Animals

A two-part study of the self-sustaining lifestyle of a communal farm in Vermont. 

Grand Mal, 1981

"Oursler’s thematic concerns betray classic Freudian anxieties about sex and death. In Grand Mal, the hero takes a convoluted odyssey through a landscape of disturbing experiences. The video’s free association includes, "digressions about the difference between salt and sugar and a version of the creation myth that is both banal and terrifying."

— Christine Tamblyn, “Art Notes,” Scan (November/December 1981)

Set between Swaziland and South Africa, in a region still struggling with the divisions produced by an apartheid government, Greetings to the Ancestors documents the dream lives of the territory’s inhabitants as the borders of consciousness dissolve and expand. Equal parts documentary, ethnography and dream cinema, herein is a world whose borders are constantly dematerializing.

A Hand in Two Ways (Fisted) is a looping meditation on night as space of mysterious energetic transmissions. Animals, human bodies, children, ritual, and performance are investigated as zones of conflict, desire, and a visceral movement that is more felt than seen.

A Hand in Two Ways (Fisted) is a looping meditation on night as space of mysterious energetic transmissions. Animals, human bodies, children, ritual, and performance are investigated as zones of conflict, desire, and a visceral movement that is more felt than seen.

“A soldier’s trip to Syria is complicated when he accidentally impregnates a friend. Meanwhile, a horse breeder from Ohio is driven away from home by her own desire to become pregnant. In Hard as Opal the lines between truth and fiction, fact and fantasy, are reined in and treated not as fixed, divisive markers but as malleable threads of narrative potential. Buckhiester and Leventhal perform alongside other non-actors who are filmed in their own varying domestic and professional environments.

“A soldier’s trip to Syria is complicated when he accidentally impregnates a friend. Meanwhile, a horse breeder from Ohio is driven away from home by her own desire to become pregnant. In Hard as Opal the lines between truth and fiction, fact and fantasy, are reined in and treated not as fixed, divisive markers but as malleable threads of narrative potential. Buckhiester and Leventhal perform alongside other non-actors who are filmed in their own varying domestic and professional environments.

"By way of lush formal and associative shifts, Hearts Are Trump Again evokes the ever-present tension between seemingly polarized states of experience. Desire and repulsion; freedom and constraint; pain and pleasure all find articulation in images of ferocious dogs and mock conversations about childbearing. Tonally complex and viscerally rich, Hearts Are Trump Again is a lyrical exploration of emotional weather."

— Brett Price

"Here is Everything presents itself as a message from The Future, as narrated by a cat and a rabbit, spirit guides who explain that they've decided to speak to us via a contemporary art video because they understand this to be our highest form of communication. Their cheeky introduction, however, belies the complex set of ideas that fill the remainder of the film. Death, God, and attaining and maintaining a state of Grace are among the thematic strokes winding their way through the piece, rapturously illustrated with animation, still and video imagery." 

"Here is Everything presents itself as a message from The Future, as narrated by a cat and a rabbit, spirit guides who explain that they've decided to speak to us via a contemporary art video because they understand this to be our highest form of communication. Their cheeky introduction, however, belies the complex set of ideas that fill the remainder of the film. Death, God, and attaining and maintaining a state of Grace are among the thematic strokes winding their way through the piece, rapturously illustrated with animation, still and video imagery." 

Horsey, 2018

An allegory recycling images from the past, still relevant to the present moment.

“Horses are lucky, they’re stuck with the war same as us, but nobody expects them to be in favor of it, to pretend to believe in it.”

— Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night, 1932

In The Jungle playfully and sorrowfully tells the tale of an unreliable narrator in a self-imposed exile. Given a grant to study the equivalent of animal cries and whines in jungle flora our heroine has lived for 1,612 days deep in an unnamed jungle. This jungle serves as an extended metaphor for excessive and continual growth and death and fear and sustenance; a metaphorical space of chaos in which the scientist finds solace and which stands in contrast to the human jungle of 'civilization'.

