Screenings Feature Bruce Connor, Contemporary Animation, Cubist Films, Haitian Vodou, Animated GIFs, and the Kuchar Brothers
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (October 3, 2017) — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College announces the fall 2017 schedule of screenings for Whole Grain: Experiments in Film & Video, beginning Saturday, October 7.
The Whole Grain series presents six programs that explore classic and contemporary work in experimental film and video. The schedule in brief:
- Saturday, October 7, 4 pm: Found-footage pioneer Bruce Conner
Thursday, October 26Tuesday, November 28, 7 pm: Contemporary digital animation
- Saturday, November 4, 4 pm: Short films in the Cubist film tradition
- Saturday, November 11, 4 pm: Maya Deren’s experimental documentary on Haitian Vodou
- Thursday, November 16, 7 pm: A feature-length exploration of the animated GIF
- Saturday, December 2, 4 pm: The campy world of brothers George and Mike Kuchar
Whole Grain is programmed by the Sean Fuller, the Tang Store and Publications Manager, and Tom Yoshikami, the Tang Museum Educator for College and Public Programs, in conjunction with the following Skidmore College faculty members: Paul Benzon, Visiting Assistant Professor, English Department; Paul Sattler, Associate Professor, Art Department; Sarah Sweeney, Associate Professor, Art Department; and Adam Tinkle, Visiting Assistant Professor, Media and Film Studies Program.
Saturday, October 7, 4 pm: Five Films by Bruce Conner
Bruce Conner (1933-2008) worked in a range of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, and collage. He is best known for his work in found-object assemblages and filmmaking, in which he pioneered a quick-cut method of editing that he incorporated in footage from various sources. The program of five seminal films includes two of his most influential works: A Movie (1958) and Crossroads (1976).
A Movie (1958, US, 12 min., 16mm): Connor’s legendary collage film is comprised of found black-and-white footage involving a woman undressing, a tightrope walker, scuba divers exploring sunken ships, and nuclear clouds. The clips are occasionally interrupted with a misleading placard reading “The End.”
Cosmic Ray (1961, US, 4.5 min., 16mm): Cosmic Ray prominently features black-and-white footage of a dancing nude woman with a pearl necklace, interspersed with clips of Mickey Mouse, soldiers, and newsreel footage of atomic bomb explosions, all set to Ray Charles' "What'd I Say."
- Report (1963-67, US, 13 min., 16mm): Featuring various live news reports of President Kennedy’s assassination, the film highlights a clip of Kennedy and the First Lady smiling in their car, which is repeated, followed by flashing black and white footage. The flashing increases in speed as audio newscasts of the assassination develop. Note: You may want to avoid watching if prone to seizures.
Marilyn Times Five (1973, US, 13 min., 16mm): A short experimental film that depicts a series of clips of Marilyn Monroe-look alike Arline Hunter undressed, drinking Coca Cola out of a glass bottle. The 13 minutes of Hunter’s body is accompanied by Monroe’s song “I’m Through with Love.”
- Crossroads (1976, US, US, 37 min., digital): Featuring 37 minutes of extreme slow-motion replays of the July 25, 1946, Operation Crossroads Baker underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.
Thursday, October 26 Tuesday, November 28, 7pm: Contemporary Experiments in Animation
These five short avant-garde animations feature contemporary animators employing wildly different approaches, such as stop motion, collage, CGI, appropriated video games, and even emojis. The artists in this program—Hank Willis Thomas, Kambui Olujimi, Carla Gannis, Harun Farocki, Helen Marten, and Christina Grupposo—render recognizable imagery and iconography to make deep observations about contemporary society, politics, religion, and even the meaning of life.
- 1000 Marys (Christina Gruppuso, US, 2001, 4 min., digital): An exploration of iconography of the Virgin Mary from Early Christian to Modern painting, 1000 Marys was a degree project by RISD alumni Christina Gruppuso. Constructed the way one’s eye would travel over a single painting, the camera travels over hundreds of images of Mary, discovering the many ways artists have revered her smile, hands, eyes, and the baby Jesus himself. Each rendition of the Virgin Mary is narrated by the sounds of birds chirping, soft ominous music, and static.
