ponedjeljak, 21. prosinca 2015.

Stanya Kahn - Don't Go Back To Sleep (2014)

Tragedije i luksuz, simulacije katastrofa i katastrofe simulacija.

“…People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.The door is round and open.Don’t go back to sleep.”

Don’t Go Back to Sleep is an experimental narrative created, directed, shot, and edited by artist Stanya Kahn and includes original compositions by Kahn and musician Keith Wood (Hush, Chelsea Light Moving). Kahn builds darkly comedic and uncanny scenes revolving around groups of medical professionals stationed in vacant, newly built homes as they prepare for impending emergencies.

In newly built developments in Kansas City, doctors perform strange rituals and tend to each other’s wounds while deadpanning observations about work, life, and the ambiguously ruined world. Numbed by the realities of death surrounding them, they await impending emergencies against a backdrop of nondescript suburban luxury. Featuring original sound compositions by Guggenheim fellow Kahn and musician Keith Wood of Chelsea Light Moving and Hush Arbors, this darkly comedic work grapples with the aftermath of tragedy through a web of jagged editing, eerie soundscapes, and Kahn’s deft manipulation of time.

Press Release: Don't Go Back To Sleep, 2014
Body Bags by Ed Halter, an essay on Don't Go Back To Sleep, 2014
Artslant, Editor's Choice, 2014
Artforum, Critic's Pick, 2014

The next time you're bored in suburbia, just imagine a man in a bear suit picking his way across your lawn. Video artist and Guggenheim fellow Stanya Kahn — well-known for populating familiar landscapes with bizarre figures — this time turns her lens toward suburban Kansas City. And the bear doesn't necessarily augur good fortune.
Kahn's latest film, Don't Go Back to Sleep, takes its title from a Rumi poem about a threshold between two worlds, and the work's presentation at Grand Arts forces audiences to straddle a similar divide. The viewing room is done up McMansion-style, a sensory cocoon that mirrors the film's suburban interiors. The smell of fresh paint disorients us before Kahn's sounds and images can, and we've trod in on carpeting so thick and plush that our shoes sink as though drawn into quicksand. Even the seating disorients: We watch from a luxurious white sectional couch, a piece we're about to watch actors use onscreen.
Kahn's subjects linger on another kind of threshold, the uneasy space between disaster and action. The film opens with medical professionals camped out in vacant, new-construction homes, appliances encased in plastic, waiting for patients to arrive. They parcel milk into small plastic bottles as if it were medicine, shuffle tentatively to upbeat funk, tipple Grey Goose and nap with their eyes open. Some have wounds of their own, weeping bandages and septic scrubs. We never learn their origin.
Kahn's previous films, such as It's Cool, I'm Good, blended humor and horror, an aesthetic evident here as well. Despite its anxious undercurrent, Don't Go Back to Sleep is frequently funny: Doctors lose their gum in a body cavity during a near-slapstick operation or drone on about walking beans to an unresponsive patient with a severe head wound, as the seemingly doomed person lolls in a bathtub.
But the absurdist elements are more often disquieting than amusing. Kahn splices the doctors' scenes with long shots of a figure stalking the countryside in a snaggletoothed bear suit, scored with the kind of low-frequency purr we're accustomed to hearing in horror films.
The sound design is paramount to Sleep's strange power. Kahn blends natural and artificial rhythms into a lush, unsettling soundscape. Doctors tramp through high prairie grasses to the martial report of a snare drum, laid over the hushing drone of cicadas. Original compositions by Kahn and Keith Wood dwell alongside "Amazing Grace" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad," sung with haunting grace by local musical-theater whiz Shelby Floyd.
With the exception of Floyd, whose performance is as striking as ever, Kahn relies on untrained actors. A few speak self-consciously, but their improvisations and conversations feel mostly authentic.
Kahn's camera frames iconic Kansas City landmarks as backdrops to an alien world. Exterior shots of homes are rare, and interiors seem to bleed together as the camera follows subjects through rooms and up winding staircases, only to jump-cut to the same figures in a new location. By stringing these shots together, Kahn builds a labyrinth of spatial impossibilities.
The jagged cuts manipulate time along with space. The camera often reframes actors in the middle of lines or speeches, a disorienting call to the constructed nature of the film and an editing move that builds a frenetic pace. In other sections, time seems to slow and stretch on indefinitely, as when a doctor paddles through a rooftop pool.
One male doctor, to his companion's annoyance, waxes philosophically on David Hume and the "hyper-real" color of a rosebush. Yet another investigates a wall of photographs inside, subjects posed and perfectly retouched: "They just don't look real."
Nothing does. Kahn's film seems equal parts fertile fantasy and critical evocation of the Freudian unheimlich — the quite literally unhomelike home. But the head trip is worth the ride. Kahn bewitches us by blurring boundaries between script and improvisation, between manipulated footage and real-time recording. Don't Go Back to Sleep lets us dawdle at that threshold and dwell where we can feel both artificial and real, awake and dreaming. -


petak, 11. prosinca 2015.

