Conversations at the Edge Spring 2018
February 15 - April 19
Conversations at the Edge is a dynamic weekly series of screenings, artist talks, and performances by some of the most compelling media artists of yesterday and today. CATE is organized by the Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center and the Video Data Bank.
Visit the CATE blog at blogs.saic.edu/cate.
Purge This Land
2017, Lee Anne Schmidt, USA, 80 min.
- Thu, Mar 1st 6:00pm
Just before his execution, white abolitionist John Brown wrote, “I am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” In her new film, PURGE THIS LAND, L.A.-based filmmaker Lee Anne Schmitt uses Brown’s legacy to consider the long shadows of slavery and systemic, violent racism on the US’s psychic and physical landscape. She interweaves shots of rural back roads and urban centers throughout the country, memorializing the sites of Brown’s radicalization alongside those of race riots, police shootings, and other forms of white racial violence and black disenfranchisement over the last 150 years. Set to a score referencing the histories of black music by Jeff Parker, the film resists easy resolution, modeling resistance instead. DCP digital. (Amy Beste)
March 1: Lee Anne Schmitt and Jeff Parker are scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
Laura Huertas Millán: Ethnographic Fictions
2016-17, Laura Huertas Millán, Colombia/Mexico, ca. 72 min.
- Thu, Mar 8th 6:00pm
Investigating the terrain between fiction and ethnography, French-Colombian filmmaker Laura Huertas Millán has created a multi-faceted body of work where political history and personal narrative meet. Her 2016 film SOL NEGRO is a portrait of Antonia, a Colombian opera singer, her sister, and her niece. Empathy and anger are exchanged between the women as they each reckon with feelings of deep sorrow and entrapment — within themselves and within the family. LA LIBERTAD (2017) explores the ties that bind labor and creativity by centering on the Navarros, a Mesoamerican matriarchal family that has inherited and mastered the art of weaving on the backstrap loom. Across both of these ethnographic fictions, Huertas Millán’s careful attention to detail reflects the exquisite experience of everyday life. DCP digital. (Ariel Clark-Semyck)
March 9: Laura Huertas Millán is scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
Edward Owens: A Portrait Study
1966-68, Edward Owens, USA, 57 min.
- Thu, Mar 22nd 6:00pm
In the mid 1960s, Edward Owens (SAIC 1966-67), a young African American artist from the South Side of Chicago, burst onto New York's artistic underground scene with a series of strikingly beautiful films of heartbreak, queer desire, and his own family. With their layered images and flickering edits, the films show the influence of Owens' mentor, filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos, with whom he had studied as one of the first film students at SAIC. Yet, Owens developed a distinct style, particularly in his painterly approach to portraiture and allegory. These films were lauded by his contemporaries; for example, the critic Parker Tyler included Owens' 1967 film REMEMBRANCE: A PORTRAIT STUDY as one of the avant-garde's key works in his landmark study "Underground Film: A Critical History." Despite these achievements, Owens' works have been largely overlooked until recent efforts by the critic Ed Halter and New York's Film-Makers' Cooperative to bring them to new light. Rarely screened in his own home town, this evening's program is a unique opportunity to reassess Owens' singular body of work. The program includes TOMORROW'S PROMISE (1967), REMEMBRANCE: A PORTRAIT STUDY (1967), AND PRIVATE IMAGININGS AND NARRATIVE FACTS (1968). Digital file. (Amy Beste)
March 22: Critic Ed Halter will introduce the program.
2016, Thorsten Trimpop, Japan, 90 min.
- Thu, Mar 29th 6:00pm
Thorsten Trimpop's films explore the many ways cultural, political, and ecological histories are borne by individuals in their daily lives. His most recent feature, FURUSATO, exposes the devastating effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown on the surrounding landscape and its inhabitants. Shot over the course of four years, the film follows a media-savvy activist, a horse breeder, a teen-rocker, and a nuclear engineer for the Tokyo Electric Power Company as they struggle to cope with the fallout of the ongoing disaster. The land that had once been a source of profound physical and cultural sustenance for Japan's eastern coast is now tainted with the invisible danger of radiation. Culminating in a traditional horse race, one that has taken place since the eighth century, but now provokes intense anxiety among inhabitants, FURUSATO meditates on the unfathomable sacrifices wrought in the name of progress. In Japanese with English subtitles. DCP digital.
March 29: Filmmaker Thorsten Trimpop is scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
Hayoun Kwon: Films and Virtual Realities
2011-17, Hayoun Kwon, South Korea/France/USA, 75 min.
- Thu, Apr 5th 6:00pm
Through a unique interplay of documentary techniques and animation technologies, the films and virtual reality projects of Paris-based South Korean artist Hayoun Kwon present new realms for history and memory. Biographical accounts of a Nigerian asylum seeker in LACK OF EVIDENCE (2011) and a South Korean soldier serving in the Korean Demilitarized Zone in 489 YEARS (2015) are mapped onto spectacular animated landscapes that undergo dramatic transformations in perspective. North Korea's propaganda village Kijŏng-dong is replicated in Kwon's MODEL VILLAGE (2014), which highlights the irony of an uninhabited utopia, while THE BIRD LADY (2017) immerses viewers into a Parisian apartment turned aviary. Kwon's striking images reflect the shifting psychic and geopolitical realities of her subjects. The artist presents a selection of films, two recent virtual reality projects, and discusses the ideas and technologies that sustain her practice. (Ariel Clark-Semyck)
April 5: Filmmaker Hayoun Kwon is scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
The Nation's Finest
1971–2013, multiple artists, USA/Lebanon/United Kingdom/Hong Kong, multiple formats, ca 71 min.
