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PASTS AND PRESENTS The New York Film Festival’s Projections...

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Film

November 5th, 2014

PASTS AND PRESENTS The New York Film Festival’s Projections by Colin Beckett

For 17 years, Views from the Avant-Garde, a sidebar program to the New York Film Festival, was the United States’s defining institution for the locus of films and videos that constitute what we still, half-heartedly, call the avant-garde. Mark McElhatten, its co-programmer and animating spirit, stewarded the festival with an apparent love for the work he programmed and the artists who made it. Few of his contemporaries have demonstrated the same kind of sustained passion for the preservation and extension of the avant-garde film tradition. But for many of Views’ recent years, that love had become suffocating. Individual programs were overstuffed, too long and crowded out by an ever-expanded collection of legacy filmmakers who appeared every year regardless of the quality of their latest work. McElhatten’s unimpeachable seriousness cast a heavy, sacralizing air over work best approached with an irreverent curiosity. There was a fundamental Fe26 conflict between the central position Views had come to occupy and the deeply personal vision its programmer was intent on executing. In this light, McElhatten’s taste for the romantic, the sensuous, and the recondite appeared only more conservative, and the atmosphere more clubby. After a final, larger-than-ever edition last year, McElhatten has departed and Views is no more. In its place has appeared Projections, a slightly scaled-down survey assembled by Dennis Lim, Aily Nash, and Gavin Smith, who for many years co-programmed Views with McElhatten. This first edition offered a welcome improvement upon Views’ late excesses—tighter group programs drawn from a wider array of styles and milieux, featuring younger filmmakers and more women— without ultimately taking the radical steps necessary to locate a coherent role for the avant garde in

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PASTS AND PRESENTS The New York Film Festival’s Projections...

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the 21st century. A large portion of the work that appeared offered little more than the trivial elaboration of this or that venerable avant-garde subgenre; there were still too many vaguely conceived project films and grant-money travelogues—too many small abstractions. It must be admitted, however, that these are the larger problems of avant-garde. It’s too bad that Projections didn’t intervene more decisively, but it cannot be accused of offering a distorted picture of the landscape. The shorter programs gave breathing space to work that might have previously appeared at Views. It was easier to become more fully involved, for instance, in the perceptual puzzles of Mike Gibisser’s stunning Blue Loop, July, and the tactical displacements and things left unsaid in Mary Helena Clark’s The Dragon is the Frame. Other festival highlights could have been more easily anticipated. For many years now, Kevin Jerome Everson has shouldered a disproportionate amount of weight in the experimental film world. One of the shamefully small number of black filmmakers whose work travels the experimental circuit, Everson’s fragmentary documentaries and neorealist fictions of mostly black, working-class life are significant not only for their attention to black life or working-class life, but to life outside the movie theater at all. Almost single-handedly he substantiates one of the essential promises of experimental film: to offer a dialectic of form and content more fully responsive to the vagaries of experience than standard Hollywood or documentary narrative. Projections presented Everson’s recent diptych of films made in East Cleveland, Fe26 and Sound That, documentary-style portraits of people who, in different ways, make a living from city services. Everson leaves visible the crack through which he enters his subject’s lives, establishing a connection and revealing detail without presuming authority, thereby giving real weight to the larger questions posed about labor and the uses of the state, and nuance to his ancillary formal concerns about the provenance of the real. Another work that locates the abstract in the specific, The Measures is a collaboration between Jacqueline Goss and Jenny Perlin that narrates the prolonged expedition by two 18th century French astronomers to chart the meridian arc that would serve as the basis for the meter. Enamoured with their materials, but alive to the complexities of historical storytelling, Goss and

The Measures

Perlin offer fresh ways of thinking about the pleasures and perils of collaboration, as well as relationships between art and science, and standardization and nationhood. Generically, The Measures resembles the kind of wandering, associative historical essays that have had great purchase in the art and film worlds for some time now. It isn’t the first time Goss has belatedly taken up a popular trope after it has otherwise exhausted its utility, and enlivened it with her patient curiosity and unshowy wit. Two artists who have previously employed the essayistic as an

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escape hatch, Luke Fowler and Eric Baudelaire, were also featured in Projections, each with the most interesting work of theirs I’ve yet seen. Working with archival materials from and about the Scottish Highlands, Fowler’s Depositions, like The Measures, deals with the imposition of scientific—in this case, pseudo-scientific—rationality onto recalcitrant actuality. In many ways, it’s as scatterbrained as Fowler’s past work, but the density of its montage remains consistently fertile, and its specific engagement with the television medium helps narrow its focus. Comparatively direct, though rich in ambiguity, Baudelaire’s Letters to Max presents an epistolary exchange between the filmmaker and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for the largely unrecognized Abkhazia. Examining a less significant episode of recent history, Phillip Warnell’s Ming of Harlem: 21 storeys in the air returns to a 2003 human interest bonanza: the story of Antoine Yates, caught keeping a 3-year-old tiger and full-grown alligator in Harlem’s Drew Hamilton Houses. Warnell employs a more conventional documentary approach in the two sections that bookend the film’s quasistructural set-piece, which pictures animal stand-ins exploring recreations of Yates’ apartment. Against Yates’ repeated insistence on the love he and these animals shared, Warnell’s emphasis on banal, abstract questions about human-animal relationships and spaces of confinement (underlined by the inclusion of a pair of embarrassingly purple texts by Jean-Luc Nancy and composer Hildur Gudnadóttir) seems not only cold, but a little clueless—particularly in the context of a festival that also included Lisa Truttman and Behrouz Rae’s Babash, which tackles similar themes with considerably more liveliness and humility. Warnell seems to flinch from Yates out of some ostentatious display of the ethnographer’s good manners—the white Briton acknowledging his distance from his black American subject—but the effect runs counter to the intended sensitivity, and instead establishes a detached and voyeuristic point of view. Projections’ penultimate program surveyed a variety of politically oriented archival projects. Taking their place in the margins of the past—of better defined historical moments, more directly engaged films, established thinkers, and canonical texts—many of these films only underlined the pervasive sense of impotence that haunts the avant-garde. Though in some cases, the historical recursion was more pointed. Basma Alsharif’s O, Persecuted, and another film by Everson, Sugarcoated Arsenic, made in collaboration with University of Virginia history professor Claudrena Harold, both respond to a certain exhaustion of art’s political efficacy in the struggles they respectively address: the ongoing occupation of Palestine, and the more subtle forms of repression inflicted on black Americans in the decades following the major Civil Rights successes. In O, Persecuted, Alsharif offers an occluded view of the restoration of Kassem Hawal’s 1974 work of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine agitprop, Our Small Houses, before launching into a rapid-fire montage of decadent Israeli party photos, set to a pounding gabba soundtrack. Despairing at the contrast between the certainties of the past and those of present, Alsharif suggests an effort to shatter the former through the recapitulation of the latter. Sugarcoated Arsenic, like Fe26, unfolds at the border between docudrama and documentary. Built around a 1976 recording of a talk by writer, teacher, and Black Studies pioneer Vivian Gordon that

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PASTS AND PRESENTS The New York Film Festival’s Projections...

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laments the failures of progress at the same time it celebrates black mentorship and collective achievement. That nearly 40 years later Gordon’s speech is still urgently relevant to present conditions is a grim fact that Everson and Harold know they don’t have to dwell upon. With a light, tight touch, the filmmakers repeat what must be said as they extend the tribute she pays her forebears and contemporaries, constructing a sort of mise en abyme of solidarity. Right now, it’s difficult to imagine a more noble task an avant-garde film could perform. CONTRIBUTOR Colin Beckett COLIN BECKETT is a writer based in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in BOMB, Moving Image Source, Idiom, and elsewhere.

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Whose Terms? A Glossary for Social Practice: RESPONSIBILITY :...

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Cover Image: Jenny Perlin, The Object of Society Is, 2011 (screen capture). 16mm film transferred to HD video, sound, color; 12:49 min FEATURED BLOG POST

Artist Jenny Perlin and curator Nova Benway contribute to our collective glossary-building with an entry on RESPONSIBILITY, the sixth of seven successive posts on terms associated with social practice, initiated via an open call.

Perlin and Benway worked together in 2011 on The Object of Society Is, a project that

SHOP TALK: Archiving Performance: Research through Dance with Jennifer Monson BY TRAVIS CHAMBERLAIN, ASSOCIATE CURATOR OF PERFORMANCE AND MANAGER OF PUBLIC PROGRAMS, AND JENNIFER MONSON

combined Perlinʼs archival research and production of a film with extensive educational programming. Here is an excerpt of their continued dialogue in the form of a glossary entry on RESPONSIBILITY.

Nova Benway: Neither of us works in what might be called “traditional social practice“ —meaning that when we do a project, there is usually something that is created and exhibited beyond a dialogue or another kind of exchange. I always thought it was interesting that your work relates to social practice in its emphasis on care and conversation, but departs from it in its “object-ness.” Thatʼs why I think your voice is important to include here. To describe it crudely, you work with archives and you work with people. How do you think about responsibility for the materials and people with whom you work?

Jenny Perlin: When I work with a musician, I converse with her in order to explain an idea. I listen to her response and engage with it; a rich exchange of ideas and gifts begins as we continue talking about how her performance might affect my initial idea for a film. My idea changes based on her response.

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copy the text, I write about it. I animate it, translating it into another medium: film or video or drawing.

Responsibility is inextricably tied to empathy, or “feeling into,” which might be a more useful description of the term. In order to be responsible I must try to “feel into” the document or into the presence of the person with whom I am working. Only then can the real weight of responsibility be carried and fully felt. Responsibility is also linked to respect. Respect for people, histories, spaces, and methodologies. Respect for practice as process and the taking on of that. This means that one must be responsible to the necessity or inevitability of change through the process of making engaged work. The process can mean a deeper understanding of a text, or a shift in the conversation with a person with whom one is working. Responsibility means curiosity and an active response to changes throughout the process of making.

How do you frame responsibility and openness with regard to exchange—of ideas and information and affect?

NB: Collaborative practices highlight the close relations between the notions you list. I am, like a lot of curators these days, particularly interested in developing new projects with artists, meaning that my role as a selector or organizer who is responsible for a project is inextricable from my role as an interlocutor who is responsible to a person (the artist). In such cases, artists and curators link themselves together by sharing responsibility for something that has not happened yet. This could be taken as an inherently political act—yet the rarity of a collaborative project that seems worthy of that name is both disconcerting and potentially enlightening. While curators have become increasingly prominent in the field of contemporary art, interestingly, they have also become even more dependent on artists because of this dual responsibility. When I am optimistic, I think that this visibility affords a possibility for curators to take on a broader political responsibility, to work alongside artists to help reimagine communication, and to invent new models of sharing and creating power that could be transferable to other fields.

JP: Maybe another reason why we are doing this is because we revel in language and the challenge of definition. To describe a term is a really fascinating way to unpack it and it feels very weighty to do so. I think an interest I have in doing this with you is that it resembles on a small scale the work we did together on The Object of Society Is.

Nova Benway is on the curatorial team at The Drawing Center in New York, where she recently launched Open Sessions, a two-year program of experimental exhibitions and public programs co-organized with more than fifty local, national, and international artists.

In her films, videos, installations, and drawings, Jenny Perlin works with and against the documentary tradition, incorporating innovative stylistic techniques to emphasize issues of truth, misunderstanding, and personal history. Her projects look closely at ways in which social machinations are reflected in the smallest fragments of daily life.

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Art & Design FEB. 6, 2014

* ‘The Silent Way: Robert Breer, Matthew Buckingham, Jenny Perlin’ (through Feb. 23) In this succinct and beautiful three-work show, Matthew Buckingham pays facts-only homage to light, Jenny Perlin celebrates color in film and Robert Breer brings them together in “Form Phases IV,” a 1954 three-minute classic of animated geometry that builds a passion for Malevich into something new. It’s not to be missed. Simon Preston Gallery, 301 Broome Street, Lower East Side, 212-4311105, simonprestongallery.com. (Smith)


CRITICS' PICKS

New York The Silent Way

SIMON PRESTON 301 Broome Street January 12 - February 23, 2014

— Jason Farago Jenny Perlin, Untitled, vowels, 2012, watercolor on paper, 16 3/4 x 13". The strongest artwork in this three-artist exhibition on pedagogy, perception, and the deceptions of each comes from Jenny Perlin, a New York–based filmmaker with a gift for examining collective questions without recourse to documentary. In her 16-mm silent film A Thousand Sentences, 2012, the image frame is bisected by handpainted fields of watercolor; in a succession of monochromatic washes, gray gives way to yellow and dark blue to sky blue. Each color corresponds to an English-language phoneme, either a vowel or a consonant, in a system devised by the Egyptian-born pedagogue Caleb Gattegno. A forgotten pioneer of language instruction, Gattegno averred that teaching should be subordinated to learning and that the instructor should let the student take charge; he titled this method the Silent Way, after which this exhibition is named. Perlin’s film soon cuts to sentences from Gattegno’s courses, which are more mystical and utopian than the usual hello-my-name-is Berlitz claptrap: “The conquest of deserts, the depollution of the whole planet, the peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy, and applied sciences are in the process of transforming one’s vision of oneself and the world.” Perlin’s film, privileging experience and intuition over rote learning, finds an analog in the 1954 film Form Phases IV—also on view—by the late Robert Breer, a forerunner of animation. The stop-motion silent, whose shapes are borrowed from his earlier paintings, exhibits a debt to Russian Constructivism and also to Dada. But when displayed alongside Perlin’s film, Breer’s takes on a more philosophical character. It feels less like a formal experiment and more like an object lesson in the temporal nature of perception, the uncertainty inherent in looking, and the impossibility of fixing observation or meaning beyond individual experience. The third artist here, Matthew Buckingham, has installed a blackboard in the front gallery that states the amount of time, down to the second, that the daylight illuminating the work has traveled from the sun. It lacks the complex joy of the other art here, but one can forgive that: In a world where language and meaning have long been divorced, even the simplest statement can be mind-boggling.


by Mostafa Heddaya on September 19,

Gallery view, Kool-Aid Wino (all images courtesy Franklin Street Works)

Like the episodic Richard Brautigan novel from which the show draws its name, Franklin Street Works’ Kool-Aid Wino is a playful yet sincere riff on the slapdash, crooked, and obscure virtue of errors. Recalling the loose-leaf errata once inserted into books post-publication, the show’s checklist of artworks was tucked into the brilliant catalogue essay exhibition curator Claire Barliant wrote to accompany the exhibition. She sets out, in eight parts, to take stock of errors, willful omissions, and mistakes; a triangulated effort between language, historiography, and aesthetics. “To him the making of Kool-Aid was a romance and a ceremony,” Brautigan wrote in Trout Fishing in America of the show’s titular Wino. And such a ceremonial elevation of the mundane — a sculptural performance piece — forms the physical anchor of the show, Aki Sasamoto’s, “It’s hard to relate to you (indoor version)” (2013). Though the work was produced on-site at the show’s opening, its artifacts dominate the narrow gallery’s main floor: a chaotic tower of wooden furnishings astride the sly monumentality of two drawers filled with poured cement. Each is topped with automatic aphorisms: “infrastructure embarrassing tourism,” reads one. The other: “distance witchcraft suicidal cult.”