Torsten Lauschmann - Startle: book and augmented reality

Torsten Lauschmann Startle

Zašto želimo vjerovati iluzijama?


Torsten Lauschmann, Startle, Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2012.

This print publication and companion app offers a suitably wide-ranging introduction to the multi-faceted video, audio, digital, sculptural, kinetic and performative work of Torsten Lauschmann.  Including newly commissioned texts by Sean Cubitt, Esther Leslie, Stewart Morgan, Graham Domke and Steven Bode, it echoes and follows the interests and preoccupations of an artist whose up-to-the-minute technological finesse is bolstered by an equally incisive historical overview. The Startle digital app brings the pages even more to life, triggering video and other content that enhances and extends the featured works.
The ‘Startle’ publication is co-produced by Dundee Contemporary Arts and Film and Video Umbrella.  The accompanying ‘Lauschmann’ app is commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella.
Image courtesy of Dundee Contemporary Arts
Download the ‘Lauschmann’ app for free through the iTunes Store  or Google Play

Torsten Lauschmann’s work is informed by apparently conflicting interests in the earliest forms of magical entertainment and the latest technical innovations. He explores the use of tools, techniques and systems to solve problems, with the aim of bypassing the tension between optimistic and sceptical beliefs about technology. His mesmerising installations use film to create works that are inventive, playful and accessible.
For Startle Reaction, his largest solo show to date, Lauschmann will use his interest in automatons and cinema to play with the notion that we are capable of believing in things that have been proven to be false. He has developed a work in which 3D glasses will allow exhibition-goers to watch different films at the same time. The exhibition will feature significant works from the past decade, including Misshapen Pearl (2003), a wistful investigation of the streetlamp’s function in consumer society. Skipping Over Damaged Areas (2010) shows a series of film titles narrated by a voice-over artist, creating a new and unexpected narrative from the appropriated footage.
A new, immersive work will span the length of the large gallery, exploring organic growth using specialised computer programming. - www.aptglobal.org/en/Exhibition/29930/Torsten-Lauschmann-Startle-Reaction

Torsten Lauschmann: Startle Reaction
You don’t immediately notice the quieter, more domestic pieces in Torsten Lauschmann’s biggest box of tricks to date. The subverted digital clock above the DCA box office and the wired-up chandelier that hangs in Gallery One, where two of Lauschmann’s films are looped, aren’t as flashy as the rest of what’s on show. They don’t seek to dazzle and disorientate; they don’t beep or buzz, flash or fade, whirr or whizz like much else on show in the gently immersive time-sequenced theme park Lauschmann hood-winks us into believing in. Yet, for all their functional discretion, these two pieces nevertheless shed light on the big, tangled-up mess of interconnectivity that Startle Reaction is all about.
This is clear, too, in his films. ‘Misshapen Pearl’ is an impressionistic meditation on the place where natural light morphs into neon. Artifice as well as interconnectivity exists in ‘Skipping Over Damaged Areas’, which edits seemingly incongruous big-screen title sequences to make up a phony narrative given trailer-like credence by a big-talking voiceover.
Elsewhere, lost jockeys in flight become computer-jammed still lives; a mansion resembling Rebecca’s Manderley becomes a piece of cut-out shape shadow-play; and a player-piano bashes out little modernist cacophonies while snow falls into the light like some sub-Beckettian floor-show.
Beckett is there too in the show’s most oddly poignant piece, in which a projector seemingly gazes out of the gallery window, its computerised voice yearning to be among the streetlights and the CCTV cameras in the concrete jungle where night turns to day and back again.
Personified and sentimentalised like the ‘injured’ robot in Douglas Trumball’s eco-hippy sci-fi fable, Silent Running, there’s a sense of eternal disappointment to the projector’s monologue. This is surveillance-culture Happy Days. The projector’s head may not be buried in the sand, but bolted immobile it’s still forced to watch the world pass by, the sun forever out of reach. - Neil Cooper

In the darkness of the main gallery at Dundee Contemporary Arts there is the whirr of projector fans, a faint mechanical voice seeping through from another room, a startling whoosh of noisy ventilation and then… sheer magic.
A spotlight lands on a pianola in the centre of the room and there is real snow falling on to the ebony and ivory keyboard. As it lands gently and wetly on the keys and the surrounding gallery floor, for a moment the player piano comes alive. The flakes seem to play a tinkling keyboard tune and then, just as suddenly, everything stops. It is still and silent and dark once more.
It’s tempting to see all this – the centrepiece of a marvellous exhibition featuring dozens of gadgets and gizmos by one of the country’s most admired but most elusive artists – as so much trickery.

But in a show that is timed to chime with the city’s Discovery Film Festival, Glasgow artist Torsten Lauschmann has created a poetical, magical landscape that illuminates our relationship with machines, especially when it comes to the magic of the moving image.

