Don’t Miss “Virgin Springs” at the Nasher with Mark McElhatten

Saturday, February 4, 2012

2:00-3:50pm at the Nasher Museum of Art Auditorium

Maverick artists, 5 women and 1 man equal 6 titles, spring to the screen adding up to more than the sum of their parts with these exciting works shown for the first time together since the New York Film Festival 2011.

“This end of the world will occur without noise, without revolution, without cataclysm. Just as a tree loses leaves in the autumn wind…” – Camille Flammarion

View through the binoculars, the microscope, a spy glass: Sibling telepathy, occult passageways, recordings that know the mental latitude and longitude of the intended listener, Zoological kaleidoscopes, a visionary voice in the wilderness, the secret and not so secret life of Plants.

— Q&A to follow with renowned curator Mark McElhatten (co-founder & programmer of ‘Views from the Avant Garde’ at the New York Film Festival) and Duke filmmakers Josh Gibson & Erin Espelie!

Works Shown:

Baptismal Sticks and Stones
(April Simmons, U.S., 2011, 7m, color, digital)
“An idea, an impression, a mental commotion, while entirely internal, can produce in another direction physiological effects more or less intense, and is even capable of causing death.”—Camille Flammarion’s The Unknown (1900)

Devil’s Gate
(Laura Kraning, U.S., 2011, 20m, b&w, digital)
Devil’s Gate explores the metaphysical undercurrents of a Southern California landscape scarred by fire. The film lyrically depicts the physical and mythological terrain of Devil’s Gate Dam, located at the nexus of Pasadena’s historical relationship with technology and the occult, and intertwining with its central figure, Jack Parsons, who some believe to have opened a dark portal in this place. The film merges an observational portrait of a landscape transformed by fire, ash and water with a fragmentary textual narrative, providing a view into man’s obsession with controlling and transcending the forces of nature and spirit. It can be seen as unearthing a subconscious of the landscape, as the echoes of the past reverberate in the present and infect our perception and experience of place.—Laura Kraning

Twice Removed
(Leslie Thornton, U.S., 2011, 9m, color, digital)
“We do not look at things well. We see what we expect to see. We are told what we are seeing. In my work I use slippages in image and sound, I construct oddly motivated montage, I digress, and contradict—all in subtle ways so as to unsettle the viewer and provoke closer attention.”—Leslie Thornton

This invocation of a transcendent eye is central to both Twice Removed, and the gallery installation, Binocular Series, from which it is drawn. On the screen there are two circular fields; on the left, an animal appears—a bird, reptile, mammal, an insect—shot in a natural or artificial habitat, animals simply doing what they do. On the right, in the second circular field, is a synched abstraction derived from the image on the left. What is remarkable in the interaction between the “natural” and “abstract” images is that both interfere with and transform our reading and apprehension of the other. One sees, in the minute and rhythmic repetition in the abstract field on the right, that a bird is breathing, a snake blinking, or that a zebra is so still that it can look like a photograph, until there is a twitch of an ear. In Twice Removed, a carnivalesque soundtrack further estranges these split images of the animals, which appear embraced in an unspeakable realm of difference, images of a realm not ours to own.—Leslie Thornton

Ricky
(Janie Geiser, U.S., 2011, 11m, color, digital)
The realms of childhood, war, and loss echo through Ricky. Double vision illuminates, and simultaneously obfuscates, what can be remembered, lost, or retrieved. A found sound recording forms the spine of the film . . . a scratched audio letter from father to son.—Janie Geiser

Silent Springs
(Erin Espelie, U.S., 2011, 13m, color/b&w, digital)
Amphibians are among the planet’s great survivors . . . [They] have been around not just longer than mammals, say, or birds; they have been around since before there were dinosaurs . . . Currently, a third of all amphibian species . . . are classified as “threatened with extinction.”—Elizabeth Kolbert

Try as we might, we cannot autopsy (from Greek, to see for oneself) the whole natural world. As diversity of life reduces, we further lose the ability to be amphibious (from Greek, to lead dual lives), to be above a surface and below. In different planes, it may be impossible to achieve focus (from Latin, place of fire, used first by Johannes Kepler as reference to the burning convergence of a lens).—Erin Espelie

Kudzu Vine
(Josh Gibson, U.S., 2011, 20m, b&w, digital)
A train advances through a railroad crossing flanked by dark masses of leaves and exits through the left of the frame, as if backwards in time. A radio program broadcasting to Georgia farmers waxes lyrical about kudzu’s many uses and virtues. This broadcast ushers in surreal and apocalyptic images and sounds of kudzu vines creeping forward, some say a foot a day. Photographed in black and white, and radiating with the luminance of early cinema, this ode to the climbing, trailing, and coiling species Pueraria lobata evokes the agricultural history and mythic textures of the South, while paying tribute to the human capacity for improvisation.—Josh Gibson

 

Special Guests:

Mark McElhatten has been programming film and video since 1977. He is the co- founder of Views from the Avant-Garde at the New York Film Festival and the Walking Picture Palace. McElhatten’s programs have been featured at museums, film festivals and alternative spaces worldwide.

Josh Gibson is a filmmaker, instructor, and Associate Director of the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image (AMI) at Duke University.

Erin Espelie is a filmmaker, writer, editor, and university lecturer, who currently teaches at Duke University.

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Contact: Hank Okazaki
Cost: Free and Open to the Public!
Sponsors: The Program in the Arts of the Moving Image (AMI), with generous support from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.