Sasamoto’s drawers (fore), 1920s Uzbek textile (back)

The central conceit at play here draws an easy parallel to the effortlessly profound ethos, so deeply unstudied as to appear dumb, espoused in Kenneth Goldsmith’s recent essay, “Being Dumb.” Goldsmith wrote there that: “Dumb doesn’t go out of fashion because it is never in fashion. Dumb is stalled and irredeemable.” And irrevocably flawed is not far from irredeemably dumb, a topic that permeates the show but finds its fullest manifestation in a 1920s Ikat-dyed Uzbek wall hanging included in the show, a representation of a practice wide-ranging in world folk traditions to insert “intentional” errors into handmade textiles as a gesture to the perfection of divinity, or at least the imperfection of humans. The fluid intentions behind such “mistakes,” of course, turn the supposed genuflection into a sort of aesthetic Pascal’s Wager. By liberating the act of creation from the strains of perfection, an artistic intelligence of a different order is achieved, and here Barliant’s essay is again instructive. She borrows from the critic Howard Bloom the concept of the clinamen (which Bloom, in turn, borrowed from Lucretius). This, she explains, is “a way of creatively interpreting an existing work of art, in part because the artist misreads this precursor, and takes it in a new and unexpected direction.” The works of Rotem Linial and Jenny Perlin take up this charge in earnest, systematically rescuing the original from the rote.

Jenny Perlin, “Sight Reading”


Linial’s intricate machine, “Fortuna” (2013), layers and pulls apart monochromatic slides all depicting Giorgio Vasari’s “Battle of Marciano” (1570–71), a machine that sort of inverts the premise of the Victorian stereoscope, delivering in a single channel endless ways of seeing. Jenny Perlin’s three-channel video installation, “Sight Reading,” delivers a similar experience, substituting the composer Schumann for Vasari, with three pianists, one in each projection, sight-reading the score until they err, at which point their screen goes dark for several seconds. The exhibition’s scattered attentions are themselves an embodiment of the endlessly fractured canon Barliant proposes. But these many digressions, attuned as they are to this intellectual core, find further unification in the literally errant work of Frank Heath, which appears haphazardly throughout both floors of the exhibition space. The structurally ambiguous proto-furniture he constructs and mails to himself come out firing on all cylinders, a mockery of the dull modernist furniture whose “easy” assembly has forged its own common tradition of flawed handicraft in vast swaths of the developed world. If Sasamoto’s work most directly channels the liberating potential of the creative act inherited from the Surrealists, then Heath brings us handily back to earth, staring at the USPS tracking screen he reproduces on the wall, reassuring us that the package has been delivered. But there’s no consolation in that confirmation, the piece was lost, carving its own aleatory path through the wide (postal) world. Kool-Aid Wino continues at Franklin Street Works (41 Franklin St, Stamford, Connecticut) through September 22. Tagged as: Claire Barliant, Kenneth Goldsmith


Stamford

“Kool-Aid Wino” FRANKLIN STREET WORKS 41 Franklin Street July 20–September 22 Jenny Perlin, Sight Reading, 2004, three-channel DVD projection, 7 minutes. This exhibition brings together six artists, two poets, and one anonymous weaver to rethink “errors” as opportunities for discoveries. Curator Claire Barliant introduces this concept in her accompanying exhibition text, “The Corrections: Nine Things Not to Do When Writing a Catalogue Essay,” which cunningly names and violates rules in the same breath. She begins: “Don’t start with the etymology of a word, which in this case is ‘error,’ and comes from the Latin word errare meaning to deviate, or to stray.” By blatantly contradicting herself, Barliant recasts linguistic “errors” as strategies for changing directions or denying responsibility for an earlier claim.

Jenny Perlin, Sight Reading, 2004, threechannel DVD projection, 7 minutes.

The works in this show similarly feature “errors” as frontiers for interpretation. An Uzbek textile from the 1920s highlights how a stitch that appears to be a “deliberate mistake” may actually be a strategy for demonstrating piety to God, material ownership, or something else completely. Meanwhile, Jenny Perlin’s three-channel projection Sight Reading, 2004, amplifies “error” to observe piano playing and filmmaking as laborious exercises, rather than seamless virtuosic endeavors. Showing three classically trained pianists who simultaneously play Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor for the first time, the work begins harmoniously but dissolves into dissonance. Each time a player hits a wrong key, Perlin exaggerates the “error” by pausing the recording for five seconds, allowing the sound to stop and the screen to go black. As more “errors” occur, Perlin’s editorial intervention increases, illuminating how filmmakers shape “real time” in post-production, just as pianists shape the “real score” of sheet music through artistic interpretation. Writing in the exhibition text about the show’s title, which references Richard Brautigan’s irreverent 1967 vignette “Kool-Aid Wino,” Barliant concludes her text with a reminder to the viewer. Rather than dwell on “error” as a tidy curatorial premise, we should celebrate the broader view of artists who have the gall to break the rules and risk inventiveness. We may learn more from a wino than we’d expect. ---Sarah Fritchey


Review of Kool-Aid Wino at Franklin Street Works, Stamford A mysterious final word ‘mayonnaise’ is how Richard Brautigan ended his most well known book, Trout Fishing in America. The title for the current group exhibition at Franklin Street Works in Stamford, CT takes its name, Kool-Aid Wino, from one of the chapters in the book. It is a story about a disabled child in a poor family who becomes addicted to Kool-Aid (without even adding sugar) in the same way that an unemployed adult might become an alcoholic. Sad, funny, and slightly absurd sums up the story, as with most of the Brautigan’s work. Clare Barliant, who curated Kool-Aid Wino, employs Brautigan’s method of trial-and-error writing to form the basis of this show. It has been speculated that the word ‘mayonnaise’ was not supposed to be added to the book, but that Brautigan accepted the error as a serendipitous slip. This is what Barliant champions: that some of the most successful pieces of art are riddled with mistakes that have triumphed instead of travestied. The opening act was Aki Sasamoto, whose performances are notoriously infused with extemporaneousness. Her acceptance of anything that happens during the performance as part of the performance is indicative of the show’s theme. Sasamoto’s works supersede the notion of error such that all happenings are a part of the performance. A hybrid of Yvonne Rainer’s everyday gestures and Andy Kaufman’s mondo comedy, Sasamoto’s fun performances often capture a spontaneity loaded with ambiguous (and probably false) allegories. The vestiges of Sasamoto’s piece are a trio of sculptures consisting of a deconstructed cabinet, cement filled drawers, and the scribblings of a mad-woman. A once removed way of entertaining the same ideas is Jenny Perlin’s three-channel video Sight Reading (2004). Perlin filmed three piano players performing Robert Schumann’s piano concerto in A minor, though none play it perfectly. It is an amateur crack at a difficult piece, with the artist incorporating black lacunae following each player’s mistakes. The mistakes, though still accepted, are exaggerated in her video to the point that the error is the subject. Owen Land’s film, Film in which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1965-66), on the other hand, is a film about errors, but errors that are inherent to the medium that he used. As the title indicates, Land’s structuralist film takes as its subject the naturally occurring detriments to film, allowing them to be the hero rather than the foil of the medium. The result is a spectacular accumulation of nothing other than the natural conditions of film. Throughout all of the works, there is a substantial emphasis on chance. Choi Dachal’s photograph series The Malformed Intersection (2012) pairs similar but different men’s shirts, buttoning them together to look like one in a cheap trompe l’oeil. Dachal’s pictures rely on a fortuitous formal composition between objects that already are supposed to have a marketable composition figured out. And Frank Heath’s Former Structure (2012) sculptures challenge the readymade by dissecting former private property (belonging to the likes of City Hall, the American Exchange National Bank, etc.). With a sombre note of reflection, the artists in the show want to take the notion of chance to another level. Accepting errors (which has been embraced by many since Duchamp and Cage made it a status quo) is what Kool-Aid Wino wants to do. The idea is that art should be a process of discovery, and since mistakes are part of that discovery they should not be edited out. Nickolas Calabrese Kool-Aid Wino, 20 July until 22 September, Franklin Street Works, 41 Franklin Street, Stamford, CT 06901. www.franklinstreetworks.org Credits: 1. Jenny Perlin, Sight Reading, 2004. Courtesy the artist and Simon Preston, New York 2. Rotem Linial, Fortuna, 2013. Courtesy the artist - See more at: http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/blog/kool-aid-wino-at-franklin-street-works-stamford/#sthash.C9PfFp7O.dpuf


By Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer April 10, 2013

The Cleveland Institute of Art is at the top of its game this month with a trio of small shows in its Reinberger Galleries by one Swiss and three American artists. The diverse parts add up to a single, highly satisfying experience that shows how the art institute -on a modest budget -- can perform at a high level that benefits not only students and faculty, but the entire regional audience for contemporary art. On view is a show of works by Beat Zoderer of Wettingen, Switzerland; videos by New York artist Jenny Perlin and Los Angeles artist Steve Roden; and a room-size installation from Illinois artist Bill Smith. The thrust of this eclectic grouping, assembled by gallery director, photographer and filmmaker Bruce Checefsky, is to demonstrate various threads in contemporary art. These include the ongoing echo of the 1960s Arte Povera movement in Italy; contemporary sound and video art; and the potential of high-tech machinery and electronics in the realm of sculpture and video. Zoderer, a midcareer artist better known in Europe than in the United States, anchors the exhibition with a large, undulating "flying carpet," made of woven, color-coated strips of aluminum suspended from the gallery ceiling. The work creates a magical, entrancing landscape that encourages visual exploration of its hills and hollows, and of juxtapositions of color resembling those of an abstract painting. Zoderer is known for transforming commonplace materials through elegant, minimal interventions. Other works in the show include small rectangles of cardboard covered with snippets of mailing labels and other office supplies that Zoderer combines and recombines to make a seemingly endless series of abstract, decorative patterns that brim with inventiveness and a deliciously dry sense of visual humor. As with the Arte Povera, Zoderer's work represents artistic alchemy -- the capacity to take the dross of everyday materials and turn them into 24-carat creativity. Perlin's videos include "found" images taken from security cameras mounted inside unnamed apartment hallways, combined with readings of transcripts from stakeout reports. It's not clear whether the reports are from the police, the FBI or a private investigator, or how Perlin got them. The combined effect of the images and the readings is creepy, voyeuristic and irresistible. Roden's films include a pensive work in which he shows a close-up of a hand, presumably his, clasping a nd opening to reveal small objects once owned by choreographer Martha Graham. Smith's installation combines a mesmerizing video display that fuses surreal patterns and sci-fi images with the music of 1960s rockers the Doors, plus a pair of creepy contraptions that create jarring acoustical and visual effects when either manipulated by the viewer or triggered into action by a viewer's body movement. The total elapsed time of all the film and video on view, including Smith's display, is more than two hours, but viewers can get the general idea in a visit of 30 minutes or less. Regardless of the amount of time spent on the show, a visit, however brief, would be richly rewarding.


By Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

The Cleveland Institute of Art is at the top of its game this month with a trio of small shows in its Reinberger Galleries by one Swiss and three American artists. The diverse parts add up to a single, highly satisfying experience that shows how the art institute -on a modest budget -- can perform at a high level that benefits not only students and faculty, but the entire regional audience for contemporary art. On view is a show of works by Beat Zoderer of Wettingen, Switzerland; videos by New York artist Jenny Perlin and Los Angeles artist Steve Roden; and a room-size installation from Illinois artist Bill Smith. The thrust of this eclectic grouping, assembled by gallery director, photographer and filmmaker Bruce Checefsky, is to demonstrate various threads in contemporary art. These include the ongoing echo of the 1960s Arte Povera movement in Italy; contemporary sound and video art; and the potential of high-tech machinery and electronics in the realm of sculpture and video. Zoderer, a midcareer artist better known in Europe than in the United States, anchors the exhibition with a large, undulating "flying carpet," made of woven, color-coated strips of aluminum suspended from the gallery ceiling. The work creates a magical, entrancing landscape that encourages visual exploration of its hills and hollows, and of juxtapositions of color resembling those of an abstract painting. Zoderer is known for transforming commonplace materials through elegant, minimal interventions. Other works in the show include small rectangles of cardboard covered with snippets of mailing labels and other office supplies that Zoderer combines and recombines to make a seemingly endless series of abstract, decorative patterns that brim with inventiveness and a deliciously dry sense of visual humor. As with the Arte Povera, Zoderer's work represents artistic alchemy -- the capacity to take the dross of everyday materials and turn them into 24-carat creativity. Perlin's videos include "found" images taken from security cameras mounted inside unnamed apartment hallways, combined with readings of transcripts from stakeout reports. It's not clear whether the reports are from the police, the FBI or a private investigator, or how Perlin got them. The combined effect of the images and the readings is creepy, voyeuristic and irresistible. Roden's films include a pensive work in which he shows a close-up of a hand, presumably his, clasping a nd opening to reveal small objects once owned by choreographer Martha Graham. Smith's installation combines a mesmerizing video display that fuses surreal patterns and sci-fi images with the music of 1960s rockers the Doors, plus a pair of creepy contraptions that create jarring acoustical and visual effects when either manipulated by the viewer or triggered into action by a viewer's body movement. The total elapsed time of all the film and video on view, including Smith's display, is more than two hours, but viewers can get the general idea in a visit of 30 minutes or less. Regardless of the amount of time spent on the show, a visit, however brief, would be richly rewarding.


