Internet media economy. Bannon’s professional canniness in rerouting the attention economy into fake news, was that flaming mis/information could be sold as a very lucrative attention-economy product.  Likewise Trump made a fortune within this economy. Both are experts in the tactics required to make a thing go viral, in hacking the media/entertainment system for maximum clicks. Their approach obviously works.  And you can see this in some of the work in the show.

Read the full interview here

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