A NEW ROMANTIC T.V. SOUND

A New Romantic T.V. Sound.

Curated by Astria Suparak
For The New York Underground Film Festival, New York, NY
2001

Video, film, audio work by:
Stephanie Barber, Tony Conrad, Brian Frye, Dara Greenwald, Seth Price, Guy Sherwin, Gedi Sibony, Kirsten Stoltmann, Naomi Uman, Cheryl Weaver, Zakery Weiss, Karen Yasinsky

Choose one: A.) Gary Numan, B.) Barnett Newman, or C.) Bruce Nauman. Can you turn me on, with your mundanity, blurry eyes, Midwestern thighs? You are lo fi and all flesh, a flurry of dispassion and slow jams. Where are your emotions, your tai chi, my climax? Modern Love is Automatic, baby.


PROGRAM 

Out to Reach, Gedi Sibony, 16mm film, approx. 10 min.
Trying to catch leaves falling as the sun rises over Central Park.

Self-reflecting, Kirsten Stoltmann, Video, 55 sec.
A brooding one-liner accompanied by the kitchen sink and a bikini. “Possibly, this is a self-portrait of the artist, but she’s not sure.” – K.S.

Communication, Zakery Weiss, Video, 6:15 minutes
“Cold Shoulder”, “Broken Record”, “Silent Treatment”…Familial love in the age of D.A.R.E. “The following is an actual recording of a most harrowing conversation that took place between my Grandmother and I during one day in 2000. If you watch and listen closely enough, you too will experience the sheer terror and gut-wrenching degradation that I experienced during those six minutes.” – Z.K.

True Confessions of an Artist, Kirsten Stoltmann, 1994, Video, 5 min.
Tender chunks of pixelvision and candid, dogged love. You are pathetic and I love you for it. Or: “It is obvious that Kirsten Stoltmann is a very good artist — but she’s been having some problems lately.” – K.S.

Drop That Baby Again, Karen Yasinsky, 16mm transferred to Beta SP, 5 min.
From the animator of last year’s leggy “No Place Like Home”, another baffling gem with absent-minded women, curiously forgiving husbands, and plastic babies.

The Clandestine Nautical Carnality of Short I, Tony Conrad, 2000, Audio composition, CD Recording, 3 min.
Sexy syntax and phlirtatious phonetics by legendary minimalist composer and filmmaker Tony Conrad.

Bouncing in the Corner #36DDD, Dara Greenwald, 1999, Video, 2:30 min.
A late-90’s feminist looks back on the seminal work of performance artist, sculptor, and filmmaker Bruce Nauman. A take off on “Bouncing in the Corner” where everything is taken off.

Short Film Series (excerpt), Guy Sherwin, , 1998, 16mm, silent, 2 min.
“Juvenile coots diving and surfacing superimposed on upside-down juvenile coots diving and surfacing backwards.” -G.S. A film with a palindrome structure; one of an ongoing series Sherwin began in 1975.

American Graffity, Seth Price, 1999, 16mm film transferred to video, 16 minutes New York Premiere
“A bittersweet coming-of-age story set in the small-town America of the late nineteen-sixties, of the George Lucas. An old man and his young, mustachioed, doppelganger are to be dashing in the woods, nursing the secret fear of the urbans: graffiti comes to stand in for the hidden presence of minorities; not simply an eyesore, but represent a host of race- and class-loaded anxieties: the traces of an unseen, imagined and lurking threat, despite the fact that graffiti is perpetrated by many youth who are white and middle-class, such as the filmmaker.” – S.P.

letters, notes, Stephanie Barber, 16mm, silent, 4:15 min.
A new concoction by the maker of “pornfilm”: Letters found by the filmmaker set against colorful photos of easy living in the Seventies. Example: “Monday June 2 1991 / 12:57pm afternoon / Denise lifted up her shirt and showed me her plumpteous breasts / I paid 89 cents”. Barber writes: “stillness and action in the smallest moments which suggest a life. how to insert a memory. very small suggestions of the enormity of our days.”

Private Movie, Naomi Uman, 16mm, 6 min. NY Premiere
“The meat from the pork is sweet.” A love story in three parts: Las Vegas motels, orgiastic fireworks, and a meat-butcher love song. “It recounts the journey from a miserable marriage, through joyful solitude, to a loving glowing home. This tiny film explores amorous relations with place, pets, men and melancholia.” – N.U.

