The “Artist’s Choice” film series presents videos and films which have been personally selected by the artist. The screenings include films and video animations by Peggy Ahwesh, Bernadette Corporation, Samuel Beckett, Gregg Bordowitz, Ben Coonley, Petra Cortright, Josh Kline, Joshua Mosely, Chris Marker, Dani Leventhal, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Yvonne Rainer, Stuart Sherman and Cauleen Smith.
Petra Cortright (*1986, lives and works in Los Angeles) uses the Internet to question reality in short trash culture YouTube videos, GIF animations and digital alienation effects. The short trance-like online video disasters hover between abstract and representational depiction and construct their own virtual reality. Paul Chan writes about Petra Cortright among others in his essay “Artist’s Favorites” in Paul Chan: Selected Writings 2000–2014.
JOSH KLINE (*1979, lives and works in New York) employs the strategies of advertising and plays with the power of branding in order to speak about labor and class in the early 21st century. In his installations, videos and images as well as with design and substances developed for consumption, he toys with the emotions evoked in connection with products and services. A futuristic and yet exceedingly real world is depicted in which lifestyle and creativity are standardized and traded as commodities, and the boundaries between the personal and professional disappear in a cloud of desperate self-promotion.
Ben Coonley (*1976, lives and works in New York) explores various aspects of media culture and film history in his videos and performances and mixes the pedagogical style of YouTube tutorials, television shows and PowerPoint presentations with the aesthetic of amateur videos and a direct mode of addressing the audience. His (3-D) videos are marked by a bold convergence of YouTube culture and avant-garde cinema. In a rampant foray through the different formats, philosophical experiments directly confront the viewer with questions of ethics and happiness.
The experimental film and video works by filmmaker Cauleen Smith (*1967, lives and works in Chicago) are marked by a conflation of fiction and documentation. On the basis of detailed research but also her own speculation, she questions historical narratives, myths and reality with the intention of generating new narrative strands at once. Her interdisciplinary work also encompasses objects and site-specific installations, resulting in a clear dissolution of the boundaries between film and art in her work. At the invitation of Paul Chan in connection with Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, Cauleen Smith made an experimental film entitled The Fullness of Time (2008), which examines the traumatic devastation and destruction caused by hurricane Katrina in a combination of science fiction and documentation.
Joshua Mosley (*1974, lives and works in Philadelphia) puts ever-changing scenes in motion with his unique, vividly poetic mixed-media video animations. His artistically handcrafted figures in clay and gypsum are brought to life with stop-motion recording techniques and combined with a backdrop of photographs and charcoal and pen-and-ink drawings. Accompanied by his own compositions and dialogues, his works concentrate on fundamental philosophical themes such as love or our relationship to nature, or he evokes imagined encounters between famous personages from various historical periods. Mosley is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a contributor to this year’s Whitney Biennal in New York.
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Hybrid (2002)
Color video, stereo, sound, 31’ (Charles Atlas and Natsuko Inue)
Trio A (1978)
Black-and-white film, silent, 10’30’’
Five Easy Pieces (1969)
Black-and-white film, silent, 48’
All works courtesy of Video Data Bank, Chicago
The choreography of Yvonne Rainer (*1934, lives and works in New York)—an American dancer and choreographer but also a filmmaker, poet and activist—has had a significant influence and impact on the direction of postmodern dance. In 1962, she was a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater where she collaborated with laypersons—artists, filmmakers, poets—and played a prominent role in shaping the avant-garde scene in New York. Devising her own choreographies and performances, Rainer developed a highly specific language of expression incorporating everyday gestures and a clear reduction of movements. In 2011, Paul Chan’s publishing house Badlands Unlimited was the first to print poems by Rainer.
