Video Mundi | Festival | Chicago Reader

Video Mundi 

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Presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, this six-day festival of experimental film and video runs Tuesday, March 4, through Sunday, March 9. Screenings this week are at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Washington, and admission is free; for more information call 312-744-6630. Programs marked with an * are highly recommended. The schedule for March 4 through 6 follows; a full festival schedule through March 9 is available on-line at www.chicagoreader.com.

TUESDAY, MARCH 4

* Beyond the Poseidon Adventure

In the strongest of these 14 videos, Ricardo Nicolayevsky's The Big Whack (2002), rapid cutting produces a shearing effect: each image seems to tear at the surface of the last. Close-ups of human faces are juxtaposed with circus footage, and the apparent murder of a woman lends an apocalyptic tone to the images of an exhibitionist mass culture. Ximena Cuevas, the Mexican video artist who curated the program, demonstrates her interest in surreal and humorous media commentary with Lorenza Manriquez's Vitesse Revolvers, in which a woman's deadly encounter with two slimy toughs becomes a cheery gun commercial, and There Is No Remedy, a charming reflection on childhood fancy in which a little girl rescues a cooked fish off a dinner plate, drops it into an aquarium, but discovers that her incantations won't bring it back to life. And in Carolina Esparragoza's The Martian That I Saw a split screen contrasts UFO footage with a crude flying-saucer cartoon, making the latter seem almost plausible. 49 min. (FC) (Chicago Cultural Center, 6:30)

Ladies and Boys and Touching

New York curator Astria Suparak describes the creation of these shorts as "practicing our (dance) moves until perfection is reached," and most of these 11 videos (and two audio works) focus on the body as an instrument. Among the best are Alex Villar's Upward Mobility and Jennifer Sullivan's Dancing Girls, both from 2002: in the first a man climbs brick walls and building facades just as a skateboarder might interact with urban spaces, exploring locales with minimal means, and the second shows young girls dancing in the 80s. The opening dancer does a mechanical routine whose rote movements and facial expressions betray her unease, and some later ones look unhappy too, as if dancing for pushy parents. An amusing untitled piece (2001) by Zakery Weiss parodies the pretentiousness of artists' statements with a rolling title about Weiss's search for "higher truth--in the truest sense possible." Less engaging is Humane Restraint (2002), in which video maker Ann Weathersby buries a woman up to her neck in sand; the neosurrealist conceit recalls 1960s art films, but the banal zooms and close-ups fail to enliven the subject. 81 min. (FC) (Chicago Cultural Center, 8:30)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5

Short films and videos from L'Alternativa

Ten works from the festival of independent cinema in Barcelona. Elena de la Vara curated the program, which totals 69 minutes. (Chicago Cultural Center, 6:30)

Random Acts of Fitness

Andrea Grover, director of the Aurora Picture Show in Houston, curated this program of ten short works. 48 min. (Chicago Cultural Center, 8:30)

THURSDAY, MARCH 6

E-motional Discharge

Jan Schuijren, an independent curator in Amsterdam and Cologne, assembled this video program about "love and loss," but the two longest works fail to cohere. Kurt d'Haeseleer's File (2000), ostensibly about the collapse of a relationship, is an undigested mix of ringing phones, lone figures, and out of focus imagery. The concept behind Guillaume Graux's PDOA (Public Display of Affection) (2000) is more original--couples make out on the street and in a supermarket--but the soulless dolly shots deaden rather than heighten the video's incipient eroticism. Julika Rudelius's The Highest Point (2002) is intriguing if only for its subject. Women describe their sex lives in intimate detail, sometimes demonstrating positions, and seeing them fully clothed in antiseptic white rooms creates a clinical distance that's weirdly appropriate. Three videos by Tina Gonsalves complete the program. 75 min. (FC) (Chicago Cultural Center, 6:30)

* Mismanaging My Image

Works based on found footage often lapse into cliched humor--like the rapid intercutting of zoo animals and a wedding in Wago Kredier's To Hug You and Squeeze You (2001). But the other four works on this program, curated by Canadian Alex MacKenzie, use found-footage montage to create an engaging sense of fragmentation, their juxtapositions straddling the border between sense and nonsense. The strongest, Brittany Gravely's Introduction to Living in a Closed System (2001), is a labyrinth of images, diagrams, and intertitles that contrasts "closed systems"--cable cars, monorails, geodesic domes--with views of nature, critiquing technology (the title "Transportation" is followed by images of a tiny dog scurrying around). Imitations of Life (2001) surveys disaster imagery from Hollywood movies while titles articulate "our desire to destroy everything." Director Mike Hoolboom includes both the microscopic (cells) and the macroscopic (galaxies), the disparity between them generating a sense of free-floating displacement. Also showing: John Davis's Candide (2001) and Brian Warsing and Jason Asbell's A Film for Schools (2002). 69 min. (FC) (Chicago Cultural Center, 8:30)

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