In Love with Love, Brian Frye, 2000, 16mm, 3 min.
“One can hardly imagine a more charmingly Freudian love triangle.” – B.F


PRESS

CASHIERS DU CINEMART magazine:

Peripatetic curator-at-large Astria Suparak presented an excellent program of ephemeral and often willfully hermetic short films and videos titled A NEW ROMANTIC/TV SOUND. The deadpan wit of performance videos like Kristen Stoltmann’s SELF-REFLECTING anchored the show on one end, the other held down by jewel-like wisps of films like Stephanie Barber’s LETTERS, NOTES and an excerpt from Guy Sherwin’s utterly perfect ongoing SHORT FILM SERIES. Stoltmann’s 55-second tape is a gem. Totally unpretentious and wryly self-effacing, it consists of perhaps three or four shots of the artist: a pretty, fleshy young woman in a bikini top who speaks a single line of dialogue, “I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflecting lately, and I think I’ve figured it out.” Figured what out? Who’s to say. It’s a perfect summation of the best video art of our parents’ generation, with a fillip of that refreshing millennial irony. If it took Acconci hours of mortifying self-abnegation to arrive at some universal truth about the human condition, the evidence of which no one but he was really privy to, Stoltmann certainly offers a more economical gesture to similar effect.

Novice video artist Zakery Weiss makes an auspicious debut with his COMMUNICATION, a six-minute record of a telephone conversation with his grandmother. Shot in extreme close-up from an extremely low angle, Weiss’s face is so distorted that it’s often barely legible. His nostrils loom like caverns and his scruffy stubble and dry lips appear profoundly unhealthy. Particularly to the point, his brutally kind grandmother hounds him about an obviously trivial cold and undergraduate laziness. Oh, deja vu! Seth Price’s semi-documentary AMERICAN GRAFFITY (sic) was another real discovery. Though I still have no idea what sort of relationship linked its subjects – two dissipated middle-aged men – or why exactly they ran about railyards haphazardly spray-painting embankments, the degraded murkiness of the image lent the tape a misty pathos, more dreamlike than documentary.

Suparak also showed several excellent films (full disclosure – she closed the program with a found film I gave her titled IN LOVE WITH LOVE), starting with Guy Sherwin’s perfect palindrome of coots (duck-like birds) diving and surfacing. Shot through the camera once, then flipped and run through again, the film registers the birds diving into one another, as if passing through the plane of the screen and emerging on the other side. This dizzying spatial paradox is worthy of Escher’s prints, while thankfully lacking the neurotic precision that so sterilizes them. I’ve seen few films more beautiful this year. Barber’s LETTERS, NOTES consists of found photographs overlain with letraset recountings of found letters. Oblique but subtly perfect juxtapositions of image and text enlarge her subject – the America of a dreamed childhood – without devolving into facile “critique.”
– Brian Frye, “NYUFF 2K

INDIEWIRE Magazine:

Also a lot more fun [in this year’s New York Underground Film Festival]…were many of the experimental shorts in “A New Romantic/ t.v. sound,” curated by Astria Suparak. Ranging from the formally inventive, Bouncing in the Corner #36DDD by DARA GREENWALD to the embarrassingly personal Communication by ZAKERY WEISS, the program would not be out of place at a museum, as the makers use video more as sculpture than anything else.
– Aaron Krach, “Talent Show”

THE VILLAGE VOICE:

The talented curator Astria Suparak has put something together… ZAKERY WEISS’s minimalist family psychodrama is a standout, and SETH PRICE’s heartland nightmare provokes unease. Of the old-timers, TONY CONRAD and GUY SHERWIN are sure to deliver.
– Amy Taubin

WILLAMETTE WEEK:

The NYUFF highlights that make up “A New Romantic/ t.v. sound,” which include work by Joanie4 Jackie artists STEPHANIE BARBER and KAREN YASINSKY, range from surreal to ridiculous. DARA GREENWALD’s Bouncing in the Corner #36DDD is just the way it sounds: a pair of enormous breasts jiggling with unbridled abandon– imagine if Dolly Parton had gone to art school. SETH PRICE’s American Graffity is a stupefying collage that, says Suparak, “…seems to perversely enjoy toying with viewers’ patience and perceptions.”
– Brian Libby, “Punk, But Not Rock”

BAD LIT – UNDERGROUND FILM JOURNAL:

Next up was a batch of shorts curated by one Astria Suparak, whom I’m not familiar with but she apparently gets a special sidebar each year in the NYUFF. I missed her selections last year, but tonite Astria was hawking a videotape compilation of them. I regret now not buying it. Anyway, Astria’s selections were collectively titled “Some New Romantic/T.V. Sounds”.

