Experimental Film

This is a re-destroyed film that I was unable to finish in 2013. Filmed both in ruins: at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco and in final domestic spaces occupied with a former partner. Film was destroyed in ocean water.

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.

The Diaspora Suite

Oscillating between a street festival in Philadelphia, the slave forts and capitol city of Ghana, and the New Jersey shore, American Hunger explores the relationship between personal experience and collective histories. American fantasies confront African realities. African realities confront America fantasies.

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.

Aquarius, 2003

Aquarius is a film about horoscopes and hope, and coping with everyday life.

This title is only available on Broad Daylight and Other Times: Selected Works of Kevin Jerome Everson.

Images from magazines and color supplements accompany a spoken text taken from Herbert H. Clark’s “Word Associations and Linguistic Theory” (in New Horizons in Linguistics, ed. John Lyons,1970). By using the ambiguities inherent in the English language, Associations sets language against itself. Image and word work together and against each other to destroy and create meaning.

The Bats, 1998

The Bats details the mating habits of flying mammals in an abandoned Mayan temple in the 14th Century.

This title is only available on Soft Science.

"Exhibitons, whether of objects or people, are displays of the artifacts of our disciplines. They are for this reason also exhibits for those who make them, no matter what their ostensible subject. The first order of business is therefore to examine critically the conventions guiding ethnographic display..."

 - Destination Culture by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1998

Between the Frames is a series that offers a glimpse into contemporary history that is already past, a portrait of personalities and opinions shaping what and how art reaches a public forum.

Epilogue: Between the Frames, Chapter 8

"A film about the time of the blast furnaces — 1917-1933 — about the development of an industry, about a perfect machinery which had to run itself to the point of its own destruction. This essay... on heavy industry and the gas of the blast furnace, convinces through the author's cool abstraction and manic obsession, and through the utilization of a single example of the self-destructive character of capitalistic production: 'The image of the blast furnace gas is real and metaphoric; an energy blows away uselessly into the air. Guided through a system of pipes, the pressure increases.

The unstable earth becomes the epicenter of this videotape document which explores—in a fractured way—the relationships between the people, places, and furniture that sit atop the San Andreas Fault.

"I don't put myself into my movies because that would be too much--my pictures reflect my own feelings.  So hopefully it's entertaining.  Otherwise I can't bear looking at them, ha ha!"
--Mike Kuchar

In this dream-portrait of Mike Kuchar, he floats through his memories as the sea, space and sky drift past. Wrapped in odd costumes, he frolics with the imaginary creatures surrounding him, and recalls the creatures of his own imagination.

"In the late 1980s I saw ads in New York for a telephone 'Confession Line'.  To call in and 'confess' was free; listening in incurred a by-the-minute charge. The soundtrack was built from a collection of these actual, anonymous calls. Adultery, theft, and regret; ghosts spun through phone wires and televisions. An installation version was created for the 1992 Worldwide Video Festival (Amsterdam).

Soundtrack: Jem Cohen with Ian MacKaye.

This title is also available on Jem Cohen: Early Works. 

Moving towards an unknown destination, a group of anonymous passengers float through an unidentified landscape. Built from Cohen’s archive documenting his travels, the film can be seen as a curious parable. The film's subheading refers to the Old Testament, Daniel chapter 11, verse 40:  “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.” 

Blind Huber is a film interpretation of a poem by the American writer Nick Flynn loosely based on the life of Francois Huber, the blind 18th Century beekeeper, who sat before a series of hives for fifty years unlocking an unknown world.

Written by Nick Flynn. Cinematographer: Alex Stockwell.

This title is only available on Broad Daylight and Other Times: Selected Works of Kevin Jerome Everson.

boxed-in, 1969

This slow-motion film is a glass snow globe with dancers who topple and bounce off the sides of the frame. Re-purposed by Breder at his Dortmund retrospective as Weisse Tasse in which a video was projected on the side of a white cup.

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.

Chain, 2004

As regional character disappears and corporate culture homogenizes our surroundings, it's increasingly hard to tell where you are. In Chain, malls, theme parks, hotels and corporate centers worldwide are joined into one monolithic contemporary "superlandscape" that shapes the lives of two women caught within it. One is a corporate businesswoman set adrift by her corporation while she researches the international theme park industry. The other is a young drifter, living and working illegally on the fringes of a shopping mall.

Cinnamon, 2006

Cinnamon presents a glimpse into the world of African American drag racing. It follows the consistent routine of a bank teller and a mechanic as they prepare for the sport. Once the routine is disrupted, the result of the race comes into doubt. The bank teller is a driver who tries to stay focused before races. The mechanic’s job is to constantly examine the driver’s behavior. He has to adjust the racecar to the driver’s skill and ability and modify the racecar for the weather conditions.

Circle's Short Circuit is an experimental feature-length work with neither a beginning nor an end—the film can be viewed from any random point. It moves through a circle of five interlocking episodes that describe the phenomenon of interruption in contemporary communication through various forms and modes, investigating causes, consequences, and side-effects. Genres shift along the episodic path of this circle, moving from documentary to essay, through collage, simulated live-coverage, and silent film.

In this 2001 interview, filmmaker Jem Cohen discusses the origins of his film philosophy, and the circuitous route he has taken in his pursuit of an anti-narrative film practice outside the mainstream. Cohen sheds light on the many influences that have impacted his sentiments towards conventional film, and his desire to eschew both classical avant-garde and theatrical filmmaking in favor of a model rooted in the tradition of the 1940s New York School of street photography. Cohen also locates his aesthetic as being impacted by the 1970s hardcore and DIY scenes he was exposed to as a youth in Washington, DC.

In this 2006 interview, filmmaker Jem Cohen discusses his early interest in art, his family’s welcome antipathy towards commercialization, and his unconventional, anti-mainstream film practice. In particular, Cohen discusses his film This is a History of New York, and how this piece exemplifies his interest in the “territory of sensation” rather than simple visual descriptiveness. Cohen concludes by discussing the role of archiving in his practice, and how compulsive documentation of the quotidian and unexceptional can result in the empowerment of the everyday.

A poetic meditation on distance, Come Closer is a short and peripatetic film, casting an affective web between the locations of Lisbon, San Francisco and Brazil. Focusing on Brazilian-Algerian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz, musician Derrick Green –– the filmmaker’s brother and lead singer of Brazilian band Sepultura –– and her own work produced in Lisbon since 1992, Come Closer can be thought as a meditation on friendship and saudade.