The 2020 Brakhage Center Symposium has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Saturday, March 14, ATLAS 100
Celebrating Stan: A Brakhage Screening
Trypps #7 (Badlands) (2010, 10:00 min.)
“Trypps #7 (Badlands) charts, through an intimate long-take, a young woman's LSD trip in the Badlands National Park before descending into a psychedelic, formal abstraction of the expansive desert landscape. Concerned with notions of the romantic sublime, phenomenological experience, and secular spiritualism, the work continues Russell's unique investigation into the possibilities of cinema as a site for transcendence.” --Michael Green, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
He Who Eats Children (2016, 26:00 min.)
“...and we Antilleans, we know only too well that – as they say in the islands – the black man has a fear of blue eyes.” --Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks. A speculative portrait of a Dutchman living in the Surinamese jungle – fixing canoe motors, accused of eating the locals’ children.
Color-Blind (2019, 30:30 min.)
A synaesthetic S16mm portrait made between French Polynesia and the French province of Bretagne, COLOR-BLIND recruits the restless ghost of Paul Gauguin as an uneasy spirit guide in excavating the colonial legacy of a decidedly syncretic post-colonial present.
Scene 32 (2009, 5 min.)
Scene 32 maps the terrain that lies between a beloved place and the things that represent it. The salt fields of Central Kutch are examined through High Definition video and hand processed 16mm film to become another thing altogether: neither a specific location in India nor its representation, but a rebuilt world of precipices and gullies, untouchable textures and unfathomable scale.
21 Chitrakoot (2012, 9 min.)
A land, as ancient and ideal as nature, is called up through the chroma-key backdrops of one of the world's most viewed mythological television series. Spectacular images spring forth from a glorious, more magical time. But, as nostalgia turns into melancholia, hostility is the inevitable result. There is no option but a war to destroy everything, after which trace impulses towards a narrative are the last surviving markers of the material past.
Mount Song (2013, 8 min.)
A current runs underneath. It creeps under the door, makes its way into the cracks, revealing, obfuscating or breaking as clouds in the sky. Mountain, cave, river, forest and trap door; martial gestures, reiterated, stripped and rendered. A storm blows through. A parrot comments from a flowering branch. Here, the surfaces of set-constructions are offered for our attachments.
Night Noon (2014, 11 min.)
Unmoving rock collapsed to ocean—geology’s “thrust and fold”—becomes the unlikely habitat for two actors’ shadowy encounters with sand, waves, night, desert, dread, calm, trepidation and escape.
Hijacked (2017, 15 min.)
Hijacked is a moving image work concerning airplane space. The video features a defunct airplane in an airplane graveyard, actors on a soundstage, and a noise music soundtrack that evokes the inside of an airplane in flight. Here, airplane space is inhabited by characters for whom “escape,” one of the promises of airplane technology, remains ever elusive.
American Hunger (2013, 19 min.)
Oscillating between a street festival in Philadelphia, the slave forts and capitol city of Ghana, and the New Jersey shore, American Hunger, explores the relationship between personal experience and collective histories. American fantasies confront African realities. African realities confront America fantasies. African fantasies confront American realities. American realities confront African fantasies…
Many Thousands Gone (2015, 8 min.)
Filmed on location in Salvador, Brazil (the last city in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw slavery) and Harlem, New York (an international stronghold of the African Diaspora), Many Thousands Gone draws parallels between a summer afternoon on the streets of the two cities. A silent version of the film was given to jazz multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee to create an interpretive score. The final film is the combination of the images and McPhee’s real time “sight reading” of the score.
Kindah (2016, 12 min.)
The fourth film in an ongoing series of 16mm films exploring Asili’s relationship to the African Diaspora . This one was shot in Hudson, NY and Accompong, Jamaica. Accompong, Jamaica was founded in 1739 after rebel slaves and their descendants fought a protracted war with the British leading to the establishment of a treaty between the two sides. The treaty, signed under British governor Edward Trelawny, granted Cudjoe’s Maroons 1,500 acres of land between their strongholds of Trelawny Town and Accompong in the Cockpits and a certain amount of political autonomy and economic freedom. Cudjoe, a leader of the Maroons, is said to have united the Maroons in their fight for autonomy under the Kindah Tree—a large, ancient mango tree that is still standing. The tree symbolizes the common kinship of the community on its common land.
