Obvious Dimensions

Light Industry at X-initiative’s NO SOUL FOR SALE

June 23-28, 2009
548 West 22nd Street
New York, New York


Opening Reception: June 23, 6-9 pm

“Provided a filmmaker is ingenious and creative enough, the marvelous can take place in an ordinary-sized room or a small studio set of obvious dimensions.” – Parker Tyler, Underground Film: A Critical History (1969)

Light Industry is one of over thirty participants in NO SOUL FOR SALE, a week-long exhibition at X-initiative that will bring together an international roster of nonprofits, collectives, and other alternative spaces, each sharing a portion of the venue’s galleries.

Our contribution will be Obvious Dimensions, a breathless, marathon series of screenings, performances, and lectures. Conceived in the spirit of Light Industry’s weekly events, the project will bring together the worlds of contemporary art, experimental cinema, new media, documentary film, and the academy, creating an environment in which to consider new models for the presentation of time-based media and rethink the possibilities of the cinema as a social space.

Tuesday, June 23

Instant Gratification
An arcade curated by Mark Essen + a new publication by Radical Software Group

Filled with counterintuitive physics, chaotic game mechanics and bursts of strobing color, the computer games of Mark Essen (aka Messhof) combine the essence of old 2D arcade titles with the viewer-challenging puzzle-logic of avant-garde cinema.

Essen will install playable games from three international artists. Featured titiles include, among others: Sexy Hiking by Ukranian game designer Jazzuo, a new 3D game from Swedish designer Jonatan Söderström (aka Cactus), and Essen’s own new game The Thrill of Combat, a high-speed side-scroller involving helicopter rescue and body organ theft.

In addition, Radical Software Group will distribute a new print publication based on Kriegspiel, their digital reinterpretation of Guy Debord’s strategy board game.

Special thanks to Eyebeam for their support with this event.

Wednesday, June 24

I Wish It Were True
Leslie Hewitt and William Cordova

I Wish It Were True is an evolving, functional "archive of cross-generational and international sentiments" initiated by Leslie Hewitt and William Cordova in 2002. Conceived as a living monument to Third Cinema and its legacies, the artists have imagined a physical and social space for screening films that represent Black and Latino consciousness against the grain of mainstream cinema. Curated for Light Industry by Steffani Jemison.

SOFT INTERCOM: Stan Vanderbeek's Early Wearable Media Projects
A lecture by Melissa Ragona

One of Stan Vanderbeek's predictions in the late 1950s was that cinema would become a performing art and an image library. Bringing these two concepts together, Vanderbeek began formulating ideas for audio-visual devices that would serve as educational tools, cumulatively becoming what he termed, "experience machines" or "culture-intercoms." Similar to earlier interpellations of people as extensions of technology—K.M. Turner, the inventor of the dictograph (precursor of the intercom) asked one of his associates in 1907: "Have you been dictographed?"—Vanderbeek called for the training of international troupes of artists as intermedia designers as well as test subjects of their own designs. Artists, with the help of prosthetic devices, acting in immersive media environments called "Movie Dromes" or "Image Libraries" were instructed to help disseminate a new "non-verbal, international picture-language." Vanderbeek's Movie Dromes have been mostly discussed as of part of a larger effort of 1960s expanded cinema to produce an immersive media experience. However, his earlier experiments in interactive television, in particular his production work for the 1950s children's television program Winky Dink and You and his MIT projects that included blueprints for a future TV jacket, were efforts to invent specific tools that would improve audience's efforts to collect and disseminate information, rather than simply bathe in the phenomenal light of multiple projections. - MR

George Barber/Beyond Language
Presented with LUX, curated by Matthew Noel-Tod

A pioneer of British video art, once described in Art Monthly as ‘the Henry Ford of independent video,’ George Barber was a founding member of ZG Magazine and a leading figure in the Scratch Video phenomenon of the 1980s. Moving away from Scratch in the early ’90s, Barber created many lo-tech video pieces and was influential in defining the then emergent ‘slacker’ aesthetic. Narrative is at the centre of much of his work, whether deconstructing it as in Scratch, or creating humorous and absurd situations to find existential meaning in the margins of modern life. Beyond Language presents a broad selection of Barber's influential video work from past 30 years from proto-Scratch works of the early ’80s to his recent return to assemblage and appropriation.

With live commentary provided by Barber.

Lost Tribes
Elisabeth Subrin

The premiere of Elisabeth Subrin's new dual-channel video installation Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, which revisits unedited 16mm footage documenting a Brooklyn neighborhood’s intense patriotic response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. A shot by shot recreation, the two screens present a simultaneous, parallel world, examining the subtle shifts in the gentrifying neighborhood exactly seven years later. Other works to be shown will include Shulie (1997) Subrin’s time-bending remake of a little-known 1967 student documentary on future radical feminist Shulamith Firestone, then a young Chicago art student, and Hollis Frampton’s (nostalgia) (1971), the seminal study of image, recollection, and narrative disjuncture.