Garden of Emoji Delights (Carla Gannis, US, 2015, 3 min, digital): Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych is recreated for the digital, phone-obsessed era. Gannis transforms the religious, often surreal imagery of Bosch's work by replacing key features of the original with emojis. The wild display of flashing animated emojis proclaims the emptiness of contemporary consumer culture and the shallowness of modern social networks.
Parallel IV (Harun Farocki, Germany, 2014, 12 min., digital): The final installment in Farocki’s four-part cycle of works that focus on the construction, visual landscape, and inherent rules of computer-animated worlds, Parallel IV explores the actions of the heroes and protagonists in video games. These heroes have no parents or teachers; they must test their relationships with others and determine on their own accord the rules to follow.
Orchids, or a Hemispherical Bottom (Helen Marten, 2015, 20 min., digital): Originally presented as a room-sized installation at the 55th Venice Biennale, Helen Martin’s Orchids sets forth a glossy and alluring world of free-floating and fragmentary objects excised from normal context and imbued with an impossible digital sheen. The voiceover—intimate diaristic revelations or idle chitchat—takes us on a surreal journey in which evocative images mass together into a heady mélange of resonances, suggesting a sensual kind of catastrophe.
Winter in America (Hank Willis Thomas & Kambui Olujimi, 2005, 5 min., digital): A collaboration between Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi, Winter in America is based on the events leading up to the murder of Songha Thomas Willis on February 2, 2000, outside Club Evolutions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The narrative is derived from an interview with Todd Rose, the main witness to the crime, and notes taken by Leslie Willis, the victim’s mother, during the ensuing murder trial. The stop-motion film technique is employed to animate the G.I. Joe action figures the artists once used to create similar narratives in childhood. The packaging for the action figures reads, “for children ages 5+.” Among the many elements the artists intend to highlight with this project is the breeding of a culture of violent thoughts for young boys who are invited to author violent scenarios before they can even read.
Saturday, November 4, 4pm: Cubist Film Tradition
Early avant-garde shorts by three influential European filmmakers—Fernand Léger, Hans Richter, and Oskar Fischinger—examine the influence of the Cubist movement in film. All three artists come to filmmaking from other artistic practices, and their films are some of the most influential experiments in film history, including Léger’s seminal Ballet Mécanique.
Ballet Mecanique (Fernand Léger, 1924, France, 15 min., 16mm): This film remains one of the most influential experimental works in the history of cinema. The only film made directly by the artist Fernand Léger, it demonstrates his concern during this period—shared with many other artists of the 1920s—with the mechanical world. In Léger's vision, however, this mechanical universe has a very human face. The objects photographed by Dudley Murphy, an American photographer and filmmaker, are transformed by the camera and by the editing rhythms and juxtapositions. In Ballet Méchanique, repetition, movement, and multiple imagery combine to animate and give an aesthetic raison d'être to the clockwork structure of everyday life. The visual pleasures of kitchenware—wire whisks and funnels, copper pots and lids, tinned and fluted baking pans—are combined with images of a woman carrying a heavy sack on her shoulder, condemned like Sisyphus (but through a cinematic sense of wit) to climb and re-climb a steep flight of stairs on a Paris street. The dynamic qualities of film and its capacity to express the themes of a kinetic 20th-century reach a significant level of accomplishment in this early masterpiece of modern art.
Filmstudie (Hans Richter, 1925, Germany, 4 min): An amalgam of human faces, flaring eyeballs, and abstractions, Filmstudie, in Richter’s own words, “develops abstract forms as part of the world we live in, as its nearest expression underlying the unending manifoldness of appliances.”
Ghosts Before Breakfast (Hans Richter, 1928, Germany, 9 min): A humorous, delightful, and grotesque film in which ordinary objects rebel against their daily routine and, for a brief period of liberation, follow their own laws.
Rennsymphonie (Hans Richter, 1928, Germany, 9 min): An impressionistic documentary on the preparation and start of a horse race at a track near Berlin.
R.5, Ein Spiel in Linien (Study No. 5) (Oskar Fischinger, 1930, Germany, 3 min): An abstract ballet set to the music of the popular foxtrot “I’ve Never Seen a Simile Like Yours.”
Allegretto (Oskar Fischinger, 1936, Germany, 2 min): An exploration of movement and color in this abstract collage, synchronized to a jazzy Big Band score.