Fluid Frontier (2017, 23 min.)
Fluid Frontier is the fifth and final film in the series. Shot along the Detroit River border region, the film explores the relationship between concepts of resistance and liberation exemplified by the Underground Railroad (the Detroit River being a major terminal point), and more modern resistance and liberation movements represented by Dudley Randell's Detroit-based Broadside Press, as well as the installation, sculptural, and performance works of local Detroit artists. All the poems are read from Broadside Press publications and all recordings are one take only without any prior rehearsals. All the readers are natives of the Detroit Windsor region and were solicited while the film was in production.
Sunday, March 15, ATLAS 100
Avant-Garde Cinema from Latin America
Curator: Jesse Lerner
The Mexican historian Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo wrote recently that the “idea of ‘Latin America’ ought to have vanished with the obsolescence of racial theory.” It “never designated a geographically or historically tangible reality,” he goes on to state, “at least not with a minimum of empirical and conceptual rigor.” How might we define “Latin America”? Are, for example, countries like Suriname, Guyana, Jamaica, Belize, or Haiti part of “Latin America”? Yet in spite of its fundamental flaws, the idea persists, if only as a convenient shorthand for a diverse group of nations that share something ill-defined, historically, socially, or culturally. For the 2020 Stan Brakhage Symposium, I’ve been invited to curate a brief overview of contemporary experimental film from the region, alongside which I’ve put a couple of older works. They range from 35mm films to artist’s videos, from hand-processed 16mm to super 8, and reflect divergent concerns and modes of production. That a handful of the nations of the region have had, for many decades, a thriving media industry (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina), and that more of them have not, still today shapes the ways in which experimental media arts (or avant-garde, or “critical cinema”—choose your term) are made there.
From ragas in Buenos Aires to bananas in Australia, from the Statue of Liberty in Mexico City to the late twentieth century television soap Dallas (1978-1991) in Colombia, these two programs center on a series of transplants, imports, emigrants, tourists, displacements, and exiles. And while “Latin America” has home-grown schools of experimental film, going back to the silent era (often in dialogue with vanguards in poetry, painting, and other arts), there is also dialogue with (and the influence of) a US-based tradition of lyrical, non-narrative film, of which Brakhage was one of the foremost practitioners. The program opens and closes with shorts of Pablo Marín, an Argentine filmmaker who is also the editor and translator of Por un arte de la visión (UNTREF, 2014), a Spanish-language collection of Brakhage’s writings. Between Marín’s two films we retrace the steps of Cuban poet and political leader José Martí’s return from exile in North, South, and Central America, witness a discarded stuffed animal rescued from the trash, and celebrate the reclamation of conquered deities destroyed and suppressed with the European invasion. Together they do not pretend to encapsulate the contemporary state of experimental filmmaking in Latin America, but do suggest some of its many displacements and circulations. –Jesse Lerner
Program 1: Displacements
Resistfilm (Pablo Marín, 2014, Argentina, 13 min.)
“Super 8 film as Super film. In-camera investigations of (filmic) nature. Rustic homages to early avant-garde landmarks and wild landscapes of the 21st Century. ”--Marín
Vadi-Samvadi (Claudio Caldini, 1976-1981, Argentina, 6.39 min.)
Claudio Caldini is one of the most accomplished artists of Buenos Aires’ experimental film scene. Here he uses the dominant (vadi) and secondary (samvadi) chords--or ragas--in the North Indian classical musical tradition to provoke a stroboscopic botanical explosion.
Nuestra señora de Paris (Teo Hernández, 1981-82, México/France, 22 min.)
“The camera, carried away by the agility and force imprinted by the arm, is a phallic extension. The vibration of the image, my convulsive rhythm, is an intensified and amplified sexual act.”-- Hernandez.