Goings On About Town: Art

Jenny Perlin Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “Funes,” about a man with total recall, is interpreted in three projections in this lovely, if elliptical, show. In the first video, the story appears handwritten in English, while a male and a female narrator read the text in the original Spanish. In the second, bassoonists take turns playing Stravinsky. In the third, a vividly drawn animation depicts minor details from the narrative—a cigarette, a passion flower—as if to convey that even the most trivial moments merit remembering. Through April 15. Through April 15 Simon Preston 301 Broome St., New York, N.Y. 212-431-1105 simonprestongallery.com Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/events/art/jenny-perlin-preston#ixzz1qAVk0v56


Artist Transforms FBI Files Into Short Films - WNYC Culture

http://culture.wnyc.org/articles/features/2011/jan/27/fbi-files-become...

Features

Artist Transforms FBI Files Into Short Films Thursday, January 27, 2011

By Julia Furlan : WNYC Culture Producer

When New York City-based artist Jenny Perlin began combing through a 250,000-page archive at Columbia University's Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, she saw more than just the names that once caused country-wide hysteria, like those of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Harry Gold, and J. Robert Oppenheimer. Perlin saw the opportunity to make art out of the pen-marked and heavily redacted F.B.I. files. The Rosenbergs were accused of passing sensitive information about the atomic bomb to Russia in 1951, and after a trial that lasted just over two years, both were executed in the electric chair. The elements of espionage, Cold War Communist fear and a Jenny Perlin's imagining of the women

controversial execution captured the public imagination as developments were trotted out in big, bold headlines like "Accused of Crime Worse Than Murder," (an accusation made by the case's judge), and "Burial of A-Spies Fails to Stem Red Propaganda."

responsible for typing over 250,000 pages

Behind the case and its headlines are the F.B.I. documents that inspired Perlin to make the eight short films in her series Perlin

of documents. (Jenny Perlin)

Papers. It's fitting that Perlin made the films, as she is distantly related to Marshall Perlin, the lawyer for the Rosenberg's sons who were

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orphaned after their parents' execution. Because he helped declassify hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents in the

An NYC Arts Timeline of the '40's

1970's, Ms. Perlin was able to pore over the thousands of photocopied pages from F.B.I. notebooks. They hold everything from

and '50's

heartbreaking descriptions of how the Rosenberg's sons were taken into foster care at the hands of armed policemen to meticulous notes on the comings and goings of a group of 1940's housewives who were being tailed by F.B.I. agents.

With her artistic eye, Ms. Perlin saw the opportunity to examine the documents that had fallen through the cracks. "You have lives, in this case of over 30 to 40 years, all sort of sitting there, waiting to be looked at, discovered, or in many cases ignored," she said about the archives. Perlin's short films range in length and style. All were shot with 16-mm film. "Mimeograph" is her imagining of the lives of the typists responsible for slogging through years of F.B.I. data, clicking and dinging it through completion. "I wonder if they read the documents and how they felt about the proceedings," Perlin wrote in her description of the film. In "Notes," Perlin animates simple squiggles and loops as if testing a ball-point pen. What's significant about these spirals is not only that they were classified for decades, but that they were the doodles of Harry Gold, the lab technician famously convicted for passing nuclear information to Russian spies. For a peek into the Perlin Papers that doesn't involve file cabinets or boxes of photocopies, head to Location One at 26 Green St. on Thursday, January 27. The screening is part of the XtraCurricular series, a collaboration between the Marina Abramović Studio and the Columbia University School of the Arts. You can also check out Perlin's film "Transcript" at the Guggenheim museum from February 11 through May 1, 2011.

Jenny Perlin

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Jenny Perlin's imagining of the women responsible for typing over 250,000 pages of documents.

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The trouble with archives, as recounted in film | Thirsty Linguist

http://thirstylinguist.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/trouble-with-archives/

Thirsty Linguist

The trouble with archives, as recounted in film Posted on February 1, 2011

Filmmaker Jenny Perlin took the inspiration for her recent series The Perlin Papers from an archive at Columbia University. An archive seems like straightforward affair — it’s a collection of documents, which might be dusty with age. But recent events have given us an opportunity to reconsider the importance of archives, as well as the historical forces which shape them. Last November, for example, WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of U.S. embassy cables on its website. The contents of the cables made headlines, but so did the person of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. The message: this archive is a collection of documents, but it is also the product of actual humans. At the Columbia archive, Perlin examined many of the 250,000 pages related to the cold-war espionage case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Her eight short films do not actually focus on the Rosenbergs, nor on the personality behind the archive, lawyer Marshall Perlin (a distant relative of Jenny’s). Instead, they explore acts of document preparation during the 1950s. We listen to muffled speech and witness the subsequent attempts at transcription. We see typewriter keys go astray. The message: this archive is the product of actual humans, and these humans worked with imperfect tools.

Still from “Mimeograph”. Film by Jenny Perlin, 16mm, color, sound , 19:50, 2010. Production still by Cassandra Guan 2010. Courtesy Jenny Perlin and Galerie M+R Fricke Berlin

In the film “Transcript,” FBI agents position themselves in the hallway of a New York apartment building in order to eavesdrop on a dinner party held by friends of the Rosenbergs. Snippets of clear conversation travel through the apartment walls from time to time, tempting the listener into constructing meaning. But for the most part, we hear long stretches of speech sounds that are frankly uninterpretable. In “Inaudible,” we see the transcript of this conversation as produced by the FBI. Most lines consist of a single word: inaudible. In “Mimeograph,” two women spend their work day typing up FBI documents related to the Rosenberg case. The relentless din of typewriter keys leaves no doubt that we are back in the pre-digital era. The women fix minor typos with a pencil. They fix larger typos with correction paper, which covers the error with white ink, one letter at a time. To create duplicates of their documents, they use mimeograph sheets, which would preserve a record of both the original errors and their subsequent corrections, laid on top of one another.

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The trouble with archives, as recounted in film | Thirsty Linguist

http://thirstylinguist.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/trouble-with-archives/

The films thus problematize the notions of archive and document and, in so doing, also problematize spoken and written communication more generally. Linguists often struggle when explaining these areas of research to a broader audience because speaking and writing seem relatively effortless to most of us. By filtering speech sounds through the walls of an apartment building, and subjecting printed words to wayward typewriter strokes, The Perlin Papers demonstrate that barriers to accurate communication exist everywhere. The research challenge for linguistics, then, is to characterize the cognitive capabilities that allow people to circumvent these barriers as often as they do. The Perlin Papers, which played at Location One in New York City on January 27, will play again on June 1, 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival. Until then, you can check out other projects by Jenny Perlin (disclaimer: she’s a friend), which include An Exchange with Sol Lewitt, at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass. and Cabinet in Brooklyn from January 23 to March 31, 2011, and Found in Translation at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, from February 11 to May 1, 2011.

This entry was posted in Linguistics in film and tagged archives, Jenny Perlin, linguistics in film, Perlin Papers, Rosenbergs, spoken communication, written communication. Bookmark the permalink.

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Perlin Papers a portrait of paranoia - Movies - Toronto.com

http://www.toronto.com/print/686740

Perlin Papers a portrait of paranoia By JASON ANDERSON May 26, 2011

The Perlin Papers: The American government’s surveillance of its own citizens during the Red Scare of the 1940s and ’50s is the basis for a fascinating film project by American artist Jenny Perlin. Inspired by a 250,000-page archive of documents related to the investigation, trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, The Perlin Papers is a cycle of eight short films that deploy a variety of narrative and documentary strategies to recreate the mood of paranoia during this turbulent period of American history. The title comes from an archive named after a distant relative of the artist, a civil liberties lawyer who successfully fought to have the documents declassified. Short film Mimeograph, part of The Perlin Papers. Cassandra Guan photo

In Leads, Perlin’s camera tracks a woman’s movements through the streets of

New York while a narrator impassively notes her comings and goings. In Transcript, we the viewers stay outside the door of an apartment while we are encouraged to listen in on the often muffled conversations by the worried subjects inside. The longest short, at 21 minutes, Mimeograph takes the form of a dramatic vignette about two typists whose job it is to prepare surveillance reports. The shorts add up to a chilling portrait of the era as well as a disturbing demonstration of the methods that so many governments use to criminalize and dehumanize the people they perceive to be subversives. The Brooklyn-based Perlin will be in attendance when The Perlin Papers plays Toronto in a free event co-presented by TIFF Cinematheque’s Free Screen series and Pleasure Dome at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 1 at 7 p.m. Iggstock: In 1981, a group of musicians and other friends staged their own festival at a remote campground a few hours northeast of Toronto. The title and subject of a new documentary by local filmmaker Tracy German, Iggstock was originally intended to be a parody of Woodstock by small-town Canucks too young to go — “Everybody was supposed to represent a dead rock star,” says one old-timer about that first edition. Those beginnings might have been plenty inauspicious but they somehow kept it going for 25 years, the festival eventually hosting performances by such acts as Blue Peter, Tanglefoot and future members of My Darkest Days and Three Days Grace. Of course, the smashing of the “joint piñata” was another of the traditional highlights for the otherwise beery three-day bacchanal. Filled with archival photos and footage and recent interviews with many Iggstock veterans, German’s film provides a look into a rarely seen corner of Canada’s counterculture, one where the rude energy of punk got mixed up with the hippies’ enthusiasm for temporary utopias and getting back to the land. Iggstock makes its local premiere on May 28 at 4 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor St. W.). The Importance of Being Earnest: Originally subtitled A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, Oscar Wilde’s most famous play was first performed in London in 1895. Trivial as it may have been, it has nonetheless survived well into its second century. Wilde’s play made its latest triumphant return in 2009 at the Stratford Festival in a much-acclaimed production directed by and starring Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. The longtime Stratford vet later moved the show to Broadway, where it’s received a similar level of acclaim (along with three Tony nominations). Audiences who missed it at Stratford and can’t make it to the Big Apple before the show closes in July can catch it courtesy of Front Row Centre, Cineplex’s ongoing series of HD presentations of live theatrical and other events. On June 2 at 7 p.m., The Importance of Being Earnest screens at participating venues throughout the GTA — an encore presentation follows on June 25. Vision and sounds: The most famous nun of the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen was an inveterate multi-tasker, gaining renown as a poet, physician, mystic, political adviser and composer of music. She’s also the subject of Vision, a recent film by German director Margarethe von

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Perlin Papers a portrait of paranoia - Movies - Toronto.com

http://www.toronto.com/print/686740

Trotta that is part of a special event at the Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Ave.) on May 29 at 4 p.m. An author who wrote on the subject of visionary experiences and creativity in her recent book The Fiery Muse: Creativity and the Spiritual Quest, Teri Degler will introduce the screening with a talk on Hildegard’s context and influence. Then soloist soprano Krystina Lewicki will perform three selections from Hildegard’s cycle of songs known as the Celestial Harmonies. All that should make for something a little more sublime than your average night out at the movies. Chemerical: Most of us do all we can not to think about the millions of chemicals that we bring into our homes and bodies on a daily basis. But in a new documentary by Andrew Nisker, an ordinary family in Toronto looks for ways to make a cleaner way to live. Though he’s been busy touring Canada with the film to raise awareness of “the toxic debate,” Nisker returns for a hometown screening of Chemerical at the Revue on May 28 at 4 p.m.

Copyright 2012 Torstar Media Group. All Rights Reserved

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artforum.com / critics' picks

http://artforum.com/picks/id=20167&view=print

Jenny Perlin MIREILLE MOSLER LTD. 35 East 67th Street March 26–May 31 For a 2003 film, Brooklyn-based artist Jenny Perlin considers the painstaking, repetitive tasks prescribed by the 1915 book Perseverance: How to Develop It in the context of America’s obsession with assembly-line productivity. One can imagine Sequence (all works 2007), included in this exhibition, as the result of such an exercise: Every day for forty days, Perlin covered four fresh sheets of vellum with a monochrome grid of five hundred squares each, dipping her brush in ink only when it ran out. The resulting wall-size installation presents a minimalist grid made not by endless mechanical repetition but through a time-based cycle of exhaustion and replenishment. Perlin stages a similar retroaction in Flight, a 16-mm film for which she hand-copied receipts from purchases in airports around the world. Shot using stop-motion animation, one letter at a time, the script unfolds as if generated by some kind of analogue proto-computer. These indexical re-creations retain information—the time of a purchase, an employee’s name—that reminds viewers of the web of concrete data we produce as we traverse the “abstract space” of the modern world. (They also convey the banal courtesy phrases of commerce, rendered suddenly endearing in Perlin’s irregular hand.) In the back room, Addendum’s bright, layered diagrams of cell phones, trees, and keyboard tunings seem whimsical but belie a more troubling concern. The fine print, literally, is legalese regarding the case of a Somalian immigrant charged in 2004 with plotting to blow up a mall in Ohio. Perlin draws from details of the case to chart a lexicon of repetition and restriction in which this unnamed individual—and individuality—is circumscribed. Perhaps in an era of secret wiretaps and ghost detainees, a simple act of copying can be a form of political resistance.