Lauschmann, who trained in Germany and at Glasgow School of Art, has always resisted categories. He makes films and music, programs computers, and has a DJ persona (Slender Whiteman, who tours with a solar-powered laptop). A a recipient of the inaugural Margaret Tait Film Award last year, he has shown persistent interest in early moving image technologies: zoetropes, thaumatropes, magic lantern shows and the camera obscura. He dabbles in digital technology but often combines it with the homemade.
Above all he is interested in illusions and why we want to believe in them.
At DCA, one wall of the gallery has been painted with luminous paint and a rotating lamp “draws” on its blank surfaces. The lines coalesce on the surface, then fade, like distant, dying stars, creating a three-dimensional space out of a two-dimensional one, an illusion of the universe but compelling nonetheless.
Next door in a small ancillary gallery Lauschmann has remade his House Of The Rising Sun, an exquisite animation of a vast hilltop mansion lit from within by sunlight. The sun rises and falls casting light on to a panoramic landscape painted onto the surrounding walls, a wonderful visual trick, but also surely a wonderfully romantic metaphor for inner light.
Indeed, it is hard not to see in Lauschmann’s assembled technologies – from slide show to mirror ball, animation to digital projection – a recurring invocation of human intelligence and even, to use an old-fashioned word, the soul.
From the image of the lens which appears in many of his works, to the glowing lamps, orbs and balls of light that recur in this show, I am reminded of the history of genre painting, when a burning candle might symbolise the human spirit, or a sunrise or sunset the human lifespan.
To visit Lauschmann in his own studio is to step through a tangle of wires and cables. You might sit among teetering piles of well-thumbed books, topped by a laptop, encounter a houseplant or two, and a whole host of kit that might only be recognisable to modern computer programmers or Victorian magic lantern enthusiasts.
In this show, a cluster of audio adapters and cables hangs from the ceiling like a post-modern chandelier. At the centre of it burns a single lamp. This is a self-portrait, the tangle of wires a neural metaphor, as well as a clear statement on the entanglement of man and machine.
Years ago, Lauschmann and the artist Michael Wilkinson trained a computer to recite Oasis’s Wonderwall. When its tinny voice bleated, “Maybe, you’re going to be the one that saves me,” you suddenly felt how hopeless, how sad it must be to be a machine.
At DCA he has voiced a digital projector. It sits gazing out the window, pleading for escape, longing to turn its head 360 degrees. “I am tired,” it moans. “I want to show what’s behind and above. I want to stand tall, look at it.”
Sitting on the top of Lauschmann’s snowbound pianola is a toy ape. In the face of modern technology, with its risks and benefits, we must try to decide whether we are organ grinder or monkey. But the little fellow begs a much deeper question, about what drives us: the mind or the body, the head or the heart?
Is it nature or culture that sees an artist like Lauschmann spend his life tinkering with stuff that other people might regard as toys? The latest complex processing tools have enabled computer programmer Eddie Lee to build an algorithmic pattern for a new film, Father’s Monocle, in which digits ebb and flow in a way that reflects the flocking patterns of starlings or sheep.
Indeed, in a world that tends to see the implications of technology as turning us into free flying birds or dumb sheep, Lauschmann is an artist who refuses to buy into either version. All becomes apparent in Lauschmann’s keynote film, Misshapen Pearl, first shown in 2003. This haunting adaptation of the ideas of the philosopher Vilém Flusser still stands up nearly a decade down the line.
The story of a simple street lamp is the excuse for a meditation on consumerism, 24-hour culture, night work and man’s relationship with technology. Melancholic, romantic, yet optimistic and somehow thrillingly human, Lauschmann’s work casts unexpected light on the fundamentals. - Moira Jeffrey

There are artists who work with new media, and artists who set themselves in opposition to it; then there is Torsten Lauschmann. The Glasgow artist is at once a techno-geek and a Luddite, and somehow in him, the two sit naturally together. This is the man who was responsible for World Jump Day, an internet hoax which achieved a huge following five years ago. This is the man who, under the name Slender Whiteman, busks around Europe with his solar-powered laptop.
            Lauschmann, though born in Germany, has made Glasgow his home. Trained in photography at Glasgow School of Art, he has become a leading figure in the city’s close-knit art scene over the last 17 years. His work, though it often samples itself, encompasses a bewildering range of media from sculpture to software programming.
            It’s unsurprising therefore that Lauschmann’s latest venture straddles two artforms; an exhibition centred around a screening at the Collective gallery, and a performance at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), with a residence at said festival which will no doubt feed his vampiric appetite for archive material.
            It’s hard to know what to expect of Sideshow, Lauschmann’s “one-off performance/screening event” at the EIFF, as it promises technological trickery but at the same time refers back to the early days of cinema, when the viewing experience was not yet restrained by convention.
            The artist pays homage to that time in the gallery too, where an improvised cinema-space resembles a nomad’s tent, furnished with chairs most likely borrowed from student flats and gardens. The walls are hung with rumpled curtains, tacked together from scraps of thrift-shop fabric. The projector teeters on a stack of folding wooden chairs, while crude stacks of home speakers huddle on either side of the white sheet screen.
            The Patchwork Cinema is comfortable and welcoming, and like all of Lauschmann’s work, it’s very human. Children’s chairs occupy the front row, and one is encouraged to leave one’s phone on. The programme itself is a 42-minute patchwork of experimental films from the early days of cinema and of video art. Breathtaking sequences reveal a wealth of invention and playfulness, as new tricks were played and techniques discovered.
            A few of the films were hand coloured, leaving Aladdin’s pantaloons bubbling with scarlet fury in 1906. Hands themselves feature widely, as in Émile Cohl’s Fantasmagorie of 1908 where the animator’s hands pop in to fix up an injured character. These echo Lauschmann’s own work projected just outside the room, a “digital” clock whose digits are reshaped every second by the artist’s hands.     
Lauschmann can take any labour-saving device and make it labour-intensive again. He can take bland technology and make it pleasingly couthy. Whether he’s sewing curtains or writing open-source software, he can make you want to be part of it too. Patchwork Cinema is a celebration of old new technologies which is a joy to be in, and for anyone even remotely interested in film, it’s not to be missed. -
Catrìona Black

