City

Last Man, 2020

Last Man is made of the raw footage of security cameras that stream online. During the spring 2020 lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dana Levy, who lives in New York, monitored the images transmitted live from security cameras in city centers and at airports, beaches, universities, restaurants, and zoos around the world. In them, these key venues, which in normal times are bustling with life, appear nearly devoid of human presence.

The crossword puzzle addiction.

For over two years we made it our business to document abandoned working gloves on the streets of NYC. The feelings and thoughts that surrounded this activity connected to the ways his family relates to Gregor Samsa as a cockroach, or whatever Franz Kafka intended him to be in The Metamorphosis after his transformation from a productive citizen to a useless insect. When Gregor can't grant them a comfortable life-style any longer, his family starts to resent and hate the once loved and respected provider, finds him disgusting.

In this interview, American filmmaker, teacher, and video artist Peggy Ahwesh (b.1954) delves into the key figures and primary texts that have inspired her work in Super-8 and video since the 1970s.  She discusses her early influences as a member of the underground art scenes in Pittsburgh in the late 70s and Soho’s Kitchen in the 80s. Ahwesh’s experimental hand-processing and controversial subject matter can be traced to feminist theory, and her exposure to underground experimental films, including works by Werner Herzog, George Amaro, Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith and her teacher at Antioch College, Tony Conrad.

A portrait of an unnamed city in Italy. Sidestepping the tourist attractions that make the city famous, the film/video posits an almost-imaginary place that draws closer to the reality of its inhabitants. Using a voiceover narration that collages direct observation, literary texts, historical fact, local folklore, and a bit of sheer fabrication, the film/video melds documentary and narrative, past and present.

anti-city, 1984

Documentation of the installation The Future of Metropolis at Technical University in Berlin, Germany.

“The individual is not an autonomous, solitary object but a thing of uncertain extent, with ambiguous boundaries. So too is matter, which loses much of its allure the moment it is reduced to an object, shorn of its viscosity, pressure and density. Both subject and matter resist their reduction into objects. Everything is interconnected and intertwined.”

— Kengo Kuma

Film- and videomaker Ken Kobland returns to the urban landscapes he filmed 20 years previously, such as the New York subway and the S-Bahn in Berlin. We leave, we travel, but it’s always the same images that we are drawn to. A moving road movie about eternal departure and arrival.

Stop action animation, paint on a single canvas.

To make this animation, I painted scenes of my daily commute from memory and photographed them. Each frame was painted on top of the previous one, each scene triggering the following scene. I collected sounds from the places and environments I painted and edited them together with the captured frames to realize the piece.

— Ezra Wube

This title is also availble on Ezra Wube Videoworks: Volume 1

San Francisco is a city where the virtual and the real co-exist. It is both a center of multi-media and Internet activity, and a city with a vibrant street life and commitment to public space. Awakening From the 20th Century explores these issues by asking the questions: Is life becoming virtual? Are we witnessing the end of the city? Will the computer replace the automobile?

This title is also available on Chip Lord Videoworks: Volume 2.

Babeldom, 2012

Babeldom is a city so massive and growing at such a speed that soon, it is said, light itself will not escape its gravitational pull. How can two lovers communicate, one from inside the city and one outside? This is an elegy to urban life, against the backdrop of a city of the future, a portrait assembled from film shot in modern cities all around the world and collected from the most recent research in science, technology and architecture.

"It’s a complex architectural vision equal parts awesome and terrifying… This is a film – and city – to get lost in."

In a city post-apocalypse, young men communicate only through smart devices. They make home out of urban debris. They can’t speak to each other, but are still able to dream.

Berlin Zoo is a video loop set in the train station and terminal interface of the same name. Several bystanders were captured by the artist’s camera as they are gradually overcome by a general state of disbelief – of shock and awe even – while staring upwards at the arrivals and departures timetables. This gallery of grimaces is intertwined with an eerie soundtrack of wind blowing and occasional squawks of birds. Berlin Zoo could be classified as a fake documentary on the contemporary wildlife of a metropolis, an exercise in modern day ornithology.

In Birth of a Nation, Jem Cohen takes his camera to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration and to the next day’s protests.

"John Smith uses humour to repeatedly subvert and frustrate potentially threatening content in an economically constructed tale of the narrator’s descent into paranoia and, ultimately, oblivion, as he is pursued, haunted, and finally destroyed by a mysterious peripatetic black tower. Throughout, both verbal and visual imagery are low key to the point of banality; shots of familiar inner city landscapes—terraces, tower-blocks and scruffy wastelands—are set against a narrative that is laconic and bathetic in the best traditions of English suburban comedy.

Blight, 1996

"Blight was made in collaboration with composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. Until 1994, when our houses were destroyed, both the composer and I lived on the route of this road. The images in the film are a selective record of some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of motorway building work.

The BLVD, 1999

An experimental documentary about the street drag racing scene on Chicago’s near West Side. This is a rambling textured film about obsession. It is about the mythos of speed for its own sake, but it’s also about waiting, and it is through waiting that The BLVD exposes community, inner-city landscapes and nomadic experiences of place. The film treats storytelling as a living medium for determining history. And it commands respect, for those who transform cars, or anything else, through passion.

He was 'lost' and got 'dirty' in the alleys of the city!

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT/SUMMARY: This film centers around one performance, when Holland-based musicians, The Ex, visited New York to play a concert. This performance is intercut with city scenes, first from Amsterdam and then New York, of construction sites, street life, and protests against the Iraq war and the Bush administration. The construction site scenes relate to the band's dedication to music as a realm for collaborative building and creative destruction.

"A meditation on history, memory, and change in Central and Eastern Europe, Buried in Light is a non-narrative journey, a cinematic collage. Cohen’s “search for images” began at a time of extraordinary flux, as the Berlin Wall was dismantled—opening borders yet ushering in a nascent wave of consumer capitalism. What he saw struck him as a profound paradox: the moment Eastern Europe was revealed was simultaneously the moment it was hidden by the blinding light of commercialism.

Burnout, 2003

A metropolis awash in electrical overdrive crashes in the heat of summer and sends a Bronxite into the clutches of a waterworld further north. It is there that we witness the cooling fogs and diving mammals of maritime yore and sail free in winds of a nautical nature. A nature that fills the summer sky with twinkling tidbits and the tummy with protein rich denizens of Neptune’s soup. A tour of the towering turrets of tomorrow land and the spatial splendor of yesterday’s yearnings captured on both chemical and electrical media.

"This film is closely related to my last feature-length project, Counting. I take the temperature of a neighborhood. In this case, the place is my New York. I think about street life and its threatened demise – a death ushered in as Big Money relentlessly re-makes cities in ever more categorical ways. I think with the camera, on the move, in fragments.

A troupe of male and female jugglers and musicians perform for a growing crowd in Central Park, New York, led by Hovey Burgess and Judy Finelli.  The sun is shining, and the troupe are skilful, playful, and flirtatious. 

Citadel, 2020

Filmed from the artist’s window during lockdown, Citadel combines short fragments from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speeches relating to coronavirus with views of the London skyline recorded in a variety of weather conditions. Recognising the government’s decision to place business interests before public health, it relocates the centre of

Gautam Chatterjee uses the streets, parks, and temple grounds of the city of Varanasi, India, to teach his students a 2000-year old method of acting.  Based on Natya Shastra, a treatise written by a quasi-mythical monk Bharat Muni, the instructions aim to intimately connect the actor with the real world.  Through deep engagement with the surroundings, people, animals, plants, and phenomena such as waves on the water or patches of sunlight on the ground, the actors work towards creating a truthful representation of the world.