Altiplano (Malena Szalam, 2018, Chile/Canada, 15 min.)
“Filmed in the Andean mountains in the traditional lands of the Atacameño, Aymara, and Calchaquí-Diaguita of Chile and Argentina, Altiplano takes place within a geological universe of ancestral salt flats, volcanic deserts, and colored deserts, coupled with a soundscape generated from infrasound recordings of volcanoes, geysers, blue whales, and more. Located at the heart of a natural ecosystem threatened by a century of saltpeter and nitrate mining, and more recent geothermal exploitation, Altiplano reveals an ancient landscape that stands witness to all that is, was, and will be.”-- Szalam
Altares (Colectivo Los Ingrávidos, 2019, México, 3:28 min.)
The prolific Mexican media arts collective Los ingrávidos has over the last decade created a powerful and varied body of work that includes appropriations of mass media imagery, philosophical reflections, and political protests against state violence and human rights abuses. Here they animate replicas of pre-Cortesian sculptures in a dynamic celebration of an ancient pantheon.
Equivale a mentir (Macarena Cordiviola, 2001, Argentina, 3 min.)
“Equivale a mentir. [Tantamount to lying] prompts one to think about the four elements.
About the fusion of one body in another, the flickering, muteness.
Water in the mouth of a woman who burns.
The secret of the future.
Food, fuel, holy land.
Where have the clouds of the heart gone,
the drunkenness of light, the bridges?
Lost, she walks through the black sand
from the garden of Eden.
Remember the igneous city, the hell.
They heal excesses in her feline eye
that sees a child and is blinded.”
El laberinto (Laura Huertas Millán, 2018, Colombia, 21 min.)
“A journey through memory and ruins (if they are different things) of an old palace, built in the image and likeness of the Dynasty TV show, deep in the Colombian jungle. Shot on 16mm, and following up on the heritage of experimental ethnography, the Colombian Laura Huertas Millán approaches in El laberinto the vestiges of the splendor of the drug business, to enter a hallucinatory mental journey."--Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria
New York, New York (Ximena Cuevas, 2005, México, 2:42 min.)
"My work is concerned with the lie,” Ximena Cuevas writes, with “the nostalgia for something that never existed.” Here Cuevas revels in a poorly rendered architectural and musical tribute to Manhattan modernism found in a cabaret in her hometown, Mexico City.
Program 2: Circulations
Olvida usted algo? (Dalia Huerta, 2012, México, 28 min.)
“This film is a vertiginous voyage about the impermanence and evolution of the relative value of things through certain lapses, spaces, ideas, conditions, beings and objects; our attachment to them, to life, their way to their end, to their rebirth, to their transformation.”--Huerta
A idade da pedra (Ana Vaz, 2013, Brazil, 29 min.)
“A voyage into the far west of Brazil leads us to a monumental structure--petrified at the centre of the savannah. Inspired by the epic construction of the city of Brasília, the film uses this history to imagine it otherwise. Through the geological traces that lead us to this monument, the film unearths a history of exploration, prophecy and myth.”--Vaz
Notes, Imprints (on love), Part Two: Carmela (Alexandra Cuesta, Ecuador/USA 2019-20, 6 min.)
An afternoon exercise of piecing together minimal details for safekeeping: my grandmother’s garden, her music, recipes for wellbeing.
Diario (Juan Carlos Alom, 2009, Cuba, 13:39 min.)
In 1895, the Cuban militant journalist and poet José Martí led a failed effort to establish the island’s independence from Spain. Retracing his last days, this hand-processed film takes these final events in Martí’s life “as the point of departure for a contemporary reinterpretation.”
Nuestro Fuji (una postal) (Pablo Marín, 2020, Argentina, 4 min.)
“An unstable portrait of Tokyo, Japan, in between the geographic urgency and the emotional fragility. Imperfectly inspired by Hokusai's Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.”--Marín
All events are free and open to the public!
The 16th Brakhage Center Symposium is sponsored by:
The Roser Visiting Artist Program
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts
The William H. Donner Foundation