Marvelous Movie Mondays: Floating Light

EPFC | May 28th, 2020

Guest curator: Michael Woods aka M. Woods aka Disassociative Productions

Theme of the month: Body Politics / Digital Phenomenology

Happy Memorial Day and thank you again to Echo Park Film Center and Kate Lain for the opportunity to share this work with a larger audience. Today is my last time posting, but it has been a privilege. I will continue sharing work I love at the facebook group for AGITATE:21C . (Agitate is an all-inclusive avant-garde. If you are involved in creating or distributing avant-garde work of any kind, feel free to join and take part.)

Today I’ll be sharing the work of three great artists. In advance, however, I want to remember a young leader in the avant-garde. Eli Hayes was a community-builder, excellent curator, an emerging and extremely talented artist who could have been one of the best filmmakers of his generation. All of those things are eclipsed by his kindness and warmth and honesty. This morning I read that Eli has passed away. I didn’t believe it. He was only 26 years old, prolific and active in ways I will always admire. And though I didn’t know him well, I was expecting to meet him in Milwaukee this year before the coronavirus situation changed everything.

Eli was an artist who did more for others than himself, engaged with everyone he could, spread his love of cinema and art, and treated everybody with respect. I regret not watching enough of his work. I regret not being able to work with him. I regret not getting to know this good person enough when they were with us. Eli was the only film festival programmer in the US to pick up my feature film, Dailies from Dumpland. He introduced me to the work of one of the artists I’m highlighting today – Sylvia Toy St Louis – who has become one of my biggest allies and a cornerstone of Agitate. I don’t think Agitate would exist in the same way without Eli’s talent for connecting other artists. So today I’ll be sharing a small fraction of his work alongside the brilliant artists Michelle Chu and Sylvia Toy St Louis

Michelle Chu is an artist/theorist and one of the biggest influences on my work through the many hours-long conversations we’ve had over the course of the last decade. Her movie This is Not Paris But It’s About Paris is newly uploaded and is one of the best pieces I’ve seen this year. The work begins as a low-grade digital camera sits on a corner and drum samples begin to syncopate with the progressively more theatrical social interactions until a stranger’s gaze looks directly into the digital sensor. The narrative that emerges is of the path of the digital file into a hard drive. What emerges is a small record of 2012 – the year of our illusory apocalypse – in multiple media formats; the comforting words of a friend reveal the images of exterior spaces to be a trove of painful memories; digital remnants of places that now reflect trauma. The piece is a poignant, emotive poem on the decay inherent in digital representation and its dysfunctional experiential and spacial memory. This is the follow up to Chu’s Septum Ring Secret , one of my favorite video works of the last decade.

Sylvia Toy St. Louis aka Sylvia Toy Industries is a multi-disciplinary artist whose recent work has primarily involved ultra-low budget green screen and performance. She multiplies herself into dozens of characters that, through her immense talents as a performer, transcend the glitchy digital artifacts that imprison her characters. Her multitude of characters begin to express a single consciousness divided, a particularly effective way to visualize our fragmented country and collective psyche. Sylvia has over a hundred videos on her Vimeo page but I want to highlight the work, The Harpy, , a cosmic, sci-fi freak-out in a pixelated sky desert. Sylvia uses the broken aesthetics of low-fi digital noise to great effect while twisting language into a hypnotic scolding.

As I wrote above, Sylvia and I met through Eli. Her feature film Creation (trailer here: ) was an award-winner at Eli’s online Hazel Eye Film Festival.

Lastly, I want to leave with a few works by Eli Hayes that demonstrates the aesthetic experiments he was making in digital phenomenology. Eli’s work is a kaleidoscopic, multi-layered, mandala of nuanced musical expression. At its best, its textures evoke a strong nostalgia for dream logic and landscapes, a beauty that resonates through his explorations. Eli made several feature films, and I have only watched a fragment of his work, but these two pieces standout. Pharos and Floating Light both made with filmmaker Alex Davies are among the most visually exuberant of his works. Join me in celebrating his work by sharing it with your friends and loved ones. Remember to cherish those around you when they’re here. Remember to support those who may be struggling but who share their immense talents with us.

Thank you again for your time and viewership.
M. Woods

Marvelous Movie Mondays: Robert Seidel’s _grau

EPFC | May 19th, 2020

guest curator: Michael Woods

Hope everyone has had a great week! I’ve been binge-watching 66th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen Online when I can!

