Thursday, May 9 | Cinematic Disruption
Screenings begin at 7:30 p.m.
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A curated selection of influential experimental films, ranging from early pioneers to modern-day disruptors, leads into a partial retrospective of short works by Vanessa Renwick. Renwick is a contemporary experimental filmmaker from Portland who has been disrupting what “filmmaking” means from Portland for over two decades. Leave your expectations behind, step inside and experience what disruptive cinema looks like outside mainstream boundaries of the multiplex.
Thursday night's program ends with a conversation between Renwick and SEEN/UNSEEN curator Kim Voynar.
Content in the evening screenings is most likely appropriate for audiences 13+.
Grab a drink with us before (and during) the show -- a wine and beer bar will open at 6:30 each evening. You can purchase your drink bracelet on site.
All run times listed in minutes.
Director: Stan Brakhage
Run time: 3:26
Essence of lepidoptera re-created between two strips of clear Mylar tape: an anima animation. What a moth might see from birth to death, if black were white and white were black.
Meshes of the Afternoon
Directors: Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid
Run time: 14:00
Meshes of the Afternoon is one of the most influential works in American experimental cinema. A non-narrative work, it has been identified as a key example of the "trance film," in which a protagonist appears in a dreamlike state and where the camera conveys his or her subjective focus.
Director: Sarah Katherine Arledge
Run time: 6:21
Introspection was the first abstract dance film made in the United States and pioneered the “cine-dance” movement.
Director: Ana Nedeljković
Run time: 7:24
Brainless Rabbits live in Rabittland, a perfect world ordered according to the most successful examples of war zones, ghettos and slums. They are intensively pink, have holes in their heads instead of brains, and they are happy regardless of what happens to them. They are the highest stage the evolution has ever reached. Their everyday life is completely fulfilled. The Rabbits spend days voting in free and democratic elections, which take place once a day, because Rabbitland is an ordered democracy. Nevertheless, it gets disclosed that the elections are organized by the Evil Girls, just for their fun and laughter.
Untitled (for Marilyn)
Director: Stan Brakhage
Run time: 11:00
An untitled hand-painted film – a hypnagogic four-part thought process interwoven with scratched words in thanks to and in praise of God.
Director: Vanessa Renwick
Run time: 55:47
Founder and janitor of the Oregon Department of Kick-Ass, Portland-based filmmaker Vanessa Renwick has been a fiercely independent defining voice of experimental cinema for over 20 years. Spanning two decades of her prolific career, the films exhibited in this partial retrospective showcase the range of Renwick’s body of work as an experimental artist. From her early film collage work Warning, which highlights the censorship of self and other by juxtaposing a series of “warning” signs against a relentless score, and Britton, South Dakota, a mesmerizing sliver of time captured and revealed through Dust Bowl-era found footage, to the deeply visceral abstraction of her later works layover and Kesh, this partial retrospective will allow the audience to experience a broad selection of works from one of the most influential and prolific experimental filmmakers working today.
Warning (1997) (4 mins)
A film collage that calls out to the paleomammalian part of our brain, director of adrenalin, orchestrator of the human flight or flight response. Warning takes a closer look at the many high-energy, red-alert messages that embed activities as mundane as street crossing and cooking. Within this awareness, heightened to hair-raising levels by Donovan Skirvin’s relentless and clever score, we find a disturbing pressure to succumb to a rising tide of censorship of self and other. Warning! Resist!
Stretcher (2001) (3 mins)
Crow images and portrait close-ups hover as a stilted narration describes the challenge, preparation and joy of an annual crow hunt, supported by crow calls. A feeling of danger seeps in with a looming, creepy organ score while the increasingly disturbing narration takes us deeper into this flickering world. A broken-winged crow, a woman in a wheelchair, a blind pedestrian with a seeing-eye dog, men with rifles marching with great purpose into the snowy forest. Life-fragile, broken, predatory-reflected.
9 is a Secret (2002) (6 mins)
"Renwick recounts a sad time in her life, when a friend was dying and she suddenly became aware of the presence of crows. The dark birds in turn point her to the practice of counting crows, which is both a children's rhyming game and a form of divination in which the number of crows suggests events in the future. Eight crows augur death: nine crows reference a secret. Renwick combines these fragments with glimpses of imagery – a bed, the crows captured as silhouettes, a man's twisted body – to craft a lyrical and moving essay that works its magic through poetic accretion rather than narrative logic." – Holly Willis, L.A. Weekly
Britton, South Dakota (2003) (9 mins)
Ivan Besse managed the Strand movie theater in Britton, South Dakota, during the Depression. Besse owned a 16 mm camera and used it to shoot people at their various activities around town during the day. He screened the local footage before feature films and newsreels as a lure to entice paying customers into the theater. Most of his two-and-a-half hours of footage depicts townspeople walking down the street. There are also scenes of a barn being moved, a cornhusking contest and kids running out of a school. What really stands out is eight minutes of children’s portraits. The subjects – dressed in what appear to be their Sunday best – clearly had no notion of a movie camera. The lack of an overt narrative creates a sort of cinematic paper-doll environment. The film invites viewers to drape these images with futures, which have long since become histories. The drone of Johnne Eschleman’s accompanying melancholy organ composition casts a tragic shadow over these bright faces, one that may or may not have come to pass.
