Mental Landscape

This piece investigates the possibilities and limits of writing a history of the Lebanese civil wars (1975-1991). The videos offer accounts of the fantastic situations that beset a number of individuals, though they do not document what happened. Rather, they explore what can be imagined, what can be said, what can be taken for granted, what can appear as rational, sayable, and thinkable about the wars.

Deadline, 1981

An insert square of a man running is superimposed over a magnified mouth that speaks to him — first in nurturing encouragement, then with a no-win Mommie Dearest kind of criticism. Originally presented as an installation on six monitors, Deadline focuses on “the stress man feels in the urban environment,” using a range of digital video effects to stretch, compress, flip and fracture the image.

A hypnosis-inducing pan-geographic shuttle built on brainwave-generating binaural beats, Deep Sleep takes us on a journey through the sound waves of Gaza to travel between different sights of modern ruin. Restricted from travel to Palestine, I learned auto-hypnosis for the purpose of bi-locating. What results is a journey, recorded on Super 8mm film, to the ruins of ancient civilizations embedded in modern civilization in ruins, to a site ruined beyond evidence of civilization.

An epistolary, musical reimagining of Wuthering Heights by Branwell Brontë — the tubercular, alcoholic and opium-addicted brother of Emily Brontë. When Branwell — the ne’er-do-well, tubercular brother of the Brontë sisters — discovered that Emily was writing her first novel, he offered to be her editor. Once he realized that he was the model for the alcoholic Hindley Earnshaw character, he reimagined the story as a musical memoir of his own life with Hindley as the hero.

The fourth collaboration between Jessie Mott and Steve Reinke continues its melancholic musings on desire and mourning, this time with more twerking. Hypnotic backgrounds and eccentric animals lend to its psychedelic children's cartoon vibe, and the signature Madonna and Stockhausen soundtrack enhances the desperation for paradise among those extra long tongues and snake-y bodies.

In an empty room, a slideshow projection of abandoned places plays alongside the narrative of two girls who find themselves on the shores of a pre-apocalyptic paradise. Told through subtitle text that weaves fact and fiction together, the story of a massacre unfolds. When the image and text malfunctions and the story is no longer comprehensible, the video wanders away from the room of the slideshow, allowing us to see what is happening elsewhere.

Excess, 2009

A rumination via handwritten index cards and an assortment of images recalling histories and ambitions of varied film productions.

Explorers and discoverers, exploring and discovering themselves.

Future From Inside is the last in the trilogy begun in 2016, by Dani and Sheilah ReStack (also including Strangely Ordinary this Devotion and Come Coyote.) The work traces the ReStack collaboration, as it manifests in life and in work.

"i am very grateful that my 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) series has shown internationally over the last couple years and is recognized by viewers, reviewers, critics, and curators as doing decolonizing work as a feminist project that queers and glitches the Western genre. 鬼鎮 (Ghosttown) questions the quintessentially American Western in the forms of experimental films and games that are made from glitches and noise, pushing boundaries of legibility and tipping over threshold states of stability.

A collection of unidentified individuals is stuck together on a boat. Are they going home? Where is their home and why are they so silent? This short work takes a look at a displaced and uprooted community.

Shot in Portland International Airport. Animation by Jalal Jemison.

"In Haysha Royko, three people sit nonchalantly in airport chairs, while their different-colored auras, or something much like auras, shape shift, overlap, and compete."

— Emily Hall, The Stranger, July 17th, 2003 

Healing, 2012

The video hovers tentatively between therapy, documentary, poetics and mystic traipsery and ends, like all good things, in surrender to song. There is a challenge presented (the challenge to engage earnestly with the piece as it requests) to fall into the breathing and pacing presented, and the challenge to view the video as a discrete piece of art at the same time. The piece relies heavily on the text, the disembodied Virgil through which the words become musical, instructive and (due to the absence of image) visual.

"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

Home Movies Gaza introduces us to the Gaza Strip as a mircrocosm for the failure of civilization. In an attempt to describe the everyday of a place that struggles for the most basic of human rights, this video claims a perspective from within the domestic spaces of a territory that is complicated, derelict, and altogether impossible to separate from its political identity.

"... Basma Alsharif’s Home Movies Gaza, a film that captures the impossibly politicized domestic sphere of the Gaza Strip, under the constant hum and buzz of overhead drones."

Adapted from psychologist A.R. Luria’s research in the Islamic outskirts of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, How to Fix the World brings to life Luria's conversations with Central Asian farmers learning how to read and write under the unfamiliar principles of Socialism.

Colorful digital animations based on Max Penson's photographs of collective farmers play against a backdrop of landscape images shot in Uzbekistan in 2004.

An uncompromising look at the ways privacy, safety, convenience and surveillance determine our environment. Shot entirely at night, the film confronts the hermetic nature of white-collar communities, dissecting the fear behind contemporary suburban design. An isolation-based fear (protect us from people not like us). A fear of irregularity (eat at McDonalds, you know what to expect). A fear of thought (turn on the television). A fear of self (don’t stop moving).

A deceased hoarder, reconstituted through technology, recounts a difficult childhood as inhabitants of a virtual world struggle to reconcile materialistic tendencies. A scientist leads an effort to understand the passage of time, but the data is unreliable. The question remains, what happens to our things after we are gone?

It Hurts, 2006

The repeatedly distorted, primate behaviour of an (ani)female carrying her baby, reflecting the pain and suffering provoked by the mother/child relationship.

A familiar landscape comprised of big box stores and parking lots proves a rich site for longing, intimacy, and radical change. Celebrities are observed in this environment and are reduced to ordinary beings in the process. An enigmatic protagonist reveals little moments of subjectivity that escape into the piece like a contaminant, rupturing the view and evidencing the paradox of connection and belonging within systems that simultaneously contain us and comprise us.

The personal odyssey recorded in The Laughing Alligator combines methods of anthropological research with diaristic essay, mixing objective and subjective vision. Recorded while Downey and his family were living among the Yanomami people of Venezuela, this compelling series of anecdotes tracks his search for an indegenous cultural identity.

In the film Mad Ladders, the prophetic ramblings of an unseen narrator recount fantastical dreams of the coming Rapture, as crystalline imagery of rolling clouds gives way to heavily-processed video of moving stage sets from The American Music Awards telecasts of the 1980s and early 1990s. Blooming and pulsing in and out of geometric abstraction, this swirling storm of rising curtains, spinning set pieces, and unveiled pop idols forms an occult spectacle, driven by its impassioned narrator and an 8-bit leitmotif.

Combining Rubnitz’s skillful manipulation of the familiar “look” of TV shows with an extraordinary range of characters, performer Ann Magnuson convincingly impersonates the array of female types seen on TV in a typical broadcast day. From glitzy to drab, from friendly housewife to desperate evangelist, Magnuson is a one-woman universe appearing on every channel, the star of every program—giving her all as the chameleon woman who is always on display.

Sara Magenheimer earned her MFA at Bard in 2013 and has since shown her work internationally in Canada, Iceland, the Czech Republic, and Denmark. Her cross-disciplinary practice plays with the juxtaposition between the form and content of language, exposing the absurdity of expected meanings.

Mama, 2005

"Mama mama mama...," a woman calls out again and again, over and over. Is it her child that she mimics, or is she calling for her own mother? A desperate video performance in the first person.