Thursday, June 25

A Combination of Works by Oliver Laric and Wojciech Kosma

Artist Oliver Laric—who moonlights as the author of exhibition blog VVORK—has organized an program remotely from Berlin. The event will bring together a re-enactment of a performance by Polish artist Wojciech Kosma that uses a living body as variable projector stand and a screening of Laric's video essay Versions (2009) in multiple iterations, each with a distinct audio track conceived by different artists: Dani Admiss, Guthrie Lonergan, Momus, and Laric himself.

Invisible Cinema
A presentation by Tom Zummer

Cinema, it may be said, begins within the passing-away of photography. This is not to say that photography has, in some way, suffered a demise, a diminuation, or an end, but that the differences between these media are marked in a negative interval, a becoming-other of the photographic and the cinematic, even as their complicities are both pluralized, and that doubling obscured. Photography's imaginary, configured in its presumptions of verisimilitude and presence, takes up residence within cinema and subsequent media, secretly, almost invisibly, a hidden alterity within the visible.

It is a transition that took place with an invisible arrestment, in the stilled pause of an apparently static image. By the end of the 19th century the projection of photographs was an established and familiar spectacle, as attested by the large archive of glass plate negatives produced for popular magic lantern shows still in evidence today. The Lumière freres, in their earliest cinematographic projections, quite likely took advantage of this naturalized familiarity to lull their audiences into a comfortable and habitual inattention. Imagine the shock, at cinema's very beginnings, where, on a wall or a screen in a dark crowded chamber a photographic projection, familiar and immobile, its tonal gradations having fixed buildings, trees, vehicles, figures in a frozen moment, suddenly jumps into motion. With a start one is caught up by a flickering mobile image, in a reflex that secures, in an unexpected moment, the relations between cognition, recognition and reproduction. What ensues is not the familiar motion of a closed cycle of continuous movement, such as one finds in a phenakistascope, zoetrope, or zoopraxinoscope, but a complex apprehension of discontinuous motion. Things, animals, and trees move independently of each other, in a manner that exceeds the stilled enframing of photography’s imagined capture. Bodies disappear or reappear, slipping on and off the 'screen' as they never do in the schema of proto-cinematic devices. Now, as Jacques Derrida has noted, we are indeed in the realm of phantoms.

Of course, there are many sorts of phantom: revenants and repressions, reflexes and recognitions, repetition, delirium, hallucination, error, or ruse, may all have a phantasmatic aspect. To have seen, or to think that one must have seen, something before, the uncanny resemblances of déjà vu, are phantoms in this sense. But, because media are in their very nature uncontainable, incapable of securing a complete mastery or consumption, there is always a remainder, an excess of familiar resonances, a mediation, or medium, that is conditional, potential, or virtual (in an older, broader, sense). In the register where the distinctions between memory and impression, the probable and the impossible, the actual and the imaginary become permeable and diffuse, yet still persuasive, lie a taxonomy of artifacts. Fragments, shards, suggestions of films that could have been made, or possibly were, or couldn’t have been, or were lost, perhaps imagined and never realized, sketched, scripted, performed. One can append a number of proper names to this strange territory, citing lost, unmade, or irrecuperable works by Artaud, Bataille, Brecht, Dreyer, Apollinaire, Magritte, Celine, Perec, Sartre, Vaneigem, Schlovski, Duchamp, Mayakovsky, Eisenstein, Soupault, Maholy-Nagy, Marx (Harpo), Dali, Welles, Gance, Rivette, Ichikawa, Ivens, Kubrick, Richter, Copolla, Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Teshigahara, Deren, Raynal, Dudow, Claire, Thornton, Feuillade, Derrida, Farocki, Foucault, Akerman, Frampton, Straub/Huillet. . .

Tonight’s presentation will project and discuss some of these intermittently invisible, inaudible, works. - TZ

Night of the Cobra Woman (Andrew Meyer, 1972)
Introduced by Saul Levine

“Defanging a snake is like castrating a man.”

Filmed in Slitherama! The director of this sexploitation classic holds an unusual pedigree. Beginning his career as a protégé of Gregory Markopoulos, crafting lyrical film portraits, he later went on to make some of the most remarkable, if underrated, grindhouse fare of his day. Like Curtis Harrington, who also went from queer avant-gardist to schlock auteur, Andrew Meyer’s idiosyncratic approach to film form is apparent no matter the mode of production.

