Posts Tagged ‘MMOCA’

Water on the roof

June 11, 2010

The MMoCA will continue its already outstanding Rooftop Cinema series tonight at 9:30 with “H2O,” a program of experimental shorts that take water as their central subject, or rather, that treat water as the vehicle by which to mediate on a number of ideas, moods, techniques, etc. “H2O” will include films by Stan Brakhage (1997’s sublime “Commingled Containers”), Kenneth Anger and UW-Madison’s own J.J. Murphy. (It almost goes without saying that I’m particularly excited to finally get a chance to see one of Murphy’s films.) Admission is $5. Cross your fingers for a cool, dry night. Keep ’em crossed until further notice.

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Rooftop Cinema tonight at the MMoCA

June 4, 2010

Just in case you’ve forgotten, tonight marks the first event in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Rooftop Cinema” series; the program is entitled “Associations: The Short Films of John Smith,” and the MMoCA’s website describes it as follows:

Rooftop Cinema kicks off with a wonderful collection of short films from one of the avant garde’s leading humorists. “The films of John Smith conduct a serious investigation into the combination of sound and image, but with a sense of humor that reaches out beyond the traditional avant-garde audience. His films move between narrative and absurdity, constantly undermining the traditional relationship between the visual and the aural. By blurring the perceived boundaries of experimental film, fiction, and documentary, Smith never delivers what he has led the spectator to expect.” —Mark Webber, Leeds International Film Festival (2000)

More information, including brief descriptions of each of the six films that comprise the program, can be found here. The screening will begin at 9:30 and admission is $5. See you there?

Wisconsin on video

June 1, 2010

By now I’m sure that most Madisonian aesthetes and local lovers of art in all its various mediums have visited the Wisconsin Triennial, which will run at the MMoCA through August 15; for those who haven’t, I’m pleased to report that the exhibit is well-worth an open-minded perusal.

While the exhibit features many paintings, sculptures and photographs that are of great interest—I was particularly drawn to Richard Knight’s borderline-infantile compositions of abstract and figurative elements that seem like near-definitive statements on the ADHD tendencies of contemporary consciousness, as well as Curtis Whaley’s at once humorous and existentially morbid schematics—the works that most attracted me were the video installations by Erik Gunneson, Kitty Huffman, Laura Stewart, Toby Kaufmann-Buhler and Chele Isaac.

Gunneson’s “Old Hickory Lane” is an assemblage consisting of a wheeled apparatus made up of dollies, tripods and six monitors screening slow, Dreyeresque tracking shots filmed in a recreation of his childhood home that he constructed in a studio in UW-Madison’s own Vilas Hall. This work requires its spectator to circle around it several times, engaging with each individual image on its own while also recognizing the overall form of the apparatus to which the images are conjoined. “Old Hickory Lane” bares the device in a totally unique way; its sheer manufacturedness  implies a poignant artificiality in Gunneson’s nostalgic efforts to excavate the memories of a bygone (and somewhat idealized) period of his own life.

Kitty Huffman’s “Self-Portrait” is my favorite of the installations on display. The work is a five-minute static long shot of a nude woman (Huffman herself) lying on her side with her back to the camera in a desolate, snowy winter setting. The human figure remains utterly still in the left middle-ground of the widescreen composition; behind it a small pack of deer wander in single-file along a path that slices the composition in half horizontally. The deer sense some sort of menacing presence in the woods and flee. The passivity of the nude woman while threatened by unseen danger makes this exercise in pictorial and performative minimalism all the more unsettling.

Chele Isaac’s “There Is No Fixing the Drift” is probably more interesting as a work of assemblage than as a video installation per se. The video centerpiece is a slightly monotonous sequence of images and sounds of the sea foaming and rolling in waves of varying sizes. The room in which the video is projected also features a mannequin clad in a nineteenth-century dress and an aquarium whose bottom is a screen presenting images similar to those being projected on the wall. The work is meant to evoke contemplation through its meditative qualities, but I found it much more engaging to skip back and forth between the installation’s objects (the mannequin, the aquarium, the two screens), focusing on the tensions formed by the juxtaposition of its constituent elements rather than on the calming flux present in its images and sounds of water.

