Form and Function

Amie Siegel, DDR/DDR, 2008, still from a color video, 135 minutes.

SUCCEEDING THE NEW YORK UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL after its fifteen-year run, “Migrating Forms,” organized by former NYUFF programmers Nellie Killian and Kevin McGarry, continues the late festival’s focus on recent experimental film and video while widening its international scope. The festival name, borrowed from filmmaker James Fotopoulos’s skeletal tale of sex and cysts, also alludes to the programmers’ desire to relocate moving-image work originally developed for gallery audiences into the context of cinema.

Several films structured around the unraveling of national memory clearly benefit from the uninterrupted viewing possible in a cinema setting. Phil Collins’s Zasto Ne Govorim Srpski (na Srpskom) [Why I Don’t Speak Serbian (in Serbian)], 2008, originally commissioned for the Carnegie International, probes the anxieties surrounding the Serbian language among both ethnic Albanians and the Serbian minority living in Kosovo in the aftermath of Serbian oppression and the Kosovo War. Amie Siegel’s “ciné-constellation” DDR/DDR, 2008, shown at last year’s Whitney Biennial, combines vérité interviews with staged dialogue to excavate East German traumas associated with both the Socialist state and reunification. Siegel’s lens finds filmic lessons, too, in her analysis of Stasi information operations and her inquiries into the suppression of psychoanalysis in the DDR. Lying on a daybed in what was formerly a Stasi director’s office, Siegel intones a series of equivalencies into the camera: “Psychoanalyst as Stasi; Stasi as psychoanalyst; filmmaker as psychoanalyst; filmmaker as Stasi; Stasi as filmmaker.”

“Migrating Forms” also includes a number of films—most of which were made just before the current financial crisis—that address the global marketplace. Lucy Raven’s jerky photo animation, China Town (2008), follows copper ore from Nevada mines to the Yangtze, where the ore is smelted and the metal spun into the wire that conducts electricity from the Three Gorges Dam. City of Production (2008), directed by Laurent Gutierrez and Valérie Portefaix, describes a Pearl River Delta factory in terms of post-Fordist production. And, in the six-minute video 0% Down, 2008, Josephine Meckseper desaturates and reedits American car-commercial stunts into a steady, high-speed stream of slick, monochromatic surfaces and sweeping desertscapes laid over a sound track of satanic musician Boyd Rice bellowing, “Do you want total war?”

The 2010 “Migrating Forms” festival runs May 14–23 at Anthology Film Archives in New York. For more details, click here. In addition, Amie Siegel’s DDR/DDR plays at Anthology Film Archives May 7–13, 2010.