- Thu, Apr 12th 6:00pm
For millennia, sports have been intrinsic to daily life, physical well-being, education, civic identity, and social harmony. Over the past decade, sports have assumed an even larger, more multidimensional place in our culture. The traditional schisms and antagonisms between sports performance and spectatorship, creative production, and scholarly activity (jocks vs nerds, square vs cool), have been blurred. Featuring works by Haig Aivazian, I AM A BOYS CHOIR, Tara Mateik, Nam June Paik, Keith Piper, Lillian Schwartz, and the Internet, this program deconstructs the athlete’s body—how it is used for national, political, and social agendas, and how it is viewed and re-crafted by artists (who are sometimes athletic). For example, Nam June Paik’s Lake Placid ‘80 (1980) is an unruly and slyly subversive commission for the Olympic Winter Games whereas Keith Piper’s Nation’s Finest (1990) mimics the look and tone of state propaganda with a silky, biting critique of the way predominantly White countries use Black bodies in the service of national pride while simultaneously disenfranchising their Black residents. The Nation’s Finest is curated by Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere and organized as part of INCITE: Journal of Experimental Media’s forthcoming issue, “Sports.”
April 12: Introduced by curators Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere.
An Evening With Joan Jonas
1968–2017, multiple countries, multiple formats, ca 90 min.
- Thu, Apr 19th 6:00pm
Among the most significant artists working today, Joan Jonas has a groundbreaking body of work that spans video, performance, dance, installation, and drawing to explore fundamental questions around visual perception, ritual, archetypes, and transmission of knowledge. Initially trained as a sculptor, she began experimenting with performance in the late 1960s, merging elements of contemporary dance, Japanese Noh theater, and props like masks, mirrors, and eventually, video cameras and monitors. In works like Songdelay (1973) she incorporated distance and sound to draw attention to the ways perception is altered by space. In Organic Honey’s Vertical Roll (1972) she performed alongside a video monitor, exploring the medium’s ability to both reflect and obscure her image. In the years since, her electrifying videos and multimedia works have combined folk tales, dreams, and autobiography and frequently feature collaborators, including Tilda Swinton, jazz pianist Jason Moran, and Sami yoik singer Ánde Somby, among others. Jonas presents an overview of her practice, including a selection of films and videos from across her career.
April 19: Joan Jonas is scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
Latham Zearfoss: Home Movies
2008-18, Latham Zearfoss, USA, ca. 70 min.
- Thu, Feb 15th 6:00pm
The poetic and pop-infused videos of Chicago-based artist and organizer Latham Zearfoss unite themes of love, community, family, political legacy, personal agency, and collective action. In HOME MOVIE (2012), cell phone videos of social gatherings and public performances are layered with close-ups of natural life, naked bodies, and domestic interiors to form a kaleidoscopic notion of home — as a shared space, a sense of belonging, and site of intimacy. In EXTRAE (2016), shots of cats, unmade beds, and dried flower petals are paired with an irreverent ode to Tyrone Garner, one of the plaintiffs in the 2003 Supreme Court case that overturned archaic sodomy laws throughout the U.S. Zearfoss presents a collection of videos spanning the last decade, including the premiere of two new works, GOTH PARTY and WHITE BALANCE, and he restages SOMETHING TO MOVE IN (2014) and LOVE IS A STRANGER (2012) as live, interactive performances. With Darling Shear, Caroline Campbell, Lea Tshilds. Multiple formats. (Amy Beste)
Ephraim Asili: Diaspora Suite
2011-17, Ephraim Asili, Various nations, ca. 92 min.
- Thu, Feb 22nd 6:00pm
In 2011, New York-based filmmaker, DJ, and traveler Ephraim Asili began an extraordinary suite of films on the African diaspora. These films — FORGED WAYS (2011), AMERICAN HUNGER (2013), MANY THOUSANDS GONE (2015), KINDAH (2016), and FLUID FRONTIERS (2017) — bring together archival research and Asili’s travels through Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, and the United States to chart cultural connections across time and space. FLUID FRONTIERS, for example, explores ideas of resistance and liberation through Detroit’s Broadside Press, one of the most important imprints for Black poetry. Asili asks residents of Detroit and nearby Windsor to read these poems without rehearsal, potently collapsing history, contemporary politics, and art through their magnetic performances. In earlier works like AMERICAN HUNGER, Asili knits together images from Ghana’s Cape Coast slave fort and the New Jersey shore in an effort to understand his own relationship with Western colonialism and U.S. imperialism. Digital file. Presented in collaboration with SAIC’s Video Data Bank. (George William Price and Amy Beste)