Flight Drawing #10, 2007, graphite on paper, 22 x 30".

— Frances Jacobus-Parker

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Videopanel 2008 From: Artforum Date: May 1, 2008 Author: Jahn, Wolf HAMBURG Videopanel 2008 Video art has by now become so well established that its massive representation in big exhibitions has developed into a problem: When there are numerous works, their overall length taxes the public's concentration span. The international video festival Videopanel took place for the first time in 2006 (under the title International Forum for Video Art) as part of a larger exhibition on contemporary art in public space, "Art and Consumer Architecture," and its organizers have clearly learned from experience. This year, the second installment of Videopanel included eleven contributions, with a total duration of just under two hours. The manageable length worked to advantage, as did the installation, which dispensed with white cubes and black boxes. Instead, visitors found themselves in an open landscape, an undivided field of virtual spaces. Like its predecessor, Videopanel 2008 was thematically organized, this time investigating reciprocal influences among film, video, and art. The advantage of this rather formal theme was that it made possible a broad spectrum of content. The winner of the International Video Prize, Jenny Perlin's Transcript, 2006, was based on FBI surveillance transcripts from the McCarthy era. Perlin reconstructed in poetic manner the conversations of two couples, acquaintances of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were clearly aware that they were being listened in on. What one sees are exterior views of Manhattan apartment buildings-the kinds of places where these conversations might have taken place. The Feedback Prize, decided by public vote, went to Amie Siegel's Berlin Remake, 2005, a double projection of historical footage of postwar Berlin mixed with contemporary reenactments. The present-day camera shoots the original locations of the earlier films, following the movements of its "prototypes," or captures passersby, who maneuver through the city with body language almost identical to that of the earlier Berlin residents. In contrast to conventional


remakes, with their restagings of previously filmed narratives, Berlin Remake produces a different form of repetition, a kind of cinematic time-parallelogram that comes closer to a cyclical than to a linear concept of time. Time provided a common theme for other entries as well. Cordula Ditz's Nightmare on Elm Street, 2007, deleted every scene that features animate beings from the '80s horror film. The result, which runs less than three minutes, nonetheless conserves the atmosphere of a horror film in nuce. In Astrid Nippoldt's loop Fog on Nov. 2, 2004-2007, time is rewound in a number of ways and brought to a standstill. Nippoldt captured webcam images of Mount St. Helen's on the day of the last US presidential election and then transferred them onto 16-mm film. The translation back to an older format produces a melancholy, romantic perspective on the volcano, even if the high technical expenditure seems disproportionate to the pith of the statement. Much the same was true for Miri Segal's Just a Second, Life, 2007, recording her own adventures, some of them erotic, as an avatar on second Life; the work, however, comes across as a simple documentation of her experiences in the virtual world, lacking any artistic intervention. Her own virtual gallery, projected on the ceiling, didn't manage to compensate. Beyond the competition, a permanent component of the festival is the inclusion of an older work that is seen as a historical predecessor. Samuel Beckett's ComĂŠdie (Play, 1966), based on his 1963 play, is an example of an older format transfer. Another festival concept is that it changes venues in each iteration but always to a place where it can engage "people's social reality," as curators Dirck MĂśllmann and Filomeno Fusco put it. In 2006, the festival took place at an abandoned shopping center; this time, it was housed in a former wine warehouse. A more significant change of location is planned for 2009, when it is anticipated that Videopanel will move to Berlin. -Wolf Jahn Translated from German by Diana Reese. Copyright Artforum Inc. May 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. For permission to reuse this article, contact Copyright Clearance Center.


A Programmer’s Chronicles 10 International Film Festival Rotterdam | January 2007 http://professionals.filmfestivalrotterdam.com/eng/blogs/gertjan_zuilhof/a_prggrammers_chronicles_january_2007.aspx

By Gertjan Zuilhof Marie Losier and Jenny Perlin had never met. At least, not that they are aware of. There are only a few places in New York City where you can buy double-perforated adhesive tape to stick strips of 16mm film together. So one could imagine that they have probably stood together waiting in line in the small audiovisual-materials shop in the arts department of the NYU (New York University), but that’s just an supposition. Losier and Perlin have a lot more in common than you would think. They both live and work in New York. They are female avantgarde film makers from the same generation. Perlin is from 1970 and Losier is from 1972. You could say they were granddaughters of Marie Menken and Maya Deren. Great granddaughters of Germaine Dulac. And they work on 16mm. They still do. And each in their very own special way. That is why they are prominently present in Still 16, the Rotterdam 2007 programme section that pays homage to the dying film format 16mm in a select and topical way. They are present with their own latest films and in addition, at my request, they have put together compilation programmes with new 16mm work by colleague film makers. They are very different programmes, because alongside so many similarities you can also find enough differences. Or maybe in this case you can primarily find differences. The work of Losier is characterised by insanity and historic consciousness. Her latest short film FLYING SAUCEY! is basically a contemporary variation on age-old silent-film farces like the ones that live on in programmes such as Comedy Capers. An enormous pan of spaghetti lands on the roof in New York. Cheerfully dressed damsels crawl out of the pan, probably portraying extra terrestrials on a festive visit. It’s pure slapstick. There is no doubt that crew and actors had a hilarious and crazy afternoon. And it isn’t just craziness. Losier knows her classics. She made films about and with the famous underground masters, the Kuchar Brothers and her film THE ONTOLOGICAL COWBOY focuses on theatre phenomenon Richard Foreman. Her nonsense is not nonsense but Dada worthy of respect. Although worthy of respect may not be the right term for so much clever pleasure. Sweet Sixteen!, the 16mm programme put together by Losier, is populated by whimsical and fantastic films with bats (by Jo Dery), contrite animals (by Jim Trainor) and coloured gods (by Ben Russell). They have an unbridled imagination and also like to see that in other people’s work. The work of Perlin is characterised by irony and an analytic political consciousness. Her films are occasionally deceptively simple. Even occasionally apparently clumsy. For a long time, her films were characterised by an alarming flashing in the image as a result of a dysfunctional 16mm camera. To her great regret, she recently had to have the camera repaired, as a result of which the beloved dysfunctionality disappeared. A beautiful example of Perlin's refined awkwardness is her latest film NOTES. At first it looks like a primitive animation of thoughtless scribbling. Clumsy corkscrew lines jolt across the image. Only towards the end does the film reveal its secret and significance. Perlin found the scribbles in an archive and they were made in the middle of the Cold War by a condemned nuclear spy. Made during an interrogation that was not covered by the Geneva Convention. As a result of today’s terrorism paranoia and un-authorised interrogation techniques, this short film with scribbling acquires a cutting significance and an overwhelming context. And the film is not alone. Perlin is working on a series of eight entitled Perlin Papers. Typical of the historic irony of Perlin is the film THE LAST SLIDE PROJECTOR by Paige Sarlin in her programme. The slide projector has disappeared for good and no one seems to mourn its passing. That fate has so far not overtaken 16mm even though we don’t know for how long. In the case of a small film by Deborah Stratman, THE MAGICIAN'S HOUSE, the maker herself wrote in the programme that it’s probably the last film she will edit on 16mm.

Jenny Perlin | www.nilrep.net | j@nilrep.net

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The programme compiled by Perlin does not share any works with that of Losier. Apparently New York and the rest of the United States are still so well endowed with humorous and ingenious 16mm film makers that more topical programmes could be made. The work selected by curator Mark McElhatten confirms this. Every year he brings a small treasure trove of short American avant-garde films with him to Rotterdam and this also includes works by incurable 16mm users such as David Gatten and Mark LaPore. Despite the disappearance of 16mm, there are still enough tenacious film makers left to keep the material alive. And maybe you should say that it’s even thanks to the disappearance of 16mm material, because the scarcity automatically makes the format special and maybe even romantic. Of course the New York ladies Losier and Perlin have their own websites where people can find further information. Marie Losier: http://marielosier.net/main.html. Jenny Perlin: http://www.nilrep.net/.

Jenny Perlin | www.nilrep.net | j@nilrep.net

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JENNY PERLIN AT THE KITCHEN, NEW YORK THE SAATCHI GALLERY ONLINE DAILY MAGAZINE | JANUARY 10, 2007 Jenny Perlin is understandably proud of her relative, Marshall Perlin: a lawyer, Perlin forced the US government in the 1970s to release a massive archive of papers which related to the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the two American Communists who were alleged to have passed nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, who were subsequently executed in 1953, and who became one of the last century's great causes célèbres for the American left. Apparently, for two decades after the executions, the FBI went on spying on hundreds of people who they thought were related to the case. Spooky, and very Cold War, you imagine, except that George Bush was recently trapped into admitting that he was authorising countless wiretaps to further the administration's current battles.

To recreate something of the flavour of the bygone spying, Perlin hired actors to stage a dinner conversation between two couples which the FBI once tapped. The resulting film, 'Transcript', is a gentle, subtle, sometimes comic and always very well handled piece of commentary.

It is the night of 30th October 1953. Ernest Pataki and Vivian Glassman have come around for dinner with Max and Annette Finestone; FBI operatives NY964-S and NY963-S are craning to hear the conversation outside. The problem the FBI had was that their equipment wasn't too hot, so everything they heard was muffled, and as the film begins we hear the voices of agents, speaking their report, laying out the situation and confessing their problems. And the frustrated perspective of the operatives isall we have: the film lingers on the hallway of the old-fashioned apartment block, sometimes cutting out and returning when the light seems different, sometimes lingering on closed doors and the obscuring glare of light on glass. Then it moves up the stairs as if the operatives were creeping to the door, jerking back and forth again and enjoying the texture of the old painted wallpaper and the well-trodden floor. We hear what the FBI hear, which is very muffled voices only occasionally intelligible - and only possibly, faintly incriminating to the paranoid mind.

There is much warm nostalgia in this, and the comedy of the FBI's attempts lends more, but, of course, Perlin means for this situation to provide a kind of template, an hypothesis for what might be going on outside apartments across America right now. And that provides the chill which seals and completes the film very nicely. Another film, 'Inaudible', takes the form of a 16mm animation in which we see a kind of written transcript of the operatives' negligible findings, the word 'inaudible' appearing in line after line. But it only gilds the very lovely lily that is 'Transcript' itself. Morgan Falconer

Jenny Perlin Until 10 February The Kitchen 512 West 19th Street New York, NY 10011 T: +1 212-255-5793

Posted by editorial on January 10, 2007 04:35 AM http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/blogon/2007/01/jenny_perlin_the_kitchen_new_y.php The Saatchi Gallery : Copyright 2003-2006 © The Saatchi Gallery : London Contemporary Art Gallery JENNY PERLIN | WWW.NILREP.NET | J@NILREP.NET


The Conversation

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Volume 76, Number 32 | January 3 - 9, 2007

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Email our editor View our previous issues Report Distribution Problems Photo by Jenny Perlin For “Transcript,” Jenny Perlin shot the interior of a friend’s Brooklyn apartment building, not the actual West Village apartment where the F.B.I. eavesdropped on two couples in 1953.

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The Conversation Rosenberg-case eavesdropping inspires a feast for thought at The Kitchen By Nicole Davis Family members often figure in Jenny Perlin’s art and films, but for her latest installation, which opened at The Kitchen last weekend, the relative who inspired “Transcript” happens to be one she never met. He was Marshall Perlin, a lawyer who unsuccessfully sought a stay of execution for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the Americans accused of supplying the Soviets with atomic-bomb secrets. After their deaths, Perlin tried to prove that the punishment meted the couple didn’t match their crimes. The government never recanted its actions in Perlin’s lifetime, but an ongoing movement to re-open the case persists, and the files he obtained are considered damning evidence of foul play by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. Known as the Perlin Papers, they’re currently housed at Columbia University’s Law School, where Jenny Perlin first became acquainted with her distant relative’s legacy.

