Tagged: art

Viewing Experimental Film is Hard Enough

Kristin Strayer, a volunteer at the Carnegie Museum of Art and a lecturer of Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote something about the nature of curating experimental film that caught my attention.

She criticizes contemporary curators and scholars who write about experimental film and generally only address “those already converted” at the expense of less-knowledgable but receptive viewers. She writes:

The authors address a rather small group of filmgoers: scholars, filmmakers, artists, and occasional cineastes. Whether amateur or professional, these are viewers who haven’t just seen particular films but know the historic details surrounding the films, or which filmmakers worked with other filmmakers, or stories of how so many films were made by circles of friends with little money or resources.

This was one of my chief complaints about the recent screening of Gil Wolman’s L’Anticoncept at Light Industry. To “get” this film, I needed to be fluent in French and well-versed in Lettrism and the mid-century French avant-garde. I confess: I am neither. This is where a curator can really shine, explaining the importance of this film and suggesting an approach for watching it. Curating a film involves more than just selecting it. You need to describe the work—sometimes overly pedantically—so your audience can appreciate it as much as you do.

Another challenge experimental film faces in contemporary exhibitions, according to Strayer, is the gallery setting itself. She notes that “the exhibition gallery is radically different from a theater that shows [a] traditional cinematic text.” Whereas “a theater expects a stable subject who watches and the consistency of a darkened room,” a gallery accommodates the visitor’s physical movement around the space. This poses a challenge for any experimental film or video longer than five minutes because people can’t stand still much longer than that.

As I wrote last week, the staff at Light Industry mitigated some of the major challenges of screening this work. They procured an appropriately sized white ballon for a screen, instead of simply projecting the video on to a white wall as they do for their other screenings. They distributed printed copies of the English-language translation of the narration. And, to their credit, they seated us in a darkened room to watch in a theatrical setting. As a testament to that last bit, a patron even shushed us and asked us to leave for ruining his experience.

And because we didn’t know how to watch this film or how to contextualize it, we left as quickly and as quietly as we could.

A Sad Journey through My Web Browser’s Bookmarks

As a man of a certain age, I have been an active Internet user for over twenty years, beginning with email and USENET. I have also been using the graphical web since about late 1995 or early 1996, around the time I figured out how to set up a dialup SLIP connection at home. As someone initially intimidated by computers, getting my Quadra on the Internet via a phone line—without a commercial service like AOL, Prodigy, or Compuserve—was an initial step in becoming the lonely, over-inquisitive technophile that I am today.

Over that time, I have collected (and lost) a bunch of web bookmarks. We all have. In my days of doing desktop support, my users bemoaned getting a new computer because they feared losing their documents, which we diligently transferred, and their bookmarks, which we also migrated to their new browser.1 Each user’s bookmark collection was like a box of digital heirlooms.

Some of my own bookmarks are really, really old. They have migrated from one browser to another—Netscape to Internet Explorer to Safari—and outlasted about a half-dozen Macs, starting with a PowerMac G3. Over the weekend, I was typing some address in the Safari web location bar. After a few keystrokes, the auto-complete feature suggested something long-forgotten, though kinda-familiar: The Standpipe Gallery at http://standpipegallery.com. Don’t bother following that link because it’s dead. In fact, after clicking through my other bookmarks, especially those dating from when I still organized them into folders, very few sites still exist today. That was kinda depressing.

Here’s a sampling:

Site What was/is it? Status
NZ English to US English Dictionary My friend Nina, a Kiwi, talked funny. I used this to understand her. Alive
Pulpculture Don’t remember Dead
Voice of American Pronunciation Guide I once thought I was a cosmopolitan and wanted to learn to pronounce everyone’s name right. Alive
Plan 59 Cool midcentury commercial art. Great for slide decks. Alive
Geneva and Aron’s Wedding Page A website for my friends’ wedding. Dead, though they’re still happily married
Baseball Strategy Guide for baseball strategy, I guess. Dead
Dodger Blues A frustrated Dodger fans making me laugh. Alive, but dormant since 2012
Bike Summer NYC A group/event I followed back in 2003. Dead
Pike 2 Bike Tunnel Trail A bike trail in Pennsylvania that Sarah and I were going to ride one day Dead, and we never rode it
Cosmic Baseball Association: Bolex Poetics An imaginary baseball team comprised of experimental filmmakers Alive, shockingly
DVDxDV Handbrake before there was Handbrake Alive
Independent Student Media Project It might have been related to the Iraq War Dead
Commanderson Communication Studies professor Tim Anderson Dead, though the professor still lives
Count Smokula Accordion-playing clown for the hipster set Alive, but dormant since 2005
Contaminated Records A record label, I guess Dead
Dot Dash NYC Rock ‘n’ roll music promoters Dead
Siberia Bar Dive bar and music venue near Port Authority Bus Terminal Dead
dINbOT Musician Dead
Quarterslot Music performer named Jessica-something. Also, I was her TA Dead
Bloody Panda Dark metal band that had its day for a while. Dead
Nineteenth Century Slang Dictionary A fun resource, probably where I looked up the term “grass widow Dead

