Cashiers du Cinemart reviews A New Romantic T.V. Sound

Cashiers du Cinemart


NYUFF 2002

Brian Frye
Cashiers du Cinemart
Issue 13
June (?) 2001



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.”


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