Erika Balsom

  • Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision

    Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision, edited by P. Adams Sitney. New York: Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry, 2017. 212 pages.

    IN THE INTERVIEW with P. Adams Sitney that opens Metaphors on Vision, a collection of essays first published as the Fall 1963 issue of Film Culture, Stan Brakhage rejects the suicide that ends his 1958 film Anticipation of the Night, seeing it as too bound up in the dramatic conventions he would subsequently seek to excise from his practice. Leaving behind such psychodrama, he set out on a quest to find filmic realization for the adventure of vision itself.

    There

  • “Tacita Dean: Landscape”

    “Landscape” is one of a trio of genre-themed exhibitions Dean will present in London this spring, as part of an unprecedented collaboration between three major institutions. (The National Portrait Gallery will focus, unsurprisingly, on Dean’s portraiture, and the National Gallery will show her still lifes.) Dean’s landscapes span disparate materials—chalk drawings, films, gouache on found postcards—but a beguiling interest in the contingent and the ephemeral is found throughout the artist’s extensive engagement with the genre. At the Royal

  • Erika Balsom

    1 TONSLER PARK (Kevin Jerome Everson) The quotidian and the historic converge in a Charlottesville, Virginia, polling station on the day of the last presidential election. A careful study of people at work, positioned at the intersection of race and politics. This is the cinema we need.

    2 BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK (Anocha Suwichakornpong) Forget the comparisons to Apichatpong Weerasethakul: They are too easy and fail to do justice to this kaleidoscopic, confounding film. Image-making, history, and enchantment intertwine in a highly original work.

    3 THE HUMAN SURGE (Eduardo Williams) Across

  • HISTORICAL PROJECTIONS: THE ART OF ROSA BARBA

    LAST YEAR, sales of vinyl records reached a twenty-five-year high—up 53 percent from 2015—and sales of e-books fell for the second year running, with their print counterparts gaining in popularity. Startling as these developments may seem, neither should come as a surprise to those who have watched obsolete technologies make their way into the gallery in recent years. In the midst of the second machine age—an era of relentless digitization and automation—we have become obsessed with reasserting the value of tactile encounters that stand obstinately outside networks of electronic

  • OPENINGS: JEAN-PAUL KELLY

    “THE ACTIVITY OF LOOKING . . . helps us to be more truthfully aware of the condition of being alive.” These words, as spoken by Bridget Riley in a 1979 documentary, close Canadian artist Jean-Paul Kelly’s two-channel video Movement in Squares, 2013. Though he is an altogether different artist than Riley, the statement could be Kelly’s own. Broadly concerned with the production and reuse of documentary materials, Kelly combines a tactile engagement with found digital images, reenactments of events aligned with the production of truth (scenes from a courtroom, 1960s direct cinema), and abstract

  • film March 13, 2017

    Lights, Camera, Aktion!

    VISITORS DRIFTED IN AND OUT of London’s Raven Row all weekend, lying on the floor, sitting on the stairs, waiting out an unexpected power cut, chatting and mixing gin and tonics in the interval (with lemon, of course). The convivial occasion was a weekend devoted to restaging a selection of expanded cinema works by the Filmaktion group, widely recognized as central to the history of artists’ film practice in Britain yet rarely seen due to the difficulty of orchestrating their display.

    Curated by Mark Webber, the program formed part of Raven Row’s ongoing episodic exhibition “This Way Out of

  • “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016”

    INSIDE THE LUMINOUS ROOMS of “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016,” numerous screens, sounds, and curatorial proposals compete for attention, bleeding into one another in an expansive and ambitious venture. As curator Chrissie Iles states in her catalogue essay, “This is not a show about cinema,” nor is it a show about immersion per se. It is, however, many other things: an exhibition of conceptual sprawl that skips around from the historical avant-garde to the internet and in between, skimming across animation, digitization, synesthesia, and interactions between the body and

  • Philippe Parreno

    THE ASSUMPTION that the museum is a timeless space of stasis has come under fierce assault in recent years, but few artists have equaled Philippe Parreno’s insistence on reconceptualizing it as a responsive site of process and exploring the exhibition as a durational medium. Nowhere is this more evident than in Anywhen, 2016, the artist’s monumental commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the first since the museum’s major expansion last summer.

    In its dynamic theatricality, Anywhen might be understood as a figuration of the self-image of the “new Tate,” incarnating the motto emblazoned on

  • FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: THE CINEMA OF PERE PORTABELLA

    PERE PORTABELLA made his first film in Barcelona in 1967, a time marked by intense repression in Francoist Spain and a worldwide proliferation of cinematic new waves that were challenging the parameters of filmic language. The eight features and countless shorts he brought to fruition in the subsequent half century would seem to thwart the typical auteurist search for unity in which the critic catalogues repeated motifs and notes trademark gestures recurring across a body of work. One can’t simply periodize his films, either. It is tempting to divide up the various productions and say that there

  • “Ben Rivers: Urth”

    Utopia: It is no place. The word evokes unrealized visions and failed attempts, and yet the idea persists. Featuring recent work, including four films and a selection of drawings and photographs within a site-specific installation, “Urth,” Ben Rivers’s first museum exhibition in the US, will explore the artist-filmmaker’s long-standing interest in imagining other worlds within and beyond our own. Whether presenting a science-fictional portrait of four island societies on a drowned planet (Slow Action, 2010) or an intimate, seasonal diary shot in his own home (Things,