I’d go on, listing more of them, but I already feel old and sad enough without plunging any further. At one time, my bookmark collection, and the sites collected therein, meant something to me. They either provided some utility, some insight, or even a laugh, but now, years later, they’re gone. And had I not impulsively followed one of them, they would all have been forgotten, too.

There’s some truth to the claim that the Internet never forgets, a fact that makes me think twice before I post something here. But there’s something else that’s also true about us and our digital artifacts. Someday, we will all be dead. And once our domain registrations expire and our hosting plans don’t renew, our web sites will be dead, too. Just like us.

As for the Standpipe Gallery that initially piqued my curiosity and triggered this post, I figured out that it was a gallery founded by Alison Pierz, the wife of a grad-school colleague. Much like the website, the gallery no longer exists. However, there’s an “archive” available of the work shown there over the years. It survives as a Facebook page.

  1. If I remember correctly, for a time, there was even some issue with browser lock-in. Your Netscape bookmarks would not easily transfer to Internet Explorer, or vice-versa, or maybe, I’m just making that up. 

Opening: Matt Dunn at Hill Street Country Club

Anti Analogy web 600x318

An old friend, Matt Dunn, will be showing some new paintings, drawings, and sculptures at a show called “Anti-Analogy” at the Hill Street Country Club, in Oceanside, California.

I won’t be able to the opening since I won’t be in California for the foreseeable future, but if you’re in the area, please stop by and say “hi” to Matt for me, and tell him I sent you.


Art Ride: Guided Bicycle Tour of Rockaway! Public Art

PS1's Rockaway! on view until September 1

NYC DOT and the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is organizing a free bike tour of public art in Rockaway. The ride takes place this Sunday, August 3, beginning at 9:30. Unlike yesterday’s forty-mile EPIC ride from Greenpoint to Rockaway along the Brooklyn waterfront, this ride is only six-miles long.

This is a great way to see Rockaway!. It is a public arts festival that MoMA PS1 is staging at Fort Tilden, not a musical about the seaside peninsula. It is open now until September 1.

Openings and Closings in Long Island City


In the last two weeks, Long Island City has hosted at least two events attesting to the changes in the neighborhood.

The first was the April 5th opening at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery for Whitewashed, a show featuring the artists of the 5Pointz Aerosol Arts Center. In the middle of the night late last year, the owner of the property famously painted over the graffiti with white paint. The graffiti that adorned the building for years made 5Pointz a regular stop for visitors to Long Island City, but the owner feared that preservationists might make it impossible to tear down the building and block a pending residential development on the property.


The opening for Whitewashed was much more festive event than most other openings at Leder’s gallery. Visitors so packed the two-story brownstone building that about twenty people had to leave before I could squeeze into the gallery space. A good number of the artists were also selling some prints of their work, and the gallery staff were busy processing sale after sale of those works, affordably priced between $20 and $50. Adding to the dynamic energy of the evening were about a half-dozen of the featured artists making drawings on-the-spot. By the time I left, the room had an noticeable smell of paint, all coming from those ubiquitous paint pens.


On Friday night, the Center for Holographic Arts threw a farewell party in the bottom two floors of the Clock Tower Building at Queens Plaza. The space had been remarkably transformed from their previous show last month, which had to close early to make way for this farewell party and exhibition. Both the ground floor and the basement were packed with holographic and stereoscopic works, ranging from small postcard-sized still photographs to fifty-foot–long wall projections. The amount of work needed to stage this show was even more remarkable when you consider that this exhibition was for one night only. The “Holocenter,” as most of us have come to call it, has to vacate this space by the end of this month because, according to the Center’s staff, the space was sold to developers.


