So long, Starlight Cinema

Last night I attended an excellent though somewhat saddening event: the final program of Starlight Cinema, Memorial Union’s series of experimental/avant-garde cinema and performance art. Starlight, along with the rest of WUD Film’s series, has been dissolved in anticipation of the move to the new Union South (where WUD Film will receive an exhibition space all to itself). At the risk of sounding vaguely hypocritical, I hadn’t attended a Starlight screening before last night’s, but I’m certainly glad that I did—I enjoyed myself tremendously.

The event was called “Cream of the Crop,” a showcase of contemporary Wisconsin-based visual artists working with video, 16mm and animation, as well as one performance artist. My favorites included Brandon Bauer’s “A Short and Incomplete History of Experimental Film and Video” (2006; at 44 seconds long, it lived up to its name marvelously) and “Fractured Landscapes” (2008); Isaac Sherman’s “Eerieality” and “Things Familiar and All in the Same Place” (2009; both of these manic films reminded me of Ken Jacobs’s early work with Jack Smith, though with occasional bombardments of visual abstraction reminiscent of later Jacobs); Ross Nugent’s “Spillway Study/Carpe Diez” (a mesmerizing performance that involved three 16mm projectors running simultaneously); and Lisa Danker’s self-consciously Brakhagesque “Photo-Synthesis” (2005).

Suffice it to say, I’m now a bit disappointed with myself for not having gone to check Starlight out before it had already climbed under the covers of its death bed. “Cream of the Crop” was a truly satisfying experience for lovers of avant-garde cinema, and I’m really looking forward to keeping an eye out for future work by Bauer, Sherman, Nugent and Danker.

However, this isn’t all to suggest that avant-garde cinema’s presence in Madison is now nil: on Sunday night, now-former Starlight director Reo Fordecor, under the name Life Prism, will host a multimedia performance by the artists Jacob Ciocci and David Wightman. Ciocci and Wightman’s performance is entitled “2 Blessed 2 B Stressed”; it will begin at 7 at James Madison Park (on East Gorham). Here’s a description of “2 Blessed,” courtesy of Fordecor:

Jacob Ciocci, a founding member of the renowned art collective Paper Rad, and collaborator David Wightman will be presenting an evening of raucous videos and musical mayhem. In addition to presenting recent videos and animations, including Booty Melt and The Peace Tape, Ciocci will perform his latest I Let My Nightmares Go, which uses video projection and live dance moves to “grapple with mental demons, web 2.0, G.O.D., 21st-century breakdown, real lies and fake truths, cartoon violence, and awareness bracelets”. Wightman will appear as “Fortress of Amplitude”- a guitar-wielding minstrel from another time and place. Accompanied by a drum machine, he will execute a musical composition focused on fantasy, repetition, and ecstasy.

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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