calendar | films | directors | sources | questions | home

a - f | g - p | q - z

(The) Quarry, Ben Russell
2002, 4:00, 16mm

The Quarry is a silent document of five minutes in the presence of the sublime. This small, quiet 16mm film serves as a testament both to cinema's failure to reproduce the lived moment and to its success in replacing that moment with one that is equally wondrous.

Quiproquo, Rose Lowder (Soundtrack by Katie O'Looney)
1992, 13:00, 16mm, color/so

Situated in an environment where nature and social-industry technology meet, the film attempts a visual dialogue with (and critique of) mainstream society's concerns. To the extent that it refers to the economy of means involved in relation to what is stated, the work is both a reflection on the possibilities of the medium and an enquiry concerning the implications of the reality filmed.

Remote Sensing, Ursula Biemann
2001, 53:00, color

In Biemann's latest video, she traces the routes and reasons of women who travel across the globe for work in the sex industry. By using the latest images from NASA satellites, the film investigates the consequences of the U.S. military presence in South East Asia as well as European migration politics. This video-essay takes an earthly perspective on cross-border circuits, where women have emerged as key actors and expertly links new geographic technologies to the sexualization and displacement of women on a global scale. By revealing how technologies of marginalization affect women in their sexuality, "Remote Sensing" aspires to displace and resignify the feminine within sexual difference and cultural representation. (PDF)

(The) River, Pare Lorentz
1938, 32:00

The River was documentary filmmaker Pare Lorentz's masterful follow-up to his 1936 classic The Plow That Broke the Plains. Produced on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority, The River details the history of the flood-prone Mississippi basin from prehistoric times to the Depression era. Special attention is given the efforts by the TVA to control floods and conserve soil in the area. Many of the beautifully composed shots in The River--notably the distance shots of a huge dam under construction--have become de rigeur filmclips in subsequent film and TV documentaries of the 1930s. The visual poetry inherent in Lorentz's images are complemented by his free-verse narration. For a more prosaic treatment of the same era and events, see Elia Kazan's 1960 recreation of the TVA's 1930s activities, Wild River. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Roam Sweet Home, Ellen Spiro
1996, 58:00

Inventing freedom as they roam, videomaker Ellen Spiro and her dog Sam go west in a vintage Airstream trailer in search of elderly dropouts and their dogs who have pulled out of society and into by-the-side-of-the-road trailer communities. Our mutt narrator tells his tale, sharing his thoughts on America's smells, the foibles of humans, and his view of aging as another journey. In unplanned meetings with gray nomads, psychic misfits, and free spirits, Roam Sweet Home takes the myths of growing older and turns them on their head. The director and her dog join an adventurous and spirited community of roamers and loners on wheels who live by the road full-time. Major funding for this program was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting through the Independent Television Service and Channel 4, London.

Courtesy of Video Data Bank

Seated Figures, Michael Snow
1988, 50:00, 16mm, color/so

"In SEATED FIGURES ... Michael Snow again explores the ground zero of motion pictures - this time literally. Most simply described, the film ... is a 40-minute consideration of a landscape from the perspective of an exhaust pipe. The artist appears to have bolted his camera, lens down, to a metal arm extending off the back of a truck ... then driven over asphalt and dirt roads, out to the beach, along a riverbed, and through a field of daisies. Although hypnotic, the movement is not continuous. The vehicle stops, reverses direction, then accelerates to produce a diagonally striated forcefield.