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“Transcript” is based on just a few of the 250,000 declassified documents Marshall Perlin amassed in one of the first successful applications of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act. Along with files pertaining specifically to the Rosenbergs, the Perlin Papers archive reveals an alarming, and at times absurd record of domestic-government spying from the 1940s to the 1970s on hundreds of Americans tangentially connected to the couple. Among the items that will be featured in future installments of Jenny Perlin’s eight-part project are the

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The Conversation

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doodles of a man convicted of espionage and details of various women’s banal, everyday activities in New York, from buying stockings to going to the movies. “I didn’t want this to be about the Rosenbergs,” Perlin said before unveiling the first two parts of her series. A petite woman with cat’s-eye glasses and short, stylish brown hair, she calls to mind — in this context at least — a thirtysomething Harriet the Spy. “I really wanted it to be about peripheral characters and the way a net of government activity can sweep in lots of people.” We meet four of these anonymous characters in “Transcript,” which is based upon what informants did and did not hear when they eavesdropped on a dinner party at 106 Bedford Street in October, 1953, four months after the Rosenbergs were executed. All that is left of that surveillance is a 12-page transcript of the poorly recorded conversation, riddled with gaps and guesses at what was actually said. Perlin has played upon the government’s attempts to fill in the blanks by copying down each word the spies imagined they heard, such as army and torture, as well as (inaudible), a constant refrain in the transcript. She then created a 16mm stop-motion animated film of these words and an evocative series of shots taken in the dimly-lit corridors of an anonymous apartment building. While all this rolls on adjacent walls of the installation, we hear the muffled dinner-party chit-chat, which Perlin hired actors to read aloud like an old-time radio show, filled with Red Scare intrigue. “I was interested in the visual relationship to the sonic,” she explained. “So if you write the word inaudible, what do you hear?” Perlin is known for her documentary approach to art — in particular, her signature stop-motion animation of hand-copied words, phrases, and ephemera, inspired by a Walter Benjamin aphorism about understanding a text better through copying it, rather than reading it. She’s used audio recordings in the past, and often weaves current events into her work. In 2004’s “Possible Models,” for instance, she tackled the Patriot Act and its effects on U.S. immigrants. But espionage is a new subject for the Brooklyn-based artist. “My work has not dealt with surveillance in the past… but our current policies on surveillance kept me motivated on this project when it became frustrating.” Frustrating? “The sound design was really challenging,” Perlin said. “I didn’t know how to make things inaudible.” Ultimately, she worked with a sound designer to muffle the actors’ voices, and used the simple changes of jazz records to create the haunting atmosphere. In the installation, two imposing sound cones hanging from the ceiling emphasize this interplay between what can and can’t be heard; stand under them, and the words become easier to hear — but only slightly. Perlin says she doesn’t consider herself an activist in the marching-in-the-streets sense, but she does see this as her own way of voicing her dissent on Bush’s domestic wiretapping program. “People say they’re apolitical.” But that can change, she emphasized, as one is swept into the net. “It’s a question of how things that are happening out here” — she gestured to indicate the world around us — “affect the minutiae of everyday life.”

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The Conversation

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“Transcript” can be seen (and heard) through Feb. 10 at The Kitchen, 512 W. 19th St., 212-255-5793, thekitchen.org.

Home The Villager is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013 Phone: (212) 229-1890 Fax: (212) 229-2790 Advertising: (646) 452-2465 • © 2006 Community Media, LLC

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THE CONVERSATION ROSENBERG-CASE EAVESDROPPING INSPIRES A FEAST FOR THOUGHT AT THE KITCHEN By Nicole Davis Chelsea Now | Volume Number 1 Issue Number 13 | December 22 - 28, 2006

For “Transcript,” Jenny Perlin shot the interior of a friend’s Brooklyn apartment building, not the actual West Village apartment where the F.B.I. eavesdropped on two couples in 1953.

Family members often figure in Jenny Perlin’s art and films, but for her latest installation, which opened at The Kitchen last weekend, the relative who inspired “Transcript” happens to be one she never met. He was Marshall Perlin, a lawyer who unsuccessfully sought a stay of execution for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the Americans accused of supplying the Soviets with atomic-bomb secrets. After their deaths, Perlin tried to prove that the punishment meted the couple didn’t match their crimes. The government never recanted its actions in Perlin’s lifetime, but an ongoing movement to re-open the case persists, and the files he obtained are considered damning evidence of foul play by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. Known as the Perlin Papers, they’re currently housed at Columbia University’s Law School, where Jenny Perlin first became acquainted with her distant relative’s legacy.

“Transcript” is based on just a few of the 250,000 declassified documents Marshall Perlin amassed in one of the first successful applications of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act. Along with files pertaining specifically to the Rosenbergs, the Perlin Papers archive reveals an alarming, and at times absurd record of domestic-government spying from the 1940s to the 1970s on hundreds of Americans tangentially connected to the couple. Among the items that will be featured in future installments of Jenny Perlin’s eight-part project are the doodles of a man convicted of espionage and details of various women’s banal, everyday activities in New York, from buying stockings to going to the movies.

http://www.chelseanow.com/cn_13/theconversation.html Chelsea Now | © 2006 Community Media

JENNY PERLIN | WWW.NILREP.NET | J@NILREP.NET


SI

SWISS INSTITUTE-CONTEMPORARY ART 495 Broadway / 3rd Floor / New York NY 10012-4457

t (212) 925-2035 / f (212) 925-2040 info@swissinstitute.net / www.swissinstitute.net

PROGRAM

UNIVERSAL CHARACTER / TUESDAY MAY 16, 2006 – 7PM With works by THERESA HAK KYUNG CHA, DAVID HAMMONS, DAVID GATTEN, JACQUELINE GOSS, JENNY PERLIN, YVONNE RAINER, KATHRIN RESETARITS, PETER ROSE, STRAUB/HUILLET / Curated by Jenny Perlin Cinema is often compared to a universal ‘language of images.’ The films and videos in this program use physical, graphical, and social aspects of language to present earnest, poetic, and failed efforts to communicate. The seventeenth century German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is best known for his texts in logic and mathematics. Another area to which Leibniz devoted his capacious mental energies was a theory of universal language that he called characteristica universalis (universal character). This pictorial language would be made up of symbols that, unlike hieroglyphics or Chinese characters, would be simple and easy to read without the aid of any dictionary. The utopian characteristica universalis was to be formed of “geometrical figures” and enable a “fundamental knowledge of all things.” Central to this project was Leibnitz’s belief that language not only functions as an instrument but, in fact, constitutes thought. Works by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Kathrin Resetarits, and Yvonne Rainer explore complex relationships between the physical production of a language and the representation of this effort on screen. These films bring out the effort (or fluidity) of the body in direct, performative relationships between subject and viewer. The direct inscription of language on film appears in films by David Gatten and Peter Rose. In these films, the impression of text and nature on 16mm celluloid results in traces and excesses of textual, verbal, and environmental communication. Sociolinguistic experiments with repetition and recitation, and attempts to transmit cultural information appear in strikingly different modes in works by Jacqueline Goss, Straub/Huillet, and Jenny Perlin. David Hammons’ video invites and ultimately eludes the imposition of fixed meaning, squeezing through linguistic cracks and metaphoric constraints to create a wry and haunting work. --Jenny Perlin EVENING PROGRAM (Preface) YVONNE RAINER, Hand Movie (8MM TRANSFERRED TO DVD, B/W, SILENT, 5 MINUTES, 1966) Close-up of a hand, the fingers of which enact a sensuous dance. Camerawork by Robert Alexander (catalogue copy, Video Data Bank)

EVENING PROGRAM THERESA HAK KYUNG CHA, Mouth to Mouth (VIDEO, B/W, SOUND, 8 MINUTES, 1975) English and Korean words appear on the screen, a mouth forms the shape of an "O," then opens and closes. Is this the beginning of language? In this early videotape, Cha isolates and repeats a simple, physical act - a mouth forming the eight Korean vowel graphemes - so that this ordinary action becomes something primal and riveting. (catalogue copy, Electronic Arts Intermix)

PETER ROSE, Secondary Currents (16MM, B/W, SOUND, 14.5 MINUTES, 1982) Secondary Currents is a film about the relationships between the mind and language. Delivered by an improbable narrator who speaks an extended assortment of nonsense, it is an "imageless" film in


SI which the shifting relationships between voice-over commentary and subtitled narration constitute a peculiar duet for voice, thought, speech, and sound. A kind of comic opera, the film is a dark metaphor for the order and entropy of language and has been the subject of a number of articles on the use of language in the arts. Percussion by Jim Meneses. (Rose, from Filmmaker’s Co-op catalogue)

KATHRIN RESETARITS, Egypt (16MM, B/W, SOUND, 9 MINUTES, 1997) Egypt is a film that is almost silent. A film about deaf mutes, or rather about their sign language, a language which, like the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, links the symbolic terminology of words with the mimetic and analogous representations of graphic gestures. Sober black and white scenes show how "shark", "widow", "Marilyn Monroe", a James bond sequence, a Viennese song or the account of a treasure hunt undertaken by two holidaymakers in Egypt look in the sign language. It is a very modest indication, an introduction to an unfamiliar way of experiencing the world, where one sees the sounds without hearing them. (Drehli Robnik, from Sixpack Films catalogue)

DAVID GATTEN, What the Water Said, No. 4 (16MM, SOUND, 5 MINUTES, 2006) Strips of previously unexposed film went into the ocean and these fragments are what returned. In this latest installment of a 10 year project attempting to document the underwater world off the coast of South Carolina both the sounds and images are the result of the oceanic inscriptions written directly into the emulsion of the film as it was buffeted by the salt water, sand and rocks; as it was chewed and eaten by the crabs, fish and underwater creatures. (David Gatten) Courtesy of the artist.

JENNY PERLIN, Perseverance (16MM, B/W, SILENT, 7.5 MINUTES, 2001) Working from Walter Benjamin's maxim on the usefulness of copying texts as opposed to reading them, which he relates to walking through a field as opposed to flying over it, Perseverance closely examines cultural detritus by copying, animating, and observing it. Perseverance links the U.S.'s 21st century purchasing power and its promises of happiness with the maxims of early 20th century selfimprovement. The 16mm black-and-white animations are generated by writing the texts letter by letter in a laborious and flawed calligraphy. The title comes from Perseverance and How to Develop It, a 1915 self-help book that instructed young men how to discipline themselves to achieve a better life. (Perlin) Courtesy of the artist and Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam

JACQUELINE GOSS, How to Fix the World (VIDEO, COLOR, SOUND, 28 MINUTES, 2004) Adapted from psychologist A.R. Luria’s research in Uzbekistan in the 1930s, How to Fix the World brings to life Luria's conversations with Central Asian farmers learning how to read and write under the unfamiliar principles of Socialism. Colorful digital animations play against a backdrop of images shot in Andijian (where Soviet-era President Karimov's suppression of Islam lead to violence in May 2005.) At once conflicting, humorous, and revelatory, these conversations between Luria and his “subjects” illustrate an attempt by one culture to transform another in the name of education and modernization. The subtleties of this transformation, as well as the roots of current cultural conflicts, are found in words exchanged and documented seventy-five years ago. (Goss) Courtesy of the artist.

STRAUB/HUILLET, Every Revolution is a Roll of the Dice (16MM, COLOR, SOUND, 11 MINUTES, 1978) A reading of Mallarmé's poem "A dice roll will never abolish chance" set in Pere Lachaise cemetery, Paris. (catalogue copy, New Yorker Films)

DAVID HAMMONS, Phat Free (VIDEO, COLOR, SOUND, 5 MINUTES, 1995/1999) Phat Free, a DVD and video projection of David Hammons' 1995 performance, depicts a man kicking a can down a New York City street. Hammons' work piques anticipation and curiosity by presenting a seemingly inconsequential action: a man walks and kicks. Derived from the context of Hammons urban surroundings and observations, the minimal activity creates a compelling gesture. By insisting that his work represent the mundane occurrences of everyday life, he implicates the audience in the


SI act of interpreting and deriving meaning from their own quotidian experience. (catalogue copy, Fabric Workshop) Courtesy of Zwirner + Wirth, New York.

This program, the third in a series of bi-monthly film and video screenings to be held in 2006, is made possible with public funds from NYSCA, the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.

Thanks to the distibutors & galleries, New Yorker Films, Filmmaker’s Co-op, Video Data Bank, Zwirner + Wirth New York, Electronic Arts Intermix, Sixpack Films. Special thanks to Barton Byg, Ralph McKay, Erin McMonagle, Gabrielle Giattino, the Swiss Institute for inviting me to curate this screening, and to all the filmmakers for their work


FILM/ART: Prelude as postscript: Chris Marker’s The Hollow Men...

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FILM/ART: Prelude as postscript: Chris Marker’s The Hollow Men By Andréa Picard The alchemy of thought can conceivably engender residual gestalt with the sudden illumination of another idea whose provocation rests immeasurably within a space of impossible stasis. To put it bluntly, something is always burgeoning. Excavating from the scattered cinders of a problematic and programmatic past, Chris Marker, in his latest installation Prelude: The Hollow Men, has chosen a direct poetic reference to conjure a modern world of in-between wars, of taciturn ideologies always on the brink of hasty discharge.

The Hollowmen

With 2001’s Le Souvenir d’un avenir (co-directed by Yannick Bellon), the French cin é -essayist* has shown how post-war is, in effect, pre-war: by way of Denise

Articles in this Section

Bellon’s photographs, we are led into a corrosive cycle of mistakes, of false missions, of memories denied their rightful place—of a world perpetually made

Film/Art: Chris Marker’s The Hollow Men By Andréa Picard

strange to which Bellon’s real but Surrealist images would continue to attest. Marker had discovered the light of morning to be the dawning of night and vice-versa. An end is always a nascence, but why or how has reconstruction become the

rebuilding of destructive

power, he asked

rhetorically,

the

contemporary proof being in the photographs recorded during numerous wars and across major cultural movements. Whereas Bellon’s Agence-France photographs served as visual aid to Marker’s conversant argument in Souvenir, T.S. Eliot’s 1925 WWI elegy “ The Hollow Men” forms the basis for Marker’s new digital

Global Discoveries on DVD By Jonathan Rosenbaum Back Page: Against Insight By David Bordwell Editor’s Note By Mark Peranson and in the magazine..

installation, the first part of a planned, elaborate multi-segment examination of the 20th century which the French artist has already titled Owls at Noon.

Books Around By Olaf Moller

Commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art on the occasion of its widely anticipated Manhattan re-opening, Prelude: The Hollow Men was curated and produced by Mary Lea Bandy and Colin MacCabe, specifically for the Yoshiko and Akio Morita gallery where for the first time a work of video art would fill the entire gallery space, effectively being spared the sensorial competition of other moving images and the clashing or melding of sounds—an inexcusable problem encountered far too often in the museum and gallery exhibition of video/film installations.* I missed the MoMA presentation, but the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art brought the installation to Toronto for the Canadian premiere. Judiciously, the entire gallery space was devoted to the piece, forming a semi-enclosed, dark, longitudinal room in which the looped material was repeatedly shown during gallery hours, the aural dramatics of Toru Takemitsu’s “ Corona ” (1962) filling the room with unsettling tonal tonnage. Gravity hangs in midair effectively slowing down the physical approach to the work. But one mustn’t hesitate to advance closer toward the eight flatscreen monitors which are perhaps too small to properly convey the poetic lament that Marker has wittily composed in JavaScript language. From the centrally positioned bench, the composition collapses into a m ê l é e of disintegrated images in contrasting motion, of eerie foreboding without much formation.