Laura Stewart’s three videos are the most conventional of any that appear in the Triennial, in that her subjects and themes are well-established territory for avant-garde cinema (indeed, the title of one of the works, “Come Back Scorpio Rising,” is a reference to the canonical Kenneth Anger short): the lives of the derelict, of the marginalized, of the desperate, of modern-day nomads who have never come to know the concept of home. The lo-fi videos were short enough not to give me the sense that they blaze beaten trails, yet I can’t help but think that they feel a bit like old news rather than like something old imbued with new energy.

Lastly, Toby Kaufmann-Buhler’s “The Same But Different (Everything Becomes Round)”, like “Old Hickory Lane,” evokes nostalgic feelings through its slice-of-life imagery and the general wonderment it finds in the quotidian. However, it is also the most formalistic of the Triennial’s installations, presenting its images and sounds, themselves thoroughly fragmentary, through a montage that becomes something of an audiovisual game, recalling the infectious patterning of Hollis Frampton’s “Zorns Lemma” (1970).

Kaufmann-Buhler dances from image to image to the beat of dissonant, abrupt noises; a shot of dripping water serves as the master image, which is in turn interrupted by glimpses of everyday life’s more picturesque phenomena, often for only a split-second. The staccato structure of “The Same But Different” stands in stark contrast with the long takes of Huffman’s “Self-Portrait” and “Old Hickory Lane,” while the disorienting character of its image-sound interplay forms a striking antinomy with the sense of serenity engendered by “There Is No Fixing the Drift,” despite that work’s inescapable if latent heterogeneity.

I neglected to check Bruce Charlesworth’s “Love Disorder” out, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it soon enough. The Triennial contains a decent amount of proof that Wisconsin-based artists are producing legitimately interesting work in what is arguably art’s most cutting-edge medium.

The roof, the roof, the roof is…

May 20, 2010

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art just announced the first four events in its Rooftop Cinema series and, if you ask me, they look pretty damn promising.

On June 4 they’ll present “Associations: The Short Films of John Smith,” which is comprised of six shorts by a filmmaker who MMoCA bills as being “one of the avant garde’s leading humorists.”

On June 11 it’s “H2O,” a program of films that take as their subject—what else—agua, eau, water, etc. Included in the program are Stan Brakhage’s “Commingled Containers” (1997), Kenneth Anger’s “Eaux d’artifice” (1953) and J.J. Murphy’s “Sky Blue Water Light Sign” (1972). “Commingled Containers” is utterly mesmerizing; having only seen it on Criterion’s “by Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume One,” I can’t wait to experience it projected off 16mm.

Also of note is Bruce Conner’s “Looking For Mushrooms” (1996), which is the central attraction in the June 18 program, “The Sight of Music Part 2.”

Head on over to the MMoCA’s website for details on the rest of June’s screenings. Let’s breathe a collective sigh of relief that avant-garde cinema will continue to have a presence in Madison, at least for the summer.

The most wonderful time of the year (a day early, too)

April 14, 2010

This morning I was slightly surprised to find that my DC column (a brief primer on the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival) was published a day early in order to coincide with the first day of the fest. Luckily, that suits me just fine, seeing as how I’m only planning to check out one film today myself (and what a film it promises to be).

For the sake of being comprehensive, I should also mention that tonight Bradley Rust Gray’s “The Exploding Girl” will screen at 7:30 at the Chazen, Jessica Hausner’s “Lourdes” will screen at 7:15 at the Orpheum’s Stage Door Theater, Don Argott’s “The Art of the Steal” will screen at 7 at the MMoCA and Radu Jude’s “The Happiest Girl in the World” (which I wrote about last month when it screened at the Romanian Film Festival) will screen at 9:15 at the MMoCA; if the press these flicks respectively received is any indication, all four deserve a look. Opening night, opening night…

Are you going to the Romanian Film Festival?