Torsten Lauschmann, A Joy Ride (2009)
Technology’s influence on the two-dimensional image takes precedence in the substantial selection of new works included in Torsten Lauschmann’s ‘The Darker Ages’ at Mary Mary. In the unlit gallery one could be forgiven for mistaking the exhibition for a single installation work, each piece in the space sharing an investigation of the projected image.  In doing so Lauschmann engages with a spectrum of new and obsolete technologies, using video and slide projection to examine the preconceived function of the medium.
Perpetual Adoration (2009)
Perpetual Adoration (all works 2009) is one of the simplest and yet most effective works in the show; its title refers to the Catholic practice of the non-stop praising of the blessed sacrament, though its appearance more closely resembles Kasimir Malevich’s 1915 Black Square. Here Lauschmann underscores our perception of positive and negative space by silhouetting a black square on the gallery wall, pointing to the dichotomous nature of the piece. This device is employed similarly in House of the rising sun, in which a large boulder-like sphere is painted onto the gallery wall, on top of which sits a house. The illusion of a sun rising inside the dwelling is created using a masked-off video projector, the light slowly casting the windows’ rectangular forms across the painted landscape. House of the rising sun is singled out by its Tim Burton-esque quality; where the other pieces evoke the nostalgic legacies of methods of projection, here a nostalgia for childhood is embodied in the projection’s narrative.
House of the rising sun (2009)
In the animated Thaumatrop No 1: Bird in a cage, Lauschmann uses the structure of a Victorian thaumatrope – a disc with an image on either side, that merges both into a single image when spun. This re-imagined version divides archive footage of a sideshow knife thrower and his young assistant, rendering them on either side of a computer-generated image of a disc. As it spins they become one in the same image. Where the 19th-century thaumatrope is celebrated as a precursor of early forms of cinematography and animation, this 21st-century digital incarnation posthumously combines the different eras in a two-minute loop, commenting on the medium’s evolution into computer animation.
Contemporary Gear Box (2009)
The sound piece He’s got the whole world in his hand provides an effective counterbalance to the quiet hum of the various projectors. From the speakers of a MacBook come the tones of a Tuvan throat singer; the laptop screen has been destroyed, a pen shattering its surface. The obvious ironies associated with the juxtaposition of old and new make this a rather straightforward statement, which is most successful for its audible influences on the other works that surround it.
Lauschmann makes clear with these works that he does not intend them to have singular meanings; he prefers to consistently and intentionally disrupt any implied resolution of ideas.  In doing this he turns the viewer’s focus to his materials and their significance in the process of realizing his final outcomes. By contradicting our preconceived understanding of the image and its relationship to the   technologies he uses, Lauschmann effectively gathers past, present and future to redefine a constantly shifting legacy. - Steven Cairns

utorak, 8. prosinca 2015.

Bruce Baillie - Mass for the Dakota Sioux (1963–64)

Jedan od onih svetaca avangardno-metafizičkog filma.


Bruce Baillie is one of the great figures in American avant-garde filmmaking. Since 1960, he has produced a body of films unsurpassed for their lyrical sensuality, expressive hone sty and formal inventiveness. An artist and film visionary, Baillie founded Canyon Cinema in collaboration with Chick Strand in 1961, and influenced generations of filmmakers and experimental artists, ranging from George Lucas to Jennifer Reeves to Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Two nights of rarely projected, beautiful 16mm films celebrate Baillie’s artistry with vintage prints and the premiere of a previously unreleased work. Sunday’s screening features Here I Am (1962), Tung (1966), All My Life (1966), Castro Street (1966), Valentin de las Sierras (1968), Little Girl (1966, premiere, preserved by the Academy Film Archive), and others. Monday’s program includes Quick Billy (1970, 60 min.), an ode to both Eastern philosophy and “horse operas,” plus other rare, later films. - http://www.redcat.org/event/bruce-baillie