P. Adams Sitney on Stan Brakhage and Ian Hugo

My talk for Light Industry will be on the Recovery and Interpretation of an almost lost avant-garde film. Ian Hugo's Melodic Inversion (1958) was shown at the Second Experimental Film Competition in Brussels and rarely seen after that. The only comments on the film were written by Anais Nin, the filmmaker's wife. Stan Brakhage saw it at Brussels where he had several films in competition. It had an enormous influence on his work. First in the way he structured The Dead (1959). The lecture will concentrate on the ways in which a chain of hunches and intuitions led eventually to the recovery of the lost history of the film, going back to 1949 and Hugo's first attempts to make films. - PAS

Friday, June 26

Curt McDowell/George Kuchar

Loads (Curt McDowell, 1980)
Curt McDowell's Loads is a 19-minute black-and-white gay porn movie that is so hot that it makes Kansas City Trucking Company feel like a three-hour Marguerite Duras film projected at half-speed. It is also a lot more than that, though this "more" amplifies the turn-on rather than legitimizes it. – Thomas Waugh

Video Album #5 / The Thursday People (George Kuchar, 1987)
In two parts, with a total length of 60 minutes, this diary chronicles the final visits I had with Curt McDowell, who was bed-ridden at the time with AIDS. The tape records the whole season inside and out and the food that went in and the feelings that went out. It's Easter time and the tone is one of a holiday feel instead of a hard-boiled bummer. All hard-boiled items are dyed for resurrection. - George Kuchar

Conversation with Paul Chan and Ben Coonley

Sardonic and no-brow, Ben Coonley’s videos and performances use consumer-level technology to overturn everyday conventions of media culture and tweak avant-garde histories. Coonley will show selections of his work for this conversation with artist Paul Chan.

In addition, Coonely will provide a series of new videos commissioned for Obvious Dimensions that will screen continuously throughout the week in between events.

Disambiguation (Bog House Miscellany)
Steve Reinke and James Richards

For this program, Steve Reinke and James Richards exchanged disks of found footage, sound recordings, and fragments of existing work. Each artist would re-edit and manipulate the other’s material before adding new elements and posting it back for further mixing, resulting in an exquisite corpse of swapped signals.

Dr. Videovich, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love TV
Curated by Leah Churner and Rebecca Cleman

"There is nothing left to do except television, which is the art most typical of this century." - JD

Do you have a television problem? Do you exceed your own limits—watching to the point of blacking out? Does TV interfere with your work? Sour your relationships with art-world friends?

Never fear, the good Dr. Videovich is on the line.

Dr. Videovich (aka Jaime Davidovich) is a showman on a mission to bridge art and TV. His legendary cable access program, The Live! Show (1979-1984), was "a variety show featuring real and invented personalities from the art world, with interviews, opinions, art performances, live call-ins, art lessons, and much more, all in a half-hour of lively entertainment."

Tonight, Light Industry at X-Initiative gives Dr. V center stage, with an evening of glittering gems from "The Live! Show" and must-see surprises galore.

This event, thanks to Eyebeam and the frequencies freed up by the recent death of analog television, will also be viewable as a pirate TV broadcast across Chelsea on channel 14.

Saturday, June 27

Why men refuse, I don’t know.
A lecture by Lucy Raven

In 1968, two nuns with microphones hit the streets of Chicago, asking passersby one question: Are you happy? Their encounters were documented by Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner in their film Inquiring Nuns, produced against the backdrop of an especially fractured American city at the height of the Vietnam War, though the origin of their query comes from France, by way of Africa. The nuns’ question is a quote from Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s pioneering cinema verité film Chronicle of a Summer, shot on the streets of Paris in the summer of 1960, in the midst of Algeria’s long struggle for independence from France. That film, which Morin called “an experiment in cinematographic interrogation,” was a form of ethnographic research—aided by new, lightweight camera and portable sound recording technology—provoked by a series of questions on seemingly simple topics, including happiness, about how people manage in life. Three years later, Chris Marker released La Jolie Mai, a challenging response to Chronicle, also shot on the streets of Paris, in the first spring of peace in France since 1939, and intercut with newsreel footage of the political turmoil collected throughout 1962.

Drawing on these three critical works, artist Lucy Raven presents an illustrated lecture on learning how to look at how we live.