March 18, 2010

In this week’s DC column I try to persuade you to answer the question posed in this post’s title with a resounding “YEAH, PROBABLY.” Seriously folks: This year’s Romanian Film Festival at the MMoCA has a handful of films that are super-worthy of your time. Here’s a link to the festival’s website, where you’ll find the entire schedule and descriptions of all the included films. Does the Romanian New Wave exist? It’s pretty cool that you’ll be able to decide for yourself this weekend.

The 2010 Romanian Film Festival

February 26, 2010

I’m pleased to direct you to the Facebook page for the 2010 Romanian Film Festival, which is going down March 18-20 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. As I alluded to yesterday, they’ll be showing “Police, Adjective” (which is, of course, playing at the Play Circle tonight and on Saturday night); personally, I’m just as excited to see some films I’ve never even heard of before—and there’s no shortage of those. Anyway, much, much more information is available on the Festival’s Facebook page, so do head there.

Tolerable Americana

February 23, 2010

I’m pleased to present my latest collaborative review with Anthony, of the MMoCA’s most recent exhibit, “Apple Pie: Symbols of Americana in MMoCA’s Permanent Collection,” in today’s edition of the Cardinal. The exhibit is conceptually busy and makes for a genuinely engaging walk-through. The featured works sometimes harmonize and at other times shout each other down contrapuntally, probing the questions of national identity and historical memory with a vitality and a contrarianism achieved from the free play of tensions present all over the gallery’s walls. “Apple Pie” definitely deserves a visit.

P.S. Yes, the article contains two typos: first, it’s “Elliott Erwitt,” not “Elloit Erwitt” (this one’s on me); second, “Larry Clark’s photo-portraits of strung-out, shiner-sporting solitaries staring across the gallery…” should reading “Larry Clark’s photo-portraits of strung-out, shiner-sporting solitaries stare across the gallery…” I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me/us.

A non-cinematic recommendation

February 19, 2010

For better or worse, this blog has increasingly taken a turn toward specialization; even so, I’m actually almost as interested in the other arts as I am in the seventh art. With that said, here’s a non-cinematic thing to check out this weekend: The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s newest exhibit, “Apple Pie: Symbols of Americana,” is more than deserving of a perusal. (A collaborative review of the exhibit, written for the Daily Cardinal by Anthony Cefali and myself, may or may not be in the can. You didn’t hear this from me.)

“Apple Pie” is an invaluable opportunity to investigate a variety of American artists, ranging from the well-known (Thomas Hart Benton, Robert Frank, Robert Gwathmey, etc.) to the less-well-known and the comfortingly local. Much like the last exhibit to occupy its gallery space (the Rauschenberg show “Signs of the Times”), “Apple Pie” demands quite a bit of time from the irrepressible completist; if you’re willing to invest that time, I doubt you’ll walk away disappointed.

Tonight at the MMoCA: Jeremi Suri on Rauschenberg

October 9, 2009

Well here’s a free lecture that sounds rather promising: UW history professor Jeremi Suri is giving a talk on Robert Rauschenberg tonight at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (located on State St., between Johnson and Dayton; the building literally cannot be missed). Suri’s going to wax historical on Rauschenberg’s work and milieu, as well as the influence that Raushcenberg has had on subsequent generations of artists, intellectuals, etc. The lecture begins at 6:30PM in the MMoCA’s main gallery.

P.S. Not quite sure what the hold-up is with the publication of the collaborative review I wrote with Daily Cardinal opinions editor Anthony Cefali of the MMoCA’s new-ish Rauschenberg exhibit, “Signs of the Times: Robert Rauschenberg’s America”, but trust that as soon as it gets published—if it gets published—I’ll have a nice blue link for all y’all to click on.