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Looking to the Margins: A Mediatheque Playlist by Gudrun Lock

“I looked for a counter to the dominant narratives of our hysterical moment.” In creating her new cinematic playlist for the Bentson Mediatheque, artist Gudrun Lock considered a question: How do these margins of life define what is central? A participant in the Bentson Local Scholar program, in which local artists are invited to critically engage with the Ruben/Benston […]

Paul Chan’s BAGHDAD IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, 2003. Image courtesy of the Ruben/ Bentson Moving Image Collection.

Paul Chan’s Baghdad in No Particular Order, 2003. Image courtesy the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection.

“I looked for a counter to the dominant narratives of our hysterical moment.” In creating her new cinematic playlist for the Bentson Mediatheque, artist Gudrun Lock considered a question: How do these margins of life define what is central? A participant in the Bentson Local Scholar program, in which local artists are invited to critically engage with the Ruben/Benston Moving Image Collection and share their findings, interpretations, and concerns, Lock’s playlist, Looking to the Margins, will be screened at 7 pm on May 4 in the Bentson Mediatheque. It will continue to be available throughout the months of May and June on the self-select Mediatheque. Here, she discusses her thinking as she made her selections.


While exploring the Walker’s Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection, I looked for a counter to the dominant narratives of our hysterical moment. Paul Chan’Baghdad in No Particular Order (2003), Peggy Awesh’Beirut Outtakes (2007), and Jem Cohen’Blood Orange Sky (1999) stood out to me because they foreground the small narratives and the quotidian. Through them we glimpse things often deemed unimportant, but things that are, in fact, at the core of our collective lived experience. I sat in the dark and contemplated frayed and wobbly images of other times and other places and asked myself: how do these margins of life define what is central?

There is a fuzzy boundary between order and chaos in these films; a monkey is caged, women bear arms, celluloid is overwhelmed by debris and mold, all the while Mt. Etna fumes and oozes in the background waiting patiently, oblivious to human needs and desires. I see images of nature, war, marriage, rot. Ecstasy, boredom, machismo, longing. Light and shadow. Darkness and time. Silver twists of eel flesh, at once exotic and ordinary, glimmer in the shadows. People walk, talk, sing, dance, pray, smoke, eat, and share themselves with the camera. I take a breath. An oil tanker truck drives by. These films contain a truth that is located on the margins of dominant Western culture, and also on the margins of materiality.

Iraqis dance in run-down rooms and recite poetry on dusty street corners in Paul Chan’s pre-“Operation Iraqi Freedom” film, Baghdad in No Particular Order. He records these moments as proof of humanity’s continuity and as a last minute plea against U.S. invasion. Mundane life patiently flickers forward, often out of focus, but full of dignity. The fragmented style and rough edits ground us as viewers: we are not taken in by pretty pictures of a fictional world, but instead we are bumping along with him and his film crew as they insert themselves in the daily life of the people around them. The camera stares at the floor while the operator navigates a hallway and we sit on the living room couch as guests and talk; we also stand on a street corner in a jiggly encounter with a wedding party and rock back and forth at the repetitious beat in a mosque. The voiceover in Chinese, Arabic, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and English adds a layer of philosophical statements, humdrum facts and simple anecdotes about the city, its population, and its culture.

Peggy Ahwesh's Beirut Outtakes, 2007. Image Courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

Peggy Ahwesh’s Beirut Outtakes, 2007. Image courtesy the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

In contrast, old American Westerns and Arabic language home appliance ads stretch and collide in Peggy Ahwesh’s Beirut Outtakes. The dramatic, virile fictions and feminine desires on view in the scraps of found footage barely hold up to the aggression of being dragged through a projector; scratches, squeaks and whines consume the multilingual narratives co-existing on screen. The abandoned fragments of film Ahwesh spliced together are moldy remnants of a middle-class lifestyle in one of the oldest cities in the world. “BEWARE! LET GOLD NOT BE YOUR GOD!” we are told, as a mummy, enacting a curse, lurches forward in some long forgotten American B movie. In Beirut Outtakes the marginal exists not so much in the content of the images but from time taking its course—it eats away at the material that was ditched when a Beirut cinema shuttered its windows. We are made aware of the fiction and temporality of filmmaking itself while we view the degraded images.

Jem Cohen's Blood Orange Sky, 1999. Image Courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

Jem Cohen’s Blood Orange Sky, 1999. Image courtesy the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

Another breath, and now I encounter Catania, in Jem Cohen’s Blood Orange Sky, where a tune, “The Vendor’s Lament,” effects a tenderness for a Sicily I have never known. I sit, watching and waiting for life to unfold as it does, on its own terms, in its own time. A major character in the film is the bustling market, where for perhaps thousands of years people have gathered to work, steal, barter, and talk. I find myself vulnerable to nostalgia, the washed out images full of loss. Teenage girls pose and giggle on a pre-EU cobblestone corner. We drive through the rain and grey streets of the ancient port town, while vignettes of marginal housing developments, smoking men, and the day’s end cut in alongside jarring scenes of a volcano huffing and puffing and glowing in the background, just as it has done since the dawn of time.

In all of these films there is a reminder that public life is dominated by men. But I put that aside, and try to glean some sense that we are not reducible to the ravages of war and nature. Through these films the margins reveal what is commonplace. But the edges and boundaries that line the screen prove fragile and as I walk out of the dark theatre, exposed again to the present moment, on the fuzzy border between order and chaos, I take a deep breath and I ask myself, is the child bookseller in Baghdad still calling out? Are there still fish in the sea? Do women continue to swing their hips in the glory of a cool breeze in Beirut? I wonder this to myself as we collectively careen into a precarious and hysterical future.

East, West, Home is Best: Cold War Animation from East Central Europe

A program of short animations and experimental film screening in the Walker’s Mediatheque on March 30 at 7 pm, East, West Home is Best is presented in conjunction with the University of Minnesota symposium “Remapping European Media Cultures During the Cold War: Networks, Encounters, Exchanges” (March 30–April 1). The story of Josef Kluge’s East, West, Home is […]

Josef Kluge's East, West, Home is Best (Všude dobře, doma nejlépe). Image Courtesy of the Ruben/ Bentson Moving Image Collection

Josef Kluge’s East, West, Home is Best (Všude dobře, doma nejlépe) (1969). Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

A program of short animations and experimental film screening in the Walker’s Mediatheque on March 30 at 7 pm, East, West Home is Best is presented in conjunction with the University of Minnesota symposium “Remapping European Media Cultures During the Cold War: Networks, Encounters, Exchanges” (March 30–April 1).

