LET’S GET TESTED
Curated by Astria Suparak
For the 50th anniversary of Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Germany
2004. Tour through 2005.
Works and premieres by:
Alex Villar, Gabriel Fowler, Jeff Chapman, Jennifer Schmidt, Jim Munroe, JoEllen Martinson and William Scott Rees, Jon Sasaki, Kon Petrochuk, Mike Olenick, Miranda July, Paper Rad, Patrick Martinez, Sandy Plotnikoff
Let’s get tested presents recent video, film and audio by Canadian, American, Brazilian and French artists, young at heart or in age. Playfully adapting public space into personal games, these makers look at architecture, videogames, biology, schoolwork, history and even their own memories with fresh eyes and twitchy fingers. Often sincere, sometimes willfully naive, they project a new optimism and the ability to self-amuse and re-imagine.
Let’s get tested frolics under a handmade sun with a few dark cultural reflections. Culled from work I’ve seen over the past year, it embraces videos made for the Internet, CD-ROM and DVD zines (the new casual pop distribution), crafted with consumer software such as Flash animation, iMovie, Adobe After Effects and Macromedia Director alongside obsolete video formats pried out of dead cameras. Here the coolest nerds hack up a 1980s iconic revelry/reverie [Welcome to my Homey Page]; American Midwesterners romanticize 1970s German political terrorists [Digits]; a Canadian snubs murder commands to peacefully stroll through Grand Theft Auto 3 [My Trip to Liberty City]; and a videomaker refashions his memory into a sweet and disturbing mélange of literature, pop songs, film and news reports [Son of Samsonite] – all trying to make the grade while honoring arbitrary rules. Attempting to keep spirits up in times of strife, this program opts-out of violent spectacle, reckoning that life should be savored and wonder is a calculated state of mind.
As a curator I’m reluctant to make grand statements about the future of short film. The future can only be imagined with what exists in the present. Thus I try to spin intuitive connections into tightly wound shows, letting the audience discover nuance and resonance at their leisure. These artists move fluidly amongst performance, writing, printmaking, music, photography and installation, and one revealed in a disclaimer, “I don’t have a preview reel or screening history — I just make silly movies with my friends, primarily for our own amusement.” How novel.
Canadian and American videos, film and audio join (their nonexistent) hands and head over to your neck of the hood.
Taking education, biology, architecture and history as starting points, these artists craft their own novel amusements. Hot on the Pursuit of the Trivial, their taste turns gamey, playful, and chummy. The coolest nerds hack up a 1980s iconic revelry/reverie; an American Midwesterner romanticizes 1970s German political terrorists; a Canadian snubs murder commands to peacefully stroll through Grand Theft Auto 3; a videomaker refashions his memory into a sweet and disturbing melange of literature, pop songs, film and news reports – all trying to make the grade while honoring arbitrary rules. Sometimes spontaneous, sometimes laboriously schemed, sporting low-res Flash animation then slipping into silky digital video, this set of eclectic work reckons that life should be savored, wonder is a calculated state of mind, and love will survive…
– Astria Suparak, Curator, “Prospektive / Prospective on Short Film”, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen catalogue
1. Temporary Occupations, Alex Villar (New York, NY), 2001, Mini-DV, silent, 4:00 minute excerpt of 6:00
“Temporary Occupations depicts a person running on the sidewalk in New York while ignoring the city’s spatial codes and therefore resisting their effects upon the organization of everyday experience. The clips in the video register situations of temporary invasion and occupation of private spaces located in a public setting. The action simply articulates the continuity of these spaces with the remaining areas from which they were extricated, drawing attention to, and possibly subverting, the boundaries that demarcate them.This piece is part of a long-term investigation and articulation of potential spaces of dissent in the urban landscape, which has often taken the form of an exploration of negative spaces in architecture.” – A.V.
2. Not Microwavable, Jeff Chapman (Pickering, ON), 1995, VHS-C (subsequently pried out of the dead camera), 1:47 minutes
3. Scan-Tron, Jennifer Schmidt (Boston, MA), 2003, Digital video, 3:00 minutes
Over three months Jennifer responded to the series of test forms – filling in answers with a #2 HB pencil according to a given set of rules and unknown objectives.
