Conversations at the Edge - Spring 2020
Conversations at the Edge is a weekly series of screenings, performances, and talks by groundbreaking media artists. The program 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.
For more, visit www.saic.edu/cate.
An Evening with Vaginal Davis
1986-99, Vaginal Davis, USA, ca. 75 min.
- Thu, Feb 6th 6:00pm
Vaginal Davis is a key figure in the history of queer music, performance, and video art. She emerged from Los Angeles’s 1970s queer and punk performance scenes, creating her own mythology during live shows with her “multiracial, maxi-gendered” bands. She turned to video in the late 1980s, mixing identity, fiction, and critique in satiric narratives, underground documentaries, and a video offshoot of her influential zine Fertile La Toyah Jackson. In conjunction with the exhibition, The White to be Angry at the Art Institute of Chicago (February 1-April 26, 2020), Davis presents a selection of some of her most significant video works from the 1980s and 1990s and joins Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow Solveig Nelson for a discussion of the period. Presented in partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Society for Contemporary Art. Digital Video. (Hendrik Folkerts, Solveig Nelson, Amy Beste)
Lori Felker: Intrusions and Interruptions
2016-20, Lori Felker USA, ca. 75 min.
- Thu, Feb 13th 6:00pm
Known for genre-bending explorations of human relationships, award-winning filmmaker Lori Felker (MFA 2007) debuts a collection of slippery, semiautobiographical tales of motherhood, miscarriages, and missing people. In SPONTANEOUS (2020) she charts the loss of her pregnancy during the Slamdance Film Festival premiere of her short DISCONTINUITY (2016), highlighting the chasm between her body’s slow-moving tragedy and the celebrity-studded celebrations around her. NOT YOU (2020), starring both Felker and her daughter, relays the disorienting experience of new motherhood. I CAN’T (2020) is an angry elegy produced on the occasion of a friend’s untimely passing. Felker presents these alongside a selection of earlier works, including DISCONTINUITY and the haunting MEMORIA DATA (2018), among others, and discusses her overall practice. DCP. (Amy Beste)
2017-19, Multiple directors, Multiple nations, ca. 90 min.
- Thu, Feb 20th 6:00pm
Conceived by Belgrade-based curator Greg de Cuir Jr. as an “intervention into the status quo,” Avant-Noir brings together contemporary films and videos by international artists of African descent to showcase visual representations of Black cultures in their many complexities. Part of a much larger project of iterative screenings and exhibitions, this special edition spotlights works from the last two years. Baloji’s stunning ZOMBIES (2019) is both an Afrofuturist music video and satire of digital consumer culture. Ayo Akingbade’s poetic A IS FOR ARTIST (2018) charts the artist's growing political consciousness. Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich’s A QUALITY OF LIGHT (2019) is an Afrosurrealist portrait of the artist’s composer grandmother. Edgar Arceneaux’s UNTIL, UNTIL, UNTIL… (2017–18) probes the history of African American representation on stage and screen through the bifocal lens of Broadway actor Ben Vereen and vaudeville star Bert Williams, America’s first mainstream Black entertainer. Multiple formats. (Greg de Cuir)
South by Southeast
2017-19, Multiple directors, multiple nations, ca. 60 min.
- Sat, Feb 22nd 12:00pm
While the countries in southern and eastern Europe share common histories and cultures, they have alternately been classified as Balkan and Mediterranean, as capitalist and socialist, as Western and non-Western, and as European and non-European. South by Southeast convenes a wide range of artistic works, many of which are screening for the first time in the United States, to deconstruct both geopolitical and aesthetic boundaries while mapping out a new conception of Europe. Originally established by Belgrade-based curator Greg de Cuir Jr. as an annual program of the Alternative Film/Video Festival in Belgrade, this edition features works produced for cinemas, galleries, and the internet by Damir Čučić, Armando Lulaj, Igor Simić, Peter Lichter, Julia Lazarkova, Diana Vidrascu, belit sağ, and Igor Bošnjak. Multiple formats. (Greg de Cuir)
Linda Mary Montano: Laughing, Crying, Living Art
1977-2019, Linda Mary Montano, USA, ca. 90 min.