The story of Josef Kluge’s East, West, Home is Best (1969) has little to do with the geopolitics suggested in its title. Indeed, the film—whose Czech title, Všude dobře, doma nejlépe, is an idiom literally translated as “I’m happy everywhere, but happiest at home”—is about a young chicken. Bored with the daily routine at the nest, the tiny protagonist ventures out, finds the world outside darker and more menacing than expected, and returns home.

Nevertheless, during the Cold War, the film played a role in the transnational movement of moving images between the “East” and “West” that is this symposium’s subject—movement that was complex, and often had to do not with a film’s subject or themes, but with its production and dissemination. Kluge’s film, for instance, was donated to the Ruben/Bentson collection from Film in the Cities, the renowned Twin Cities film-education program of the 1970s and 1980s, which had received the print from American avant-garde filmmaker Bruce Conner. It’s unclear how Conner got hold of the film, but the 16mm print bears opening titles in English, prepared by Czechoslovakia’s film-export company, Czechoslovak Filmexport.

Animation was an important component of media exports from postwar Eastern Europe, many of which were sent west. Usually short, colorful, and unburdened by heavy dialogue, animated films were eminently “translatable” and brought returns in the form of hard currency and prestige. As East, West, Home is Best makes clear, they also often had a helpful openness: one can read Kluge’s chicken as an allegory for Soviet post-1968 exile and return, or for adolescence, or merely in its own absurd terms. Witold Giersz’s Fire (Pożar) (1975), similarly—which, like Kluge’s film and Jan Lenica’s A (1964), is part of the Ruben/Bentson collection—is about the natural world, and as much about painting as it is about cinema.

Witold Giersz's Fire (Pożar). Image courtesy of the Ruben/ Bentson Moving Image Collection

Witold Giersz’s Fire (Pożar) (1975). Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

The films in this program circulated beyond and within postwar Eastern Europe in multiple ways, one of which was television. The Our Sandman films that bracket the program are a case in point: Created by puppet maker and director Gerhard Behrendt for East German television in 1959, the films were adapted into children’s television in several Western European or neutral countries, especially in the Nordic region. Travel was a key theme of the films: adopting imaginative modes of transport, the Sandman visits children around Germany and other socialist countries, as well as beyond the socialist world. The films’ popularity in the Nordic countries probably inspired one of the films in this program (written by a Finnish scriptwriter), in which Sandman travels to Lapland.

Film festivals were another locus for East-West exchange. Of the films in this series, at least three were screened at Oberhausen, the West German short-film festival whose motto, “The Path to Neighbors” (“Weg zum Nachbarn”), signaled its cultural-diplomatic aspirations. In 1965, Lenica’s A was awarded the festival’s Grand Prize, and in 1977, Giersz won the Catholic Jury Prize for Fire. At the 1962 festival—the same year that he directed Weimar Republic Signs—Haro Senft originated the groundbreaking Oberhausen Manifesto, which called for a “new German cinema.”

Jan Lenica's A (1965). Image courtesy of the Ruben/ Bentson Moving Image Collection

Jan Lenica’s A (1965). Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

Yet Senft’s and Lenica’s careers underscore that East-West dynamics in Cold War media cultures are also traced in biography. Senft was born in Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, in the city of České Budějovice, in 1928. Midway during the war, at the age of 15, he was drafted as a Luftwaffenhelfer (“assistant” in the German air force), and from May 1945 to May 1946 he found himself interned in the country of his birth, in camps for German expellees. He soon emigrated to Wiesbaden, West Germany, where he studied film.

Lenica, who was also born in 1928, started his career as a graphic artist and poster designer in his native Poland, and began collaborating on animated films with celebrated director Walerian Borowczyk in 1957. After encountering problems with his work’s distribution, he emigrated to Paris, then West Germany, where he taught animation in Kassel and poster design and graphic arts at the Berlin Hochschule der Kunste. Throughout his career, Lenica collaborated with playwright Eugène Ionesco, who, like Lenica, moved between Eastern and Western Europe (in Ionesco’s case, Romania and France); A is an adaptation of themes from Ionesco. If film prints and television broadcasts moved through space, then, so did people, with Senft’s and Lenica’s careers offering two different models for emigration: one forced by World War II’s cataclysmic geopolitical shifts; one rooted in the often-constricting nature of East European media industries.

This constriction is both the subject and the condition of possibility for Helke Misselwitz’s Tango Dream (1985). Here, Misselwitz, a key director in East Germany’s DEFA Studio for Documentary Films, depicts an East German filmmaker confronting the question of how she can make a film about Buenos Aires and Montevideo without being able to travel there. Movement, in the film, thus occurs through other means: as the film’s title suggests, in dreams and in sound, the latter a means of transmission to which physical and geographic borders mean little.

Contemportentary: The Archive Is a Port in the Squall

CONTEMPORTENTARY is a playlist curated by Hannah Piper Burns from the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection and on view in the Walker’s Bentson Mediatheque during the months of January and February. It is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Joanne Klein, who liked to say, “Has the mind you expanded shrunk to fit the times?”  We […]

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Antoni Muntadas, Video is Television?, 1989. Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

CONTEMPORTENTARY is a playlist curated by Hannah Piper Burns from the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection and on view in the Walker’s Bentson Mediatheque during the months of January and February. It is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Joanne Klein, who liked to say, “Has the mind you expanded shrunk to fit the times?” 

We need cinema right now, because we need a moment. And not just any moment: We have been in the streets, with candles and signs, and sometimes tear gas and broken glass. We have been in public, sizing each other up and/or just trying to blend in, weaponizing our small talk and surveilling each other’s tantrums. We have been in the feeds with our index fingers like inchworms infinitely scrolling and clicking, and clicking, and sharing, peripatetic, our tabs proliferating in the windows. We have been on either side of the protest lines, screaming and brandishing conflicting signs. Now we need a moment in the dark to be alone together, in a different kind of covenant, with a different kind of discourse. In a way, we are all alone in the dark together already.

I need a moment. I have whiplash from the breaking news cracking across my timelines, and I can’t tell if I’m being served or summoned by the algorithms. I’m really starting to feel differently about the arc of history and I know it’s not just me, baby. I’m coming down with a bad case of that time warp feeling. Things seem like they are moving very, very quickly, but we’re hurtling towards an inevitability, rather than a possibility. These are times characterized by bombardment—of opinions, emotions, narratives, calls to action, commodities—within greater systems of control that operate in various states of visibility. This demanding abundance grating against the creeping, camouflaged austerity is the white noise whine that we have had to learn to live with.

