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Experimental Programs

Hi all! I’m Mike Morris. This year Dee Mitchell and I are helping Bart program the experimental video works at the 24th Dallas Video Fest and we have an amazing selection of videos that push the medium in different and interesting directions. I’m going to quickly highlight a few of the videos I’m excited about, and in the coming week when the schedule is uploaded to the website you can check to see when some of these pieces will be playing.

One piece I’m particularly enthusiastic about is an experimental documentary by filmmaker Ken Paul Rosenthal entitled Crooked Beauty. This is a quiet, but stunningly beautiful piece shot on super 8mm and transferred to video. It features a narration by artist-activist Jacks McNamara who recounts her struggles with mental illness. McNamara’s moving account of her experiences and Rosenthal’s visual poetry synthesize to propose a new approach toward adapting to non-normative mental states. Rosenthal has been touring the piece to a variety of unconventional venues including hospitals, peer support networks, and prisons as well as film festivals and other screening venues.

There will be a program of work by visiting artist Kerry Laitala, who will also be hosting one of several workshops offered at this year’s festival.  Kerry’s work—which was shown as part of last years The Second Program at Conduit Gallery—immerses the viewer in wild, psychedelic experiments in chromadepth 3D video and celebrates the ephemeral aesthetics of direct manipulation of celluloid film. Her workshop will introduce students to several of these handmade approaches to filmmaking and promises to be a great time!

Jesse McLean’s Magic for Beginners is a piece I feel very strongly about. This short video essay, which had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last year, considers the possibility of emotional engagement in a media saturated world by juxtaposing personal accounts of experiences of connection told by various narrators, appropriated imagery of fan culture, the techniques of ecstatic synaesthesia utilized by 60’s avant-garde cinema, and YouTube covers of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. The piece makes a point of making us aware of the power it has over us, and encourages us to question the reality of this engagement. It doesn’t ask, but insists that “you’ve got to look into the light.”

We’ll be showing two videos by festival alumnus Jennifer Reeder who updates her iconic 1998 video Nevermind with 1000 Ways to Skin It—which features two teenage girls dressed as black-metal brides lip-syncing to a mash up of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious—and continues her explorations of emotional crisis and dark humor via slickly produced narrative shorts with Tears Cannot Restore Her: Therefore, I Weep.

If you’re curious to see what kinds of innovations artists are making in animation, the shorts program entitled Fables and K-holes features several pieces that take fascinating formal and conceptual approaches toward digital and analog animation techniques. This program features works by artists Steve Reinke, Buki Bodunrin, Emily Duke and Cooper Battarsby, and others.

Viewers will find that many of the pieces featured in this year’s selection blur any strict border between what might be called “experimental” forms and other approaches to non-fiction or narrative forms. A block that explores this in depth is titled How To Write an Autobiography, which features pieces by Michael Gibisser, Stephanie Tisza, Jennifer Hardacker, and Penny Lane—whose piece of the same name starts off the program.

Also featured will be new works by local artists Jenny Vogel and Morehshin Allahyari. Vogel’s In Search of the Sleeping Land recounts her trip across the sparsely populated, hulking region of Northern Asia known as Siberia and explores the vast landscape and scattered culture of that region. Allahyari’s 3D animation Over There is Over Here is a potent meditation on the difficult position of an artist separated from family and community who continue to live with the everyday threat of an oppressive regime.

This is only a loose sketch of the range of challenging experimental videos featured at the 24th annual Dallas Video Fest, to say nothing of the impressive selection of work in other genres. It’s been a treat for me to help select the videos represented in the festival, and I hope you will view widely and engage deeply with these works. See you at the fest!

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About VideoFest

The Video Association of Dallas is dedicated to promoting an understanding of video as a creative medium and cultural force in our society, and to supporting and advancing the work of Texas artists working in video and the electronic arts. Through its programs and information services, the Video Association intends to educate and inform artists, students, educators, critics, video and film producers and an interested public so they may better understand, appreciate and evaluate the creative possibilities of the video medium. It will also provide a forum for the work of regional video artists, in order to stimulate excellence in their work and provide the opportunity for dialogue and critical discussion.

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