Artists' Television Access

We watched! It was wild!

Watch This!, a collection of experimental video shorts curated by the Chicago-based programming group The Cinema Culture screened at ATA on Friday night.

The shorts were varied and fresh; the content became more dramatic as the program went on, and our audience was engrossed (all except one woman, who nodded off and snored, but she must have been sleep-deprived, because this work was very exciting).

The program opened with seashells, animated paper insects and mannequin heads that busted out of a 1980s computer in Alice Cohen’s Trance Action. On Vimeo, Cohen writes that the piece is a “trance induced video meditation with a home recorded sound collage.” It makes great use of paper cutouts and kalaidescoping– one side of the screen mirrors the other and the awkward movements of the animation recalls weird optical toys that you might have bought on a boardwalk in the 70s.

Science Made Clear, a video-poem by Nelson Carvajal unfolds like a melancholic reverie to lights in the fog. Blurring and unblurring the camera follows the movement of the city from behind trees, through rusted railings.. there’s a feeling of being left behind. First a woman talks, then a man talks. They sound lonely.

Face Odd and El Quatro by Amir George have the playful feeling of early Surrealist Cinema. There’s a freeness and joy in discovering what strange shapes emerge when lenses meet faces meet different shaped glass objects (warped faces!). Card games plus cryptic symbols are good fun.

We wandered under the elevated train with a drunk scholar in Auteur Pedagogy, layered video and echoing sound made me feel like I was drunk too (!), and there was a meditation on frozen microwave dinners in Looks Alive.

 The last piece was disturbing and dramatic: August the Terrible, by Lewis Vaughn. It started with this wild guy flexing his muscles in a bamboo forest. There was a lot of color bleeding into the video. Then it cut to an interview with a killer– he was telling us about killing people and why he loves it. The interview had awkward lighting. Then he was torturing someone and pissing on his face. Afterwards, more bleeding colors. It started and ended with a masked man hiding behind the bible. It was powerful, but I’m not sure to what end.

The most “fun” piece in the program was Chances! by Lindsay Denninberg, following the travails of two masked and leotarded dancers who make war on their a-hole dance instructor by interfering with his desire to collect a free exotic wife. Glittery and absurd, this film encourages masturbation among senior citizens. What a romp!

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