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Miranda Pennell’s You Made Me Love You, 2004. Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

I turned to the archive with a mind to find works that might whine back, in the key of my own emotional maelstrom. I have been curating film and video for the better part of the last decade—programming film festivals and touring with screenings—but I have never made selections from a repository like the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection at the Walker Art Center. I approached the archive as I would an oracle, looking for new ways to look at my own reality. I came away with an array of movies that echo my processing of this post-truth, casually brutal, winkingly authoritarian, rapidly accelerating present tension. At first, I framed my selections in hauntological terms:

Each of these movies is a ghost that haunts our contemporary condition. As a collection, they zigzag across the decades and conjure the morass, the cacophony, the nihilism, the absurdity, the dissonance, and the violence that we have internalized. That we have normalized. The howl of the wind is the growl of an engine is the groan of orgasm is the moan of anguish. The gaze refracts back. The body is a political act. The ghosts are screaming through the screen. Can you hear them?

But then I started thinking about the energy I felt moving through the works, the charge I was trying to harness, the breath behind that screaming. It was pain. Ghosts can be seen as pure pain made manifest. The body may rot away, but suffering is what anchors a spirit to the material world. This playlist is about fitting the suffering of the now into the continuum of cinema, with movies that act as the medium between the now and the then as well as between ourselves and others.

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Kenneth Anger, Scorpio Rising, 1964. Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

So if these works are challenging, discomforting, or destabilizing, it is because I am discomforted and destabilized. We all should be. Comfort gets us nowhere anymore, and by the way, there is just as much comfort to be found in outrage as there is in pleasure.

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Tony Oursler, Grand Mal, 1981. Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

If they are absurd, it’s because reason has no place in our new resonance-based economies of attention, so why shouldn’t we just push through the low-level tragedy of irony and into the glorious, discordant realm of the absurd? Absurdity is the alchemy that transforms anguish into resistance. It’s the epiphany that when meaning can no longer be made, it must be un-made.

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Leslie Thornton, Strange Space, 1992. Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

If they are vulnerable almost to the point of confrontation, it’s because so many vulnerabilities have been reified and revealed. The zeitgeist openly mocks open vulnerability, lumping it in with its dismissal of “special snowflakes,” “safe spaces,” and “political correctness.” That bullying impulse has now ascended to the highest echelons of power, so it’s a considerable act of courage to turn the other cheek or roll over to show off a soft underbelly in the face of it.

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Peggy Ahwesh and Keith Sanborn, The Deadman, 1989. Image courtesy of the Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection

If they are profane, like Kenneth Anger’s flashy fashy fashionable fetishizing of toxic masculinity or Peggy Ahwesh and Keith Sanborn’s stripped-down, balls-to-the-wall adaptation of a Bataille text (complete with unsimulated sex), it’s because I think it’s time to Make Cultural Gatekeepers Disgusted Again. Turnabout is fair play. The grants aren’t going to be coming through anymore anyway and besides, the more threatened they feel by unrepentant, revolting resistance, and the more they debate and try to legislate the perceived obscenity and blasphemy in art, the less time they have to otherwise destroy the world. Artists can and should push their envelopes into public art spaces with their abject, unapologetic, indecorous best, because in order to keep freedom of expression for all and not just for some, we need to keep putting it to the test.

In the cinema, there is no clickbait. There are no think pieces; there is no comments section. The discourse is not at your itchy, angry fingertips here in the dark, away from the targeted ads (and the target audience) and the endless superlative listicles and the weirdly distributed network of everyone you know, and the deluge of their banalities and their extremes. It’s a space to feel your subjectivity again, unhooked from the monetizable response industrial complex. It’s a space to let media mediate, between you and your core, without the roar of commentary. It’s a space to process individual and collective pain, so that when the lights come back on, it has transformed for us.

2016: The Year According to Charles Atlas

When Merce Cunningham’s dance company performed Ocean less than a year before the iconic choreographer’s passing in 2009, Charles Atlas was there. Coproduced by the Walker Art Center and the Cunningham Dance Foundation, the ambitious work featured 14 dancers performing in a massive granite quarry near St. Cloud, Minnesota, accompanied by 150 musicians—all of which Atlas captured with five cameras. A Cunningham […]

Charles Atlas. Photo: Lori E. Seid

Charles Atlas. Photo: Lori E. Seid

When Merce Cunningham’s dance company performed Ocean less than a year before the iconic choreographer’s passing in 2009, Charles Atlas was there. Coproduced by the Walker Art Center and the Cunningham Dance Foundation, the ambitious work featured 14 dancers performing in a massive granite quarry near St. Cloud, Minnesota, accompanied by 150 musicians—all of which Atlas captured with five cameras. A Cunningham collaborator since the early 1970s, and pioneer of videodance, Atlas is participating in the Walker-organized exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time, opening February 8 at the Walker and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where his 2010 multi-channel installation MC9 will receive its US premiere. On March 9, he’ll return to introduce a selection of his films in the Walker Mediatheque, and he’ll be part of another ambitious collaboration March 16–18: in Tesseract, former Cunningham dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener create a hybrid of live dance, 3-D video, and live film segments, edited in real-time by Atlas.

A pioneering figure in film and video for over four decades, Atlas has worked intimately with a range of artists and performers including Leigh Bowery, Michael Clark, Douglas Dunn, Marina Abramovic, Yvonne Rainer, Mika Tajima/New Humans, and Antony and the Johnsons. Here, in a list that references his history and relationships, he shares his perspective on the year that was as part of our series, 2016: The Year According to                              .

Ten things that have been bright spots for me in what has been the otherwise gloomy annus horribilis of 2016. These individuals have engaged me intellectually and spiritually and encouraged me with the work they have created.

1.

An Evening with DanceNoise

The performance duo of Anne Iobst and Lucy Sexton—who began making work in the 1980s—consider the effect of the AIDS epidemic on dance artists today. At St Mark’s Danspace they delivered a rousing, political feminist response that’s relevant, defiant and full of spontaneous joy.

2. 

to a simple rock and roll …. song

Photo: The Guardian

to a simple rock and roll … song at the Barbican. Photo: The Guardian

British choreographer Michael Clark mounted a show at the Barbican Theatre in London that’s part balletic perfection to the music of Erik Satie and part sexy rock and roll to the music of Patti Smith. Entertainment plus!

3. 

Yvonne Rainer’s The Concept of Dust

In her latest piece, this pioneering choreographer makes a piece that is part eclectic collage of movement, part spoken text, part nuanced consideration of mortality and aging. A rewardingly fresh work from a veteran.

4.

Silas Reiner’s Thinging

Subtitled Dance and Translation and the Work of Anne Carson, this former Merce Cunningham dancer presents a brainy and compelling combination of talking, thinking, and adventurous dancing.

 

5.

