A term used to describe a journey to the underworld, Experimental Response Cinema and MASS Gallery present Katabasis, a trip to a land of spectacles, of alchemical concoctions, of the most precise hallucinations. Don’t fear, there is a way out – near, far, wherever you are. A screening with a focus on performance, featuring work by Mary Helena Clark, Lawrence Jordan, David Lebrun, Jesse McLean, Shana Moulton, and Stuart Sherman.
- Orpheus (outtakes) (Mary Helena Clark, 6 min, 16mm, sound, 2012)
“Using footage from Cocteau’s Orphée, Mary Helena Clark optically prints an interstitial space where the ghosts of cinema lurk beyond and within the frames.” – Andrea Picard, TIFF
- Tanka (David Lebrun, 9:30 min, 16mm, sound, 1976)
Original score by Ashish Khan (sarod), Buddy Arnold (saxophone, clarinet, flute), Pranesh Khan (tablas) and Francisco Lupica (percussion).
Tanka means, literally, a thing rolled up. The film, photographed from Tibetan scroll paintings of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, is a cyclical vision of ancient gods and demons, an animated journey through the image world of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
“With his dazzling TANKA David Lebrun has filmed a series of Tibetan paintings of mythological subjects and then programmed his footage into an optical printer to create the illusion of animation. The dazzling, vibrantly colored result is a series of dancing gods, wild revels, raging fires and sea battles between monsters.” – Kevin Thomas, The Los Angeles Times
“An extraordinary film.” – Melinda Wortz, Art News
“Tanka is brilliantly powered by the insight that Tibetan religious paintings are intended to be perceived not as in repose but as in constant movement. The water and flowers seem to dip and sway, the birds to fly and the god to move his arms sinuously.” – Edgar Daniel, American Film
- Selections from the Eleventh Spectacle (The Erotic) and Eighth Spectacle (People’s Faces) (Stuart Sherman, 20 min, digital, sound, 1979)
Sherman may best be known for his solo Spectacle performances, which usually took the form of quick-paced interactions with everyday objects over a table top. He created and performed eighteen Spectacles in total, twelve of which he performed solo, and six with groups of collaborators. A prominent theme of the Spectacles was Sherman’s playful use of scale, either in the amplification of small gestures and details, or the miniaturization of theatrical spectacle.
Preserved by EAI in collaboration with the Fales Library & Special Collections, NYU and the Barbara L. Goldsmith Preservation Lab, NYU Libraries.
“Most of his performances, executed in silence with an almost religious concentration, consist of the manipulation, generally on a fragile little folding table, of different kinds of objects, usually plastic toys, but also bars of soap, kitchen utensils, and other objects manufactured in assembly-line imitations of one another, that are easily obtainable. It is Sherman’s manipulation of objects that make his performances resemble a magic show, but magic without tricks, suggesting that the point of his activity is something other than what it seems to be, that it is not the transformation of objects that is important, but, as Noel Carroll has observed, the order that is imposed on them.” – Berenice Reynaud
- The Mountain Where Everything is Upside Down (Shana Moulton, 5 min, digital, sound, 2008)
Video artist Shana Moulton’s The Mountain Where Everything Is Upside Down is even better, immersing the viewer in a hallucinatory workout room where the artist’s alter-ego, a hypochondriac named Cynthia, achieves ecstatic rapture after trepanning her skull with a magic crystal. As she often does, Moulton scrambles the lexicons of new age spirituality with fitness and beauty fads to comment on mankind’s desperate need to put its faith in something. Of course, these shortsgarishly colorful, freewheeling in their use of disparate cultural signifiers, succeed on the level of spectacle. Much of the work here strives for more than flashy visuals, but, in this case, that flash feels very substantial.
- Solar Sight (Lawrence Jordan, 15 min, 16mm, sound, 2010)
A question I had in mind was: what’s the place of the human being in the cosmos? More and more we think about what is ‘beyond.’ Less and less is art concerned. I don’t know why. The question seems a bit grandiose, but I approached it quite simply. I have never worked with color photography as primary background to cut-out animation before. I was surprised that the result was so powerful (helped by John Davis’ very resonant music). It was liberating to release human figures into an apperception of suggested space, along with the primordial enigma of the revolving sphere. – L.J.
- Magic for Beginners (Jesse McLean, 21 min, digital, sound, 2010)
Magic for Beginners examines the mythologies found in fan culture, from longing to obsession to psychic connections. The need for such connections (whether real or imaginary) as well as the need for an emotional release that only fantasy can deliver is explored.
“Out of the blue, I bought my first television. I kept the TV on all the time.” –Andy Warhol
“Jesse McLean’s 20-minute video Magic for Beginners is an intermittently gripping, psychedelic montage revolving around childhood obsessions with Leonardo DiCaprio and the video game Tron.” –Ken Johnson, “Magic for Beginners”, New York Times, August 11th, 2011