"For all his conceptual sophistication, Snow subscribes to a casual, all-encompassing Cage aesthetic. He's deceptively artless, a master of the visual deadpan. While trafficking in geological abstraction, he arrests the film's frantic motion, freezing some blurry onrush or a frame of flowing water. A soundtrack of coughs, yawns, and humming projector creates a further displacement. The images are distanced - accompanied by the muffled noises of an audience watching a movie. Hence the mysteriously inert title. SEATED FIGURES is about its audience. Not only are we sent flying face down over the earth, but Snow reverses the oldest concept in image-making - he juxtaposes our seated, static figures against a constantly moving ground." - J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

(The) Secret History of the Dividing Line, David Gatten
USA, 20:00, 16mm

Conflicting descriptions of the same territory by the same William Byrd fracture in an attempt to inhabit the same space, yielding to obscure landscapes that vividly depict the numerical distances relegated to an appendix. As subtly rhythmic and droll as it is outwardly austere, David Gatten's continued perusal of the Byrd library generously rewards patience with its faithful curiosity. -- Spencer Parsons

Seven Days, Chris Welsby
1974, 20:00, 16mm, color/so

The location for this film is by a small stream on the northern slopes of Mount Carningly in southwest Wales. The seven days were shot consecutively and appear in that same order. One frame was taken every ten seconds throughout the hours of the day. The camera, mounted on an equatorial stand (a piece of equipment used by astronomers to track the stars), rotates at the same speed as the earth.

"The Romantic cult of nature, which made it possible for landscape painting to flourish in the nineteenth century more than ever before, grew up alongside and in reaction against the technological destruction of nature which accompanied the industrial revolution. The danger, of course, was that our culture would simply become increasingly split, as art set itself up against science, and science was applied and developed, divorced from any concern over value. Welsby's work makes it possible to envisage a different kind of relationship between science and art, in which observation is separated from surveillance and technology from domination. The late development of landscape art means that its particular history may only now be really beginning, as it enters a new post-painterly phase." - Peter Wollen

Sky Light, Chris Welsby
1988, 26:00, 16mm, color/so

An idyllic river flows through a forest, flashes of light and colour threaten to erase the image, bursts of short wave radio and static invade the tranquility of the natural sound.

The camera searches amongst the craggy rocks and ruined buildings of a bleak and windswept snowscape, a Geiger counter chatters ominously in the background.

The sky is overcast at first but gradually clears to reveal a sky of unnatural cobalt blue ....

Made in three sections, the film resembles a search for meaning amongst a plethora of electronic, chemical and mechanistic information. SKY LIGHT was made in response to some very strong feelings experienced at the time of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

(The) Sky On Location, Babette Mangolte
1982, 77:15, 16mm, color, sound

Light is a narrative device--it gives you time and it defines space. In the succession of shots, changes of color imply time.

"The landscape is not seen in its postcardish grandeur as in Ansel Adams, nor through its shapes as in Cezanne or in Constable, but rather the film captures the mood of the landscape as in a Turner painting. The film attempts to construct a geography of the land from North to South, East to West, and season to season through colors instead of maps."

"From the beginning the film (The Sky) was meant to be without any people at all. But after I saw the footage from the summer, I said, 'That's unbearable; I need once or twice to have an element of scale.' Because everything appeared to be at the same distance. Whether you use a telephoto shot of a mountain or a wide angle shot, you're always very far from the mountain, if you see it at all ... The space is so open that there is never any foreground to give you perspective. That's what fascinated me in the subject matter ... geography made visible through color and light. I discovered that the light shifts so radically that a certain element of drama is possible."

"The Sky is not about nature as backdrop, but more about the idea of wilderness, which I've discovered is so ingrained in American culture, but totally bewildering for Europeans. I don't even know a French word you could use to translate the idea. I am Americanized enough now to identify with it. Traveling alone, or with one assistant, through those places helped me understand. Europe lost the sense of wilderness centuries ago. It's so much more crowded per square mile. There is no area which is not put to some use, and which is not crossed by many roads. Even the tops of the mountains are not really secluded. And you don't have that sense of space...."