Stanley Love Performance Group’s Tapestry Truths

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Stanley Love’s large company of performers of all sizes and skill levels dances in an installation of Martin Gustavsson’s large paintings with exhilarating effect. Watching this group always makes me want to move.

6.

Anohni’s Hopelessness

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ANOHNI composes songs: political, confrontational music sung with an angry angel’s voice, accompanied by exhilarating electronics.

7.

Late Greats

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The final albums of Leonard Cohen (Make It Blacker) and David Bowie (Blackstar): sustaining great artistic achievement until the very end.

8. 

Lady Bunny in Trans-Jester

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At the Stonewall Inn, the drag performer and Wigstock cofounder presents an X-rated combination of beyond-hilarious comedy, jaw-dropping songs, and political rants. I consider Lady Bunny a living national treasure.

9. 

Lia Gangitano

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Alvin Baltrop, Pier Photographs, 2016. Vitrine detail.
Courtesy of The Alvin Baltrop Trust, Third Streaming, and Galerie Buchholz, New York. Photo: Rhona Yefman

Participant, Inc., the always excellent non-commercial space, presents multigenerational contemporary artists and historic tributes. In 2016, gallery director Lia Gangitano brought in a range of alternative art and and artists, including Alvin Baltrop, Peter Hendrick, Justin Vivian Bond, Eve Fowler, and Ellen Cantor.

10. 

Women of Progressive Opinion

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Internet radio hosts Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes and blogger Digby of Hullaballoo: these progressive voices sustain me on a daily basis when I am feeling overwhelmed by the increasing ultra-conservative media environment.

 

2016: The Year According to Ephraim Asili

e Ephraim Asili. Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images Ephraim Asili is a filmmaker, DJ, and traveler whose work focuses on the African diaspora as a cultural force. His films have screened in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, San Fransisco International […]

eNEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Filmmaker, Ephraim Asili attends Projections: Program 9 during 54th New York Film Festival on October 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)

Ephraim Asili. Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

Ephraim Asili is a filmmaker, DJ, and traveler whose work focuses on the African diaspora as a cultural force. His films have screened in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, San Fransisco International Film Festival, Milano Film Festival, Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival, MoMA PS1, LAMOCA, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. As a DJ, Asili can be heard on his radio program, In The Cut, on WGXC or live at his monthly dance party Botanica. Asili currently resides in Hudson, New York and works as a full-time visiting artist in the Film and Electronic Arts Department at Bard College. Here, as part of our series, 2016: The Year According to                              , he shares his perspective on the year that was.

What a year it has been. So many wonderful people have passed away. Negativity, violence, and anxiety seem to be the order of the day. The Donald won the election. On the plus side, we were able to stop the pipeline—for now. A Tribe Called Quest released a new album, and my only child has reached the age of 13. With all that’s going on in the world and as we brace for the long road ahead, I wanted to focus my selections on some of the books, films, records, and artists that have kept me inspired this year. The selections are in no particular order.

1.

Malick Sidibé (1935–2016)

Malick Sidibe, Sur les Rochers a la Chaussee, 1976, via Jack Shainman Gallery

Malick Sidibé, Sur les Rochers a la Chaussee, 1976, via Jack Shainman Gallery

Before I ever considered touching a camera I was into records and deejaying. I remember going to a record shop one day and spotting a book of Malick Sidibé’s photos on the checkout counter. At the time Afro Beat music was reemerging and West African style was spreading all around town. I knew very little about photography at the time and had never seen images of “Africa” quite like that. I flipped through a few times, went home, and considered buying a camera. It would be years before I actually did.

2.

Brett Story’s The Prison in 12 Landscapes

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I had the chance to see this film in a festival back in March. I was amazed by the way it weaved between documentary and essay, activism and criticism, geography, history, and cinematic meditation. The Prison in 12 Landscapes offers much needed insight into some of the more subtle and not so subtle aspects of the United States prison industrial complex.

3.

Mumia Abu Jamal’s We Want Freedom

 

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October 15, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. Dec 9, 2016 marked 35 years since Mumia Abu Jamal was arrested for, and many believe falsely accused of, the death of a Philadelphia police officer. Leading up to that day, Mumia had been a prominent journalist, and as teenager helped to form the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. Originally published in 2004, We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party was reprinted this year, commemorating the anniversary of these two important events. “As calls that Black live matters grow louder; Mumia connects the historical dots between contemporary struggles and the Panthers’ demand for the ‘immediate end to police brutality and the murder of Black people.'” Chapter 7—”A Woman’s Party”—is particularly insightful.

 

4.

John Morrison’s Southwest Psychedelphia

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In one way or another I try to keep a deep connection to Philly, my hometown. Lately I’ve been staying connected by listening to my copy of this Cosmic Hip Hop Beat Tape by John Morrison. It’s been a staple in the studio and during travel for awhile no . I’m down with the new cassette movement, the medium is the message and all that…

5.

The Ladies of Broadside Press

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It’s not always about what’s new in the world but what we discover for ourselves. I spent a lot of my summer researching Broadside Press, searching for original copies of the books, and I even spent few weeks shooting a film inspired by the poets published by Broadside. I found the poetry of the Black Women of Broadside to be especially moving, provocative and as relevant as ever.

6.

Peter Hutton (1944–2016)

Peter Hutton. Image: Harvard Film Archive

Peter Hutton. Image: Harvard Film Archive

Peter Hutton was a great friend,teacher, and mentor to myself and many others. He was a unique and humble filmmaker and as far as I’m concerned one of the best to ever do it. His presence will be missed for some time to come.

7.

Chris Harris’s Halimuhfack

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I’ve had several opportunities to watch Chris’s film this year. I love the way that he layers sound and image to address concerns about representation and psychic memory. The film is mesmerizing, musical, magical—an exemplary work of Black Cinema.

8.

Kimberly Brown, “On My Knees,” D’oke (Remix)

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Maybe its because I visited both Chicago and Detroit during 2016, but I’ve become increasing obsessed with House Records. Especially 12-inch singles. Kimberly Brown, a former member of Sounds of Blackness, sounds amazing on this record! If the election has got you down this one will get you up!

9.

David Rimmer at NYFF Projections

Still from David Rimmer's "Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper" (197)0)

Still from David Rimmer’s Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper (1970)

I had the pleasure of seeing some recently preserved David Rimmer films at the festival. One of Rimmer’s films, Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper, was very influential in the making of one of my recent works. I had never seen his work projected before. The prints were breathtaking. Wow! The other Rimmer films in the program were Canadian Pacific I and Real Italian Pizza.

 

10.