THEME: Body Politics / Digital Phenomenology

I’m going to keep this week’s edition short and sweet. Robert Seidel’s _grau is an exploration of digital phenomenology – “a personal reflection on memories coming up during a car accident, where past events emerge, fuse, erode and finally vanish ethereally … various real sources where distorted, filtered and fitted into a sculptural structure to create not a plain abstract, but a very private snapshot of a whole life within its last seconds …”

I came across this piece when I was 16, and I’m still in love with this car crash in digital space. The crystalline perfection of CG spectacle is destroyed/pierced, projecting/ejecting a time-suspended after-image as the broken body sorts its damage and recollections and media images. Shards of cartoons and once-familiar objects lose value in a purgatory of nameless shifting energies. Equally revelatory is the score by Heiko Tippelt and Philipp Hirsch. – _grau

Other movies – recently showcased at Oberhausen! – that pertain to our theme.
I am the people_I – Li Xiaofei
Untitled #2 – Nguyen Anh Tu Pham
16mm Selfie – Karan Suri Talwar & Sofia Thenmozhi Ashraf
The Falling Sky – Peggy Ahwesh
Labor of Love – Sylvia Schedelbauer

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. 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 ArtThe 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 – – 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 ___________ 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:

It recalls Hahn’s analog/digital trip-escapes like Please Step Out of the Frame which connects to Open Window which then connects to pieces like Thank You 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.

Marvelous Movie Mondays: 3800 PICTURES OF MY GIRL

EPFC | May 4th, 2020

guest curator: Michael Woods aka M. Woods aka Disassociative Productions

Thanks to Echo Park Film Center I’ve been given the opportunity to present to you a selection of 4 movies (and artists) over the course of the next 4 Mondays in May. An extra big thank you to Kate Lain who has not only helped organize this, but whose work to spread avant-garde, independent filmmaking during this quarantine time has been extraordinary.

The theme for this month’s work is Body Politics + Digital Phenomenology. As an artist/curator I’m interested in the way hyperreality affects our world by forging illusions held together by a vast network of simulacra that has destroyed “reality”. I’m interested in the way hyperreality is exterminating our consciousness of self and our perception of physical existence/space as we yearn for virtual comfort and connectedness.

How do we attack hyperreality, reclaiming the real from patriarchal institutions and dominant cultures, while continuing to explore the phenomenology of digital existence?

In this series we’ll be exploring four radical artists whose work deals directly with one or both thematic subjects. Through a multitude of media these artists create transcendent experiences that radically reorient the spectator. (to spur introspection and disassociate from the corporate spectacle/spectator paradigm.)

The first artist I’d like to highlight is Xiaoer Liu, a native of China now working in Berlin, whose work is non-stop daily catharsis/reflection/diary-divulging/self-sacrifical rite of empowerment. Xiaoer is a fellow co-founder of AGITATE:21C, an international, all-inclusive, avant-garde, and she is among the most bold, courageous, and prolific artists of our generation. Her work embodies the avant-garde spirit, probably better than anyone else.

While I’m including a digitized super-8 movie, Xiaoer’s work is really a large transmedia puzzle laid out across several platforms including facebook, Vimeo, and instagram accounts including: @showerartspace @endless_confusion @xiaoer.liu_s_art

Xiaoer’s work expresses fearless purging of her traumas, a window into every emotional escape, depicting frank and honest sexuality and body exploration across paintings, drawings, journals, photos, videos, films, and public performances. She literally burns her physical work in staged instagram performance every few months as a re-inauguration of her artistic self, just as she publicly performs tearing layers upon layers of plastic bindings to reveal herself as naked and bruised by all of the restraints – social, racial, political, familial – that she has had to resist against her entire life. This resistance is key to her work, which also includes spontaneous art party performances and dances where she demands the bewildered public to “PAY ARTISTS” #FUCKYOUPAYME. Xiaoer is actually harnessing an avant-garde energy that screams a big “Fuck You” at all of the illusory institutions that seek to silence this type of honesty in art – a censorship she knows more than most artists.

I’ve chosen 3800 PICTURES OF MY GIRL because it is an artifact of this larger practice, an abstract movie made entirely of her menstruation, which she lovingly refers to as her girl. She is taking pride in her body and in the art that she produces, organically, naturally, and without fear of toxic patriarchy and reactionary disgust. The work transcends into a trance as she shares a “sacrament” of herself as raw art. – 3800 PICTURES OF MY GIRL