Erika Balsom

  • TIME IS THE BEST AUTHOR

    NEARLY THIRTY YEARS of filming the same face, the same body: The old chestnut that “every fiction film is a documentary of its actors” takes on special meaning in the many works Tsai Ming-liang has made with Lee Kang-sheng since first chancing on him outside a Taipei arcade in 1991. “Without this face, I don’t want to make films anymore,” Tsai said eighteen years later. Is a greater declaration of love possible? Lee has appeared in nearly every one of the Malaysian director’s projects since their meeting, whether these were destined for television, cinema, the gallery, or VR. Although Tsai’s

  • HISTORICAL PRESENT

    THE PRESENT FEELS INESCAPABLE, like a miasma too close, too everywhere, to apprehend. Yet it is precisely because of this blinding proximity that the present demands to be given shape in a lasting, shareable form—so that we might make sense of our place within it, so that the feeling of our time will remain available to encounter in times to come.

    In her third feature film, The Hottest August (2019), geographer turned documentarian Brett Story proposes one way to give shape to our moment. Story roams the five boroughs of New York in the eighth month of 2017, posing questions from behind the camera

  • ABOVE THE FRAY

    LOOKING DOWN ON THE SUPINE BODIES, so much living flesh laid out on towels, I feel an eerie sense of unreality set in—the kind that surges when fiction is powerful but not total. Some twenty people are below, applying cream to block the rays of a fake sun while sending real text messages, reclining on an artificial beach while actually taking care of a temperamental dog and tending to the children who trigger the animal’s barky agitation. Some are volunteers, resting for the day inside a piece of art. In a continuous loop, the cast sings songs of tourism, overwork, environmental catastrophe,

  • CROWD SOURCE

    THE MENTION OF REDDIT most likely conjures the thought of “Ask Me Anything” interviews, or perhaps the alt-right sewers of /r/The_Donald or /r/TheRedPill. In Chris Kennedy’s silent 16-mm film Watching the Detectives (2017), the website figures as something else: a place to witness the ways in which truth claims are made and unmade across distance, in real time, often with little grounding in fact.

    Kennedy begins with a tweet—“Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people”—before cutting to footage of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured some 260 others

  • Openings: Charlotte Prodger

    BEDROOMS, BATHROOMS, Samuel R. Delany. Scotland, public sex, emails from friends. Blogs, lesbians, pissing. Glasgow-based artist Charlotte Prodger peppers her single-channel videos with such constellations of people, places, and things. Prodger’s attraction to taking inventory—whether in a screen-printed compendium of her recent addresses or in a voice-over recitation of the deity Bridgit’s many names—stems from a drive not to forcibly impose an order or hierarchy, as such acts often do, but to be attentive, to stay close to the rumble of things and not overlook small variations by

  • “ROSA BARBA: SEND ME SKY”

    Rosa Barba searches for deep time in the age of the instant. She finds it in the sculptural materiality of film itself, but also in vaults, archives, buried stores of radioactive waste—and the cosmos. “Send Me Sky” thematizes astronomy and cinema, positing both as matters of light and time. A new commission filmed at the Harvard College Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will be accompanied by a selection of recent works, including The Color Out of Space, 2015, comprising images shot at the Hirsch Observatory in Troy, New York, projected through colored glass,

  • Reza Abdoh

    Before his death from AIDS in 1995 at just thirty-two, Iranian American theater director Reza Abdoh had developed a multimedia practice that crossed formal experimentation, provocation, and a commitment to political action. In maximalist productions with his company, Dar a Luz, staged in abandoned spaces in Los Angeles and New York, Abdoh drew on oneiric fantasies, sadomasochism, queer club culture, and the legacy of the avant-garde to subject his audiences to a sensory assault. This collaboration between MoMA PS1 and

  • film April 23, 2018

    Bad Boyfriends

    IF YOU’VE HEARD ANYTHING about Let the Sunshine In (2017), it is probably that Claire Denis’s new film is a romantic comedy, and that it is inspired by Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, a hyper-referential 1977 book that theorizes the language of love. So why reiterate this? Out of protest. Neither statement provides any real insight into this seductive and subtle film, but both figure as symptoms of the problem that a movie like this—which is to say, one about a mature woman’s sexuality, desire, and happiness—poses for a critical establishment that continues to have firm if

  • 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