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FILM/ART: Prelude as postscript: Chris Marker’s The Hollow Men...

http://www.cinema-scope.com/cs26/col_picard_filmart.htm

The eight monitors are the recipients of two synchronized digital feeds alternating an AB pattern across the strip, the swaying movements programmed

computer commands,

with

the

continuous

created through appearance

and

disappearance of images and text. As is to be expected from one of the world’s chief visual intellectuals, the work is dense; once an appropriate position of observation is attained, Prelude: The Hollow Men begins to haunt with its aggrieved but sorrowful sympathetic

position.

An engaged and engaging

dialogue with Eliot’s poem, Marker’s Prelude seeks to extract an abscessed memory, which adumbrates the future within its historical past and present. Marker acutely mounts an affront to our imperialistic penchants, yet there i s consideration

for Calvinist

predestination, of horrors to be committed in

perpetuity, of unaided fallacies.

As a chronometer of wartime abuse i s

circularized through a technological circuit, Marker works like a cobbler to create his dialogue with Eliot’s poem. He apparently set out to adapt the text in its entirety, but copyright

issues

prohibited verbatim usage, resulting

in a

compromise that undoubtedly yields more compelling results. Ever a sharp wordsmith (in the Godardian sense), Marker composed verse of his own combining

the conspicuously

curious expressions in Eliot

with his own

preoccupations. The result is not unlike the work of W. G. Sebald, his prose as much as his verse. (Therein lies an interesting comparative essay—examining the

intersections

of

Marker

and

Sebald’s

respective

lifelong

“postwar”

projects—one which Susan Sontag should have had claims on). To quote from the great Argentine author Ernesto S á bato, Eliot, Marker, and Sebald, in similar but differing ways, embody the “writer in the catastrophe of our time.” Elegiac in tone, Prelude excoriates the atrocities committed since and including WWI, the moir é images of devastation serving as testaments to horrors afflicted and horrors endured. The images, all black and white, seem digitally degraded in instances, fragments from a sordid time, their levels of decay increasingly wrought through Marker’s knowledge of subsequent wars. History rescinds and we must instead read re-sins. The precise placement and sequencing of text creates clever play among and within words as they travel across every alternate screen. As AND AND AND slowly makes its way from left to right across the screens, the apocalyptic nature of the music and images allow the leap to END END END. In one case, a word is so completely broken apart via sluggishness that the “S” from “Sightless” which is often repeated (from Eliot’s employment of the word to Marker’s reference to Sans soleil and his general concern with the gaze), but its systematic

disintegration gives way to S S S S and the

implications could not be clearer: SS SS SS SS.

Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star Multifoliate rose Of death’s twilight kingdom The hope only Of empty men

Whose eyes do we confront? Marker offers us images of victims, perpetrators, devastated cities and landscapes, martyrs, witnesses, broken families, the dead.

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FILM/ART: Prelude as postscript: Chris Marker’s The Hollow Men...

http://www.cinema-scope.com/cs26/col_picard_filmart.htm

Some of the wounded we recognize from Bellon’s images (“they are the smashed faces”), twisted and hollowed into Surrealist creations. Faces are charred, carved, etched. The women, mostly beautiful and doe-eyed, seem to be borrowed from Godard: saddled with knowledge they bear the beatific halo of profound regret for a world in everlasting “shadow.” Camille Claudel sits among them, but hers is the image of sacrifice (or martyrdom?). Having relinquished herself and her art for an unattainable love, her image rests uncomfortably amid the more anonymous faces, which we ascribe to the same human predicament. But Claudel’s story we know and as such her fate bears the weight of personal saga—enclosed within a smaller universe does her struggle for love teach us the tenets of another sort of human sacrifice? She did, however, “pray to broken stone”—her own. The word tenderness thus appears. Marker is drawn to Eliot’s “Multifoliate rose,” its counterpoint image a tight multifoliate flower, which, with a zoom in, is revealed to be an upsweep upon a woman’s head. An entwined bun—not Kim Novak’s, but the inference i s absolute. Next door in the adjoining Prefix reception area, Marker’s CD-ROM Immemory is set up for patrons to navigate. Under the cinema heading, Marker bluntly points out: “If you don’t know Vertigo by heart, there’s no use reading on.” I don’t think the CD-ROM does, in effect, allow one to navigate beyond that point, Marker being well aware of the limits of memory:

Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow

This interstice of memory bespeaks the intangible imprint of experience. Camille Claudel stood in Rodin’s shadow, a whole culture was relegated into the shadows by another. The tenebrous shadows of the Holocaust are prefigured in these words from 1925, words that responded so desperately to the “War to end all wars”:

Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the shadow

This historical accrual of mass destruction is “sans soleil,” but the nighttime “valley of dying stars” has not gone unrecorded. Adorno’s infamous dictum that poetry cannot exist after the Holocaust has been rallied against by artists like Marker and Sebald, and countless others. Their “images of the world and the inscription of war,” to borrow from Farocki (whose work is often compared to Marker’s, but I hold that Sebald’s project falls closer), serve as dialectical poetry

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FILM/ART: Prelude as postscript: Chris Marker’s The Hollow Men...

http://www.cinema-scope.com/cs26/col_picard_filmart.htm

meant to do battle against a reigning Darwinian ethos that rescinds, then re-sins. Prelude: The Hollow Men builds dramatically over the course of its 19 minutes, an increasingly graphic montage of images (of dead soldiers in soiled trenches, of men hanging from leafless trees) serving as a death march. A gong is sounded (the death knell), then there is silence. A shadow. A whimper. Despite this categorical condemnation, Marker does not adopt a censorious tone. Staying true to Eliot’s poem, the men who hid together in the trenches (and faced death together, a moment of unspeakable intimacy) were fathers and lovers, victims of regrettable circumstance. These are “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men,” those who had the “unbearable task of being men.” Marker asks us to remember them, but also to recall the poem who bears their title and whose cadence is brought to life by the artist’s own elegy, which he has described in Duchampian terms: “It’s from that raw material, the petty cash of history, that I try to extract a subjective journey through the 20th century.” And sadly, we are “no nearer.” “Thine is the kingdom” proves to be “untrue 80 seasons later,” Marker points out. This topography of grief breaks apart quite literally as the images increasingly deteriorate and the text becomes fuzzy. To further mark history as his own, Marker personalizes Eliot’s poem (which is also testament to its command):

Eliot wrote it in 1925 The ashes of World War I were Barely cold And we 4 year old toddlers Barely made out A world of strange forms Shaped by that war The war to end all wars they said

That 4-year-old toddler is Chris Marker (b. in 1921).

* Many of course feel media artist is more apropos for Marker (and perhaps it i s as a matter of semantics), though his visual essays and lyrical image compiling (aside from Immemory) retain a cinematic vocabulary. *On that note, the inaugural Forum Expanded section of this year’s Berlinale suffered greatly from the sound bleed syndrome. Apparently the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, where installations by Amos Gitai (ineffectual), Amy Siegel (inspired and witty), Matthew Buckingham (ambitious but defective), and Harun Farocki (surprisingly simplistic) were displayed on two floors i s notorious for sloppy presentation standards despite the high quality of work routinely curated. The real gem was on display at the Arsenal: Jenny Perlin’s Review / Possible Models / Amend (Trilogy), three 16mm hand-drawn films that demonstrate crafty interplay between cultural detritus, mundane taxonomies, and absurd journalistic texts.

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CAROLEE SCHNEEMAN, CARRIE MAE WEEMS AND JENNY PERLIN By Jovana Stokic NY Arts Magazine | January/February 2006

A group exhibition of works by women artists Carolee Schneemann, Carrie Mae Weems and Jenny Perlin possesses no singular signifier of femininity, although it predominately deals with feminine representations. This show is not trying to push for a unifying theme, it simply provides a view of three women of three generations who make art. In this way, the works speak for themselves, avoiding the problematic aspects of an "all-women exhibition" construct. In fact, the three artists show in completely separate spaces of Jack Tilton’s spacious gallery. Despite the exhibition’s timid absence of a title, the questions of authorship, power and control of representation impose themselves upon viewers in the work of all three artists.

Jenny Perlin’s captivating three-channel video installation Sight Reading (2004) only resembles the documentary mode of filmmaking. The artist’s strategic interventions reveal her presence to be much more than simply documenting an action. The action in this particular case is a sight-reading Carolee Schneemann, Eye Body #5, 1963. B&W photograph by Erro.

performance by three different classically trained pianists who

16 3/4 x 20 3/4 inches framed. Image courtesy of Jack Tilton Gallery.

are recorded while performing Schumann’s Piano Concerto in

A minor for the first time. As they make mistakes–which they often do while grappling with the complex score–Perlin’s punishes them by fading to black for five seconds, before resuming. Thus, the three channels fall out of sync and what started out as a harmony of three players becomes a disjointed cacophony.

Carolee Schnemann mounted a superbly elegant display of the photographic documentation of her pioneer actions and performances from the 60s and 70s: Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions (1963), Ices Strip (1972), Parallel Axis (1975), Up To And Including Her Limits (1976), and a video of her in action, Body Collage (1967). As early as 1963, Schneemann was at the forefront of the body art movement, working with her own rather spectacular body. This artist photographed her own eroticized body incorporated in an environment of large panels, broken mirrors, glass, lights and motorized objects. Schneemann utilizes different strategies when dealing with the feminine presence and its representation, creating new perspectives of the female body as both subject and object.

Avoiding mere recapitulation of her pioneer work, Schneemann revisits with vigor her seminal work of 1975, Interior Scroll, by making a new, clean, visually compelling print. Having transformed this extraordinary performance into a photographic scroll of sorts, the (artist’s) "live body" is not longer a site of representation, it has been transposed into the photograph. JENNY PERLIN | WWW.NILREP.NET | J@NILREP.NET


The documented material, which had become the "forensic evidence" that bears witness to the original event transcends mere documents and becomes an art object in its own right.

Carrie Mae Weems’ photographs possess a stark beauty. In the project Sites for Record (2005), commissioned by Beacon Cultural Foundation, Weems disguises her representations in documentary mode, by capturing the decay of a post-industrial city and its transformation. But only on the surface are these photographs documentary: Weems represents herself, with her back to the camera, clad in black and barefoot. These photographs investigate racial and gender implications of representation. The most powerful image in the series shows Weems lying on the front lawn of a traditional American house with a porch and an American flag. Her dark silhouette undermines the viewer’s expectations of traditional female representations. Although she evokes a traditional reclining nude, she subverts the pose by turning her back to the viewers. The artist, having the ultimate control, blocks the viewer’s gaze, and lets us see only what she wants us to see.

http://www.nyartsmagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4575&Itemid=204 NY Arts Magazine | © 2005-2007 NY Arts | www.nyartsmagazine.com

JENNY PERLIN | WWW.NILREP.NET | J@NILREP.NET


Wichita Eagle Posted on Fri, Dec. 16, 2005

We've been framed

Art films by Jenny Perlin contemplate post-9/11 America and our culture of hyper-consumerism. BY CHRIS SHULL The Wichita Eagle We go to the movies to escape. But watching films by Jenny Perlin keeps us insistently in the present. She makes the viewer grapple with imperfections -- the fallibility of people, the tricks played by memory, the cruel dichotomies faced by a consumer culture at war. Even the medium of movie projection is called to account. Three new film and video works by Perlin, and a never-before-seen installation, are collected in the exhibit "Possible Models" on view through next Friday at the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University. The show was organized by Katie Geha, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Ulrich. It is the first retrospective exhibit for the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Perlin, whose video installations have appeared at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and in galleries in New York, London, Chicago, Berlin, Amsterdam and elsewhere. "I feel like the work is very conceptual, but also very visceral," Geha said. "It is definitely avant-garde." Visitors to the show are met by Perlin's film "Washing," made in 2002. In grainy gray tones it depicts someone washing a window overlooking the site of the World Trade Center bombings. The film runs as a continuous loop on a noisy 16-millimeter projector. (Geha purchased it on eBay especially for this show.) "As it goes through the loop, the film actually gets dirtier and dirtier," Geha explained. So the physical properties of the film itself become part of the allegory. "As we're trying to clean our consciousness of what happened (on Sept. 11), it is actually getting dirtier and dirtier." Perlin's film "Possible Models" (2004) also explores the strange realities of the post-9/11 world. It uses stop-animation to follow a handwritten narrative about a man arrested in a plot to blow up a shopping mall. The writing compares various statistics about the Mall of America in Minnesota and the Mall of Arabia in Dubai -- using raw numbers as commentary about unabated hyper-commercialism. The video "Sight Reading" explores failure. On three screens, three pianists play for the first time Schumann's Piano Concerto. They start together. As each makes a mistake, that pianist's screen goes black for five seconds before continuing. The others continue uninterrupted -- until they make a mistake and their screen goes black. What begins as


familiar music ends up as disjointed dissonance -- but with each pianist laboring honestly to create artistic perfection. "She is interested in exploring what happens in that moment when we press the wrong key, and how do we decide to keep going?" Geha said. Perlin's work is simple and elegiac. Her films arrest you. They make you think. "Art can be experienced in an instance, but I think once you slow down and try to experience something it is much more gratifying," Geha said. "Even if it is something you don't like. If you can sit there and wonder, 'Why don't I like this?' instead of dismissing it, I think it can enrich you."