Stranger With A Camera, Elizabeth Barret
2000, 58:40

In 1967 Canadian filmmaker Hugh O'Connor visited the mountains of Central Appalachia to document poverty. A local landlord, who resented the presence of filmmakers on his property, shot and killed O'Connor, in part because of his anger over the media images of Appalachia that had become icons in the nation's War on Poverty. Filmmaker Elizabeth Barret, a native of Appalachia, uses O'Connor's death as a lens to explore the complex relationship between those who make films to promote social change and the people whose lives are represented in such media depictions. Through first-person accounts of the killing and the perspective of three decades of reflection, Stranger With A Camera leads viewers on a quest for understanding - a quest that ultimately leads Barret to examine her own role as both a maker of media and a member of the Appalachian community she portrays.

"A provocative moral inquiry but also a vivid portrait of a place and time." - The New York Times

Stream Line, Chris Welsby
1976, 8:00, 16mm, color/so

This film was made on Mount Kinderscout in Derbyshire, England. It is a continuous, "real time" tracking shot of a stream bed. The length of the track was ten yards. The camera was suspended in a motorized carriage running on steel cables three feet above the water surface. The camera pointed vertically downwards recording the contours of the stream bed and the flow of water along its course. The sound of the water was recorded synchronously from the moving carriage.

The "drama" in this film comes from the topography of the stream and not from the camera motion or from the editing. Throughout the unedited length of the film, the camera tracks along a straight line at an absolutely regular speed. In contrast the stream runs fast and slow, cascading over boulders and swirling turbulently from left to right.

... I think of the straight line formed by the tracking device as a metaphor for technology ... used [in this model] as a means to articulate the complexity of nature. ...When the film is projected the viewer becomes aware of this line through the passing of time; in STREAM LINE space is represented through duration.

Suicide Box, Bureau of Inverse Technology
1996, 13:00$tapedetail?SUICIDEBOX

A documentary video about the B.I.T. Suicide Box--a motion-triggered camera developed by the Bureau of Inverse Technology (a private information agency), and installed within range of the Golden Gate Bridge to capture a video record of anything that falls from the bridge, and provide an accurate measure of the suicide rate. The tape points to confusing roles for technology within contemporary culture. --Whitney Biennial Exhibition, 1997

Suggested Photo Spots, Malinda Stone & Igor Vamos
1997, 10:00

Media Artists Melinda Stone and Igor Vamos initiated and executed the Photo Spot Project for The Center, installing over 50 "Suggested Photo Spot" signs at selected sites from coast to coast. Sights designated as a "Suggested Photo Spot" include the tailings pile of a copper mine and the waste water treatment facility for the Kodak company's headquarters. But the spots are not selected simply according to the function of facilities or land uses at the site. The criteria for selecting the Spots primarily relate to tourist photography issues, based on visual and aesthetics considerations, and a sense of what might be "photogenic". "In most cases, you have to be there to fully get it", says Stone, "the pictures we take of the Photo Spots represent just one aspect of the site, but the project is really about the interaction of viewers with each location".

Courtesy of Video Data Bank

Terra Incognita, Ben Russell
2002, 10:00, 16mm

Terra Incognita is a lensless film whose cloudy pinhole images create a memory of history. Texts from ancient and modern explorers about Easter Island are garbled together by a computer narrator, resulting in a forever repeating narrative of discovery, colonialism, loss and departure.

There There Square, Jacqueline Goss
2002, 14:00

The desire to own and name land and the pleasures of seeing from a distance color this personal survey of the history of mapmaking in the New World.

There There Square takes a close look at the gestures of travelers, mapmakers, and saboteurs that determine how we read - and live within- the lines that define the United States.$tapedetail?THERETHERE

...My own greatest pleasure at the Festival came with another short film, There There Square, shown in the "Almost Paradise" collection. Directed by Jacqueline Goss, it evokes a child's computerized geography lesson. A map of the United States, white on a solid blue background, forms the central image of the film; as words onscreen muse about the connections between history, geography, and the personal, the map morphs into a myriad of shapes, like the varied answers supplied by children and adults asked to "draw a map of the United States."