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Hybrid is a dance performance that Rainer choreographed in 2000 for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. Along with a multitude of movement configurations, the work features texts by Ludwig Wittgenstein and other pioneers of art and philosophy as well as spoken lines based on famous and unknown people’s utterances on their deathbed. Trio A is the documentation of the performance by the same name, danced by Yvonne Rainer. The dance is marked by two primary characteristics: the unmodulated continuity with which the given movement segments are performed and the absolute avoidance of direct eye contact with the audience. Five Easy Pieces is a compilation of five early short films made between 1966 and 1969.
Sans Soleil (France 1983)
Black-and-white and color film, sound, 100’
Le fond de l’air est rouge (France 1977)
Black-and-white and color film, sound, 177’
For decades, the French filmmaker, author and activist Chris Marker (1921–2012) has shaped the field of cinema and the development of film with his wide-ranging oeuvre and in particular his poetic essay and documentary films. Driven by irrepressible curiosity, his works question the relationship between reality and fiction, memory and imagination, thereby reflecting on our history, political reality and the world we live in. In his essay ‘On Chris Marker’ in Paul Chan: Selected Writings 2000–2014, Paul Chan writes about the media pioneer Marker who was among the very first to experiment with new digital technologies (and also create multimedia installations and animations). Sans Soleil (1983) falls into the category of essay films, a genre that Chris Marker helped define. The film is a composition of thoughts, images and scenes primarily shot in Japan and Guinea-Bisseau, but also in Iceland, Paris and San Francisco, and accompanied by a female voice that reads fictional letters ostensibly sent to her by the cameraman. The thematic focus of Le fond de l’air est rouge (1977) is directed at the global political transformations of the 1960s and 1970s, especially the rise of the New Left in France and the development of the socialist movements in Latin America. Both films are shown in original French version.
Film (USA 1965)
Black-and-white film, silent, 20’, Courtesy Milestone Films
Quad I & II (Germany 1981)
Color film, sound, 20’
Shown with kind permission of SWR
With his absurdly comic plays, the Irish writer and literary Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) addressed the powerlessness, meaninglessness and hopelessness of existence. Beckett, who joined the ranks of the French Résistance in World War II, spent most of his adult life in France. His most famous work, the absurd play Waiting for Godot (1949) written in the years after World War II, continues to regularly inspire new interpretations. Susan Sontag staged the work in 1993 during the occupation of the city of Sarajevo in the Bosnian War. In 2007, Paul Chan mounted a performance of the work in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina together with local residents and the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
Film is a black-and-white short film without dialogue or accompanying music from the year 1965. The film’s simple storyline is based on the presence of the camera as an all-seeing actor. The protagonist, played by silent film star Buster Keaton, was named O by Beckett for object, and the camera that follows the main character is called E for eye. Quad I & II is a television production written by Beckett in 1981, which had its premiere broadcast the same year. It consists of four actors walking one after the other and alongside one another in a fixed pattern and sequence within a square area on the floor. Each person wears a costume in a specific color (white, red, blue and yellow) and is accompanied by a specific percussion instrument as a leitmotif. In the original production, the play was first performed once (Quad I) and then, after a pause, a second time but in black and white and without instruments (Quad II).
Get Rid of Yourself (2003)
Single-channel video, color, sound, 61’, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
Founded in 1991, the international artist collective Bernadette Corporation (whose core members include Bernadette Van-Huy, John Kelsey and Antek Walczak) probes strategies of cultural resistance, subtly undermining the entertainment industry. Born as the organising force for parties in the club scene, Bernadette Corporation developed an independent fashion label in New York (whose creations were shown in Harper’s Bazaar, Purple or in Artforum among others) and between 1999 and 2001 published the magazine Made in USA (the title is an allusion to Godard’s film of the same name), in which the boundaries between fashion and art dissolve. Artistic film and video works were also created by the collective, whose projects persistently revolve around questions of (artistic) identity, particularly in regard to their own organisational form. Works by the artist collective include the film project Get Rid of Yourself (2003), which was produced together with Le Parti Imaginaire based on their joint experiences during the G8 Summit protests in Geneva in 2001, as well as The B.C. Corporate Story or Hell Frozen Over. In 2012, Bernadette Corporation’s first e-book project came about with a total of three publications reissued by Paul Chan’s publishing house Badlands Unlimited.
