Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adventures in Curating: Narrowing the Field

I have come to the point in my semester where it is time to work on my first project for my curating film and video class. That means making my own "festival" using a list of over 200 video links my professor has provided for us. We have to pick at least three videos and the time of the festival cannot run over 45 minutes. 
It is a lot harder than it sounds. First of all, I have to watch all the films which range from the very experimental and abstract to the more narrative based. I actually have enjoyed watching most of them and seeing some familiar names on the list such as Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger. I admit, I did not watch them all because there were just too many. I watched a group in order and then skipped around the rest of this list picking the ones that had interesting titles.   
The problem I found was picking a theme to go with the ones I liked. My professor kept stressing that he did not want us to just pick the ones we like because in a real film festival you have to consider the audience and what you want them to experience, whether it is introducing them to a new artist or style but I would have trouble curating a festival with films I did not like myself. I tried to find something that connected them, a thread running through that would make for an interesting title and provide some structure for my film festival. 
The first video that I watched that I knew I had to find a way to include in my fictional film festival was Tad's Nest directed by Petra Freeman. I thought it was beautiful and so different from many of the works I had previously seen with its creative transitions and unique style. Plus it is animated and I rarely find good, or any, animated avant garde/experimental pieces. My first thought was to make a festival around the idea of animation, but I thought that could be too simple and I wanted to use a mix of media. 
After skipping around for a bit the title We Have Decided Not to Die caught my eye. I think this is one of the most beautiful works I have yet to see in one of my classes. The visuals of rising and falling bodies are amazing. They are so simple, but done in such an elegant manner. The idea of the rituals as presented in the video speak to the phases in life and the changing of identity. 
I knew that those two videos would make the foundation for my project. I struggled with finding connections between the two. I wanted to do something about the body as a spectacle before I saw We Have Decided Not to Die, but I ended up scrapping that idea too. 
Finally, I came upon the idea of identity formation and how our identity changes throughout our lives and even daily. It's something I have discussed in many of my English classes and it seemed to fit the films I had been watching. Other films I added to my fake festival were Anger's Mouse Heaven, a film about Mickey Mouse and consumer culture, Willard Maas' Geography of the Body which objectifies bodies both the male and female form in geographic terms, and James Broughton's This Is It which is an innocent and poetic creation myth.
Honestly, I am just excited to be done with my first project. (If you actually care to read what I wrote, it follows after the break and it's mine so don't go getting any ideas about stealing it and such even if it is the highest form of flattery.)

Curated by Brittany Rivera
Total Running Time: 41 minutes

1.        The action of changing or the state of being changed into another form 
Transmutation is a program featuring five short experimental films and videos that represent the ritual of identity formation in an individual. Identity is never static, but is constantly changing and transforming based on society, location, mood, and even the time of day.  Who you are one minute is never who you are the next. These films explore our ability to be more than one thing; to transcend our given identity and become timeless symbols.

Tad’s Nest (2009) animated; color, sound; 4:38
Directed by Petra Freeman
Tad’s Nest is a whimsical, animated journey of discovery through childlike wonder. Different states of being are represented in fluid transitions as the characters are dissolved and split apart, creating new otherworldly forms. Freeman uses memory and sensation to guide the piece in the same way the eels of the film’s title are brought back home.

Mouse Heaven (1994) color, sound; 10:46
Directed by Kenneth Anger
Mouse Heaven is a colorful, nostalgic look into the many identities and transformations of Mickey Mouse throughout the years set to variety of popular music. Half celebratory, half sardonic, Anger elevates the iconic character to an idol like status that causes one to question society and popular culture.

This Is It (1971) color, sound; 9:04
Directed by James Broughton
This Is It is a creation myth made out of the ordinary images of a young boy playing in a yard. His innocent actions juxtaposed with the looming voices of authority raise the everyday actions shown in the film to new levels. The whispered refrain begs us to question what the “it” of the title is referring to and what we as a people are trying to reach.

Geography of the Body (1943) black and white, sound; 7:21
Directed by Willard Maas
Geography of the Body is a close up examination of the human body, both male and female, as viewed through underneath a magnifying glass. Through the stoic voice over narration the body is converted into a vast landscape which we know little about. Maas uses these bodily images to exert control over the human form and classify it as he sees fit.

We Have Decided Not to Die (2004) color, sound; 9:48
Directed by Daniel Askill
We Have Decided Not to Die is philosophical, three part look into the rituals that make up life. Bodies are shown in the stages before, during, and after their transformation as they are raised to a transcendental and almost religious level. The slow, elegant falling and rising of the different forms becomes a remarkable representation of the pressures of life and changes that we are subjected to through our environment.

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