Erika Balsom

  • Claire Denis, Let the Sunshine In, 2017, DCP, color, sound, 95 minutes. Photo: Sundance Selects.
    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 working on Dog Star Man: Prelude, ca. 1961. Photo: Robert Benson.

    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.


  • Tacita Dean, Antigone, 2018, two-channel 35-mm film, color, sound, approx. 60 minutes.

    “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

  • Kevin Jerome Everson, Tonsler Park, 2017, 16 mm, black-and-white, sound, 80 minutes.

    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

  • Rosa Barba, Boundaries of Consumption, 2012, 16-mm film, modified projector, film canisters, metal spheres. Installation view, Kunsthaus Zürich. Photo: Jenny Ekholm.


    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

  • Jean-Paul Kelly, That ends that matter, 2016, three-channel HD video, color, sound, 12 minutes 34 seconds. Installation view, Delfina Foundation, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.


    “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

  • Stan VanDerBeek, Movie Mural, 1968, 35-mm slides, hand-drawn scroll, slide projectors, overhead projector, multiple 35-mm and 16-mm films transferred to video, sound. Installation view. Photo: Chandra Glick.

    “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

  • View of “Philippe Parreno: Anywhen,” 2016, Tate Modern, London. Artsimages/Alamy Live News.

    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

  • Pere Portabella with cameraman Teo Escamilla shooting Nocturno 29, Barcelona, 1968.


    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,

  • Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel, An Old Dog’s Diary, 2015, 16 mm and Super 8, black-and-white, sound, 11 minutes 50 seconds.
    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