“Referencing the recording and reading of responses embedded within a series of fabricated standardized test sheets, the techno pop graphics of Scan-Tron become mentally charged with viable questions and patterns of decision.” – J.S.
The scantron test sheets were designed and offset printed by J. Schmidt. Sound co-produced byL. Contra.
4. Circle Game, Jon Sasaki (Toronto, ON), 2002, mpeg-1 Digital Video, 5:28
“Circle Game recalls with affection a mysterious and somewhat violent high school pastime.” – J.S.
5. My Trip to Liberty City, Jim Munroe (Toronto, ON, 2003, CD-ROM MPEG, 9:00
“A video travelogue of my time as a Canadian tourist in Liberty City, the setting for video game Grand Theft Auto 3.” – J.M.
Skins made by Marc Ngui and pic layout by Patricio Davila.
6. Hoodies, Sandy Plotnikoff (Toronto, ON), 2003, Mini-DV, 1:52
“Shot during Spring and Fall 2000 in Toronto, Canada. Photo assistants Christina Felderhof and Rebecca Young (Stonehenge). Editing assistance from Michael LeBlanc. Zoom Rhythm 123 soundtrack by Maura Doyle.” – S.P.
7. Hit on the Head with 1000 Anvils, Gabriel Fowler (Chicago, IL), 2001, VHS, 00:45 seconds of infinite loop
“A montage of short clips from Warner Brothers’ cartoons at the precise moment when a character is struck, shot, smacked, or exploded in front of the viewer. What unfolds is an endless barrage of unresolved cartoon violence.” – G.F.
8. Welcome to My Homey Page (excerpt from pjvidz#1), Paper Rad (Easthampton, MA and Pittsburgh, PA), 2002, Digital Video, 2:30
“A tape that celebrates consumer media culture as much as it critiques it. As Paper Rad puts it in their parody of a television schedule listing: ‘Episode story summary: Chocofus gets a mysterious video tape in the mail from his cool pals and then somethinng awesome suprise!’ [sic]” – EAI catalogue description of pjvidz#1
9. Among the Living, Jon Rubin (San Francisco, CA), 2003, Mini-DV, 1:43
“…a yellow wild flower…an anthrax song. …a bit of headbanging…the blossom…the elements. …a breath of fresh air…these whiffs of death-rock morbidity.” – excerpted from Glen Helfand, Artforum
10. Digits, JoEllen Martinson and William Scott Rees (Minneapolis, MN), 2003, Mini-DV, 8:00
“A music video/documentary hybrid, Digits tracks the rise & fall of 2 finger-giving Euro terrorists and their sodapop-sucking foe.” – W.S.R.
11. Untitled (after the visible human project), Patrick Martinez (New York, NY and Besanon, France), 2002, Mini-DV, silent, 3:00 of indefinite loop
This video is derived from the cross-sectional images of the human body produced for the “visible human project” of the National Library of Medicine.
12. God’s Love, Miranda July (Portland, OR), 2002, Audio CD (#7), 00:55 seconds
An excerpt from The Drifters, an audio installation commissioned for the elevators of the Whitney Museum at the 2002 Whitney Biennial. The pieces are like picture-less movie excerpts.
All characters performed by Miranda July, with sound by Zac Love and Tim Renner, engineered by Renner.
13. Anabolite See, Kon Petrochuk (San Francisco, CA), 1985, 16mm film on Mini-DV [ Video format prefered by the artist], 14:00
“Anabolite See is a personal work about the notion of ‘anabolic seeing.’ This notion is the process of trying to get complex or significant ideas about ‘what this whole thing is about?’ through collage editing and set-ups of events and things on film which seem abstract until combined into a more valuable and meaningful whole. Spontaneous, abstract and poetic voice-over narratives serve to further describe the notions or ideas generated by all of the elements.” – K.P.
14. Son of Samsonite, Mike Olenick (Columbus, OH), 2002, Video, 9:30
“I have tried to do what a camera does and appropriate what I have seen and experienced. The video is a collection of moments culled from memory. Moments from pop songs, films, literature, and news reports are woven together to create a new narrative. The video is haunted by real life memories of events not personally witnessed (like the bombing of Pan Am Flight 107 over Lockerbie, Scotland) as well as with phrases from films and songs.I have staged images and created conversations which have not really happened and that I would like to remember. The props and scenarios in the video are obviously artificial because I want people to realize that they are fake and let their memories distort them over time – perhaps even allowing them to become real. The images in the video will be remembered, but how truthfully depends upon the memory of the viewer and whether that memory is photographic.” – M.O.