Selections from the Eleventh Spectacle (The Erotic)
and Eighth Spectacle (People’s Faces) (c.1979)
Single-channel video, color, sound, 18’, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
Thirteenth Spectacle (Time) (1980)
Single-channel video, color, sound, 38’, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
The oeuvre of the American artist Stuart Sherman (born in 1945 in Providence, Rhode Island, died in 2001 in San Francisco) encompasses performances, film and video works and plays as well as poems, drawings and collages. Before concentrating on his own works, Sherman worked with Charles Ludlam in the Ridiculous Theatrical Company and with Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater. Sherman is perhaps best known for his short performances, the so-called “spectacles”, which he began presenting in the 1970s, staged in completely unspectacular places such in public parks or at his apartment. Maintaining an earnest poker face, Sherman arranged and organised banal everyday objects into new constellations on a folding table in a precise and complex choreography, detaching them from their original purpose and context. Paul Chan writes about Stuart Sherman in his essay “On Not Knowing Stuart Sherman” in Paul Chan: Selected Writings 2000–2014.
54 Days this Winter 36 Days this Spring for 18 Minutes (USA 2009)
Single-channel video, black-and-white, sound, 16’, Courtesy Video Data Bank, Chicago
Tin Pressed (USA 2011)
Single-channel video, color, sound, 6‘29”, Courtesy Video Data Bank, Chicago
Platonic (USA 2013)
Single-channel video, color, sound, 20‘40”, Courtesy Video Data Bank, Chicago
In her video collages, both poetically emotional and strangely detached, the video artist Dani Leventhal (born in 1972, lives and works in Ohio, where she teaches as an assistant professor of drawing at Ohio State University) captures moments and situations, which she investigates with the camera and casually yet precisely assembles into film-based collages. The camera is an extension of the body making it possible to record impressions while montage is the central instrument creating meaning and playing on multiple levels. Leventhal’s personal experiences materialise in her works, generating new layers of meaning and entering into a dialogue with the viewer and his or her own experiences. The themes of her videos as well as her collages, drawings and installations vary between explicit political content and everyday banality. Dani Leventhal is featured in Paul Chan’s essay “Artist’s Favorites” in Paul Chan: Selected Writings 2000–2014.
The Deadman (USA 1990)
Single-channel video, b&w, sound, 37’, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
Martina’s Playhouse (USA 1989)
Single-channel video, color, sound, 20’, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
73 Suspect Words & Heaven’s Gate (USA 2001)
Single-channel video, b&w, sound, 8’, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
For her unique film and video works, Peggy Ahwesh (*1954, lives and works in New York, teaches as a professor at Bard College of Art in NY) experiments with a wide range of materials and genres: narrative and documentary elements, pornography and horror films, (improvised) performances, but also digital animation techniques and found footage. Influenced by feminist art practice and 1980s punk, the artist explores the role of the (female) subject and the cultural identity of such as well as the role of language or the archive. Over the last twenty years, she has created a heterogeneous and boldly experimental body of work.
Fast Trip, Long Drop (USA 1993)
Single-channel video, color, sound, 54’, Courtesy Video Data Bank, Chicago
In his film and video works, the artist Gregg Bordowitz (*1964, lives and works in Chicago, teaches as a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago) investigates, questions and illuminates the personal and global dimensions of the immune-deficiency disease AIDS and is an activist for the advocacy group ACT-UP and other organisations. As an author, Gregg Bordowitz has also written numerous texts. His book The AIDS Crisis is Ridiculous and Other Writings 1986–2003, a collection of his writings, was published in 2004. Volition is a poetically structured collection of fundamental questions on philosophy, happiness or art and was recently put out by Paul Chan’s publishing house Badlands Unlimited as an e-book (2013). Together with Paul Chan, Bordowitz conceived a “performance opera” on Foucault for which Paul Chan designed the costumes.