The two shows represent the changes in Long Island City that everyone with a stake in the neighborhood has anticipated for years. The abandoned industrial buildings had once allowed upstart artists to establish studios and gallery spaces. When I first moved to New York in 2001, I had heard of Long Island City emerging as an arts center. Although part of that was due to the Museum of Modern Art moving its primary gallery space to Queens in 2002[1], it was the artists who occupied the buildings that gave the neighborhood its excitement.

Name that High Rise?

Today, the situation is different. The financial crisis of 2008 is a fading memory for real estate developers and well-heeled buyers. There are apartment buildings everywhere, and those apartments are fetching stratospherically crazy prices. At one time, I was able to name the high-rise apartment buildings on Center Boulevard: City Lights, the East Coast, and the Avalon. But now, I can’t do that anymore. There’s too many of them. After three decades of false starts as the “next big place,” the value of the land for residential development is forcing a fundamental change to the neighborhood. Over the course of a generation, Long Island City has evolved from industrial district to post-industrial desert to residential neighborhood.

At least it was nice to say good-bye.

  1. If I recall correctly, MoMA QNS was to remain as a secondary gallery space after the midtown Manhattan location reopened. Today, it houses a research center.  ↩

Center for the Holographic Arts to Leave the Clock Tower Building, Throw a Party

IMG 7566

Speaking of art spaces in Long Island City making way for real estate developments, the Center for the Holographic Arts, which currently occupies the ground floor of the Clock Tower Building in Long Island City, will be leaving on April 13.

Before they vacate, they are staging one last party on April 11. There will be food, music, adult beverages, and, of course, holographic art. Tickets are available for a donation, via Eventbrite.

A notable highlight of this space is the subterranean lounge, located in an old bank vault, although the last time I was there it kind of smelled like pee.

Whitewashed Artists at Jeffrey Leder Gallery

Earlier this year, the owner of the 5Pointz building and site destroyed the work of dozens of graffiti artists by covering the walls with white paint. This was the final step in clearing the site of the artists for a planned real estate development project.

Beginning this Saturday, April 5, the artists whose work was destroyed will be part of an exhibition at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery in Long Island City.

Jeffrey Leder Gallery is excited to present Whitewash, an exhibit featuring 12 artists that worked on or photographed the 5Pointz walls for many years. They have created artworks that explore their reactions to having their and others’ art painted over – Whitewashed.

The gallery is located on 45th Road, in Long Island City, just steps from the 5Pointz site. The opening is on April 5, from 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Because it’s not a school night, I recommend making your own after-party at the Shannon Pot, a bar that relocated down the street to make room for this same development at the 5Pointz site.

Muybridge for the 3D Age


Last night at the NARS Foundation in Sunset Park, Brooklyn was the opening reception for Through the Vortex, a show curated by my friend Mollie Flanagan, and an open studio for the artists in residence.

One of the artists there who blew our minds was Sophie Kahn. She uses a 3D scanner to photograph people’s faces and bodies. Since the process is quite slow, it also captures their movements. She then prints those 3D photographs into sculptures.

As she explained her process to my friend Eileen, who I photographed admiring one of the Kahn’s sculptures, and I, three-dimensional photography captures the body in ways that run counter to our traditions of photographic the human body. My reaction, which she affirmed, was that her work evokes the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge for the three-dimensional age. She’s been doing this a while so she has certainly refined her work.

Speaking of Muybridge, Thom Anderson made essay film of his life back in 1975. It will be screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in mid-April.

It Came from 1984

Currently on view and for sale at Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn are works inspired by movies released in 1984. There are sculptures, drawings, and a lot of prints derived from films that twenty- to thirty- year olds, including yours truly, remember fondly.

Artist PJ McQuade examines one of his pieces in the "It Came from 1984" show.

Artist PJ McQuade examines one of his pieces in the “It Came from 1984” show.

Some of the movies inspiring work include:

  • Ghostbusters
  • Spinal Tap
  • Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Robocop
  • Karate Kid
  • Police Academy
  • Terminator
  • The Search for Spock
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Romancing the Stone
  • Children of the Corn
  • Gremlins
  • Revenge of the Nerds

Although most of the work was devoted to popular favorites from thirty years ago, there was one piece for that year’s Oscar darling, Amadeus.

The show reminded me how 1984 was a pretty good year for movies, although I probably saw a fair number of these in subsequent years on TV or VHS.