Completely silent, There There Square allows for reflection and for reading between the histories of mapmakers, presidents, and explorers to find where the actual and imagined borders of the United States lie. Inevitably, they are more defined by personal than collective histories. We love looking from above, Goss suggests, because it makes us feel like we own everything in view, from stories to territories. But, There There Square proposes, we base our presumptions on individual experiences, losing sight of broader concerns and realities. This is a child's first geography lesson, beautifully articulated by Goss' subtle direction.

This is Nowhere, Doug Hawes-Davis
2002, 87:00, color

Each year tens of thousands of travelers steer their RVs into Wal-Mart parking lots to "camp" for a night or two. Not because they have to. Rather, because they want to. Just as they seek out national parks and historic sites, RV travelers have marked Wal-Mart stores as travel destinations. Full of irony, This is Nowhere humorously captures the essence of American attitudes toward nature, equality, and civic values as it documents RV travelers' interactions with landscape, technology, communities, and each other.

"The film allows the speak for themselves, and the result is...sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing commentary about contemporary American values." Read full review from Mother Jones

Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern, Jeanne Jordan and Steven Asher
1995, 88:00, color

"I was raised on Westerns. Red River, High Noon, Gunsmoke--where the bad guys sometimes won but never prevailed. Our film is a Midwestern. It's the story of my family's farm in Iowa: From crossing the Mississippi by covered wagon in 1867 to driving to Daddy Date Night in 1967. From my great-grandfather fighting off the Crooked Creek Gang in the 1880's to my father fighting off foreclosure in the 1990's." --Filmmaker Jeanne Jordan

In the spring of 1990, Jeanne Jordan's father Russel called Jeanne and her husband, Steven Ascher, in Boston and announced that he might very well be facing his last year of farming. Jeanne and Steven were in shock.

The farm that Russel and Mary Jane Jordan worked and lived on had been in the family for 125 years. It had survived the dust bowl, the Depression, two world wars, and the economically turbulent 1980's. Now Russel and Mary Jane were doing all they could simply to stave off foreclosure.

In Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern, filmmakers Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher return to the Jordan family farm in Iowa, where a new regional bank has decided to call in an accumulated $70,000 debt, forcing the family into some difficult decision making. During these days of soul searching and discussion, Jordan and Ascher filmed life on the farm as it took place. There was no script. There were no re-enactments.

Though Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern is a deeply personal film, narrated with effective understatement by daughter and filmmaker Jeanne Jordan, the story it tells is universal. It is a story of passages, and the undeniable sweep of changing times. It is also a story of how family and community ties can be maintained, and even strengthened, during the most trying of times.

Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern was nominated for an Academy Award and was awarded both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award for best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

Tununeremiut: The People of Tununak, Sarah Elder, Leonard Kamerling
1972, 35:00

Four sequences, filmed over a two-month period, portray aspects of the lives of the people of Tununak, a village on the south-western coast of Alaska. In the first, the villagers evacuate their homes and camp on higher ground, fearing that a Nuclear test on Amchitka Island, 1000 miles away, may cause a tidal wave. In a quietly ironic scene, the Eskimos listen to the countdown on their radios, wondering if this modern blast will bring forth an ancient disaster.

In the second vignette, a group of men travel by snowmobile to place fishtraps under the river ice. They become lost in heavy fog, blinded by the glare of the ice, and confused by the complicated turns of the rivers in a landscape where the only landmarks are short, low-lying bushes or old fishtraps. In spite of the difficulty of seeing, they discus their quandary calmly and eventually find their way.

A sudden storm from the Bering sea hits Tununak with gale force winds and heavy snow. Laundry blows wildly in the wind as people prepare for the storm.

The concluding sequence captures communal warmth as people gather in the meeting hall for traditional story-dancing. All participate: men beating drums, and singing, women dancing, adorned with beaded headbands and feathery finger masks. The dancing in Tununak still provides an important outlet for individual expression, at the same time communicating the village's unwritten history.