A METAPHYSICAL POET of film’s postwar avant-garde, Bruce Baillie fuses inner and outer space through a sensuous manipulation of photographic surfaces. In Castro Street (1966), images of chuffing trains peel off from physical reality like shed skins, remarried in carefully fluid superimpositions, and set to a soundscape that combines machine noises with natural murmurs. Juxtaposing rich 16-mm color stock with high-contrast black-and-white lends a ghostly air to the massive engines, occasionally punctuated by makeshift iris mattes created by Baillie’s hands cupping his camera’s lens. He achieves a similarly oneiric quality in Mass for the Dakota Sioux (1963–64), again deploying deft multilayering, this time of eerily wordless city life alternated with observational moments that quiver on the edge of symbolism: A bearded biker charging across the Bay Bridge evokes fantasies of lost prairie warriors. A dreamlike synesthesia emerges more strongly in Tung (1966), a brief, ecstatic portrait of a female dancer set against a shifting pool of distorted organic colors.
Calling these lyric late-Beat films proto-psychedelic wouldn’t be far off. Baillie contributed significantly to the emergence of a distinctly West Coast sensibility in American experimental cinema of the 1960s and ’70s, one more unabashedly spiritual and lush than the scene’s frenetic New York contemporaries. He helped establish the long-standing Bay Area distributor Canyon Cinema and inspired a younger generation of filmmakers like Will Hindle and Scott Bartlett. Today, Jennifer Reeves and others cite his influence.
Now Baillie has made Castro Street, Mass, and Tung available on a self-published, limited-edition DVD, the first volume of a planned three. Baillie reports that their production was aided by a grant from one of George Lucas’s charitable foundations—and not coincidentally. Lucas first became interested in filmmaking by attending Baillie’s early Canyon Cinema screenings as a teenager. The disk contains two other films: All My Life (1966), an enigmatically minimal one-shot set to the song by Ella Fitzgerald, and Valentin de las Sierras (1968), a quasi-ethnographic portrait of rural Mexico told through intimate close-ups of hands, faces, tools, and other details, Baillie’s camera searching physical surfaces to elicit a more immaterial experience.
A collection of Bruce Baillie’s films has been released as a limited-edition DVD. For more details, click here.Ed Halter

