Mental Landscape

On the current of existence, a soul sinks into the whirlpool of emotions.

…Too long he’s allowed obsessions to drag him under — now he will re-surface and breathe in the rising dawn!

 

1-87, 1976

"Inspired by Ralph Hocking's fish biting video.  Eighty-seven stones thrown, volumes shifting of water sound, a real time performance event. Holding the camera and throwing 87 stones into the frame. 1/2" reel to reel Sony portapack." 

– Peer Bode

3 Peonies, 2017

3 Peonies is a brief, poetic 16mm film of a simple sculptural action. What becomes apparent is the humor possible in material interactions and the tender and sometimes melodramatic symbolism of cut flowers. The reverence for beauty ends up pointing towards the abstract expressionism and color field painting of high modernism that, in many cases, eschewed the banality of such ‘natural’ beauty.

50 Blue, 2009

In 50 Blue a young man (the artist’s brother) pushes an elderly disabled man (the artist’s father) in a wheel chair through a muddy landscape. It is a long and exhausting trip to an unknown destination only discovered at the end. After an arduous struggle the two arrive at the edge of a grey lake where a 10-meter high guard tower stands. The young man ties the wheel chair to a rope and hoists the old man up on the tower platform with the help of eight men, all dressed in yellow plastic raincoats.

We asked 12 people to walk 4 identical routes through the course of a day and a night, always attempting to repeat the manner of the first time. As they moved they concentrated on their steps and their rhythm and the repetition immunized them from having to make sense of their movements. They moved as if consumed by a single thought. Unaware of the passage of time. They re-ran the night during the day, and mixed the darkness with the light.

— Flatform

In an upmarket house surrounded by an idyllic garden, there is no trace of human presence, even though a family obviously lives there. Voices, sounds and superimposed text create a feeling of disquiet whose origin continually escapes us. “A house can feel pain”… Playing on a doubling of vignettes against a black background or on a sound design that brings the off-screen world to life, Shelly Silver resuscitates the memory of this space, if only because a “house is a subconscious… a body…” And what if all this opulence and comfort were based on the exploitation of others?

The sense that you are about to be shown something wrong lingers throughout this bizarre semi-narrative. Appropriated imagery of natural disasters, paper crafts, mutated animals, abject beauty and genocide form an exquisite corpse of uncanny connectivity with chirrupy 1950s advertising music or romantic classical. Is this a test?

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.

Angels We, 2015

"No man can stay in bed forever...He must rise up; up the steep steps of perfection."

—Mike Kuchar

Woman, monster, animal? A portrait of a woman's face, the movement slowed down and reversed, the grotesquely made-up face examined in close-up.

Animal Attraction is a documentary about the relationship between people and animals that questions the way we project our hopes and desires onto our pets, and ascribe human qualities and attributes to their gestures. The video was inspired by the plight of the filmmaker who was frustrated by the obnoxious behavior of her cat, Ernie. As a last resort, she gave in to a friend's suggestion to contact an animal communicator. This is her journey with interspecies telepathic communicator, Dawn Hayman, from Spring Farm CARES, an animal sanctuary in upstate New York.

The horizon, where the sky and the earth meet, is always elsewhere, a promised place where these two elements come together. A metaphor, an orienting, a promise of transition, change, transcendence. A place where the corporeal and spiritual meet, or are cleaved apart.

Ascension, 2013

Amid the silence of a pastel hued room, a soul, fully-fleshed, gathers secrets whispered by the moon over his cool bedsheets.

An episodic adventure highlighting the riff between mind and body. Through a series of animated narratives, role reversals and associations, images are driven out and stacked one on top another. "A best friend is like a four leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have. But I'm beginning to wonder if he knows something the rest of us don't."

This project on family violence, spanned two years and several sites across the country, and involved wrecked cars in sculptural installations. The cars were reconfigured by women and children who suffered violence at the hands of loved ones. Linked to each other through common experience, women from a domestic violence shelter in Pittsburgh, a family violence program at Bedford Hills prison, children from shelters in Niagara Falls and Cleveland, teenage girls in Oakland, and politicians on Staten Island all collaborated in making the cars.

Baby, 2006

A mother holds her child. Her face barely shows expression.

Basho, 2007

Split screen. On the left is a walk up a twisting, rocky trail while on the right is Kanji caligraphy describing the action, completing a Haiku by Basho.

This title is also available on Sympathetic Vibrations: The Videoworks of Paul Kos.

"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.

"...Talking to Oneself in the mirror when down in the 'mental dumps.'"

Das KunstKabinett or the Cabinet of Curiosities is a 'microcosm' or theater of the world, a memory theater which provides solace and a retreat for contemplation.

"Emptiness: I just watched your latest video, Colchones Individuales (Single Beds), Volume 1: Desolacion, and I wanted to write you about it. Oddly, Single Beds sums up much of what I have been thinking lately. In these times of speed, where everything is propelled forward at an incredibly spiraling rate, it is only in moments of pause, of inertia, that we examine what is occurring to us. Your piece, Single Beds, performs an arrested time, a succinct suspension of time. (It is in many ways a companion piece to an earlier video of yours Staying Alive).

Torn over the pressure to perform for his audience, Acconci fantasizes about "a dancing bear" who takes his place, performing in the spotlight, doing what others want, "what I always had to do."  The viewer is placed in the position of an authority or analyst, above Acconci’s head, listening to his hallucination.  This fantasy becomes increasingly erotic as Acconci unburdens himself psychologically and reveals his contradictory need to control and to be controlled.

This title was in the original Castelli-Sonnabend video art collection.

A witch’s moon ignites an artist’s canvas with lurid colors that keep him from sleep in a city that is the subject for his brush. Disgusted with the spiritual emptiness of his paintings, he now seeks a landscape that will contain in it deeper meanings — one that offers “inner peace.”

 

"Conspiracy Of Lies speaks of the alienation of minorities, of consumer culture, urban isolation and the fine balance between mental order and chaos. The video begins with a voice (my own) recounting the story of the discovery of a series of diary entries and lists written by an anonymous author. When I found the texts, I assumed the author to be a white, gay man, like myself. Through the use of twelve narrators of different race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, I attempted to destabilize my own subjectivity and challenge my pre-existing assumptions regarding difference.

The police phoned. They left a message on the machine. They said he was dead. The video unwinds through stories of sex for rent, unclaimed bodies, cigarette burns, and other monuments of life’s long run from wall to wall. Cut the Parrot is three grotesque comedies in one: the stories of Gerry, Susan, and Albert. Songs of hope and heartbreak spill from the mouths of the performers. The order of impersonation rules.