Total Running Time: 70 minutes
We Loved Getting Tested!
ASTRIA SUPARAK BEGAN by asking us all to put our right hands up. To answer in the negative to any of her provocative questions would require movement and effort, a lowering of those arms, an interruption in the sea of hands. Affirmation was established as the default position. Together we filled the negative space above our heads, participating in the performance staged by Suparak-as-researcher. We were queried about life, death and art – the really big questions. And our efforts were rewarded! In the guise of the pollster, Suparak thanked us by presenting a curated package of new videotapes that ask and answer, “Who are we now?”
Let’s Get Tested draws on work from across the United States and Canada. Recent tapes by Alex Villar, Gabriel Fowler, Jeff Chapman, Jennifer Schmidt, Jim Munroe, JoEllen Martinson and William Scott Rees, Jon Sasaki, Kon Petrochuk, Mike Olenick, Miranda July, Jon Rubin, Paper Rad, Patrick Martinez and Sandy Plotnikof are a rare commodity in Winnipeg, and the capacity crowd was clearly hungry. Indeed, a voracious appetite for media arts seems to be gobbling up the Artspace building. Video Pool has expanded yet again, so that it now spills onto three different floors of 100 Arthur Street. Let’s Get Tested inaugurated the latest addition to the empire, the Poolroom, Video Pool’s new street level exhibition, research and workshop space.
Astria Suparak’s performance, in lieu of the standard curatorial introduction, brilliantly set up the themes of the program. Let’s Get Tested explores the schism between the methodology of science and foible-filled humanness. For the most part, the tapes affirm the value of the ineffable and the elusive: immeasurable phenomena such as playfulness and pleasure. As Suparak writes, “This set of eclectic work reckons that life should be savored, wonder is a calculated state of mind, and love will survive.”
However, neither does this collection lack irony grounded in social critique. For example, in Jim Munroe’s My Trip to Liberty City, a player subverts the intentions of the videogame Grand Theft Auto by going for a walk, practising his mime, and administering care to another character. Paper Rad’s Welcome to My Homey Page takes the form of a personal web page — a modern-day marvel invented with military intents and technology — and joyfully crams it with the visual detritus of our culture, ranging from purple Barbapapa to Pink Floyd’s prism. Jon Rubin’s Among the Living depicts a beautiful flower, shot to resemble educational botany films, rocking out to the sounds of Anthrax.
Most of these tapes are extremely short, delighting the audience with a quick-and-beautiful silliness that is nonetheless thoughtful, even profound. Alex Villar’s refusal to go around fences, climbing ever higher obstacles only to climb down them again, becomes an act of poetic rebellion in Temporary Occupations; Jeff Chapman’s Not Microwavable brattily points to the ubiquitousness of technology by microwaving the camera used to shoot this tape; Jon Sasaki presents the minutiae of rules and intricate strategy involved in a pointless adolescent pastime in Circle Game; and Gabriel Fowler edits cartoons of our youth into a loop, omitting everything but the explosions, creating eye-candy of never-ending destruction in Hit on the Head with 1000 Anvils. Similarly, the hypnotic beauty of Jennifer Schmidt’s Scan-Tron, which animates hundreds of computer punch cards representing the answers to who-knows-what questions, and Sandy Plotnikoff’s Hoodies, a study in surface identity which positions the artist in various jackets in various locations, are as formally compelling as they are playful and conceptually resonant.
However, the end of the program becomes darker. Digits, by JoEllen Martinson and William Scott Rees, skillfully and ironically recreates the persona of the “sexy terrorist” of the 1970s. This trope is so far removed from the images and reality of our time, it creates an alarming dissonance. Similarly, the distance between what we first see in Patrick Martinez’ Untitled (after the visible human project) and what is revealed over time is unsettling. Seductive abstract forms reveal themselves to be repeated cross-sections of two human bodies, our meaty flesh. This shift in Let’s Get Tested, from deliciousness to political and corporeal reality, is difficult. But the strength of Martinson, Rees and Martinez’ work sustains it.
