No Drinks Allowed In Screening Room

by Ivan Lozano January 19, 2009
Otto Content Wizard
This past Thursday the Austin Film Society presented another edition of
their Avant Cinema series: No Drinks Allowed In  Screening Room. This time around, Rhizome darlings Ben
and Kevin Bewersdorf tweaked the format of the screening series
a little bit by not only including their video and film work but also
firing up the PowerPoint slides, or in Coonley’s case, the "PowerPoint
slides." For the most part, the Microsoft Office application was
somewhat of a unifying thread, making appearances a little more
regularly than one might expect at a Film Society. I was very happy to
notice that a lot more people from "the art crowd" made it out to the

Appopriation Piece, video still, 2008

After sitting through some mutant pre-show slides that taught us how to
"pimp our popcorn" and showing us what "Mixed Mediaaaaaaaaaah" was all
about, Coonley proceeded with his presentation "Remapping the
Apparatus: Cinematographic Specificity and Hybrid Media." Using
Jean-Louis Baudry’s Apparatus Theory as a  starting point and guided by
the Auto Content Wizard–as well as the Otto Content Wizard (his cat)–
Coonley touched on some pretty serious issues relating to the
ideologies that are embedded in PowerPoint and content presets. It was
really illuminating to se how Coonley’s evolution as an artist, evident
in the series of videos he showed, clearly delineates the ways in which
experimentl/underground/art video begat Net Art. From his
reappropriation of media in Titanic (1998) to "Trick Or Treat Pony"
(2003) and its use of found images (pre-Google Image Search) and near
HTML gestures to the more recent Appropriation Piece (2008) and its
cheeky discussions on Creative Commons, Fair Use and Open-Source (or,
Creative Come-ons, Fair Ewes and Open Sores), Coonley’s evolution as an
artist is fascinating.

Kevin Bewersdorf, Pre-Teen Contrapposto

Kevin Bewersdorf has a knack for interiorizing art history and finding it in the most mundane suburban locales. His video Yes, Communication, Unity
(2007) shows a group of high school kids yelling out one of three words
in a shot reminiscent of stock photography and early video art, when
the act of recording and playing back anything was revolutionary and
political in itself. In this case, the repetition becomes a talking
back to the recording mechanism and its structures, especially when the
incredibly simple editing that doesn’t hide itself is taken into
account. Following the video, bewersdorf presented a slide show
performance entitled Stock Photos of American Life, which
consisted of showing his photography while talking about it in a sort
of Michael Smith Lite way. It didn’t always work, but when it did it
was great. I think my main issue with the delivery
of Bewersdorf’s performance is that his photography is so smart and
elegant that the bumbling fool schtick sabotages a lot of what makes
the images so great.

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