A number of recent films, such as The Great Beauty, Gravity, The Grandmaster, Upstream Color and Spring Breakers, have gone quite some distance in setting plot aside in order to exemplify what the camera can do to describe the sumptuousness of the world's surfaces. If those purely painterly pleasures have any capacity to thrill you, you owe it to yourself to see the films of Bruce Baillie, the subject of a screening Thursday night at Third Man Records as part of its series The Light and Sound Machine.
It's a different world than it was even as recently as 10 years ago. Where avant-garde cinema was once hopelessly inaccessible (and thus mischaracterized as "elitist" and "obscure"), one can now get to a lot of the canonical works through DVD, streaming services, Vimeo and YouTube. While this can never compare with the vibrancy of 16mm celluloid (as the LSM is screening Baillie on Thursday), at least the curious can familiarize themselves with this critical part of film history. Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage or Kenneth Anger will never be household names, but they are now as well-known as Bresson, Fassbinder or Pasolini.
Bruce Baillie is another matter, even though he is every inch the equal of the aforementioned masters. An axiom of the San Francisco experimental-film scene, Baillie was one of the original founders of both the Canyon Cinema distribution cooperative and the screening series that evolved into the San Francisco Cinematheque. He has influenced the lyrical cine-poets as well as the structural formalists, the hippies and the critical leftists, without ever producing imitators or disciples. Like Brakhage, Baillie generated his own form of cinematic meaning.
At the same time, Baillie seems to devise new working methods and stylistic textures with each and every film, which has paradoxically made him a victim of his own originality. Inasmuch as Baillie has a signature style, it has to do less with any particular technique — associative editing, sound / image relations, superimpositions, etc. — and more to do with a tactile engagement with the objects before his camera, a loving, caressing gaze. He certainly employs many formal devices like those listed above, creating visions that only cinema can provide. But he does so only in response to the material at hand. The heart of Baillie's film work, its consistent thread, is attentiveness to beauty's ability to break through the dour veil of the mundane.
We see this explicitly in Baillie's most famous film, "Castro Street" (1966), composed of two unbroken tracking shots moving in opposite directions along opposite sides of the titular street in Richmond, Calif. As Baillie moves alongside a rail yard and a Chevron refinery, we glimpse natural forms (weeds, clouds, sunbeams) in a mechanized setting, along with the human and mechanical traces of heavy industry. The two colliding views (one color, one black-and-white) describe new, impossible forms, intersecting and Rorschaching, while at the same time imbuing the working men caught by Baillie's camera/gaze with an almost feminine aesthetic potency, shining forth in brilliant crimsons and cobalt blues. The audio track is a musique concrete cacophony of train noise, half-heard brakemen's orders, the Young Rascals on the radio. It's an ordinary day, transfigured.
Or consider one of Baillie's earliest films, "Here I Am" (1962), made when he was undertaking a nonfiction newsreel program for Canyon Cinema. It is a documentary portrait of a school in Oakland for children who had experienced abuse or neglect. Baillie stands at a remove, with the intention of explaining nothing. Instead, he observes individual children at play, sharing brief moments of cooperation and tenderness. There is no voiceover, no rhetorical editing. Baillie's method is to let the camera assist in generating moments of fleeting radiance, when these introverted young people emerge from their bureaucratic circumstance and become free beings.
Likewise, Baillie's "Valentin de las Sierras" (1971) is a film that adopts what the Western viewer may expect to be an "ethnographic" subject (a man and his family in Jalisco, Mexico) and refutes all formal expectation that accompanies the anthropological gaze. Through light and shadow, extreme close-ups on eyes, hands and other body fragments, the animals, the labor and the road, Baillie produces a work of genuine portraiture. Every tiny piece of "Valentin" is so isolated from a larger context, so radically specific in its color, shape, and framing, that no grand knowledge can be generalized from it.
One of Baillie's most straightforward films is also his best. "All My Life" (1966) perhaps best reflects the filmmaker's uncanny ability to home in on the poetic simplicity of the world's interstices and successfully transmit them to his viewership. The film is a mere three minutes long. It is a single take, consisting of a right-to-left tracking shot along an old picket fence. The daylight sky is a textbook blue; there are roses growing along the fence. The film is synced to Ella Fitzgerald's song "All My Life," as sincere a love song as anyone has ever penned. "All My Life" seems to slowly unwind before the viewer, like the scroll in a player piano.
The final film on the LSM program, "Quick Billy" (1970), is one of Baillie's longest and most complex, set in four distinct movements. As if intuitively plunging into the tumultuous conceptual landscape of late '60s/early '70s avant-garde film, Baillie opens "Quick Billy" with pure, searing light, which, it soon becomes apparent, is the sun itself. Like the poetic/spiritual tradition of cine-visionaries Brakhage and Anger, Baillie overwhelms us with the self-destructive quest for enlightenment; but like the structural-materialists, so concerned with the film medium itself — think Hollis Frampton or Michael Snow — Baillie also gives us pure light on film, absolute particles on screen.
I won't spoil "Quick Billy's" many surprises, except to say that the four parts are not intended to fit together. Rather, they point to the multiple possibilities that the cinema can offer: experimentation, desire, myth — and perhaps finally, a mix of confusion and astonishment. -

Bruce Baillie – Quick Billy (1971)
First, the long awaited release of Bruce Baillie’s 1971 Masterpiece with a capital M (the first five minutes will make your head spin) Quick Billy. This third release is available through Canyon Cinema , $50 for home use and $300 for institutional use. An immense amount of sacrifice and effort went into the creation of this DVD, so sincere gratitude is owed to many (especially Baillie himself and John Carlson, who aided with the transfer and color coding). The beauty of the film is difficult to put into words, but as Bruce Elder says of the film:
“One masterwork in the cinema that depicts the process by which its maker attempts to recover the true self — or, if not the true self, an authentic self that enters into uncorrupting relations with the world beyond it — is Bruce Baillie’s ‘Quick Billy (1970). Here an attack on the body, a bout with yellow fever, brings Baillie to confront his mortality. This confrontation brings him to revise his understanding of himself, his family, his personal history, and his goals. ‘Quick Billy’ tells the tale of his falling ill, of his becoming delirious and delusional and experiencing memories of his former self, of his transformation, and of his rebirth as authentic individual. While Baillie patter the film on the ‘Bardo Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead)’, the matrix from which ‘Quick Billy’ arises is really Gnosticism. Like the similarly Gnostic/Eleusian ‘Cantos’ of Ezra Pound, ‘Quick Billy’ is a tale of going into the underworld, experiencing terror, undergoing transformation, and being reborn. The agency that brings on the transformation in both cases is the experience of light.”
– (Bruce Elder in ‘A Body of Vision’)

Bruce Baillie's rarely screened Quixote (1965) stands alongside other synoptic 60s masterpieces such as Stan Brakhage's The Art of Vision and Peter Kubelka's Unsere Afrikareise, which use dense collages of diverse images in an attempt to make sense of a troubling world. In Quixote wild horses and a basketball game are part of a cross-country trip that ends with an antiwar demonstration in Manhattan. Baillie says he's depicting our culture as one of conquest, but his film's greatness lies not in its social analysis, which can seem as simpleminded as equating businessmen with pigs. Rather it's in the way his superimposed and intercut images float almost weightlessly in space, creating a hypnotic sense of displacement that lets us see beyond aggression. Bruce Conner's strangely meditative Crossroads (1976) makes a similar point with multiple views of a 1946 A-bomb test. 81 min. 16mm. -


(Bruce Baillie, 1966)
One of Baillie's sensuous tone poems, Tung is a portrait of a friend; sandy skin and flaxen hair in the early-morning light. -Scott MacDonald...