… We were all excited to have the opportunity to see it, and grateful to Astria Suparak for embarking upon her mission to take video art wherever there is an audience: schools, sports bars, artist collectives, living rooms, skating rinks, churches, even artist-run centres!
Rarely can Winnipeggers see current, cutting-edge digital or electronic art from other regions without hopping on a plane ourselves.
The overwhelming success of Let’s Get Tested at Video Pool and the flurry of discussion and critique it has provoked are a testament to an appetite for more. Let’s hope that Suparak continues with her zealotry, criss-crossing the globe as a present-day video prophet, and brings us another package of tapes soon. Be they good, bad, or ugly, we will lift our hands into the air and say say, yes, we love the medium.”
– Shawna Dempsey, “We Loved Getting Tested!,” p. 35-41, 2005
Having traveled from Napoli, Italy to Normal, Illinois, independent film, video and audio curator Astria Suparak brings her well-chosen traveling program of experimental shorts by North American artists to Columbus College of Art and Design next week.
Included in the 14 featured pieces are an audio installation segment by Miranda July, and Jennifer Schmidt’s Scan-Tron, which turns the worksheet from a standardized test into a shifting abstract field of circles and dots.
Gabriel Fowler creates a tightly edited explosion of explosions from Warner Bros. cartoons in Hit on the Head with 1000 Anvils. And in My Trip to Liberty City, Jim Munroe reconsiders the streetscape in Grand Theft Auto III as a nice place to vacation (“I never feel that getting in a car is the best way to see a city,” he says in voiceover).
Two locally based video artists are also represented: CCAD professor Kon Petrochuck, who builds on big ideas through simple images in Anabolite See, and the Wexner Center’s Mike Olenick, who creates a goulash of strange settings, past tragedies, song lyrics and other pop culture snippets in the slightly humorous, surprisingly disconcerting short Son of Samsonite.
– Melissa Starker, November 3, 2004
THE PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY:
On 20th and Christian is one of Philly’s best-kept secrets: the St. Charles Rollerskating Rink. Housed across the street from St. Charles Church, the rink is open every Friday and Saturday night, and for a nominal fee you can rent a pair of skates and ride the rink all night.
This Friday St. Charles hosts Let’s get tested, a new program of short films curated by N.Y.C. filmmaker Astria Suparak. Suparak, who’s made a name for herself on cross-country film tours, brings shorts from Jeff Chapman, Jennifer Schmidt, Alex Villar, Miranda July and several others. Originally curated for the 50th anniversary of Germany’s Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, ‘Let’s get tested,’ says Suparak, ‘reckons that life should be savored, wonder is a calculated state of mind, and love will survive.’ And after the screening, the rollerskating action begins.
– J.G., “The A-List,” April 21-27, 2004
PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPER:
Many of the program’s entries are heavy on concept… [Mike] Olenick’s 10-minute short [Son of Samsonite] marries evocative imagery to competing text narratives on the top and bottom of the screen. Across the top, a CNN-style ‘crawl’ combines real-life disasters like the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 with memories of a failed romantic relationship, while subtitles along the bottom recycle fragments from pop songs. (Not surprisingly, songs by The Smiths turn up with great regularity.)… Like [Andy Warhol’s] Chelsea Girls, you can imagine it being a different work every time you watch it.
– Sam Adams, “Screen Picks,” April 22-29, 2004
THE PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY:
Let’s Get Tested includes: “Alex Villar’s Temporary Occupations, which finds a man traversing city streets in the most roundabout ways possible; …My Trip to Liberty City, by Canuck Jim Munroe, which showcases the more placid sections of Grand Theft Auto III. The second half [of the program] gets a left-field tone-ectomy, in which Patrick Martinez’s Untitled – an abstract portrait of different sections of the human body – is only the beginning. Mike Olenick’s Son of Samsonite stands out, not only because of its length, but because it’s the most expressionistic and maddening…
– Matt Prigge
INDEPENDENT FILM SHOW 4th Edition:
(Translated from Italian)
An experimental film does not regard cinema from its usages, but from its powers. It endeavours to evoke, to reveal and to renew them; but at the same time it contradicts, blocks and renders them limitless.
