This collection of 6 films (one scheduled film wasn’t shown) all had a theme of the artist turning the camera on themselves. The filmmakers were the subject of their own film. The program started out with a bang – Untitled (Eels) by Patty Chang set the tone for a somewhat wild hour of watching. It wasn’t clear what exactly was happening onscreen at the start; a girl with stressed facial expressions and a general discomfort about her was the sole object in view. It took me a while to figure out what to even pay attention to, and it all remains a bit of a mystery. You never saw any eels, but you could see movements of an eel-like creature. After a minute or two, things became more obvious, and I thought a snake was wrapped around her torso and squeezing her; the pain and discomfort were not veiled and I could feel it, the squirming, my gut instinct being grossed out. The subjection experienced in the film translated out to the audience quite viscerally, at least to me. I was somewhat glad the eels never came into view, leaving them to our imagination. Also, it was nice to not come across the film in a gallery, this needed to be watched in its entirety, as the effect of coming to the realization of the situation on screen, and sticking it out for the duration of the film required a bit of activity on the part of us in the audience. Had I come across this in a gallery, and merely saw a bit of it, the work would not have been able to really get beneath my skin. The film ended rapidly, just cutting to black. No indication that the discomfort was ending, no resolution or relief. This acted as a relief, but there was no movement in the film to relieve the mark left by the haunting imagery.
The next film screened, Beyond the Usual Limits: Part 1 by Deirdre Logue, brought a more light-hearted moment to the theater. With a happy musical score, the actor crawled into bed, but not in a normal fashion. Underneath the mattress, but above the box spring – yeah sort of silly compared to the last film. After the actor made it in, a cat came into view on top of the mattress and everything seemed warm and cuddly. The music and the warm colors helped this, but I think the general change of atmosphere from Chang’s discomforting image influenced howLogue’s work went over – relatively easily. It was only a few minutes long though, and we were quickly onto What by Reza Afisina. This wasn’t as awkward as Chang’s film, but wasn’t comforting either. Reza repeated a passage from the Bible (Luke), and beat himself up in the process. This had an element of commentary on religion and culture that the earlier films didn’t have. It was difficult to make out the words as he spoke them, but it was clear that he was getting physically worse off by his repeated hitting of his face. By the end, he was in bad shape, and lit up a cigarette as the film ended. The symbolism seems abundant, the metaphor being he beats himself up with the Bible, and then in the end indulges in an act representing a slide back into sin. Just as the smoking served as a relaxant forAfisina , as part of the film, it had an effect for the audience. In contrast to what was offered by Chang (she surely needed a cigarette after that),Afisina allowed us to see the person after ceasing challenging part of this: the self-infliction of pain. This was therapeutic, and made it a bit easier to continue on.
The last 3 films didn’t act on me in the same manner as Chang and Afisina’s work. True to the theme of the shows, there was the filmmaker taking center stage, whether it be in the form of a reading a diary as in Squiggle, or Live to Tell, which had a surveillance camera style presentation. These didn’t have the same quality of endurance as Chang andAfisina brought to the table though. Good films, the title certainly holds true, simple and aberrant.
Posted by: Benjamin Adrian