I’ll Be Around

Above:  Replica of the Artists Television Access’ storefront by Jeremy Rourke

Jeremy Rourke performed I’ll Be Around last Saturday night at Other Cinema, the culmination of a year long residency at Artists’ Television Access, sponsored by the Creative Work Fund. Storyteller, stop motion animator, bard, Rourke drenches his multimedia masterpiece in good old fashioned love. With cinematic song and dance, he glorifies the gritty, amplifies the edgy, and celebrates over 30 years of underground activity. He also offers excavated evidence:  ancient video missives from founders Marshall Weber and Lise Swenson, a self-propelled eviction letter from the late-80s, and a dizzying montage of former playbills.

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Founder Lise Swenson promotes ATA as a resource for underground filmmakers in a decades-old video.

While I’ll Be Around barely grazes the exhaustive range of film and performance that has taken place over that 30-year span, it highlights the transitional nature of the space itself, as well as its abiding presence. Assisted by his own handmade dioramic reproduction of ATA’s storefront, Rourke narrates architectural changes — evolving screen shapes, bathroom demolitions — and explores the sidewalk scenery outside, a hat tip to ATA’s role as a vital contributor to Valencia Street. In one hilarious scene, a toy skeleton cartwheels across the walls, dancing with every detail and doorbell.  It’s quite the giddy experience to watch the room in which you are sitting get so gleefully dissected on screen, both spatially and temporally.

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Jeremy Rourke discusses recent bathroom demolition.

I’ll Be Around concludes with a quadra-spectral tribute to the archive beneath the floorboards owned by filmmaker, archivist, and longtime curator of the Other Cinema series, Craig Baldwin. A song constructed from 16mm film titles ensues as Rourke unleashes the poetics of educational film nomenclature.

  • Sky and the Telescope
  • What Time Is It In Tokyo
  • Let’s Watch Plants Grow
  • Dihedral Kaleidoscopes
  • The Day That Sang and Cried
  • The Behavior of Light
  • Between Sail and Satellite

 

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For those of us who have enjoyed Artists’ Televison Access for decades, Rourke’s generous reverberating ballad is a fitting tribute to our beloved San Francisco arts space.  We can only hope against hope that our favorite underground venue will last another 30 years.

Pixilation Prodigies at Other Cinema

ATA Gallery was stuffed to the gills last night with an audience eager to injest a program of high caliber, mostly local animation work. Politically-tinged experimental shorts introduced the show, then Jeremy Rourke transported us through dreamy ruminations of his shifting studio coordinates in Goodbye Cole/Hello Tunnel. Cutouts of vintage imagery, postcards springing into action, and layers of clay, video, and pencil peeled off into nested realities. Adding spoken word, song, and guitar, Rourke jumped on and off a podium to interact with the projections in surprising ways. With exuberant splash, his inventions brought the audience to cheers. I highly recommend you look out for more performances of Jeremy Rourke, possibly next season at Other Cinema!

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Facing West Shadow Opera then performed an ode to Walt Whitman, celebrating links between opera and nature in the settling of the Wild West. Two opera singers and a cello gave a flawless classical performance. However, music outpaced the visuals. Delicate and beautiful shadow puppets required surer hands and precise direction. At times their movements felt more awkward than graceful. The narrative, with bulky intertitles, fell flat.

The Academy Award nominated short Last Day of Freedom, directed by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, concluded the program with a somber note. It told the story of Manny Babbitt, a traumatized Vietnam war veteran who ended up on death row through a tragic miscarriage of justice. The pencil drawn animation and rotoscoping of the veteran’s brother sensitively expressed this disturbing story.

Photos by Kristin Cato

Miwa Matreyek at New Strands Festival

The first annual New Strands Festival took place this weekend over four days at A.C.T.’s renovated Strand Theater near Civic Center.  The festival brings in works-in-progress and invites innovative media work that crosses disciplines. I saw only one hour-long program:  The World Made Itself and Myth and Infrastructure, by Miwa Matreyek. The event was free and the audience small, but it stunned me enough to affirm this space offers Bay Area theater an exciting new platform for experimental artists.

Matreyek performs her animations by literally stepping into them, behind a film screen.  Her silhouette interacts with a flow of outrageously gorgeous imagery.  This graceful shadow dance depends on precision and timing, as it must match the movements on screen.  She uses a unique technique combining rear screen and frontal projection so her form passes between planes of the image.  She appears to stumble between buildings, or to reach an arm into a forest of trees.  The animations become three dimensional, popping out around her shadow.  At one moment, the shadow wraps its arms around a baby,  amid ruins of the World Trade Center, a scene that reasserts the theme of perpetual creation, yet a remembrance of the motherless children who survived.

At other times, her meandering form represents the Creatrix exploring all corners of Her world, who then swims bewilderedly through it.  She coaxes exquisite ferns into existence, liberates the amphibians, and measures millennia with a yardstick.  Cities sparkle with electric twinkling.  Yet both films question the future, and humanity’s out-of-proportion tendency to raze all that came before it, a victim of its own escalation and machinery.

The experience was a true find, exceeding expectations.  Check out her work here which includes glimpses of her performing behind the screen.