A Fluid Frontier

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I spent some of 2016 in Southern Ontario where I had the opportunity to learn about and visit many of the places where enslaved Africans escaped to during slavery in the United States. More Blacks died crossing the Detroit River than any other location on boarder separating the United States from Canada. Many former slaves risked their lives crossing back and forth between the States and Canada to free family and loved ones. The collection of essays that comprise A Fluid Frontier chronicle some of these stories and highlight other aspects of the Underground Railroad along both sides of the Detroit River.

 

11.

The Space Age Is Here To Stay

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The important work of Sun Ra and his Arkestra have been a influence in my life for some time now. My first film was made in collaboration with some of the remaining members of the group. A few months back Modern Harmonic Records released a compilation of rare vocal recordings by the group. I love anything featuring June Tyson, and many of the lyrics seem like they were written for today’s political climate. Perhaps they were.

12.

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Painter), 2009

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Painter), 2009

In all honesty I have not gone to see this show as of the writing of this list. That being said, I will have seen it before the publication of this list. I love Marshall’s work and have for some time how. I have no doubt that it will rank high in my experiences from 2016.

Honorable Mentions

Ava DuVernay’s 13th

Adam Curtis’s Hypernormalization

2016: The Year According to Mariah Garnett

Mariah Garnett mixes documentary, narrative, and experimental filmmaking practices to make work that accesses existing people and communities beyond her immediate experience. Using source material that ranges from found text to iconic gay porn stars, Garnett often inserts herself into the films, creating cinematic allegories that codify and locate identity. She is currently in production […]

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Mariah Garnett mixes documentary, narrative, and experimental filmmaking practices to make work that accesses existing people and communities beyond her immediate experience. Using source material that ranges from found text to iconic gay porn stars, Garnett often inserts herself into the films, creating cinematic allegories that codify and locate identity. She is currently in production on her first experimental feature film, Trouble, about her relationship with her Northern Irish Father, who fled Belfast in the 1970s after being profiled on the BBC for his “mixed” Catholic/Protestant relationship.

A prolific artist, she had solo exhibitions at the Metropolitan Arts Center (Belfast, UK) and ltd los angeles (Los Angeles) in 2016, and her work has shown at MoCA, REDCAT, White Columns, Ann Arbor Film Festival and in the 2014 Made in LA Hammer Biennial. Here, as part of our annual 2016: The Year According to                               series, she shares her top personal, political, and cultural moments of 2016.

1.

Bowie.

This year started with my biggest idol dying, which was perhaps an indicator of the soul crushing 12 months ahead, but it also led to a mass online eulogizing of his life. My favorite discovery to come out of this was this video of him as a teenager talking about protesting for the rights of boys to have long hair.

2.

Other & Father

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I had my first institutional solo show at the contemporary arts center (the MAC) in Belfast, Northern Ireland last winter. It featured archival video of my dad and his girlfriend in the ’70s and my own re-enactment of the footage. At the opening, one of the gallery guards recognized my dad’s teenaged girlfriend! In fact, he’d dated her right after she and my dad broke up. That was a nice moment, and typical of Belfast too.

 

3.

Henry Taylor at Blum & Poe

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This show blew my mind. Blew it straight out of my head. It was basically perfect. To call it a painting show is both an understatement and totally what it was.

 

4.

Yosemite

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I went to Yosemite National Park this year in July for the first time. I don’t know what took me so long.

5.

Weirdo Night

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Best post-collective-trauma-catharsis-through-performance-art. Jibz Cameron aka Dynasty Handbag has been hosting a monthly “comedy” night at El Cid in LA for most of the year. Dynasty Handbag MCs and does a set or two herself, while hosting an array of local weirdos with acts. She is generous both in the space she gives to her guests and in the material she offers to her audiences. For some reason, maybe because of 2016, weirdo night kept falling right after awful events – like the Pulse nightclub shooting and the election. I am not entirely sure how she managed to pull this off, but she drew us out of our cowering little individual selves on nights when staying home probably seemed like the only option, expressed all of our fear and rage for us, and sent us on our way feeling a little less bad. It’s no coincidence the house was particularly packed on those nights.

 

6.
Moonlight

It was just so so so so so so good.

7.

Eve Fowler at Participant

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I had the distinct honor of shooting and editing a black-and-white 16mm film for Eve Fowler, which opened at Participant on November 6. The film is a portrait of more than 20 women artists from Los Angeles and New York working in their studios. Visiting all of these women and observing them at work was very powerful. Highlights were filming artists getting reading for 2016 shows: Celeste Dupuy-Spencer finishing paintings for her show at Mier Gallery and Nicole Eisenman working on her Anton Kern show—although, really, I left each and every one of their studios with a new appreciation for what they do and how much they know.

8.

Bakersfield

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I got my first university teaching job this year at Cal State Bakersfield. Highlights: when a student did a performance for her crit modeled after Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, showing them Couple in A Cage, rediscovering Alex Bag’s Untitled Fall 95, and having Rafa Esparza come talk to my class about performance and his own work. Then we went out for “Basque food” and I ordered a “French fry salad.” It was right after the election and the place was filled with old white men who stared at us. It was the first time we had ever really had a conversation.


9. 

Re-watching Seinfeld

 

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I have found it to be extremely soothing in the face of current events.

10.

The protests at Standing Rock

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Witnessing one of the most oppressed groups in the country take a stand against corporate greed and a militarized police force and the momentum they gained has been powerful. And finally acknowledgement and vindication from the highest level of government (though obviously far from over)—it’s a good note at the end of a terrifying year.

“A Minimalism of the Frame”: Filming the Female Face in Todd Haynes’s Carol (2015)

In the opening scene of Carol, the camera follows a young man called Jack (Trent Rowland) through the streets of 1950s Manhattan and into a restaurant. Jack chats with the bartender briefly, then recognizes someone he knows across the room. The camera shifts to Jack’s point of view, and we see he is watching a […]

Todd Haynes’s Carol 2015 Photo: courtesy The Weinstein Company

Todd Haynes’s Carol, 2015 Photo: Weinstein Company

In the opening scene of Carol, the camera follows a young man called Jack (Trent Rowland) through the streets of 1950s Manhattan and into a restaurant. Jack chats with the bartender briefly, then recognizes someone he knows across the room. The camera shifts to Jack’s point of view, and we see he is watching a table for two, where a blonde woman whose face we can see looks intently at a brunette whose back is turned to us. “Therese!” calls Jack, and the brunette (Rooney Mara) turns to the camera. “I thought that was you!” Jack bellows good-naturedly, and he approaches the two women. Once he arrives, the camera descends to the eye level of the seated women, and during the ensuing dialogue the camera is trained exclusively on their faces. Jack babbles away, animated and oblivious, but his face literally does not make the cut. We can see his body up to his mouth, but no higher. We hear his speech, but our attention is directed by the camera’s gaze to the women’s faces. There, we witness a play of emotions, one often at odds with Jack’s cheery tone. Therese looks startled and disoriented, Carol (Cate Blanchett) intent and melancholy. Jack, by contrast, is so bold, so confident in his own goodwill and that of the world, so sure that it is perfectly acceptable to interrupt these women at their meal, which has obviously been tense and intimate.

