Experimental Landscapes I: Landscape and the Body at Work and Play
Experimental Landscapes I: Landscape and the Body at Work and Play
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028
Sharon Lockhart in person!
Filmforum presents the first in a series of screenings devoted to experimental cinema and landscape, with a program that explores the connection between labor, leisure, landscape, and the moving image. For as long as artists have taken the landscape as an object worthy of their scrutiny, the human body has served them as its measure and its foil. Whether at work or at play, whether above or below, it is the body from which we view the landscapes we inhabit, just as we survey the landscape—as if by instinct—for signs of the bodies that inhabit it, give it form, depth, and meaning. With its particular ability to render things in motion, experimental cinema has long seized upon this interrelation between landscape and the body in order to capture what is most essential to them both. Few filmmakers working today have grasped this connection with as much depth and subtlety as Sharon Lockhart. And Lockhart’s films, in turn, assume even greater relief when juxtaposed with the work of older artists like Phill Niblock, or with that of such contemporaries as Francis Alÿs. If Niblock’s 1973 film Trabajando Dos (Mexico) centers on the raw mechanics of manual labor—all the while insisting on the primordial unity between laborers and the land they work—Alÿs’s video, REEL-UNREEL, from 2011, casts child’s play as a politics of improvisation, one capable of expressing optimism in even the bleakest of landscapes. Lockhart’s films, meanwhile, meld these two impulses into an ethnographic fascination with the landscapes of labor and leisure alike. In works as disparate as NŌ (2003) and Pódworka (2009), landscape emerges as an elaborate stage on which human bodies choreograph their everyday lives.
Sharon Lockhart Studio: http://www.lockhartstudio.com/
Francis Alÿs, at David Zwirner Gallery: http://www.davidzwirner.com/artists/francis-alys/
Phill Niblock (b. 1933, Anderson, IN, U.S.A.) is a composer, filmmaker, videographer, and director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation for avant-garde music based in New York and Ghent, Belgium. Niblock's musical compositions feature microtones of instrumental timbres, which generate other tones within the performance space. He presents these compositions alongside abstract films and videos.
Since the mid-1960s, Niblock's music and intermedia performances have been presented at venues across the world, including The Museum of Modern Art, Roulette, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, The Kitchen, the Festival d'Automne à Paris, the Pompidou Center in Paris, Eyebeam, Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Institute of Contemporary Art London, Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, and the World Music Institute at Merkin Concert Hall in New York. He has collaborated with a number of artists including Susan Stenger, Robert Poss, Jim O'Rourke, Ulrich Krieger, Seth Josel, Petr Kotik, and Tom Buckner. Niblock's music is available on the XI, Moikai, Mode and Touch labels.
Niblock has received grants from Massachusetts Council on the Arts, Phaedrus Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Creative Artists Public Service Program, Meet the Composer, and the Research Foundation of the City University of New York. He was a 1978 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. Niblock received a Grants to Artists award in 1994. He received [Foundation for Contemporary Art]'s biennial John Cage Award, a $50,000 lifetime achievement award, in 2014.
Niblock has been an artist and member of Experimental Intermedia since 1968 and its Director since 1985. He is the producer of over 1,000 music and intermedia presentations at Experimental Intermedia since 1973. He also serves as the curator of Experimental Intermedia's XI Records label and co-founded its branch in Ghent, Belgium, EI v.z.w. Gent. He received his B.A. from Indiana University and was a Professor of Film, Video, and Photography at the College of Staten Island from 1971-1998. Niblock continues to perform around the world. (foundationforcontemporaryarts.org)
Francis Alÿs (b. 1959, Antwerp, Belgium) uses poetic and allegorical methods to address political and social realities, such as national borders, localism and globalism, areas of conflict and community, and the benefits and detriments of progress. Alÿs’s personal, ambulatory explorations of cities form the basis for his practice, through which he compiles extensive and varied documentation that reflects his ideas and process. As one of the foremost artists of his generation, Alÿs has produced a complex and diverse body of work that includes video, painting, performance, drawing, and photography. (moma.org)
A major solo museum exhibition, A Story of Negotiation: An investigation into the parallel activities of painting and performance, featuring the artist's three projects Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River, Tornado, and REEL-UNREEL, was on view at the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City through August 16, 2015. The show will travel to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) - Fundación Costantini in Buenos Aires, followed by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana in Havana and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in 2016. (davidzwirner.com)
A major survey of his work, “Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception,” was on view from 2010–2011 at the Tate Modern, London; Wiels Centre d'Art Contemporain, Brussels; and the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 in New York. He has been the subject of solo shows at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2010); The Renaissance Society, Chicago (2008); the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2007); and was featured in dOCUMENTA (13) (2012). He is represented by David Zwirner in New York and Peter Kilchmann Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. (artspace.com) http://www.francisalys.com
Sharon Lockhart (b. 1964, Norwood, MA, U.S.A.) makes photographs and films born of in-depth research and collaboration with different communities over multiple years. Her projects are conceptually rigorous, formally precise, and socially and historically grounded, often dealing with the topic of labor. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at major museums worldwide, including Kunstmuseum Luzern, Bonniers Konsthall, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Israel Museum, Kunsthalle Zürich, the Vienna Secession, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. Her newest film, commissioned by the Liverpool Biennial and the Kadist Foundation, is an extension of her work with young Polish women and the writings of Polish/Jewish philosopher Janusz Korczak. She received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (1991) and holds an MFA from the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena (1993).