Mr. Hayashi

(Bruce Baillie, 1961)
One of several "Canyon CinemaNews" reels that Baillie made in the early to mid 1960s, the film Mr. Hayashi has "an immediate basis in necessity" as Baillie described, and is a...

All My Life

(Bruce Baillie, 1966)
"Caspar, California; old fence with red roses." -BB...

Castro Street

(Bruce Baillie, 10 min)
An extraordinary technical achievement and a poetic masterpiece, Castro Street is a layered portrait of the Standard Oil Refinery in Richmond, California which Baillie describes as "coming of consciousness". "I wanted...

To Parsifal

(Bruce Baillie, 1963)
Baillie's tribute to Wagner and the myth of the Holy Grail and the Parsifalian hero. Various scenes, first in the Pacific, mainly in the fog (including passing under the San...

Mass for the Dakota Sioux

(Bruce Baillie, 1964)
A film Mass, dedicated to nobility and excellence. The film begins with a short introduction - "No chance for me to live, Mother, you might as well mourn." Sitting Bull,...

Here I Am

(Bruce Baillie, 1962)
One of Baillie's earliest films, Here I Am is an extraordinary portrait of children at the East Bay Activity Center, a school in Oakland, California started in the 1950s to...


(Bruce Baillie, 1965)
"One-year journey through the land of incessant progress, researching those sources which have given rise twenty years later to the essential question of survival." -BB The bearded figure at the...

Valentin de las Sierras

(Bruce Baillie, 1967)
"This ten minute portrait of lives lived in rare air and under sunlight of liquid gold is, simply put, one of the most beautiful films ever made." –Chuck Stephens "In...

Yellow Horse

(Bruce Baillie, 1965)
"Cycle scrambles poem. Bass solo by Pat Smith, LA". - BB...


(Bruce Baillie, 1966)
By the "Canyon Cinema Documentary Film Unit" - (Paul Tulley, Bruce Baillie, etc). Made in Spring, '66 for a small community of Indian people near Laytonville, California....

Tony Fitzpatrick - The Secret Birds


Kad bi oči i sjećanje bili ručno napravljen deep dream keleidoskop.

Tony Fitzpatrick’s constellations, assemblages of cutouts—found folk art, poems, old advertisements and magazines, ancient matchbook covers—are collected in The Wonder: Portraits of a Remembered City, Volume 2 published this spring by La Luz de Jesus Press. The city is Chicago, the dreams are all-American and the memories those of a nostalgic past tempered by an artist who is well aware, as Alex Kotlowitz writes in the book’s introduction, that “Chicago is a city of romance and optimism alongside the failed and the fragile.” These kaleidoscopic works of art, small collages as packed with meaning and double entendre as Joseph Cornell’s, are visually lush and gritty, a cosmology that is both familiar and exotic. - bombmagazine.org/article/2928/portfolio