Everything about Jack is wrong for this scene, and so Haynes removes him from it as much as possible. The audience needs nothing of Jack save his dialogue. He is irrelevant to the proceedings except as a stimulus for the tacit drama he does not notice in Therese’s eyes and Carol’s passive-aggression. This all transpires less then three minutes into the film, and the audience has scarcely been introduced to these women when already we find ourselves wanting to be alone with them, disgruntled at his intrusion, thinking: Jack, just go away. It’s important to make special note of two facts here. First, the POV shot where Jack glimpses Therese across the restaurant is the only shot from a male character’s perspective in the entire film. Second, this same scene is repeated again near the end of Carol, and when it is, Jack’s POV shot is replaced with a close-up of Therese at the moment he calls her name.

In the Carol clip shown during this winter’s Walker Dialogue and Retrospective Series: Todd Haynes: 20 Years of Killer Films, you’ll notice that as the director cuts between over-the-shoulder shots of Therese and Carol, the waiter is, like Jack in that first scene, cropped at the upper lip. Except for the essential bits of dialogue and the hands that deliver the martinis and creamed spinach, the waiter is for all other intents and purposes not there. Later, Therese fights with her would-be fiancé, Richard (Jake Lacy) over the course of one long roving shot, and Haynes’s camera tracks them through her apartment in such a manner that Richard’s face is almost never visible—and, when it is, it’s out of focus. In fact, Haynes goes to great lengths to avoid featuring men’s faces directly in Carol. Dialogues between men and women visually favor the women, and men are sometimes refused reaction shots altogether, an editing bias that amounts to a major disruption of standard cinematic grammar. The only reason this isn’t immediately jarring for the viewer is the fact that there are plenty of conventionally edited dialogues in Carol – it’s just that those scenes, by and large, consist of women speaking with women.

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in Carol.

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in Carol. Photo: Weinstein Company

These decisions are, of course, not accidents. In the Walker Dialogue, Haynes discusses his early fascination with what he terms a “minimalism of the frame” in Mike Nichols’s The Graduate (1967), mentioning in particular a remarkable shot from that film’s graduation party episode. As Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock moves distractedly through his own party, Nichols keeps the camera trained tightly on his face. Hands reach from out of frame to pinch his cheeks; faces pulls themselves in to kiss Benjamin; conversations are had with people outside of or just within the camera’s field of vision. Nichols uses the shot to effectively communicate Benjamin’s feelings of social isolation and emotional claustrophobia, demonstrating that visual exclusion has emotional and narrative consequences. Haynes’s filmography evinces a second lesson: to tell a story on film, all one really needs to show is a human face.

Haynes says in the Walker Dialogue that “the spectator has these extraordinary powers of desire to enter the story, and fill it in emotionally, and to make it come alive. … All of the emotion that we think the movie is giving us, we’re giving the movie.” In his work, the human face is the site of this special cinematic identification. Sometimes, he admits, he has “interrupted that process [and] set up boundaries to identifying with a character,” as in 1995’s Safe, where Julianne Moore’s Carol is constantly situated at the dead center of the frame and yet remains chillingly vacant, “hard to find, locate.” However, Safe’s extreme efforts to subvert the audience-character relationship only belies its centrality to Haynes’s instincts and ethos as a filmmaker. Safe also reminds us that Haynes’s Nichols-esque “minimalism of the frame” is no mere directorial tenet. Rather, it is a principle of collaboration between actor and director. Haynes states that his actors are a major reason for his career’s longevity, and this is evident in Safe, whose success depends on Moore’s uncanny performance as much as the director’s compositional genius.

Carol is the positive to Safe’s negative (coincidentally, their major characters share a name). It likewise puts immense pressure on the faces of its female stars, but unlike the passive Carol of Safe, who is overwhelmed and eventually consumed pathogenically, visually, and narratively by her own environment, Carol’s protagonists make themselves exceptionally available to the audience. Haynes’s camera colludes with Mara and Blanchett to ensure that the audience is dependent on this opening-up, this invitation to connection. We look to their prominently displayed faces over and over so that we can know how to understand what’s going on. Haynes’s compositions admit men only insofar as they are relevant to that story, and the definitive interpretation of events always falls to Therese or Carol (or, in one scene, Sarah Paulson’s Abby). Carol is a housewife subject to legal coercion and intimidation by her husband, and Therese is only 19, and in one memorable double entendre claims she doesn’t “even know what to order for lunch.” They are not necessarily prepared for these narrative responsibilities, but they learn on the go, in order to resist mounting pressure from the men around them to tell a particular story in a particular way.

CAROL

Todd Haynes with Cate Blanchett on the set of Carol. Photo: Weinstein Company

Therese is trying to become a photographer, so we get numerous shots of Therese taking photographs, many of them of Carol, and sometimes we see from the perspective of Therese’s camera itself. To underscore the metaphorical implication—Therese as filmmaker, discovering her vision, sexuality, and agency all at once—Haynes also includes, as he points out in the interview, “all of these shots … through glass, and reflections, and windows, where the act, and it’s almost the lens itself, the act of looking is foregrounded, because it’s all about desire and who’s on what side of that looking.” It for this reason that the man who poses the greatest direct threat to Therese and Carol as they embark on their westward road trip is not Carol’s domineering husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) but the private detective Harge hires to track them, Tommy Tucker (Cory Michael Smith). Tommy’s glasses and tape recorder also figure him as a filmmaker, positioning him as someone with the power to combat or even eliminate Therese and Carol’s agency as women. When she discovers Tommy, Carol aims a revolver at him, and in this moment only Haynes brutally crops her out of the image, so that all we can see of her is that arm and hand holding the weapon. We cannot see her face, and the narrative slips out of her control in this moment. “There’s nothing you can do,” Tommy says within this same shot, and it’s true. The gun is unloaded. The Iowa town where this confrontation takes place is called Waterloo. “Isn’t that awful?” Carol says, and it is.

