Documentary

 

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process where layers of rock are broken up by a high-pressured fluid to aid in the extraction petroleum and natural gas.  This unsafe process creates countless heath and environmental hazards.

Two artists recently have made work about fracking.  Josh Fox’s documentary, Gas Land, weaves together stories of people who can light their tap water on fire and government hearings that state that fracking is a sound practice.  Martha Colburn’s commissioned animation takes on the horror as well.

The trailer for Fox’s movie can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVKXuZORmvY

– KS

5,000 Feet is the Best, Omer Fast

Omer Fast – 5,000 Feet is the Best – video still

Christian Marclay and Omer Fast at the 54th Venice Biennale 

I had the good fortune to travel to several European cities this summer, including a three-day stop in Venice to check out the 54th Venice Biennale. The sprawling exhibition was chock full of glowing screens and projections, underscoring the prominence of video in contemporary art. By my estimate, 80% of the projects presented in the Giardini and the Arsenale contained moving images. Most of the video at the Biennale was predictable— a monitor showing an artist performing some repetitive task, a projection of glitchy Youtube appropriations, or a high-production narrative lacking a solid core. You know the drill. It’s not that any of these video art tropes are inherently weak but if you’re going to rehash a recognizable approach to video making at one of the most prominent international exhibitions, at least make it interesting. I’m hesitant to name specific video works that I found lacking because, frankly, if it didn’t grab me in some way, I was out of there but quick!

That being said, there were two videos I saw in Venice that were absolutely mesmerizing. The first was Christian Marclay’s stunning 24-hour video, The Clock. Marclay deserved to win The Golden Lion—nothing else in the Biennale came close to matching the uncanny beauty and clever editing of The Clock. I watched for two hours before peeling myself from a comfy couch to look at the rest of the work in the Arsenale. The video has been shown in several U.S. venues and has been written about extensively so check out Roberta Smith’s review in the New York Times if you want to know more. Here’s an excerpt:

“That timepieces crop up everywhere in movies is no surprise: Film was the first visual art form to capture and package time, and every movie is an elaborate manipulation of time. Time is the form and content, and, above all, the material. Moviemakers have developed endless devices to make us aware of time’s passage in their films, and to hold us in thrall, or suspense, within that artificial time — while we forget about the real kind outside the theater.

Central to the power of “The Clock” is its strict adherence to real time and its manic compression of movie time. When a clock on the screen reads 11:15 in the morning, it does so at exactly 11:15 in the morning Eastern Standard Time.”

The second video that captured my full attention was 5,000 Feet is the Best by Israeli artist Omer Fast. His single channel projection was shown in a large, darkened space behind a room full of Tintoretto paintings. Fast has been mixing fact and fiction in his work throughout the last decade and this video is no exception. The narrative of 5,000 Feet is the Best revolves around interviews with an anonymous drone pilot from the United States military. His face digitally blurred, he recounts the technical aspects of his job while he was stationed in Afghanistan. Two additional, interwoven narratives add complexity to the drone pilot’s tale. In the first, a fictional character played by Denis O’Hare (True Blood fans will know him as a former vampire king) visits a series of mysterious rooms where he is questioned by a second character who is one part therapist, one part journalist. Their relationship is never made entirely clear but the interviews always begin with identical dialogue before diverging into unexpected directions. “Fictional” interviews bleed into dramatic pseudo-recreations of the events, with a voiceover describing “real” scenarios from Afghanistan while the images are obviously from the American Southwest, specifically Las Vegas and the surrounding desert.

Fast employs small bits of humor to soften the otherwise harsh details of his characters. For instance, in one voiceover segment, a character describes a group of young men burying an IED in the road as a vacationing family approaches. The disembodied voice assures us that these men are identifiable as locals because of their native dress and head ware. The clothing is blue jeans and t-shirts and the head ware is a baseball cap. This brief moment of humor allows us to drop our guard during an otherwise tense scene. In contrast, the extremely violent scene that follows (remember the drone pilot?) hits even harder.

Omer Fast is one of a handful of video artists who deftly manipulates narrative conventions into elegant loops that defy linearity. One could truly enter the work at any time. The beautifully captured images and steady pace provide ample bait for the red-hot political poetry that Fast wants us to experience.

The 54th Venice Biennale is open through November 27th. You can also see 5,000 Feet is the Best in Dublin from September 3rd– November 27th as part of The Tunnel, a large-scale installation by Omer Fast at The Model.

-SSlappe

War After War |A film by Simon Leung | Friday, July 29, 2011 | 8:00 p.m.
Presented as part of 91 92 93
Admission is $10 (FREE for Friends of the MAK Center)
Schindler House | 835 North Kings Road | West Hollywood, CA 90069

“War After War is the culmination of Simon Leung’s three-part twenty-year project based on the life of Warren Niesłuchowski, a polymath art world figure who, for the last decade, has lived as a “cosmopolitan nomad,” a perpetual guest in Warsaw, New York, Berlin, London, and recently Los Angeles. A 90-minute “documentary” edited to operate both as a linear narrative and a cyclical loop, WAW is structured to mirror the protagonist’s looped existence of coming and going, as seen through the eyes of those who have provided him a temporary bed. Repeated passages from Immanuel Kant’s essay, “Perpetual Peace,” each read by said hosts, act both as a “script” for the film and a reflection for Leung’s ongoing case study in hospitality. Many years in the making, War After War demonstrates the sustained two-decade collaboration between Leung and Niesłuchowski, giving an intimate look at one person’s lifetime relationship with the concepts, ramifications and philosophies of war.”

-JO 

Tabloid by Errol Morris 
FREE SNEAK PREVIEW (Errol Morris in person)!!!!
Cinefamily at 7:30 tonight! 7/9/11
 
“NOTE: This show is free (first-come, first-serve).  To help us track attendance and limit waiting line size, you must pre-register for “first-come, first-serve” admission.   One registration per person.  All current Cinefamily members get first entry (and +1).   Your registration does not guarantee you a seat.  Early arrival is highly recommended. Doors will open 30 min. before showtime.  No one will be admitted after the film has begun.

Equal parts love story, film noir, brainy B-movie and demented fairy tale, the brand-new feature from Academy Award-winner Errol Morris (The Fog of War, Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line) is a delirious meditation on hysteria — both public and personal — from a filmmaker who continues to break down and blow open the documentary genre with his penetrating portraits of eccentric and profoundly complex characters. In Tabloid, Morris concocts another jaw-dropping portrayal, this time of phenomenally driven former “beauty queen” Joyce McKinney, whose romantic single-minded devotion to the man of her dreams leads her across the globe, and directly onto the front pages of the ruthless British tabloid newspapers. Morris effortlessly pilots you through Joyce’s much-stranger-than-fiction journey, as he weaves a web of gunpoint abduction, manacled Mormons, oddball accomplices, bondage modeling, magic underwear and dreams of celestial unions! Errol Morris will be here in person for a Q&A after the screening!
Dir. Errol Morris, 2010, 35mm, 87 min.

If you’re unable to make it to this screening, Tabloid opens on July 15th at The Landmark, Sunset 5, Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7! Check out the Tabloid Facebook page here!”

-JO