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Worlds within Worlds Fionn Meade Once considered primarily the domain of William Kentridge, many more artists have recently begun to incorporate animation into their works as the technology becomes more affordable. Consequently, a host of young artists are beginning to establish themselves largely on the strength of their animated works. Laleh Khorramian and Jenny Perlin are two such artists, and, through very different means, each uses animation to construct dazzlingly unique meta-universes.

Laleh Khorramian Still from Chopperlady (work in progress) Digital animation Courtesy the artist Animations, the 2001 exhibit at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, made abundantly clear that forcing a taxonomy upon as hybridized an art form as animation is hopeless. And, perhaps, missing the point. Consider, for example, Phillippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe’s two videos in Animations featuring Annlee, a ready-to-use anime character the artists purchased from a Japanese cartoon agency to revive with episodic and collectively-designed denouement as an illustration of the global and pervasive reach of simulated life. The Annlee project was shown alongside William Kentridge’s Memo, which served as a prominent reminder of the hand-drawn origins of the medium and its ability to transport and encompass a highly personal vision through entirely low-tech means. The contrast reveals something about the trend toward animation in the art world over the last few years; namely, the basic tools are now accessible and affordable enough that artists can experiment with the form. The medium’s inherently allegorical nature, whether withdrawn into formal concerns or overtly referential, seems to attract artists with an auteur’s sensibility, but its relative obscurity in the art world makes it something of a clean slate for young artists. Paul Chan’s densely crowded political forays come to mind—Happiness (Finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization (After Henry Darger and Charles Fourier), for instance—as do Shazia Sikander’s meditative transpositions of Indo-Persian miniature painting into digital cartoons. Even Karen Yasinsky’s stop-motion figurines, with their domestic worries and handmade charm, exhibit a desire to step away from conventional formats to inhabit territory with its own rules. Laleh Khorramian and Jenny Perlin (whose work was also included in Animations) are two artists on the cutting edge of animation’s maturation in the art world. The labor-intensive drawing in Perlin’s stop-motion films weds the intrinsically romantic texture of 16mm to a discursive style that ranges through historically-minded topics, creating films that turn on wit, well-researched subject matter, and sudden moments of intimacy. Khorramian, meanwhile, uses basic animation software to travel anew through her studio practice as a painter and printmaker, discovering latent worlds to awaken. While the jittery and ghostly construction of Perlin’s work is additive (her sequences are deliberately arranged frame-by-frame and drawn out), Khorramian proceeds intuitively and fluidly, re-envisioning the formal possibilities of work she’s already completed while also finding the way to her next series of prints or paintings. Idiosyncratic and demonstrably committed to animation as an exploratory medium, Khorramian and Perlin are offering unique contributions to this subset of film and video art.

Jenny Perlin Still fromPossible Models (2004) 16mm b/w film Courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam

Revising and reviving successful and discarded works, Khorramian employs animation as an aerial survey of her own work. Begun in the last year of her MFA studies at Columbia University, Khorramian’s Sophie and Goya (currently showing as part of P.S.1’s Greater New York) reconstitutes fragments of her previous works—monotype prints, pen and ink drawings, cutouts, oil paint textures, and odd studio remnants—as a journey into an unmoored landscape. Never quite allowing itself to become a narrative, the ten-minute film follows a character setting out through an illuminated and abstracted forest. The traveler lopes along before a color-saturated backdrop as the viewer is diverted into a series of dizzying sidesteps—a stop-motion tightrope across a concert hall, a vertiginous ramble through the hallways of a remembered home, a step into a clearing where gravity loses its grip and visages float by—only to return to Sophie ambling across what proves to be a welcomingly tranquil rendition of the dark woods.

Laleh Khorramian Still from Sophie and Goya (2004) Digital animation with sound Courtesy the artist

Not to overstate any Dantean connection—the otherness here is one of multiples and abundance rather than underworldly portent—but Khorramian’s imagination circles intently, moving towards an inevitable encounter, yet ready to veer off into enticing nooks and small discoveries. The captivating terrain is evocative and diverse—studies in depth of field, miniatures derived from abstract landscapes—but Khorramian always returns to the simple pace of a journey undertaken.

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The left-to-right gambol of the main character holds the miscellany together, serving a role not unlike a musical motif, lending an oddly epic feeling to a brisk and enthralling film. While Sophie and Goya transposes previous works into a crepuscular land, the next leg of Khorramian’s animated travels—the second in a planned trilogy—will be shown in September along with related source work as part of a solo show at Salon 94 in New York City. Jenny Perlin arranges codes, statistics, animated texts, minimal drawings, and live-action footage in her formally unique film essays. By turns erudite, wryly comic, and beautiful, Perlin’s films juxtapose animated images with stop-motion renderings of appropriated texts (a 1915 self-help manual, miscellaneous receipts, Freud’s On Mourning and Melancholia, for instance). The often banal excerpts spring to life in proximity to their visual counterpart. In Schumann, for example, the composer’s piano concerto in A minor provides the framework for a seven-minute film that explores imminent collapse. Stop-motion snippets of the infamously febrile composer’s score are drawn out, a structuring device for a film that begins with drawings of the Brooklyn Bridge and animated lists of associated statistics and phobias, then shifts to stop-motion renderings of self-help wisdom extracted from various websites on how to supress anxiety, interspersed with Perlin’s minimal drawings of trees pruned or tethered to grow in determined patterns. The result is an unsettling portrait of personal and cultural anxiety. Perlin’s other short films demonstrate a similar ability to conflate wide-ranging curiosities in a condensed style that recalls the early writings of Walter Benjamin or the prose of poet Susan Howe. And Perlin’s most recent installation work, Sight Reading, a multi-channel video piece recently shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, promises intriguing variations in scale and format. Khorramian and Perlin’s impressively inventive work is breathing new life into the medium of animation. Their recent pieces are self-contained worlds, following only the rules they assign. Drawn in to a close rapport with sequencing, self-reference, and the use of motif, the wonder of filmmaking—ever in the process of becoming—is made direct and tangible in their work. A newly rediscovered freedom to bring entire worlds to life is well within reach.

Fionn Meade is a writer and curator living in Seattle. Laleh Khorramian will be screening Chopperlady, the second film in her animated trilogy—along with other works—at an upcoming solo exhibit at Salon 94, New York, during September and October. For more information, visit: www.salon94.com

Jenny Perlin Stills from Schumann (2002) 16mm b/w film Courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam

Jenny Perlin has upcoming shows at Wichita State University’s Ulrich Museum of Art and at Galerie M+R Fricke in Dusseldorf. For more information on Perlin, visit her website: www.nilrep.net Works by both Khorramian and Perlin were recently added to the e-flux video rental project, a library of artists' videos selected by over 50 international curators. For more information, visit: www.e-flux.com

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“Stumbling Through: The Pursuit of Error in Sight Reading” by Claire Barliant Memory, sight, and interpretation are thematically intertwined in Jenny Perlin’s seven-minute, three-channel video installation, Sight Reading (2004). Sight Reading consists of three projections lined up next to each other on the wall, like a frieze. Each projection shows the same setting: a grand piano in a large, sun-lit room. Sitting at each piano is a classically trained, skilled pianist. Before them is the same piece of music that none have ever seen before: Robert Schumann’s piano concerto in A minor. They begin at the same time, lunging at the piano, unleashing a storm of chords. Then one of them hits a wrong note, barely discernible to the average listener. That pianist’s projection goes black for five seconds. When it returns, it is not at the point where it left off, but five seconds later. The length of the cut coincides with the “real” time of the performance. Each time a pianist makes a mistake, their screen goes black, a ruthless system that throws the trio completely out of synch so that the music eventually devolves into total cacophony. Perlin’s intervention in the video counters our usual understanding of the purpose of editing: to give an appearance of seamlessness. One is not supposed to notice the skips and breaks. Editing is a process designed to hide errors, not draw attention to them. Each time there is a cut in Sight Reading it forbids us to slip into a reverie caused by watching a seemingly flawless performance. The cuts have a dual function: not only do they signal that one of the pianists struck the wrong key, they alert us to our roles as spectators watching a video of a performance. The gesture made by Perlin in the video editing is undeniable evidence of the artist’s hand, and it reminds us that we are watching a recording that has been altered, thereby destroying the fiction that what we are watching is somehow objective, or “true,” because it has been captured by a camera. We not only see the limitations of the medium, we see our own limitations as viewers. The philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer theorized that in music, the work of art is in the performance, not the score, which basically functions as a set of directions. Sight Reading complicates the question of interpretation. Or rather, it changes it. The question is no longer what is a work of art, but when? Each time the concerto is performed, it is different. How can we discern the true work of art? Is it the musical notation, the performance, or the video documentation? The published score is perfect in contrast with the performances, which are riddled with mistakes. Do the mistakes make the performances more authentic as works of art? Can the score and the performances exist as separate works of art? In a way, these questions don’t matter. In Sight Reading, the editing supercedes (aggressively) any of the other works of art—the composition, the performances—taking place in the piece.

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Time-based art—which includes both music and video—is intrinsically tied to memory. The audience identifies certain themes that are of central importance to understanding the work; these are built upon and explored as the work develops and expands. Musical or visual cues prompt the audience to anticipate the next movement or event in the work. But the totality is elusive: you can never experience it as a whole, as Proust explains in Remembrance of Things Past: Even after I heard the Sonata through and through, it still remained all but invisible to me, like a monument almost entirely effaced by distance or a hazy mist. This explains the melancholy bound to the knowledge of artworks, and of things that unfold in time. When finally the most secretive part of Vinteuil’s Sonata unveiled itself, I had already begun to lose the fleeting trace of what my preference had distinguished, all of it blown away by the forces of listening habit quite beyond my heart’s command. Thus, grasping only successively at the beloved moments of this Sonata, I never possessed it as one body: it was like life.”1 Vinteuil’s Sonata was like life, never to be possessed as one body, because time-based work lives in the moment. As soon as the brain registers something—a scene, a chord—it is a memory. The interruptions in Sight Reading don’t advance the piece forward in time, not only because they prevent us from hearing the piece progress, but because they have nothing to do with time—they are blanks, voids, gaps in what is otherwise a linear and structured succession of musical notes. The cuts bring us to attention. They remind us that we are seeing and participating in a work of art. Viewing a work of art, or listening to a piece of music, takes us outside of ourselves. “When I listen to music I really love, I see it in my head, it occupies a part of my brain that is reserved for that purpose alone,” says Perlin.2 “It changes the whole tempo of my body.” Perlin, who has been singing in choruses since she was eleven, says that the best part about performing someone else’s work is “the sense that I’m disappearing and yet completely present.” Whether performing or listening, the feeling of giving in to the work coincides with letting go of any sense of the familiar and relinquishing any certainty about one’s place in the world. “Being outside oneself is the positive possibility of being wholly with something else,” Gadamer wrote. “This kind of being present is a self-forgetfulness, and to be a spectator consists in giving oneself in self-forgetfulness to what one is watching.”3 *

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1 Marcel Proust, A la recherché du temp perdu. 3 vols. Eds. Pierre Clarac and Andre Ferre. (Paris: Gallimard, 1954), 530; quoted in Didier Maleuvre, Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 77. 2 Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Jenny Perlin are taken from an interview with the author on December 27, 2004. 3 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald Marshall (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Corporation, 1989),126.

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When Perlin first conceived of the idea for Sight Reading, she considered using Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Written in 1961, War Requiem is a passionate, defiant piece of music mourning the needless loss of young lives to war. The text intersperses the Latin Mass for the dead with nine poems by the poet Wilfred Owen, who was killed in World War I a week before Armistice.4 The tenor begins with these two lines from Owen’s poem, “Anthem for Doomed Youth:” What passing bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. War Requiem was performed in April of 2003 by the Julliard Choral Union at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Perlin sang in the chorus, and recalls that the dress rehearsal took place on April 9th, the day U.S. forces moved into Baghdad. Though she decided to use the piano concerto instead of War Requiem for Sight Reading, the idea of trauma persisted in her decision to use the Schumann composition. She had previously used that score for her animated film Schumann (2002), which began, she writes, “as an attempt to confront my own fears of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.” (By the time she finished the film, her phobia had disappeared.) Perlin made Schumann during a residency with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, whose studios used to be in the upper floors of the World Trade Center. After 9/11, the LMCC studios moved to temporary quarters in Brooklyn, overlooking the East River. From this vantage point, Perlin had a direct view of the scarred Manhattan skyline. At that time, she became deeply interested in Schumann, who suffered from anxiety for his entire life, and, while writing the concerto, had tremendous doubt about his ability to write for a virtuoso pianist. Drawn to what she calls the “myth” of Schumann, who eventually wound up in an asylum, the dramatic, emotional concerto acquired greater significance for Perlin in our post-9/11 world. Trauma is the unseen, silent thread underlying Sight Reading. It was present when the artist conceived the idea for the piece, having been inspired by Britten’s dramatic music, Owen’s powerful lyrics, and the war in Iraq. And the idea of trauma is present in the final work, in the abrupt adjournments of each pianist’s struggle to play the concerto correctly on the first try. Indeed, the editing of Sight Reading conjures the sudden, incommunicable and unassimilable nature of trauma. “Trauma can be experienced in at least two ways,” Avital Ronell writes, “both of which block normal channels