If you want to summon up a picture of the quintessential Chicago artist, you don’t have to use your imagination. Just walk up to a certain storefront studio in the Bucktown neighborhood and there he is, framed in the window: Tony Fitzpatrick, big, beefy and balding in jeans and a White Sox cap, his South Side Catholic heritage oozing from every pore.
His baseball-mitt hands move with surprising delicacy around a worktable full of drawing materials, odd bits of paper X-Acto-knifed out of old magazine ads, comic strips, playing cards and matchbook covers. Over the past decade, Fitzpatrick has produced a series of remarkable drawing-collages that have been collected in a trilogy of books called The Wonder -- Portraits of a Remembered City. The originals are currently on view in a major solo show at the Chicago Cultural Center, May 3-June 29, 2008. 
The Wonder began as a memorial to Fitzpatrick’s father, a traveling burial-vault salesman who died of cancer in 1998, and ended as a sprawling narrative about the Windy City’s working class in the 20th century.
It’s a mythic vision of the city as both an industrial hell and a blue-collar heaven, as magical and soulful as it is gritty and brawling. You can toil your life away here, it says, but you can also dream it, and make it, for yourself.
"I don’t think when you go to art galleries or look at art magazines that you get any whiff of the culture of working people," says Fitzpatrick, 49. "The Wonder was a way to honor them, the people who built this city: my grandparents, my parents, a lot of the old working guys I talked to. In the art world today, a lot of those folks become invisible, and this was a way of speaking to that, finding the poetry in that century or so of lives."
Along with their central drawn images hovering in celestial fields strewn with Catholic iconography and Chicagoiana -- ads for long-gone restaurants and nightspots, burlesque houses and racetracks, barber shops and bowling alleys -- the collages in The Wonder feature Fitzpatrick’s simultaneously muscular and romantic poems, which reflect and enlarge his themes in a voice that suggests a collision of Pablo Neruda, haiku and the song lyrics of Tom Waits. (The third volume the Wonder trilogy, City of Monsters, City of Ghosts, has just been published.) Most of his works are relatively small, typically measuring 10 x 13 in.
Other legible influences in Fitzpatrick’s work include tattoo art, Mad magazine, Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, the boxes of Joseph Cornell and the "combines" of Robert Rauschenberg, all of it inflected with the streetwise ethos of Chicago. The cumulative effect shares some of the offbeat pop sensibility of Chicago Imagists such as Ed Paschke, Jim Nutt and Karl Wirsum, the gritty urban realism of street photographers like Art Shay and Lee Balterman, and the literary lineage of Chicago bards from Carl Sandburg and Nelson Algren to Mike Royko and Studs Terkel.
Fitzpatrick’s originals are now coveted by major collectors across the country -- they go for between $14,000 and $17,000 at Brooklyn’s Pierogi Gallery -- and are part of the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Museum of Modern Art. But the artist remains true to his roots, working 10 hours a day, six days a week. After a knockabout youth of truancy, boxing and substance abuse, his carousing days are over -- he’s been clean and sober for a quarter-century and, for the past 17 years, married to the interior designer Michele Fitzpatrick, with whom he has two children -- but Fitzpatrick retains his love of laid-back Chicago street culture, its diners and blues clubs and tattoo parlors, its vernacular architecture, its obsession with sports and even its appetite for brass-knuckle ward politics.
"I don’t think you’ll run across anybody that’s prouder of being from Chicago or who knows it the way he does," says folk-rock troubadour Steve Earle, one of Fitzpatrick’s oldest friends. "It was a South Side, Daley-is-God world that he grew up in, and he really reveres the history of the city."
The surprise is that this most Chicago-centric of artists says he’s done with Chicago for now, at least imaginatively. While Fitzpatrick maintains a home in the city -- where he’s starting up Firecat, a new publishing venture, with a group of friends -- he’s now spending about half the year in Brooklyn and making frequent trips to New Orleans, the inspiration and subject of his latest series of drawing-collages.
"I’ve needed to free myself of my father’s ghost," Fitzpatrick says. "I’m going to be 50 years old this year, and I’ve been making art about the world he showed me for a very long time. I love Chicago, but it’s time to make work about something else."
Fitzpatrick’s New Orleans pieces, the first installment of which Firecat will publish next year as a book called A Thousand Beautiful Things, expand on his vocabulary from The Wonder, giving it an exotic Big Easy flair. The colors are brighter, and several of the collages focus on texts rather than drawings. Some refer to the devastations of Katrina, but even more dwell on the city’s famous resilience. Mardi Gras revelry (especially its fantastical, shape-shifting costumes), the gumbo of ethnicities and cultures and sexualities, the music, the food, the architecture, the encouragement of nonconformity and eccentricity of every kind: it all finds its way into the work.
"There’s a kindness in New Orleans," Fitzpatrick says. "They’ve survived something awful, and there’s this idea that they will revitalize themselves culturally with good will and kindness and creativity. I have two musician friends down there that don’t have addresses -- they’ve been living with friends since Katrina -- but two nights a week they go out and play benefits for people who have less. This is what artists do for each other down there, and it touched me. In the Chicago art world we have everything, and nothing matters. In the New Orleans art world they have nothing right now, and everything matters. And I thought, ‘I don’t care if I don’t get another museum show, I don’t care if I’m in the Whitney Biennial, I don’t give a fuck if I never sell another piece to MoMA. Just let me part of this’."
And so he is. Fitzpatrick has been invited to show his New Orleans work in the city’s biennial, "Prospect.1," which opens on Halloween night and continues through Jan. 18, 2009.
"Tony’s an outlaw, basically, and I think he’s attracted to New Orleans because there’s such a raw, wild side to the city," says Mark Bercier of Taylor Bercier Fine Art in the French Quarter. "He’s a romantic at heart, and that stuff -- that soul that’s rooted here so deep -- just bubbles up from out of the ground in this city. It’s everywhere, and it’s visual, which makes it a natural for Tony."
John McNaughton, a film director (Wild Things, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) and Chicago native who has collected more than 100 Fitzpatrick pieces, says the artist has been re-energized by New Orleans. "I think the work that’s coming out of it from him has been exceptional -- some of the best he’s ever done," he says. "Tony and I are both from the South Side, and so of course he has a great depth of feeling for this city. But you can have great depth of feeling for other places, too, and sometimes it’s time to move on. As an artist, you have to explore new ideas -- otherwise you can just collapse in on yourself and become stale. The work from New Orleans is anything but stale."
Wherever his career takes him, however, Fitzpatrick will always be a Chicagoan at heart. "I don’t think Chicago ever has to worry about losing Tony," Earle says. "It’s in his bones."
"Tony Fitzpatrick: The Wonder -- Portraits of a Remembered City," May 2-June 29, 2008, at the Sidney R. Yates Gallery, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington Street, Chicago, Ill. 60602