Events like the Independent Film Show in Naples are extremely rare because they give the experimental cinema, in all its radicalism, the attention that it so scrupulously deserves. The festival is exclusively dedicated to cinematographic experimentation: its history, its traditions, its breakaway movements, its classics, its cursed, lost and found filmsÉand, of course, its new ideas, its living marrow. This atypical event has reached its fourth year. The principle is simple: four days, four shows, four programmes. There are numerous discoveries, and some revived perspectives. This is a festival that takes its time to show and offers the opportunity of seeing.
Under the title Let’s get tested, Astria Suparak, a young American curator, has selected a few recent productions showing new approaches, both on the aesthetic level as well as in their relationship with the medium. From different origins and destinations (film, video, music video, net animations, cd-rom or dvd), and made using a wide range of different techniques, these works are the fruit of the same original attitude, where obsolete material, images of the past and the latest developments in digital editing are reinvented with freshness and spontaneity. Their creators freely evolve between performance, writing, music and the various forms of visual arts with evident affinity for pop culture, video games and a particular attachment to the notions of amateurism and entertainment (close to the aesthetic of punk collage in a fruity version, the American Paper Rad collective’s animation Welcome to my homey page is exemplary of this). Put together with jubilation by Astria Suparak, and with special attention paid to the ludic dimension, these films show that cinema does not necessarily have to be reduced to its devices, and that it is already spread out where it is not expected.
– Xavier Garcia Bardon, 2003
THE PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENT:
Synergy, n. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. As in, I can’t wait to experience the synergy of tonight’s rollerskating and short films at St. Charles in South Philly! As in, Astria Suparak’s film program (Let’s Get Tested) and my outfit (replete with knee socks and neck scarf) are going to have some great synergy. As in, you and I could really make the synergy at this synergistic cine skate event. As in, I’m done now.
– April 18, 2004
April 22, 2004, 9pm
@ Swarthmore College, Science Center 101, Philadelphia, PA
April 23, 2004, 10:15pm
Screening and skate party
@ St. Charles Church Roller Skating Rink, 20th and Christian Street, Philadelphia, PA
Presented by SMALL CHANGE and Ted Passon
May 3, 2004, 12:30pm
Sonderprogramm / Special Program: Prospektive
@ 50th Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen / International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany
May 7, 2004, 5pm
@ Illinois State University, Main Gallery of ISU University Galleries (Center for Visual Arts), Normal, IL
Part of the ISU Thai Film Festival, sponsored by the ISU Cinema Society, the Thai Student Association, and United Students Against Sweatshops. Includes screenings by Wisit Sasanatieng, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, and A D Jameson, Porawan Pattayanon: classical and modern Thai dance.
June 24, 2004, 7pm
@ GirlsFilmSchool , The College of Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM
In recognizing that women are underrepresented in the film, television and new media industries, GirlsFilmSchool provides adolescent girls of diverse backgrounds with an environment in which they can learn the fundamentals of film, video and new media production, develop their self- esteem and personal voice, and recognize moving image arts as a powerful mode of expression and possible career choice.
November 8, 2004, 11am
@ Columbus College of Art and Design, Joseph V. Canzani Auditorium, Columbus, OH
Part of the Visiting Artists Series.
November 26, 2004, 8pm
@ Video Pool’s The Pool Room, in the Platform Gallery in the Art Space Building, Winnipeg, MB
This is the kick off event for Video Pool’s programming season and new space.
December 3, 2004
Independent Film Show 4th Edition
@ via Vergini, 19 – Palazzo dello Spagnuolo, 80137 Napoli, Italy
Festival includes programs curated by Masha Godovannaya, Piero Pala, Mirco Santi and Xavier Garcia Bardon (SAULE).
February 14, 2005, 8pm
Screening, dance party, + scouse pudding
@ Aboard Walk the Plank’s theatre ship Fitzcarraldo, at Canning Dock, Liverpool, UK
Presented by FACT, Followed by Valentine’s Evol: A night of music and dancing hosted by Ladytron, Revo and Plastic Penny.