4

Retrieved from http://www.its.caltech.edu/~tan/Britten/britwar.html on January

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of transmission: as a memory that one cannot integrate into one’s own experience, and as a catastrophic knowledge that one cannot communicate to others.”5 Perlin’s decision to “block” or cut the mistakes from view mimics the jarring effect of trauma. The word “trauma” originally meant a physical wound, cut, or break. The notion of trauma as a psychological disorder can be traced to “railway spine,” or whiplash, a common problem in 19th-century Britain. Railway accidents caused some men to be susceptible to hysteria, rendering them unable to work and earn a living. By the century’s end, it was widely accepted that a terrible memory buried deep within the psyche could be manifested in physical form. “Instead of the remembering being what affected us,” writes Ian Hacking, “it was the forgotten.”6 There is a curious parallel, worth exploring, between the effects of trauma and experiencing a work of art for the first time, or creating a work of art. Both involve forgetfulness. What purpose does forgetfulness serve, especially when it comes to understanding works of art? We usually privilege knowledge. Vast, certain, undeviating, and accountable: what we know is what provides context, gives meaning, makes connections. Once it has been forgotten, knowledge is useless. It is unknown. It has sunk to the deepest and least accessible recesses of our brain, leaving a series of frustratingly empty gaps in its wake. And yet it is often in a state of forgetfulness that we are really able to experience a heightened awareness of the work of art. “Seeing is the act of forgetting the name of the thing one sees,” wrote Paul Valéry. Forgetfulness is also essential to making a work of art: “Each artist seems thus to be the native of an unknown country,” wrote Marcel Proust, “which he himself has forgotten.”7 The experience of trauma and the experience of art diverge radically from one another, of course. One can only keep up the comparison for so long, until the differences demand to be noticed. They are alike because both theoretically start at the same place: in the forgotten. But the experiences ‘end’ in completely opposite ways: where trauma deprives us of hope, art restores it. “What rends him from himself at the same time gives him back the whole of his being,” wrote Gadamer.8 Despite the difficulties encountered by the pianists as they play, all three manage to make it to the end of the concerto. While making the videos, Perlin interviewed the pianists about the act of sight reading. Constance Cooper

5 Avital Ronell, “Trauma TV: Twelve Steps Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” Finitude’s Score: Essays for the End of the Millenium (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 314. 6 Ian Hacking, “Memory Sciences, Memory Politics,” Tense Past: Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory, Eds. Paul Antze and Michael Lambek (New York: Routledge, 1996), 76. 7 Proust, A la recherché du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past, Vol. II, The Captive), trans. C.K. Scott Moncrieff (New York: Random House, 1932), 558. 8 Gadamer, 128.

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told the artist that the process of sight reading is automatic. There is no thinking, no “translation,” only action. And rather than regret the mistakes that are made, they become stepping stones toward knowledge, toward agency, because the mistakes offer the player “an awareness of something that’s there:” We used to say always: ‘second time’s worse.’ It’s almost always true, because you’re concentrating, the second time. It’s a different form of work. You’re no longer sight reading. So you miss the rhythm, or you miss the notes, or whatever, but the fact is that it’s an improvement, because it’s an awareness of something that’s there. It’s a wonderful thing to do, sight reading, and then to go on to work, because it triggers all this knowledge. You’re not just stumbling through even when you’re stumbling through.9

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Constance Cooper, interviewed by Jenny Perlin at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, March 28, 2003.

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January 28, 2005

Art in Review; 'Log Cabin' By HOLLAND COTTER

Artists Space 38 Greene Street, SoHo Through Feb. 26 Given the cultural climate, wedding bells won't be playing ''Over the Rainbow'' any time soon, and men and women won't be coming out of the closet and going into the Army. So what can Log Cabin Republicans, gay supporters of the ruling party, be thinking? This is the question asked, for the most part obliquely, by the 33 participants in a snappy, discursive group show at Artists Space that serves as a field report on what art with queer identity as a theme is looking like these days. As surveyed by the curator, Jeffrey Uslip, an associate director of the Project, a Manhattan gallery, it is looking good and heterogeneous. It is ambisexual in Cass Bird's portrait of a young woman in a baseball cap printed with the phrase ''I Look Just Like My Daddy.'' It's interracial in a video of the artists A.A. Bronson and Nayland Blake wearing white face and black face and sharing a passionate kiss. And it's multi-generational in a lineup that includes Jimmie Durham, born in 1940, at one end, and already accomplished 20-somethings like Glen Fogel, Terence Koh and Wardell Milan at the other. The show is very much about the present, but is grounded in the historical past, concretely so in documentary pieces by Jonathan Horowitz on Anita Bryant and Rock Hudson's death from AIDS, and in a Kelley Walker installation that includes a photograph of a police dog attacking a black man. And while there is a fair amount of exposed flesh on view in photo-based work by Ken Gonzales-Day, Matt Lipps, Dean Sameshima, Scott Treleaven and the team of Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny, invisibility, enforced or self-imposed, is a pervasive theme. It is implied in the figures missing from a Matt Keegan photograph, in a painting by Benjamin Kress that doubles as a mask, in subliminal text pieces by Glenn Ligon and Mark Verabioff, and in a superb film by Mr. Fogel in which embracing bodies are all but abstract. If women aren't exactly invisible here, there are too few. And the ones on hand turn in outstanding work, from Jenny Perlin's filmed animation of handwritten sodomy law texts; to Allison Smith's installation of carved wood Civil War era -- or is that civil rights era? -- rifles supporting a flag made from a quilt; to a video by Christy Gast in which one woman appears to be slowly and tenderly dressing another in layers of clothes. In fact, Ms. Gast has set the film in reverse: the scene she actually taped was one of undressing. Exposure -- physical, social or psychological -- is a potentially hazardous condition, as everyone knows. Coupledom and community are possible protective solutions. Artists like Mr. Bronson and Paul Pfeiffer (who is represented by Mr. Uslip's gallery) acknowledge them as such in their contributions; K8 Hardy, a member of the lesbian collective LTTR, suggests doubts in hers. Ultimately, of course, only when protection is built into law does it have a fighting chance of being secure. Then log cabins built as shelters in a wilderness can be exchanged for wide-open homes in a modern world. HOLLAND COTTER

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


JENNY PERLIN: GALLERY 400 BY JAMES YOOD ARTFORUM | SEPTEMBER 2004

The raspy clackety-clack of 16 mm cine projectors is already a poignant and wistful sound, and this exhibition of recent films and drawings by Jenny Perlin included four such projectors running nonstop. One of them showed Washing, 2002, a grainy, ten-second silent black-and-white loop of the artist washing a window in her Brooklyn studio, the Manhattan skyline visible outside. Poignant and wistful certainly but melancholic and forlorn to boot, the repetitive act of stroking the window through which Manhattan beckons seems an act of obeisance, an acknowledgment of the fractious relationship between Manhattan and Brooklyn, a paean to the city just an arm's reach away, a wish to serve and groom it. Of course, that skyline was radically transfigured just before 2002, and washing its vista also suggested a gesture of healing, of coaxing it back to life.

Some of the mundane realities of life in New York in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 also make up part of Rorschach, 2002, one of three hand-drawn animated 16 mm films shown here. Employing traditional stop-motion animation, the artist uses a 16 mm cine camera to photograph and rephotograph a sheet of paper as she gradually works up a drawing. When these individual frames of film are shown in sequence, the drawing seems to come to life before our eyes. Many of the several-second vignettes of which Rorschach is composed are slavishly copied ephemera such as

computerized

receipts, immigration questionnaires, and fortune-cookie aphorisms. Perlin's renderings of food receipts from September 18 and September 21, 2001, and the receipt headed I [love] NEW YORK from October 21, 2001, all become, through their very banality, powerful mementos.

Perlin is adept at excavating the paper trail we leave behind us every day--a true vernacular--and watching a computerized receipt for a purchase of Chinese note cards form itself before us immerses us in the ubiquity of the generic and the hidden implications of the mundane. The exhibition is titled "A worry-free life or your money back," and while we're unlikely to receive either one, the wish feels curiously soothing. Sight Reading, 2004, is a three-channel video projection, each image showing a

skilled musician seated at the same piano at different moments, playing Robert

Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor for the first time. It is mesmerizing to watch music being translated into physical action, creation in real time. Each musician approaches the piece slightly differently, and Perlin has edited the film so that if a pianist makes a mistake, his or her projection disappears for a few moments. These stops and starts are not obliterative punishment; rather, they show knowledge being earned, as each pianist communes with the composer, learning intricacies and replaying tough passages, less in a performative mode than in intense and solipsistic study. This is what Perlin is most intrigued by: our negotiation with the multiple languages that perpetually surround us. It is a process that may be clumsy or absurd, poetic or revelatory, but is most often awkward and incomplete, as we sight-read every step of the way.

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The Project 37 West 57th Street, Manhattan Through Aug. 21 As befits its title, which descends from W. B. Yeats's apocalyptic poem "Second Coming'' by way of Joan Didion's ''through a glass darkly'' book of essays on America in the 1960's, this smart if uneven group show meditates on the state of the nation, past and present. Organized by Jeffrey Uslip, the associate director at the Project, it also reflects on the tensions between corporate, counter and everyday culture, often by contrasting the roles of insiders and outsiders. Molly Corey, for example, makes small geodesic domes from photographs, including a group portrait of the members of the Redrock Commune in southern Colorado, where she spent her early childhood, and a close-up of wall text concerning ''The Hippie Scene,'' from a recent museum survey of California art. More didactically, Oscar Tuazon makes a small but habitable geodesic dome from sheets of metal, most printed with articles about osteoporosis (which afflicts many aging boomers). It contains a foam mattress and counterculture reading material like ''The Foxfire Book,'' which details how to live off the land. Jenny Perlin's ''Possible Models,'' one of the show's strongest works, sticks to the present with a short animated film in which charming, childlike script spells out letter by letter three distinctly uncharming narratives, whose subjects are the history of malls, a fictional cruise ship of the future and a real Somali immigrant charged with plotting a terrorist attack in Michigan. Karlis Rekevics's ''Submersive'' evokes free-floating paranoia, as well as the early-1970's sculptures of Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman and Joel Shapiro. It is a dourly elegant sculpture made of heavy plaster casts of thick planks of wood, traffic barriers and I-beams. More subversively, Michael Phelan and Jonah Freeman look back to late-1960's acid-rock poster art in two small, richly patterned hallucinatory images, printed on the sheets of blotter paper used to hold LSD, which are perforated with grids and resemble tiny quilts. These works are undampened by nostalgia (which cannot be said for Mr. Phelan's painting using a poster of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead) and make an excellent case for computer art. In this context, ''Learning From Las Vegas,'' a video compilation by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, suggests a culture in which false excuses are the norm and genuine apologies rare. Julie Becker's photographs evoke the lair of an anarchist who may be plotting to cart off an office building. Fritz Welch and Gedi Sibony cobble together found materials and objects to make disjunctive commentaries on the real or the abstract. Rachel Harrison evokes some kind of excess with a multicolored chunk of foam resting on a bed of plastic straws, while Matt Johnson improves on the classic ''honey bear'' dispenser with a cast-brass cap that keeps the honey near the working end of the bottle. Using a rediscovered, disintegrating tape of his own music, the composer William Basinski creates a sound piece reminiscent of a Hollywood movie theme. It sounds grand but never goes anywhere except downhill, creating an aural slouch that echoes through the show and is an apt metaphor for all kinds of current situations. ROBERTA SMITH


New York Times ART IN REVIEW 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' By ROBERTA SMITH Published: August 13, 2004 Slouching Towards Bethlehem' The Project 37 West 57th Street, Manhattan Through Aug. 21 As befits its title, which descends from W. B. Yeats's apocalyptic poem "Second Coming" by way of Joan Didion's "through a glass darkly" book of essays on America in the 1960's, this smart if uneven group show meditates on the state of the nation, past and present. Organized by Jeffrey Uslip, the associate director at The Project, it also reflects on the tensions between corporate, counter and everyday culture, often by contrasting the roles of insiders and outsiders. Molly Corey, for example, makes small geodesic domes from photographs, including a group portrait of the members of the Redrock Commune in southern Colorado, where she spent her early childhood, and a close-up of wall text concerning "The Hippie Scene," from a recent museum survey of California art. More didactically, Oscar Tuazon makes a small but habitable geodesic dome from sheets of metal, most printed with articles about osteoporosis (which afflicts many aging boomers). It contains a foam mattress and counterculture reading material like "The Foxfire Book," which details how to live off the land. Jenny Perlin's "Possible Models," one of the show's strongest works, sticks to the present with a short animated film in which charming, childlike script spells out letter by letter three distinctly uncharming narratives, whose subjects are the history of malls, a fictional cruise ship of the future and a real Somali immigrant charged with plotting a terrorist attack in Michigan. Karlis Rekevics's "Submersive" evokes free-floating paranoia, as well as the early-1970's sculptures of Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman and Joel Shapiro. It is a dourly elegant sculpture made of heavy plaster casts of thick planks of wood, traffic barriers and I-beams. More subversively, Michael Phelan and Jonah Freeman look back to late-1960's acid-rock poster art in two small, richly patterned hallucinatory images, printed on the sheets of blotter paper used to hold LSD, which are perforated with grids and resemble tiny quilts. These works are undampened by nostalgia (which cannot be said for Mr. Phelan's painting using a poster of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead) and make an excellent case for computer art. In this context, "Learning From Las Vegas," a video compilation by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, suggests a culture in which false excuses are the norm and genuine apologies rare. Julie Becker's photographs evoke the lair of an anarchist who may be plotting to cart off an office building. Fritz Welch and Gedi Sibony cobble together found materials and objects to make disjunctive commentaries on the real or the abstract. Rachel Harrison evokes some kind of excess with a multicolored chunk of foam resting on a bed of plastic straws, while Matt Johnson improves on the classic "honey bear" dispenser with a cast-brass cap that keeps the honey near the working end of the bottle. Using a rediscovered, disintegrating tape of his own music, the composer William Basinski creates a sound piece reminiscent of a Hollywood movie theme. It sounds grand but never goes anywhere except downhill, creating an aural slouch that echoes through the show and is an apt metaphor for all kinds of current situations. ROBERTA SMITH

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