- Thu, Feb 27th 6:00pm
Linda Mary Montano is renowned for videos and endurance-based performances that dissolve the boundaries between art and life. In works like Art/Life One Year Performance 1983–1984, a collaboration with Tehching Hsieh, she spent a year bound to the artist by an eight-foot rope; in 14 Years of Living Art (1984–98), she wore monochromatic clothing, devoted herself to meditative practice, and provided monthly “Art/Life Counseling” at the New Museum in New York (1984–91). Her transformative videos draw upon her biography, from the murder of her ex-husband in the powerfully cathartic MITCHELL’S DEATH (1977) to the humor of the everyday. For this special evening, Montano performatively discusses her body of work, presents a selection of videos, and guides the audience through an interactive healing modality that alternates between laughing and crying, embodying the fundamentally empathic nature of her practice. Presented in partnership with SAIC’s Video Data Bank. Digital video and live performance. (Amy Beste)
2019, Mariah Garnett, UK/USA, 83 min.
- Thu, Mar 5th 6:00pm
In the early 1970s, Mariah Garnett’s father fled Northern Ireland after being the subject of a BBC documentary about relationships that crossed the country’s violent religious and political divide. Four decades later, the Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker returned to her father’s native Belfast, immersing herself in the city’s sectarian upheavals to make her own film about his early life. Named one of Sight & Sound’s best films of 2019, TROUBLE mixes archival footage, contemporary interviews, and a series of extraordinary performances in which Garnett plays her father, reenacting both the BBC documentary and his present-day reflections on the period. Through its multifaceted form, the film depicts the complexities of identity and the echoing effects of personal and historical trauma. DCP digital. (Amy Beste)
Beatrice Gibson: Two Sisters
2018–19, Beatrice Gibson, France/UK, ca. 50 min.
- Thu, Mar 12th 6:00pm
Incorporating experimental music, poetry, and improvisation, the award-winning films of London-based artist Beatrice Gibson are shape-shifting explorations of social and political turmoil. In two powerful, deeply connected works—I HOPE I’M LOUD WHEN I’M DEAD (2018), which takes its title from a poem by CAConrad, and DEUX SOEURS QUI NE SONT PAS SOEURS (TWO SISTERS WHO ARE NOT SISTERS) (2019), based on a screenplay by Gertrude Stein—Gibson defines the nature of motherhood and community in an age of contemporary anxiety. Weaving together images of joy and horror with readings by Conrad, Eileen Myles, Alice Notley, filmmakers Ana Vaz and Basma Alsharif, as well as friends and family, Gibson builds an archive of stories, at once triumphant and traumatic, cynical and optimistic, toward a collective future. DCP. Presented in partnership with the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, a project of Chicago Filmmakers. (Emily Eddy and Amy Beste)
An Evening with Ian Cheng
2014-20, Ian Cheng, USA, ca. 75 min.
- Tue, Mar 24th 6:00pm
Drawing on principles of video game design, improvisation, and cognitive science, Ian Cheng's practice explores the nature of mutation and the capacity of humans to relate to change. He produces computer-generated simulations whose complex ecosystems are programmed to evolve without end. These projects include the Emissaries trilogy (2014–17), a set of works in which the motivation of a narrative agent—the emissary—is set into conflict with the open-ended chaos of the simulation. In 2019, he debuted BOB (Bag of Beliefs), an AI creature whose personality, body, and life story evolve across exhibitions, what Cheng calls “art with a nervous system.” Multiple formats. Presented in partnership with SAIC’s Visiting Artists Program
This Set of Actions is a Mirror
2016-19, Multiple directors, USA, ca. 75 min.
- Thu, Apr 2nd 6:00pm
Referencing a phrase from Carolyn Lazard’s A RECIPE FOR DISASTER (2018), This Set of Actions Is a Mirror gathers together works by Christine Sun Kim, Thomas Mader, Alison O’Daniel, and Carolyn Lazard that challenge the sensory hierarchies implicit in media and by extension, society at large. In A RECIPE FOR DISASTER (2018), Julia Child’s The French Chef—the first captioned television show in the United States—serves as the starting point for a rich study of the conditions of access. In O’Daniel’s THE TUBA THIEVES: THE SEA, THE STARS, A LANDSCAPE (2017–19), a quest for lost instruments and discovery of new sounds reflects the artist’s own navigations with binaural hearing loss. In CLASSIFIED DIGITS (2016), Kim and Mader playfully use sign language to express awkward scenarios. Together, these works expand and complicate systems of communication while examining the practices (and systemic failings) of accessibility. Organized by Minh Nguyen (MAAH 2020). Multiple formats. (Minh Nguyen)