Lockhart first became known for Auditions, the 1995 photographic series in which she recruited children to re-enact a romantic scene from Small Change by Francois Truffaut. The formal, rational, and artistic approach, paired with sociological subject matter of this early series, form a duality that follows Lockhart throughout her career. In the late 1990s, Lockhart began to work abroad, creating a series of projects which addressed ethnographic filmmaking within a Fine Art context. Goshogaoka (1998), presents a Japanese girls high school basketball team performing their routine, mixed with choreographed segments. Set in the historic Brazilian theater of the same name, Teatro Amazonia captures the audience head-on as they listen to a minimalist concert—the chatter and conversation of its indifferent guests increasing as the concert progresses. In each film, Lockhart uses a stationary camera reminiscent of still photographic language. Her interest in both ethnography, and the interplay of film and photography, persist with some of her more recent works. In Lunch Break, a portrait of workers at a Maine shipyard, Lockhart pays tribute to the often controversial tradition of photographing workers, with a fresh take on the genre. For the project, Lockhart photographed the workers’ lunchboxes and exhibited the images alongside a film of the workers on lunch break in a bleak industrial environment. Lunch Break is indicative of another trademark of Lockhart’s work: While hinting at larger sociopolitical statements, the work focuses on human experience and expression by putting the spotlight on the everyday details. In 2012, Lockhart exhibited a multimedia collaboration with Noa Eshkol, an Israeli dance composer and textile artist at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
This fall, Lockhart joined the faculty of the School of Art at CalArts, where she teaches in the Photography and Media program. http://www.lockhartstudio.com
This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; Bloomberg Philanthropies; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
Trabajando Dos (Mexico)
By Phill Niblock
1973/4, 16mm to digital video, 24 mins., with composition for cello (“FeedCorn Ear”) by Phill Niblock, featuring cellist Andre DeForce
Trabajando Dos counts among the earliest works from Niblock’s monumental twenty-year series, The Movement of People Working. Here, a rhythmic succession tightly framed shots capture the bodies of Mexican peasants in their rural surroundings. The use of very long lenses, meanwhile, serves to scrutinize the dynamics of their manual labor—performed by mostly pre-industrial means—while resolutely anchoring the workers in the landscape.
" Unlike an anthropological study, Niblock’s films abstract themselves down to the level of motion, focusing on the qualities of repetitive movement, ‘the texture of rhythm and form of body motion within the frame.’” — Pleasure Dome (pdome.org)
By Francis Alÿs (in collaboration with Julien Devaux and Ajmal Maiwandi)
2011, single-channel video projection, 20 min.
Commissioned by dOCUMENTA(13) and filmed in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, REEL-UNREEL depicts a group of jubilant children rolling and chasing two metal film reels through the desolate cityscape. As one reel pays out an immense length of celluloid, the other reel, far behind, simultaneously takes the tattered train of film back up. In the process, we bear witness to the profound historical link between war, play, landscape, and the cinema itself.
“[T]he whole city of Kabul is transformed into an improvised movie set, and the gesture of playing into the three-dimensional projection of a film, which gets covered in dust and detritus, bearing with it, in the material impression on the film, the multiple memory of a community suspended between disintegration and reconstruction, memory and forgetting, past and future, drama and play.” (Domus)
By Sharon Lockhart
2003, 16mm, color/sound, 34 mins.
“Filmed in a continuous take with a fixed-angle camera, NŌ captures Masa and Yoko Ito, a Japanese farming couple, systematically mulching a plot of land. For over half an hour, they arrange tidy piles of straw and then disperse them over a field with minimalist, almost sculptural precision. […] Lockhart described her process in the following way: ‘I organized NŌ around the optics of seeing . . . I had the farmers make piles of hay in the reverse perspective of the camera, following the camera’s field of vision. . . . After working from background to foreground to make the piles, the farmers come in and slowly spread the hay over just that portion of the field revealed by the camera, from foreground to background, as if they are covering a canvas.” As the figures move through horizontal fields of color in a choreographed fashion, Lockhart’s film appears almost as a living landscape painting.” (Art Institute of Chicago)
By Sharon Lockhart
2009, 16mm to HD video, 31 minutes
Pódworka “takes as its subject matter the courtyards of Lodz, Poland, and the children that inhabit them. A ubiquitous architectural element of the city, Lodz’s courtyards are the playgrounds of the children that live in the surrounding apartment buildings. Separated from the streets, they provide a sanctuary from the traffic and commotion of the city. Yet far from the overdetermined playgrounds of America, the courtyards are still very much urban environments. In six different courtyards throughout the city of Lodz, we see parking lots, storage units, and metal armatures become jungle gyms, sandboxes, and soccer fields in the children’s world. A series of fleeting interludes within city life, Pódworka is both a study of a specific place and an evocation of the resourcefulness of childhood.” (www.lockhartstudio.com)
“This is both minimalist filmmaking and social documentary. Lockhart’s scenarios can be seen as embodiments of space and time—the basic abstract dimensions of the film medium—but she is also engaging in oblique social commentary. As always, her work is concerned with how people inhabit places, and therefore how they inhabit their own lives.” — Mark Prince, Flash Art