  • film February 09, 2016

    Run the World

    WAITING FOR MY FLIGHT to Rotterdam among the business travelers of London City Airport, I noticed the room was filled with men in suits. At my quick estimate, the male-to-female ratio stood at approximately nine to one. I began to cast mental aspersions on the sexism of the business world, smugly happy to be well outside it, but then remembered that the field of cinema is not so different. In press screenings the suits disappear but the gender balance remains about the same; ditto for film production. At this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, only thirty-four of the 252 feature films

  • Omer Fast’s Remainder

    “THERE’S ALSO A BOY I keep seeing. When everything’s right, he’ll appear.” The nameless, amnesiac protagonist of Omer Fast’s new film, Remainder—which premiered this past October at the BFI London Film Festival—orchestrates a meticulous reenactment of a barely remembered scene to precipitate the appearance of this child, seemingly a younger self clad in a red and blue windbreaker. After being severely injured by a piece of falling debris, the protagonist finds his physical debilitation matched by the psychic trauma of living without memory, with every action feeling labored and

  • Ben Rivers’s The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers

    EVEN BRITAIN'S NATIONAL broadcasting service is not exempt from the pressures of London’s bullish property market. In 2012, the BBC announced the sale of its Television Centre, the huge facility in White City it had occupied since 1960, to developer Stanhope PLC for £200 million (roughly $300 million). Much of the now-vacant complex is, unsurprisingly, slated for demolition, to make way for housing, offices, a hotel, and a private club. Among the storied structures soon to be razed is the Drama Block, a cavernous space where scenery and props were once built. It was this doomed warehouse that

  • PARALLAX PLURALITY: 3-D CINEMA BEYOND THE FEATURE FILM

    “THE QUESTION to which Hollywood now is seeking an answer to [sic] is this: How long can the novelty of such pictures be expected to hold public interest?” This statement on 3-D movies was published in the New York Times—but when? One might easily mistake it for a line from one of the many recent think pieces that have waxed skeptical about the lasting power of digital 3-D blockbusters. In fact, it appeared on February 1, 1953—at the height of the so-called golden age of stereoscopic cinema—in an article detailing growing interest in the polarization process employed by the Natural

  • the writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos

    Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos; edited by Mark Webber. London: The Visible Press, 2014. 560 pages.

    IT IS AN OLD COMMONPLACE of advanced art that the deserving audience will emerge only in a time to come. This emphasis on futurity is built into the very term avant-garde, with its invocation of a movement forward by a select group to which the rest will catch up only later, if ever. American experimental filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos (1928–1992) presents a particularly extreme and fascinating case of this anticipatory wager. After earning recognition as a major

  • Morgan Fisher

    Much recent engagement with photochemical film tends to reflect a fetishistic investment in the uniqueness of its materiality. The work of Morgan Fisher is different: His interest is in the conjunction of this material support and the demands of industry. For Fisher, film is less artisanal than it is inextricable from the standards imposed by corporations in the field, such as Agfa-Gevaert. Of course, it is exactly this tie to industry that has cast the medium into obsolescence, a topos that looms large in Fisher’s recent exhibition “Past Present, Present Past.”

    In the 1970s, Fisher worked in

  • film February 03, 2015

    Shorts Circuit

    IS THERE A MAJOR FILM FESTIVAL that takes artists’ film and video as seriously as Rotterdam? What too often figures as a marginalized sidebar emerges here as a key focus, with dozens of screenings covering the broad spectrum of experimental practice. From curated programs to installations in hotel rooms open 24/7, from gorgeous photochemical film to the wilds of digital psychedelia, from an eight-performance retrospective by Bruce McClure to the world premiere of Kevin Jerome Everson’s eight-hour Park Lanes (2015), Rotterdam had it all.

    In the shorts section, several standout films explored the

  • 1000 WORDS: AURA SATZ

    PERHAPS THE SIMULTANEOUS DENIGRATION and exaltation of color in the West can be explained by its fundamental instability, its lack of fit with rationality and order. Color has variously been allied with the occult, the primitive, and the feminine; some say it is merely cosmetic, others that it is deeply spiritual. It is inherently subjective, bridging the external world and internal experience, and notoriously difficult to codify. Through the Latin celare, it has etymological ties to notions of disguise and concealment. What David Batchelor has termed chromophobia in his book of the same name

  • film October 31, 2014

    Every Which Way

    LURKING IN THE SHADOW of the Frieze Art Fair and relegated to the very back pages of the print catalogue of the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival was Experimenta, an assembly of nineteen programs devoted to experimental cinema and artists’ film and video. Curated for the second year running by LUX’s Benjamin Cook and the BFI’s Helen de Witt and William Fowler, the sidebar showcased some sixty-two works varying in length, ranging from productions with crews the size of a Sundance darling to films made by a single individual in the artisanal mode long associated with avant-garde cinema.

  • LIVE AND DIRECT: CINEMA AS A PERFORMING ART

    THIS PAST MAY, “Memories Can’t Wait—Film Without Film,” the theme program of the 2014 International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, began with a blank screen. No celluloid ran through the projector; instead, light was transmitted without intermediary, bright enough to bounce back and partially illuminate the faces of the seated spectators. Soon enough, members of the audience started to throw crumpled balls of paper in the way of the beam, causing shadows to appear on the screen. Others joined in, and paper airplanes began to soar, with laughter and conversation filling the room. The old