An American March (Oskar Fischinger, 1941, Germany, 3 min): An abstract animation featuring a syncopated succession of rapidly mutating, polychromatic forms, set to Sousa’s classic march “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Kreise (Circles) (Abstract version) (Oskar Fischinger, 1933-34, Germany, 2 min): Fischinger’s own version of his ad, the film is a free-form composition of radiating circles set to music.
Komposition in Blau (Composition in Blue) (Oskar Fischinger, 1935, Germany, 4 min): Paper cutouts and wooden blocks are carefully choreographed to an orchestral piece with a bluesy mood.
Saturday, November 11, 4pm: Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti
Maya Deren (1917-1961), the legendary avant-garde filmmaker, also visited Haiti numerous times between 1947 and 1952 to document dance and possession in Haitian Vodou.
- Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (Maya Deren, 1977, 54 min, 16mm). This experimental documentary, and edited and completed after Deren’s death, consists primarily of images of dancing and bodies in motion during rituals in various Rada and Petro services. Deren’s film was based on her book of the same name, which served as inspiration to artist Willie Cole’s To get to the other side, on view in the Tang’s exhibition Other Side: Art, Object, Self.
Thursday, November 16, 7pm: twohundredfiftysixcolors
This screening features featuring live improvised musical accompaniment by Skidmore Professor Adam Tinkle.
- twohundredfiftysixcolors (Eric Fleischauer & Jason Lazarus, 2013, 97 min., digital): Twohundredfiftysixcolors is an experimental feature-length film made entirely of animated GIFs that traces the file format's arc of increased complexity and pointed use since it was introduced in 1987. Crafted from over 3,000 animated GIFs, the work is an expansive and revealing portrait of what has become a zeitgeist medium. Once used primarily as an Internet page signpost, the file type has evolved into a nimble and ubiquitous tool for pop-cultural memes, self-expression, and artistic gestures. The film is a curated archive that functions as a historical document charting the GIF's evolution, its connections to early cinema, and its contemporary cultural and aesthetic possibilities.
Saturday, December 2, 4pm: The Underground World of Mike and George Kuchar
These whimsical and outrageous art movies will undermine your definition of “art movie.” The Kuchar brothers, fraternal twins George and Mike, each brother a prominent avant-garde filmmaker by the late ‘60s, began making films as teens in New York City, creating intentionally amateurish films with campy acting, colorful sets, fanciful characters, and eccentric subject matter. This program features two films by George, who passed away in 2011, and one by Mike, who recently won the Guggenheim fellowship in Film-Video.
Dwarf Star (Mike Kuchar, 1974, US, 20 min, 16mm): Mike Kuchar speculates what the year 6,000,000,000 A. D. will be like, when a divided human race is brought together to confront galactic empires, cybernetics, evolution, nature worship, and an epic atomic explosion. This lush, effects-heavy film will propel you 5,999,997,983 years into the future.
Hold Me While I’m Naked (George Kuchar, 1966, US, 17 min, 16mm): Presented as loosely autobiographical, Hold Me While I’m Naked follows the tribulations of an independent filmmaker, frustrated by circumstance as he tries to make a film of artistic merit. This is by far the most well-known Kuchar Brothers film and was voted into the Village Voice's Critics' Poll of the 100 Best Films of the 20th Century.
- Ascension of the Demonoids (George Kuchar, 1986, US, 45 min, 16mm): One of George Kuchar's last films before he switched to video, this film explores the phenomena of UFOs. Made after he had just created multiple films on the topic already, Kuchar was looking to "make a spectacle" and "wanted to get off the subject." The film switches between cheap special effects sequences, psychedelic montages, and discussions between UFO believers and a woman who shares her recipes, angelic visitors from outer space, big-foot and a couple playing a flute, and other oddities.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information, please call 518-580-8080 or visit http://tang.skidmore.edu.
The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York's Capital Region, the institution's approach has become a model for university art museums across the country—with exhibition programs and series that bring together the visual and performing arts with fields of study as disparate as history, astronomy, and physics. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, the Mellon Seminar, and robust publication and touring exhibition initiatives that extend the institution's reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum's building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of ideas and exchange the institution catalyzes. The Tang is open Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 pm, with extended hours until 9 pm on Thursday.