Starting things off was SELF-REFLECTING by Kirsten Stoltmann, a film that if you blinked you woulda missed it, but nevertheless intriguing, but then I’ve always had a thing for doughy chicks in bikinis with emotional problems doing their dishes. This is not the last we’ve heard from Ms. Stoltmann, either.

I loved the dialogue in Zakery Weiss’ COMMUNICATION, recounting an awkward phone conversation between Zakery & his grandmother checking up on him at college. But I’m not too sure if I agreed with the video, a static, extreme close-up of Zakery on the phone. Obviously, Zakery was trying to intensify the irritating conversation, but it didn’t totally work for me.

Kirsten Stoltmann’s second, and last, film in the batch was the longer, but not necessarily more ambitious TRUE CONFESSIONS OF AN ARTIST. The only pixlevision film I saw in the fest and shot in an eerie green glow reminiscent of CURSE OF THE SEVEN JACKALS, Kirsten’s actual confessions are crises that I think all artistic types go through at one time or another. But a cute, quaint little flick regardless.

And the Most Psychotic Film Award of the fest has to go to Karen Yasinsky’s creepy DROP THAT BABY AGAIN. Featuring some of the most fluid, realistic stop-motion animation I’ve ever seen, DROP stars a drab couple in a drab living room, kind of like a moldy Gumby set, that actually do drop a baby again. Completely unsettling without much of anything actually happening. I get shudders just thinking about it.

Cheryl Weaver’s PEDESTRIAN ERRORS was a brief silent flick about a woman unable to dress herself competently. Pretty funny when she gets lost in her own sweater, but overall kinda light.

BOUNCING IN THE CORNER #36DDD is supposed to be a tribute to another avant garde filmmaker, Bruce Nauman, but I don’t get the reference. Regardless, an anonymous woman with gigantic breasts (see film title) bounces off the walls in the corner of an empty room, while another anonymous pair of hands places objects under the breasts, e.g. a tennis ball, to see if they’ll stay, which they do. I can appreciate a good tit joke and I enjoyed the unique angle from which the film was shot, which I can’t really describe here.

In another homage, AMERICAN GRAFFITY bears some reference to AMERICAN GRAFFITI, but I couldn’t figure that out from watching the film, but which doesn’t mean I didn’t like this beguiling little flick. I couldn’t follow a goddamn thing that was going on, but I found the incomprehensible plot engrossing and the images beautifully shot in a faux ’70s low budget style with appropriately gritty cinematography and interesting to watch characters. The programming notes by GRAFFITY’s director, Seth Price, claim that the elderly man and young rabble-rouser are different personalities of the same person, but whatever. Puzzling and gorgeous and vaguely depressing: Always a winning combination!

Continuing the ’70s look was LETTERS, NOTES by Stephanie Barber, another silent film but with loads of text printed on top of pictures cut out of ’70s magazines. The text being snippets from letters hinting at the budding sexuality of adolescents, memories that if they don’t go forgotten will scar young innocents for life, even if the memories are accompanied by pretty pictures.

These colorful films were followed by an oddly colorful B&W film, Naomi Uman’s PRIVATE MOVIE. The film is split into 3 parts, which I’m not sure what the connection to each other are, but I sure enjoyed the interesting cinematography. I’m not sure how this film was shot, but the images appeared to be burned into the actual film instead of photographed, giving everything a haunting luminescence.

Then, wrapping up “Some New Romantic” was the most conventional film of the bunch, IN LOVE WITH LOVE. Shot kind of flatly, the magic of the movie is in the editing. The story of a love triangle surrounding a porno magazine, the action is repeated several times from different angles which, for some reason, accentuates the humor of the piece, which was pretty funny to begin with.
– Mike Everleth, “2001 NYUFF

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