An Injury to One (Travis Wilkerson, 2002)
Introduced by Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin

Radiating from an examination of the 1917 murder of labor agitator Frank Little, An Injury to One tells of the larger calamity known as Butte, Montana and its place in American culture, economy and environment. Armed with tremendous storytelling skill, this uncompromising, unapologetically leftist work of people's history draws together landscape, song and acute connections among the facts and footnotes of the official (or company) line, to arrive at a poetic, stirring tour de force of history as agitation. - Cinematexas

Two Films by Tom Rhoads (aka Luther Price) – Green + Warm Broth
Introduced by Lia Gangitano

Already recognized as a classic of contemporary avant-garde cinema, Warm Broth also deserves a place alongside Matthias Mueller's Alpsee as one of the most sophisticated and incisive films about queer childhood ever produced. The film is a meditation on the riddle of sexual origins, but Rhoads refuses to accept any of the easy Oedipal answers. In fact, the film's curiosity seems entirely focused on the play of surfaces: the seductive sheen of ribbon candies, Fire King coffee mugs, Melmac dishware, Fisher-Price toys. When the clues to sexual "secrets" do break the surface of the film — in the form of naughty words stenciled on floral print wallpaper, or brief glimpses of The Act itself — they immediately fade away again, like the after-images of a flashbulb pop. To what register of significance do these "revelations" belong? Do they wield more power or threat than the image of a melting fudgesicle? Than the inviting, fleecy texture of a Chanel-inspired topcoat? Only a dyed-in-the-wool fairy would have the nerve to ask such impertinent, trivializing questions, and yet these are the mysteries that seem to fascinate Price the most. Like the doll which keeps making nagging demands but leaves no room for any response, Price asks "deep" questions without really wanting to know the answers. – San Francisco Cinematheque

Curse of the Seven Jackals (Chris Jolly, 1999)
Introduced by Andrew Lampert

Curse of the Seven Jackals is a film that seemed to come from out of nowhere. Mostly set in the hotel room that the crew inhabited during the two-week shoot, Curse tells the story of Bernard, a synthetic blood test patient who dreams of traveling to Egypt, land of the Pharaohs. Helen, as played by the sublime non-actress Jill Carnes, is the hotel maid who takes Bernard out on the town for down-home karaoke and out-of-body bingo experiences. Like a semi-conscious sci-fi dream as directed by early Andy Warhol, filmmaker Chris Jolly's seminal American underground feature was made with an antiquated Auricon camera that recorded the soundtrack directly on the film. As disarmingly funny as it is aesthetically challenging, Curse stands tall as one of the last great 16mm underground features. – AL

Sunday, June 28

1:30 (Main Stage)
Bruce McClure

Trained as an architect, Brooklyn-based artist Bruce McClure has built a unique set of instruments in the form of modified 16mm projectors, hand-bleached film loops, guitar-effect pedals and variable transformers. He amplifies and distorts the sounds of the projectors through the guitar pedals, producing kerranging cascades of relentless mechanical beats whose shifting intervals create phantom melodies. By turning projectors into instruments, McClure has found the means to create a visual music that is unique to the medium of film. Stripping the apparatus down to its barest elements—beams of light, whirring machinery, color and shadow, and the serial rhythms of flicker—McClure can then reconstruct cinema as it has never been seen or heard before.

Strain Andromeda The (Anne McGuire, 1992)
Presented with Video Data Bank

Every film tacitly promises that you'll have something to look forward to. Embedded in this notion is an obdurate clinging to linearity; time sweeps forward and so too must the mechanism of storytelling. Anne McGuire, the locally based media artist, wanted something to look back on when she salvaged a feature-length sci-fi film and re-edited it backwards. That's right: cut for cut in reverse order. The effect of this roll reversal is staggering, a vertigo of viewership. As the narrative unfolds, every action followed by its stimulus, every comment by its query, you find yourself in a dizzying spin, grasping desperately for causal certainty, yet firmly held by the reversibility of suspense. The story itself is a biotech thriller about a research team trying to identify, then neutralize, an unknown killer virus. Following the team's incremental progress, the original film's discrete structure is the perfect foil for McGuire's antidote to directionality. Humorous, eye-opening, and outright hallucinatory, Strain Andromeda The could be the end of cinema as we know it. — Steve Seid, Pacific Film Archive

Rooms of Our Time: László Moholy-Nagy and Cinema Between Theater and Museum
A lecture by Noam Elcott

At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s, former Bauhaus master László Moholy-Nagy undertook his most ambitious projects to reconfigure the spaces of cinematic reception—as theater and as museum gallery. These twinned projects—designed for opera houses and theaters, temporary exhibitions and permanent museum installations—abandon the movie theater and propose radically divergent conceptions of space, images, spectatorship, screens, and media architecture.

Dan Streible on Sid Laverents

Scholar and founder of the Orphan Film Symposium Dan Streible offers a presentation on the work of Sid Laverents, longtime member of the San Diego Amateur Moviemakers Club and perhaps America’s most celebrated hobbyist filmmaker, who passed away at 100 in May 2009. Will include a screening of Laverents’ meticulously crafted 16mm opus, Multiple SIDosis (1966).

The poster for Obvious Dimensions, designed by Xander Marro, will be on view in X-initiative’s lobby throughout the exhibition.