At this year’s Ann Arbor Film Festival I was honored to participate in the first year of their educational program, Expanding Frames. Expanding Frames was great - full of smart folks and big ideas. The rest of the festival was truly outstanding - the work was impressive and thoughtfully and artfully programmed.
On Thursday we had a great crowd for a screening of two of Nathaniel Dorsky’s incredibly expressive films at Plug Projects. Seeing the films on 16mm brought some much needed light to my February. Here are some stills from the films we screened, Arbor Vitae and Song.
MARVELOUS MOVIE MONDAYS!!
guest curated by Caitlin Horsmon
For our final look at ‘Our Animal Brethren’ we have a film from multidisciplinary artists Duke & Battersby. Here Is Everything begins with a missive from animals of the future offering advice about our time. Seamless integrating the micro and macro lessons we can take from our encounters with animals (real and make believe) the film explores the fundamentals of the life cycle, evolution, devolution and the ever present push of time.
“Here Is Everything presents itself as a message from The Future, as narrated by a cat and a rabbit, spirit guides who explain that they’ve decided to speak to us via a contemporary art video because they understand this to be our highest form of communication. Their cheeky introduction, however, belies the complex set of ideas that fill the remainder of the film. Death, God, and attaining and maintaining a state of Grace are among the thematic strokes winding their way through the piece, rapturously illustrated with animation, still and video imagery.” — Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby
Very much looking forward to Sum of Us a show of Kansas City Artists that Plug has put together at the Bemis Center. Opening Reception is Thursday January 30th and the show is up until June 28th.
The third installment looking at our relationship(s) to ‘Our Animal Brethren’ is comprised of two pieces from Kathy High’s year-long investigation into her own fears about dying at 45 in the year 2000, “Everyday Problems of the Living”. For the series High made a video every month for a year exploring her own fears about death by projecting her anxieties onto her cats and dog. In “Death Poses” and “Dried Up” High ‘performs her death’ for her pets, who turn out to be a comically unsympathetic audience and stymie her attempts to ‘die’. Playful consideration of the conventions of the Hollywood death is intermingled with an examination of artifice in human behavior through the ‘natural’ behavior of the non-human animals.
(This video was concealed for superstitious reasons for a waiting period of five years. It was finally released in 2005.)
Scott Dickson @plugprojects
Scott Dickson @plugprojects
Today in our filmic investigation of “Our Animal Brethren” we have Fossil Light - a film that exposes our desire to trap animals by taking us on a new kind of trophy hunt where the prize is an image. Vacillating between watching the tourists and participating in their project, Gault’s camera implicates the viewer in the touristic activity of producing evidence of an encounter with the wild through photographic capture - showing both landscape and inhabitants transformed by the process.
"Our intention with Fossil Light is to create a context where scrutiny is shifted 180 degrees, where a sentient environment and its animals gaze through the camera back at the tourist/audience." —Tony Gault
I’m so pleased to be curating Marvelous Movie Monday’s for the Echo Park Film Center this month - please head over to their website or Facebook page to follow the series there. It’s such a great organization with so many excellent programs. Check them out.
I love this film and have a small quotation? homage? to it in one of my own films - the fish the appear in Themes & Variations for the Naked Eye are the same variety as those who appear in Cat Food.
For the first film in this month’s series examining ‘Our Animal Brethren’ please enjoy Cat Food made in 1967 by the wonderful Canadian filmmaker and multi-disciplinary artist Joyce Wieland. Wieland’s film work is most often associated with structuralism though her often playful films are as engaged with feminism, political economies and expanded notions of portraiture. Many of Wieland’s films feature her own domestic space, and Cat Food unfolds like other of her films on her kitchen table.
I thought it appropriate in our current moment to begin this series with a film about the media darling of the animal world, the cat, but one that considers it as much as an elemental force as an individual performer. Cat Food as described by Hollis Frampton:
"A cat eats its methodical way through a polymorphous fish. The projector devours the ribbon of film at the same rate, methodically. The lay of Grimnir mentions a wild boar whose magical flesh was nightly devoured by the heroes of Valhalla, and miraculously regenerated next morning in the kitchen. The fish in Wieland’s film, and the miraculous flesh of the film itself, are reconstructed on the rewinds to be devoured again. Here is a dionysian metaphor, old as the West, of immense strength. Once we see that the fish is the protagonist of the action, this metaphor reverberates to incandescence in the mind." - Hollis Frampton
I couldn’t be more pleased to be guest curating the Echo Park Film Center’s “Marvelous Movie Monday’s” series for January. They are an amazing organization so stop by their website and check them out!
You can also follow all of the MMM fun on their Facebook page…
OUR ANIMAL BRETHREN
“If we conferred with our furry friends, Man to animal, think of all the things we could discuss”
Recently a new report of what constituted the first close-up in cinema has been circulating. Rather than a view through a magnifying glass or racy detail of a shoe being tied, this account surmises that the first close-up was created to show the detail of an ailing kitten. While I’m not very invested in what the first close-up was, it’s no surprise that there’s an animal movie in the mix of possibilities. Cute, ferocious, audacious or offensive animals are staples of the cinema and our contemporary visual lexicon.
The spheres animals and humans inhabit and the questions those realms present are all at the heart of this month’s group of films: the domestic and the wild, instinct and intellect, predators and prey, the nature of our natures and the possibility of interspecies communication. At the start of the year we often find ourselves examining our best and worst temperaments - pasts, futures, beginnings and endings. These movies look back at human behavior through the lens of the animal, our cohorts, cohabitants and objects of fascination. Our difference from animals has often been cited as a central element of our humanity. However this group of films poses ‘the animal’ in widely divergent ways that question the solidity of that border, examining the beasts in our midst both human and animal, and exploring how we imagine ourselves in and through our animal brethren.
Here is a link to the early closeup of the kitten The Sick Kitten, 1901