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Filling an Experimental-Shaped Hole, Part 1: An Introduction

very interesting has been happening on a quarterly basis over at the
Austin Film Society. However, unless you are personal friends with the
artists I’ll mention, or you’re a devout reader of the Austin
‘s special screenings section, or you happened to log on to
the Austinist for the day or so the posts were up, or you check AFS’s
website religiously, you probably had no idea. It started on January
30, when artist/filmmaker Scott Stark inaugurated his brain-child of a
series, Avant Cinema, by presenting some of his own films and videos in
a program titled "Going Nowhere Slow." The second edition, "A Dazzling
" on April 23, presented the work of three local artists,
directors PJ Raval and Samantha Krukowski, and musician Rick Reed. The
first two presented a few short pieces they had created, while
Reed presented a video by experimental film legend Ken Jacobs which he
had soundtracked (pop-up fact: the two met when Cinematexas asked them to collaborate for a live performance back in 2004). For the third edition, "Ghosts of the Past, Specters
of the Future
," screened  on July 23rd, Stark invited me to show a
selection of my own work and, in an expansion of focus in programming,
present a few videos to contextualize it.

have attended all three editions and have been very pleasantly
surprised to find every single edition has brought out enough bodies to
fill the tiny theater at Austin Studios where the screenings have taken
place. In other words, so far this year, there has been a sustainable experimental film/video series in Austin.
Granted, most of the work has local ties, and the theater seats about
45 when folding chairs are added to the mix, but to someone as jaded by
local audiences as myself, it’s a pretty amazing feat.

my pinko experimental-film/video-for-the-masses tendencies behind, the
best thing about this series is that I’ve seen some of the coolest shit
I’ve run into all year in that little dark room…
Scott Stark, Angel Beach (excerpt), 2001, 16mm, 27:00

The first edition brought
with it some of Stark’s greatest hits, most of which I’d already seen
and already loved, like Angel Beach, a gorgeous collection of
GIFs on celluloid
that was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, and
some I hadn’t, like the rapturous I’ll Walk With God, a hymnic
reassemblage of airline mysticism and probably one of the most shining
examples of the art of editing to be shown in Austin this year.
Ken Jacobs, Capitalism: Child Labor (still), 2006, video, 14:00

second edition brought with it hands down the most inspiring and
amazing video I’ve seen in Austin all year: Ken Jacob’s Capitalism:Child Labor. From one single stereoscopic image of a Victorian textile
mill staffed by boys, Jacobs teases and manifests 14 minutes of
throbbing righteous indignation at the cruelty of a system that still
permeates every aspect of our lives, a system in which scenes like
these still happen in poorer, darker places (this post on videoarcadia has some
great quotes from Jacobs himself).
Torsten Z. Burns and Darrin Martin, Recall (still), 1999, video, 15:00

Finally for the most recent edition,
one of my all-time favorite short videos, Recall, by the criminally
underappreciated duo of Torsten Zenas Burns and Darrin Martin takes the
Kuleshov effect and stretches its limits ad absurdum to
create an alternate reality training tape for some sort of
(re/de)programming therapy. The most baffling thing about Recall is
that it somehow makes sense and that absolutely every single element in
this video is exactly how and where Burns and Martin meant them to be.
Despite having practically memorized this particular work, each new viewing still brings fresh insight into just how
Burns and Martin have managed to create radically experimental modes and
techniques for working with audiovisual material and reminds me that
despite 100+ years of moving images, there is still so much that can be
done with the medium.

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3 Responses

  1. David O

    Best gratuitous use of the word ‘sustainable’ award goes to you today. Italics were a nice touch. Now lets all say ‘quotidian’ together.

  2. Ivan L

    You remind me of that episode of The Simpsons where Ned Flanders tapes everything that comes on TV so he can watch it frame by frame to find all the evil parts and write letters, or in this case, idiotic gratuitous comments.

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