Undeniable Evidence, Igor Vamos
1995, 30:00

A provocative half-hour of guerrilla artists caught in the act on videotape, Undeniable Evidence is a public art extravaganza assembled by Igor Vamos and anonymous culture jammers.

Ephemeral pieces documented include Grupo Baja Mar/The Low Tide Group. An artists' group uses the unique geologic and architectural features of Spain's San Sebastian's beaches to create a giant public billboard that wipes itself clean each day with the incoming tide. In English and Spanish.

Human Target Flag Responding To Operation Desert Storm. A Portland, Oregon group hangs an enormous U.S. flag, composed of human silhouette targets, off a bridge directly in front of U.S. Navy ships during war homecoming celebrations.

Reverse Peristalsis Painting. Outside Vice President Dan Quayle's fundraising brunch for Bob Packwood, an organized group of 24 people in ill-fitting suits engage in the event by vomiting the colors of the American flag.

Malcom X Street. At a time when the city of Portland is considering stripping Martin Luther King Jr.'s name off a local street, a covert organization calling itself Group X changes the name of another downtown street to Malcolm X Street in a clandestine overnight action.

Canine Edible Sculpture. After overcoming their initial fear, fifteen dogs consume a sculpture made of 480 pounds of grisly beef bones and dry dog food on a football field.

Vernon, Florida, Errol Morris
1982, 72:00

"Vernon, Florida" is an odd-ball survey of the inhabitants of a remote swamp-town in the Florida panhandle. Henry Shipes, Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins and others discuss turkey-hunting, gator-grunting and the meaning of life. This second effort by Errol Morris, originally titled "Nub City," was about the inhabitants of a small Florida town who lop off their limbs for insurance money ("They literally became a fraction of themselves to become whole financially," Morris commented.) but had to be retooled when his subjects threatened to murder him. Forced to come up with a new concept Morris created "Vernon, Florida" (1981) about the eccentric residents of a Southern swamp town.

David Ansen in Newsweek wrote, "Errol Morris makes films unlike any other filmmaker. 'Vernon, Florida', like his earlier study of pet cemeteries, 'Gates of Heaven', is the work of a true original. On the surface, it is simply a portrait of several somewhat eccentric residents of a slow backwater town... There's a taste of Samuel Beckett in the film's tone of droll, forlorn hopefulness, and something of Buster Keaton in the spacious frames and exquisitely deadpan comic timing. 'Vernon, Florida' isn't sociology at all, it's philosophical slapstick, a film as odd and mysterious as its subjects, and quite unforgettable."

Walden (aka Diaries, Notes & Sketches), Jonas Mekas
1964-8/1968-9, 175:00

"Since 1950 I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year. On some days I shot ten frames, on others ten seconds, still on others ten minutes. Or I shot nothing. When one writes diaries, it's a retrospective process: you sit down, you look back at your day, and you write it all down. To keep a film (camera) diary, is to react (with your camera) immediately, now, this instant: either you get it now, or you don't get it at all. To go back and shoot it later, it would mean restaging, be it events or feelings. To get it now, as it happens, demands the total mastery of one's tools ( in this case, Bolex): it has to register the reality to which I react and also it has to register my state of feeling (and all the memories) as I react. Which also means, that I had to do all the structuring (editing) right there, during the shooting, in the camera. All footage that you'll see in the Diaries is exactly as it came out from the camera: there was no way of achieving it in the editing room without destroying its form and content.

Walden contains materials from the years 1965-69, strung together in chronological order. For the soundtrack I used some of the sounds that I collected during the same period: voices, subways, much street noise, bits of Chopin (I am a romantic), and other significant and insignificant sounds."