Two horses. Two men. Two cameras. A wintry horse ride with Dutch artist Harry Heyink through Iowa is split in two.

The Lamps, 2015

The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven né Plotz, was an unsung member of the Dada Movement. A poet, artist, runaway, and all around public provocateur; she actively did not fit into her historical moment, and like most misfits, suffered for it. As with many women artists throughout history, her cultural legacy has been obscured and in some instances appropriated into the oeuvres of better known male peers.

Videotaped on August 13th 1972, this tape features a number of scenes shot for Lanesville TV, including the Videofreex at the Catskill Game Farm shooting footage of the animals. There are some oddball images… a woman on an exercise machine, and someone in a gorilla suit brushing their teeth. A man named Steve Toomie from Tannersville, NY talks about Mountaintop Youth Group’s performances. There is the horse riding competition in Hunter. A little girl asks, “Are you the Lanesville Television guy?” and then shows her horse ribbon to the camera.

Lesser Apes tells the story of a love affair between a primatologist, Farrah, and a female bonobo ape, Meema. Bonobos are the species with which humans share the most DNA, but unlike our species, they are matriarchal, live without conflict, and are unabashedly sexual. A paean to perversion, the film combines animation, live action and song to challenge attitudes about sex, language and our relationship to nature.

Lesser Apes tells the story of a love affair between a primatologist, Farrah, and a female bonobo ape, Meema. Bonobos are the species with which humans share the most DNA, but unlike our species, they are matriarchal, live without conflict, and are unabashedly sexual. A paean to perversion, the film combines animation, live action and song to challenge attitudes about sex, language and our relationship to nature.

Litau, 2007

A tapestry of images and sounds. Tango dancing. A conversation about heaven and hell, with illustrations. Horses nuzzle. A woman reclines. Silent soccer. Street entertainers play classical music. Travel is mysterious and sometimes fraught.

The viewer is whisked through a lovely cat-house, which also includes a turtle along with the whiskered pets, and then is suddenly immersed in the painted output of my old (yet still young and vibrant looking) friend, Michelle Joyce. We follow this cheerful personage on a tour of her studio and then get transported to a high-class arts center in midtown Frisco where the work is displayed to a variety of yapping youth in yo-yo mode.

MICKRYS, 2011

This video is about two fictional characters, as in letters, and two fictional characters, as in anthropomorphized mice, falling in love. Just as they start their love-dance they are separated by The Hand of language/culture/logic and are forced to learn and embody new signifiers in order to reunite at the end and finish dancing.

"I brought live reptiles, birds of prey and exotic flowers to a very stereotyped and neglected section of the city of St. Louis, Missouri which suffers from from severe abandonment and despair, but also has many tranquil vacant lots where nature flourishes. I chose these birds of prey for their symbolic meaning- The bald eagle a symbol of the United States, hawks and owls are messengers.  But this is not a film about St. Louis, It's about an anonymous archetype more than a specific locale. St.

Naked, 2007

Naked shows a colony of naked mole rats living in a laboratory. This rare and highly socialized species demonstrates modes of behavior that in uncanny ways seem human-like. The mole rats are the most inbred species on the planet, and have the longest life span of any laboratory animal. The film zeroes in on aspects of their existence (overcrowded conditions, violence, tenderness) that have parallels in the life of human society.

Nest-Cams, 2012

Nest-Cams features footage from cameras placed in and around nests. Animals showcased include: black-capped chickadee, red squirrel, house wren, horned lark, red-breasted nuthatch, black tern, brook trout, and song sparrow.

A simple yet moving story of children and a baby deer set against the background of a go-kart track.

A watchful dog in a confusion of reflected chairs begins and ends Cohen’s finely tuned observational portrait of London’s Essex Street, and the inhabitants who work the shops and throng the pavement there. People hurrying, pausing, waiting or simply standing, intermingled with worn statues of historic peerage in the slanted light of late afternoon. A man holds a copy of The Law of Privacy and the Media as though testing its resilience against the quiet onslaught of an average work day.