It could be said that Carol is, on one level at least, a film about men trying to get the last word. Richard tells Therese repeatedly that he loves her, though she never reciprocates, and talks incessantly about a trip to Paris to which she has not agreed, as though he could speak their romance into reality. Harge more literally attempts to have the final say by suing for custody of Carol’s young daughter. As Abby cuttingly observes, he’s “spent the last ten years trying to make sure [Carol’s] only point of reference is himself.” But most films are about men trying to get the last word, and most of the time, they’re successful; in fact, they’re successful here, since Harge does win his custody suit. However, despite this, and despite the film’s conventional surface appearances, it remains the work of a founder of the 1990s’ New Queer Cinema whose films have never been anything short of socially and formally challenging: here, Haynes mobilizes Nichols’s “minimalism of the frame” to undo Harge’s success, to “speak … separately or parallel to” that other story (as he says in a different context). In Carol, a visual work in ethos as well as form, images trump words, even the coveted last word. Demonstrating his trademark trust in his cast’s artistry, Haynes zeroes in once more on the female face as the locus of emotive communication between movie and moviegoer. “May I speak?” asks Carol caustically in the climactic showdown with Harge and his lawyers. Although the men technically oblige, they persist in interrupting her, shouting over her, and even suggesting that her testimony be stricken from the court record. That’s all right, because Haynes and Blanchett give Carol something better than the opportunity tell her story: she has the power to show it.

So it is that Carol concludes with Therese and Carol looking at one another, not speaking, a series of emotions flickering across each of their faces. The crowd of men with whom Carol is dining chatter away inaudibly. It’s a fitting summary of the film’s quiet rebellion.

Todd Haynes’s Carol screens January 19 as part of the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards Screenings.

 

2015: The Year According to Tala Hadid

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to designer Na Kim, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to     […]

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Tala in NY copy.jpg

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to designer Na Kim, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 .

“I’m a London-born, US-educated woman of Moroccan and Iraqi descent,” says Tala Hadid. “Sometimes I feel that I have a foot in both/all worlds. This hybrid existence, though sometimes complicated, is also a space of freedom that allows a particular way of seeing—to belong to all, and yet to none.” A filmmaker and photographer who trained as a painter, Hadid is the director of several award-winning short films including Your Dark Hair Ihsan (Tes Cheveux Noirs Ihsan) (2004) as well as the feature-length film Narrow Frame of Midnight (2014). In 2010/2011  she worked on an independent project entitled Heterotopia, a series of photographs documenting life a New York City brothel. Her most recent work, House in the Fields, a documentary film project depicting rural life in Morocco’s Atlas mountains, was screened at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival; it won a Final Cut Award at the Venice Film Market.

2015-01

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Judith Butler

A return to the work of Judith Butler this year has brought with it a wiser view on the difficult and dangerous world in which we live and the spaces that we share. Two works in particular have been profoundly enlightening: Frames of War and Precarious Life. In her words, a speech given at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm:

We live together because we have no choice, and yet we must struggle to affirm the ultimate value of that unchosen social world, and that struggle makes itself known and felt precisely when we exercise freedom in a way that is necessarily committed to the equal value of lives. We can be alive or dead to the suffering of others, – they can dead or alive to us, depending on how they appear, and whether they appear at all; but only when we understand that what happens there also happens here, and that “here” is already an elsewhere, and necessarily so, that we stand a chance of grasping the difficult and shifting global connections in which we live.

2015-02

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Marrakech

I’ve spent this past year in Marrakech, returning with joy to this glorious city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in between travels across the world for screenings of my last film. It is a city of enormous energy, An African City, Berber and Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jewish, under a strong sun and lit by the most beautiful and lucid of light, where the line between private and public space is constantly shifting, a city of the global South, of artisans and musicians, of young people and old, a mix of different classes and peoples living in close proximity in that fine balance of what can be called peaceful co-habitation.

2015-03

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Stephen F. Cohen

I’ve been listening  this past year to a weekly conversation on a podcast, between Stephen F. Cohen, a scholar of Russian and Soviet political history since 1917, Professor of Russian Studies and History Emeritus at NYU, and Professor of Politics Emeritus at Princeton University, and John Batchelor, who hosts the radio news magazine The John Batchelor Show. It has been, and continues to be, a highly informative and intelligent conversation and analysis of world events and relations with Russia.

2015-04

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Archipelago Books

This year has been another important one exploring the beautiful books and translations from Brooklyn based not-for-profit press Archipelago Books.

2015-05

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New Directions

In the words of Roberto Bolaño: the cowardly don’t publish the brave. Long live New Directions.

2015-06

Bouchra Ouizgen

I was lucky to have been introduced to the Moroccan choreographer, Bouchra Ouizgen, and to her wonderful work and her troupe of dancers and collaborators. Here is dance filled with the élan of life, a fusion of the best of Moroccan tradition and a modernity that transcends easy labeling.
Full video of the last show at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris here.

2015-07

At the Bayamo suburb of órgano Manzanillo, Cuba,1963. Photograph: Agnès Varda

At the Bayamo suburb of órgano Manzanillo, Cuba,1963. Photograph: Agnès Varda

Agnes Varda/Cuba

In 1963, filmmaker Agnes Varda took thousands of photographs of Cuba. She hid them in a box and now, years later, they have been uncovered and are on display at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until early next year. A joy to discover!

2015-08

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The Wind in High Places

One word for The Wind in High Places by John Luther Adams: sublime. Listen and you can feel the cold bite of the air, the breath of wind on the skin, the vastness of  the open sky and of nature unfolding eternally.

2015-09

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The Third Man

Carol Reed’s 1949 The Third Man was lovingly and rigorously restored and re-released this year. A joy to behold.

2015-10

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Paris Climate Agreement

On December 12, at 12:00 pm, more than 10,000 people took over Avenue de la Grande Armée in Paris to unfurl long red lines to honor the victims of climate disasters and show their commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice. This year has ended, among other things, with the historic Paris Climate accord.

In the words of Bill McKibben:

Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry. This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.

And lastly, in memoriam: Chantal Akerman.

 

 

2014: The Year According to Sam Green

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from animator Miwa Matreyek and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Eric Hu and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: […]

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To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from animator Miwa Matreyek and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Eric Hu and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 . 

 

Sam Green is a documentary filmmaker best known for his Academy Award–nominated 2003 film The Weather Underground, which was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. His most recent works include The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (2012) , a live cinematic collaboration with the indie rock band Yo La Tengo (which came to the Walker in October 2013) and the new live musical documentary The Measure of All Things, a meditation on time, fate, and overall human experience, coming to the Walker stage on February 6, 2015.

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Jackie Goss and Jenny Perlin, The Measures

My favorite film of the year. It’s an experimental documentary that retraces the 18th-century journey of two astronomers tasked with determining the true length of a meter. The story is wonderfully weird, but the form is what really makes the film so smart and sophisticated. Both Goss and Perlin filmed the same landscapes across Europe, each with their own Bolex, and the finished film includes the two images side by side. The two filmmakers perform a live version of this film where they read the voiceover in person. I loved it.