Portrait #2 Trojan (2006) (5 mins)
The Portrait Series is part of an ongoing series of filmed places, stories and histories of Cascadia with scores by musicians living in the Pacific Northwest. The Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, with its 499-foot tall cooling tower, looms over its otherwise bucolic Columbia River setting. At the cost of $450 million in the 1970's economy (almost $3 trillion in today’s money), it remains the only commercial nuclear power plant ever built in the state of Oregon. The plant was beset by environmental concerns and citizen protest from the moment it began operations in 1975, due to it resting in close proximity to a fault line and suffering unplanned closures from leaking steam tubes and other operating issues. Shortly after Portland General Electric spent $4.5 million to defeat a ballot measure to shut the reactor down, the plant finally closed for good in 1993, after only 17 years in operation. With the river and its denizens as witnesses, at 7 a.m. May 21, 2006, in the first-ever implosion of a cooling tower at a reactor plant in the United States, Trojan fell. Portrait #2: Trojan is a sublime representation of the surrounding environment leading dramatically up to the moment of demolition. Sam Coomes’ flawless score provides stunning sonic context for the happy ending of the Oregon nuclear skyline. The film is an effective prescription in prevention of politically-triggered anxiety and depression in post-modern Cascadia.
Red Stallion’s Revenge (2007) (7 mins)
Seventy-odd years ago, the set of the Hollywood Western was almost as crude as the message. Red Stallion’s Revenge reminds us, with much humor gained by the hindsight of modern technology, of how primitive art movies used to be. More seriously, the piece exposes the bombast behind the justification of utterly eradicating the wild to replace it with the herd. Throughout, the smooth crooning of Chris Sand and Trisha Lovgren slowly breaks our hearts.
Little White Horse (2010) (5 mins)
At Quasi musician Sam Coomes’ request, footage from Red Stallion’s Revenge was recut and edited to accompany the song Little White Horse from the 2010 album American Gong. In the re-cut, forest animals outnumber the humans and screen images recede in the face of the driving, scornful lyrics. The collaboration challenges the choices we make as humans: Do we live wild, risking battle? Or are we saddled with the trappings of modern convenience?
SF Hitch (2012) (5 min 17 sec)
A wolf dog’s restlessness prompts a pilgrimage from the burly sprawl of Chicago to investigate the myth of San Francisco. A hitchhiking triumph – even with the enormous canine companion, the camera-toting traveler never waited longer than five minutes roadside before “strangers in the brotherhood of hitchhiking” furthered the pair down the long road west. The narration showcases the filmmaker’s gift with words as well as images. Viewing the film, we become hitchhikers as well, drawn into the mesmerizing, flickering story. Highlights include encounters with famous beatnik writers and the acquisition of a Holy Grail that has since influenced Renwick’s bright career – a copy of James Broughton’s Seeing the Light, purchased, perfectly, at City Lights Books.
layover (2014) (6 mins)
A swan song for the factory age. Every autumn, a South America-bound colony of Vaux’s Swifts numbering in the tens of thousands enjoy a layover in a Portland, Oregon, elementary school chimney. Sunset brings a vortex of swirling shapes, where each tiny piece combines to form a hypnotic, ever-changing pattern. An equinoctial rhythm beats in every swoop of the organic overhead spiral. The defunct industrial chimney is our own demise, and yet the relentless, fluid choreography of the tiny migrants signals a new start, the turning wheel.
Crack House (2015) (2.5 mins)
Mosaic artist Jeffrey Bale, described by the New York Times as a “rock star,” transformed a former Portland crack house into a stone art paradise, an urban sanctuary and bird haven. Crack House, edited in camera, is a cosmic burst of color and sound created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Super 8 film.
Kesh (2018) (3 mins)
“Always Coming Home
A white dog with blue eyes, returning home when old. A
people at home in the left coast wilds as the animals they are. Some half human.
North Owl, half person, raised by a woman of the matriarchal Valley, fathered by a passing Condor warrior. She said to me, ‘I am here.’
Little Bear Woman, Ursula. Leaping over and through, negative as positive, dreaming our flooded future's past. Lullabies on wings soaring forward. Ravens slowly spinning, slicing, a dance suspended. To go is to return.”
- Vanessa Renwick
This video was made for the re-release on LP of the cassette of Music and Poetry of the Kesh, a soundtrack that Todd Barton and Ursula K. Le Guin made to accompany Le Guin’s book Always Coming Home.
In Conversation: Kim Voynar with Vanessa Renwick
Program time: 20:00
Director: Jon Jost
From director Jon Jost, “Muri Romani is, I suppose, a kind of documentary in a somewhat radical form. In appearance it is utter simplicity: the image of a patch of wall in Rome, today. As one watches the wall seems to change, invisibly, without technical means. The sound is a collage of street sounds: motorin, bells, people talking, trams, and sirens – the daily sounds of central Rome. Somewhere in the passage of watching I think the viewer – at least those tolerant of such a kind of work, so antithetical to normal film expectations – begins to ponder the passage of time, of history, and perhaps in some odd way, the meaning of life. Or at least that is my intention and hope.”
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