Marvelous Movie Mondays: Karissa Hahn
EPFC | May 13th, 2020
Just a reminder! My name is Michael Woods aka M. Woods aka Disassociative Productions and I’m guest curating for the month – bringing you radical work in the times of corona.
Just a reminder, the theme for this month’s work is Body Politics + Digital Phenomenology. Please check out last week’s artist Xiaoer Liu
This week I’m breaking the rules and I’ll be showing multiple videos & highlighting awesome sounds – like DJ Activist Omjpg Yara aka I-VYE aka I-VYE ZYU GAWA. https://soundcloud.com/yaralaurine/tracks Check her work out for consciousness raising mixes. Dope shit for quarantine dancing and creativity building.
I have gotten the privilege to curate my friend Karissa Hahn‘s work for years. Her work is already a fixture of Echo Park Film Center and LA and she is the perfect representative for that diverse and extraordinary scene, which includes LACDA Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, The VAST Lab, and Los Angeles Filmforum – a network that has helped exhibit Karissa’s ‘spectra ephemera’, what she terms the ever-expanding universe of her work in multiple media.
Often, but not always, Hahn’s work begins with the use of super-8, a perfect mechanomorphic semi-automated apparatus for the depiction of a mundane digital world in semi-simulated, semi-mechanical, semi-broken disarray.
The movie I’m highlighting is Cataract Churning Grey – https://vimeo.com/416508335 – a horror film set in a transitory dream/wake state that begins with Hahn’s regular character, herself, in a larval state, wrapped in bed sheets. From the first image, Hahn evokes her own work – a wormhole connection to the movie ___________ https://vimeo.com/191743012 in which the horrors of the Trump administration lowly murmur in the background as she attempts to flatten her body until it is nothing but a line. A form of physical escape.
But in Cataract Churning Grey, Hahn falls into a mediated dream where she is forced into a Sisyphean loop, continually trying to ease the tension of a tea kettle propped against a desert backdrop that Hahn must continually traverse – portraying her struggle with a self-aware despair that borders on irony and actual exhaustion. She runs in slow motion, both mocking and acknowledging the prison of mundane suspense and time-space. She is both action hero and stuck in a molasses suspension of grey silvers that have sublimated into pixel meat that billows like the water vapor trying to escape. The kettle calls out like a siren, which draws Hahn’s Sisyphus out of fear of over-boiling, to alleviate the increasing pressure to become stranded in the rocks. (In this sequence, Hahn’s work reminds me of the way we compromise politically, trying to set the hot issues aside until they become catastrophic; until there is no way to stop them from boiling over.)
The key image of the movie occurs on Hahn’s third attempt – mocking and perfectly demonstrating the Hollywood rule of threes – the tea kettle is revealed to be propped precariously upon a mobile hot-plate next to an anonymous nowhere ocean.
The tension reaches its height as the threats to Hahn’s character’s body outweigh the fear of over-boiling. A new set of fears dominate – being drowned, electrified, abraded, and bruised, while Hahn calmly sets the kettle off the hot plate and finds herself back in the horrors of the mundane to continue the same task endlessly.
(The grey cataract of the title also reflects Hahn’s tendency to selectively and completely erase the identity of landscapes and objects. The cataract apparatus allows her to render all mis-en-scene in a hypnogogic micro-narrative. Her main character is almost a caricature of self. The super-8 and other analog/digital hybrid techniques she utilizes help to create this transitory state that functionally reflects the void between sleep and dream states in a world over-boiling in its own stew of physical reality/hyperreality/entropy/hypermundaneness.)
Cataract Churning Grey is genius in the way it serves to tie together pieces of the spectra ephemera. Other examples: it recalls the stranded mermaid that must abrade herself to be seen by the camera in Before the Portrait: https://vimeo.com/85898529
It recalls Hahn’s analog/digital trip-escapes like Please Step Out of the Frame https://vimeo.com/251074549 which connects to Open Window https://vimeo.com/190027404 which then connects to pieces like Thank You https://vimeo.com/415003964 in the way they interrogate and corrupt hybrid analog/digital technologies. Another essential part of her artmaking is her daily instagram experimentation using ink-jet printers, automated vacuum cleaners, slow-scan video sources, motion detectors, and all sorts of consumer instruments to further degrade the integrity of the mundane illusion.
Hahn’s work is radical, imaginative, unique, ever-expanding, and deserving of further critical examination for its complexity. Her place is already solidified amongst the best avant-garde filmmakers in history.
Last thing – I know I know tl;dr
A little shameless self-promotion, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen is this week. My movie Body Prop: Movement 2 [SOLAR NEMESIS] is playing in the Muvi International Section. CHECK IT OUT
Also, AGITATE:21C is our international avant-garde. Karissa has been one of the artists we’ve exhibited in the past. We’re open to anyone who is avant-garde. Totally inclusive except to haters and abusers. Promoting all voices – not just those that are white and male.
Signing off – stay safe and healthy and I’ll see you next week with a selection from Robert Seidel WHICH IS AMAZING. & don’t worry, before the month is out I’m gonna drop a bunch more than 4 movies. THANK YOU Kate Lain once again for letting me hijack.