"They tell me, I should always be searching; but I'm only celebrating what I see." (Jonas Mekas)

"I make home movies -- therefore I live. I live -- therefore I make home movies." (Jonas Mekas)

WALDEN: REEL ONE "New York in Spring; Tony Conrad; Bibbie in Central Park; a Wedding; Breakfast in Marseilles; Cassis; Sitney leaves New Haven; Fire on 87th Street; Brakhage crosses Central Park; Carl Th. Dreyer; a Trip to Millbrook; Flowers for Marie Menken; Gregory Markopoulos shoots Galaxie; Notes on the Circus."

WALDEN: REEL TWO "Kreeping Kreplachs meet (Ginsberg, Ed Sanders, Tuli, Warhol, Barbara Rubin, etc.)/Hare Krishna walk; autumn scenes; Sitney's Wedding; New Year's Evening in Times Square; Goofing on 42nd Street; Uptown Party; Velvet Underground; Deep of Winter; Naomi visits Ken & Flo Jacobs; Amy stops for Coffee; Coop Directors meet; Dreams of Cocteau; In Central Park; What Leslie saw through the Coop window; Olmsted Hike"

WALDEN: REEL THREE "Barbara Rubin shoots a movie; Christmas Eve; A visit to Brakhages (Colorado); a visit to Hans Richter; in Central Park; Peter's Wedding."

WALDEN: REEL FOUR "Autumn scenes; Mel's children; a trip to New Jersey; Wendy's Wedding; in Central Park; Skating rink; Winter scenes; Sunday Morning Snowstorm on 8th Avenue; Martha; Anthology Cinema meets; Yoko Ono & John Lennon; Central Park."

Water and Power, Pat O'Neill
1989, 57:00, 35mm,31/DJamesInterview.html

Weather Diary 1, George Kuchar
1986, 1:21:00

This feature-length tape documents one month in a trailer park/motel in Oklahoma, following passing weather systems and the parade of people passing by.

"The tape ultimately addresses all the big questions--death, origin and family, religion--as well as the small discomforts of the body, only to reverse their order of importance." --Margaret Morse, Framework, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions

Weather Diary 2, George Kuchar
1987, 1:10:00

In a motel in El Reno, Oklahoma, George observes the weather and copes with leaking air conditioning, food shopping, loneliness, television, and eating, among other things.

What the Water Said, Nos. 1-3, David Gatten
1997-98, 16:00

These films are the result of a series of camera-less collaborations between the filmmaker, the Atlantic Ocean and its underwater inhabitants. For three days in January and three days in October of 1997, and again, for a day, in August of 1998, lengths of unexposed, undeveloped film were soaked in a crab trap on a South Carolina beach. Both the sound and image in WHAT THE WATER SAID are the result of the ensuing oceanic inscriptions written directly into the emulsion of the film as it was buffeted by the salt water, sand and rocks; as it was chewed and eaten by the crabs, fish and underwater creatures.

Why Live Here?, Mark Street
1996, 60:00, color, 16mm

Why Live Here? explores three characters' reaction to their environments-- San Francisco, Florida and Montana. In the film each character develops a particular relationship to place. One moves back to Montana to help with a family business, another moves to SF for the cultural climate, and a third moves to Tampa, Florida for a temporary job. All wonder why they are where they are, and what they might be missing elsewhere. Through the musings of the three characters, the film considers notions of home and community in an age when people move all over for all reasons.

Windmill 2, Chris Welsby
1972, 8:00, 16mm, color/si

This film is one of a series of films (Wind Vane, Anemometer, Tree, Park, Estuary etc.) which uses an element present within the frame as a feedback device to control an aspect of the recording process. In this case it is the wind moving the leaves on the trees within the frame which also causes the windmill to rotate like a secondary shutter in front of the camera. This rotation of the mirrored windmill blades causes the image on the screen to alternate between the space in front of the camera, seen intermittently through the blades, and the space behind the camera, reflected in the blades. When the windmill reaches a particular speed, a third space is also created as the deep space of the picture plane fragments and becomes a two dimensional abstract surface of colour and light.

a - f | g - p | q - z


calendar | films | directors | sources | questions | home