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Yo La Tengo, “Nowhere Near”

I went and saw my pals and collaborators Yo La Tengo play a 30th-anniversary gig at Town Hall in NYC in December. They recently re-released one of their brilliant early records Painful and at the Town Hall show played many songs from that disc. This one just slayed me. I’ve listened to it over and over again since and think it’s pretty much a perfect pop song.

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Miguel Gutierrez, Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/ at the Whitney

Was knocked out by this dance piece and what a powerful performer Miguel Gutierrez can be. The piece, which was in one of the small galleries at the museum, was funny, disturbing, mesmerizing, poignant and both Miguel and Mickey Mahar danced fantastically. I left feeling wonderful and exhilarated.

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Venice, Italy

I did a six-week residency in Venice through the Emily Harvey Foundation and fell deeply in love with the city. My girlfriend, the choreographer Catherine Galasso, grew up in Venice and knows the city well. We had a magic, productive, and very inspiring time there.

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Heddy Honigman

Sometimes I go back and watch old films that especially resonated with me for one reason or another. The Dutch-Peruvian filmmaker Heddy Honigmann is probably my favorite documentarian. While I was in Venice, I re-watched her films Metal and Melancholy and Forever. I don’t have the space here to describe either of the films, but they are both gems. She has a way with people—is one of the most interesting interviewers working today—and both of these films are deeply, deeply human.

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Instagram

I got on Instagram to impress my 12-year-old niece. She’s a teen from central casting these days, and her phone, friends, and Instagram are pretty much the only things that matter to her. Initially, I thought that I would hold my nose and do a little bit of Instagramming just to show her that I’m cool, too (or at least I’m not totally lame). But to my great surprise, I ended up loving it. It’s playful, visual, kinda dorky, and because you cant post links, it’s free of much of the article-posting and event-promoting that often bores me with Facebook and Twitter. It’s coming up on my one-year anniversary on Instagram and I’m still high on it. (If you want to follow me, I’m sam_b_green).

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Particle Fever

I saw this documentary about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland at the Film Forum in NYC where it had a smash-hit run over the summer. The Hadron Collider is a huge underground tunnel (17 miles in diameter) and is designed to allow physicists to make important discoveries by smashing particles at very high speeds. Sounds kinda snoozy, I’m sure, but the film is fantastic and inspiring and dramatic. Much of the credit for this goes to the fact that it was edited by the great Walter Murch.

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Duncan Campbell

My friend, the film programmer Chi-hui Yang, shared some of the Scottish filmmaker Duncan Campbell’s documentaries with me: Make it New John, and Bernadette. I was very taken with his creative and sophisticated approach to history and odd historical footnotes. Both films lingered with me for some time after (which is my measure of a strong work). I saw recently that Duncan Campbell recently won the Turner Prize.

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Valerie Solanas by Breanne Fahs

Bill Horrigan, the curator at the Wexner Art Center, recommended this, and it turned out to be my favorite book of the year. I’d always been fascinated by Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol—probably part of my general interest in that time—and I’d also always been struck by the fact that she was a fantastic  writer (take a look at her SCUM Manifesto to see what I mean). This biography goes very deep into her history—lots of things I hadn’t known about her—and the effect is that for the first time one can see Valerie as a complex and very human person. The book was also fantastically written I couldn’t put it down.

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Xylouris White at Union Pool

I saw this duo made up of the Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian drummer Jim White (Dirty Three) at a small bar in Brooklyn, where they did an ongoing residency over the summer. An enormous, hypnotic, and roiling sound! I could watch Jim White drum for hours.

2014: The Year According to Miwa Matreyek

Miwa Matreyek. Photo: Eugene Ahn To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from filmmaker Sam Green and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Omar Sosa and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. […]

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Miwa Matreyek. Photo: Eugene Ahn

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from filmmaker Sam Green and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Omar Sosa and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 . 

Miwa Matreyek is an LA-based artist who fuses animation, performance, and installation to create surreal cinematic animation videos. Also a founder of Cloud Eye Control–a performance group that combines interactive media with live performance–Matreyek has shown her works at TEDGlobal (UK), Sundance Film Festival, Wexner Center for the Arts, Anima Mundi Animation Festival (Brazil), Time Based Arts Festival, REDCAT, ISEA, Theatre de la Cité (France), the Exploratorium, EXIT festival, Fusebox Festival, S8 (Spain), Animasivo (Mexico), Flat pack Film Festival (UK), Future Everything (UK), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, City of Women (Slovenia), Santiago a Mil (Chile), Houston Cinematic Arts festival, and more. Along with the short Myth and Infrastructure, her animation This World Made Itself will be screened at the Walker in 2015 as part of the Expanding the Frame and Out There series.

 


 

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COSMOS

The reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, starring the dreamy Neil deGrasse Tyson: Quality. The beauty of science and miracle of our existence to the masses.

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Photo: John Strandh

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I love this Swedish songstress and her nature-witch persona. Her album Blue was released 2014, a song/video at a time.

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Photo: Phile Deprez

Still Standing You

My favorite performance piece I saw in 2014, at Fusebox festival in Austin, Texas. Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido pushing the boundaries of what two men can do in a duet, with just their bodies and the clothes they showed up in. Almost childlike but simultaneously emotionally complex as they span from violence to tenderness, humor to almost hypnotic exploration of the mechanics of their bodies. Very up my alley.

They will be in Minneapolis for the Out There festival at the Walker, January 15–17, 2015.

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Photo: Miwa Matreyek

Flying through an Aurora Borealis

My personal top-10 moment this year, while flying to the UK over the arctic. I was surprised that there was no special announcement from the flight deck that we were flying through a crazy natural phenomenon… and I might have been the only passenger to open my blinds in the middle of the night to see it. I always sit by the window when I fly. I find it important for myself to keep the awareness that I am a tiny human hurtling through the air in a metal tube with wings—and also see the vastness of the earth from this special aerial perspective—just a bit of my own small “overview effect” each time I fly. I recommend it.

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Photo: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta

Landing on a comet. Hooray, Humans! More of these kind of things, please.

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Boyhood

A beautiful film. It took me along with the protagonist through growing up again… and little disappointment in adults/world.

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b6ac73f1fc10095c3b07061934b3f5c1Ryoji Ikeda

Superposition: I really loved the percussionists as stage performers, tasks as performance.

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maxresdefaultLast Week Tonight

It sure takes humor to have any perspective on this crazy world…

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Careful’s album, The World Doesn’t End

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Photo: Jeffrey Wells

Karen Sherman

One With Others was my other favorite show in 2014, also at Fusebox.

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