Expanding Screens

February 27 – March 18

For decades, film and television dominated the way cultural images and iconography were created and sustained. With the rise of the Internet, social media, and forms of interactive entertainment like video games, new channels emerged that have come to define an era of networked, hyper-accessible digital content. Accordingly, artists and filmmakers have taken to these media with expressive, critical sensibilities that have re-defined our understanding of what “found footage” filmmaking can become. Works in this final phase of the exhibition explore how an ever-expanding world of screens have permeated our shared reality and shaped how we communicate, the impact we have on our natural world, and compel us to ask urgent questions as to how we will evolve as a technological species.

1: Kevin B. Lee / Transformers: The Premake

Assembled from amateur YouTube videos uploaded from Utah, Texas, Detroit, Chicago, Hong Kong and mainland China, Lee presents an excavation of the making of Michael Bay’s blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014). The litany of “behind the scenes” footage reveals how social media and online video have fundamentally shifted how Hollywood film production exists in the world and how these forces have changed the ways we consume and understand the traditional “blockbuster.”

Learn more about how Kevin B. Lee made this desktop documentary by reading his account on the artist’s website.

Transformers: The Premake (2014, Kevin B. Lee, digital video)

 2: Louis Henderson / All That Is Solid

Henderson, employing poetic verse, describes All That Is Solid as a work:

…that takes place.

In between a hard place,

a hard drive,

and

an imaginary,

a soft space – the cloud that holds my data.

And in the soft grey matter,

Contained within the head.

And the many images, captured from Henderson’s desktop, contained in the work reflect the histories of colonial extraction of natural resources from Africa’s western coast. These resources (gold and other precious metals) are ultimately used to create computer technologies to benefit foreign corporate interests. Henderson, using archival footage in addition to online video, texts, and images, crafts a self-reflective examination of these colonial histories while portraying the real, physical costs of “cloud computing” and other technological advances.

All That Is Solid (2014, Louis Henderson, digital video)

3: Brett Kashmere / Cleaning the Glass

Captured entirely from the filmmaker’s desktop computer screen, Cleaning the Glass explores the growing convergence between American sports, politics, and race. The collage of images, news items, and videos reveals a society still grappling with centuries-old tensions and examines how these issues are, literally and figuratively, played out on the court, field, and pitch.

Kashmere describes Cleaning the Glass as a “desktop postscript” to a longer film, From Deep (2013-2014), a feature-length experimental documentary about the game of basketball and its shifting place within 20th century American history and culture.

Learn more about Kashmere’s films exploring sports, politics, and American culture by visiting the artist’s website.

Cleaning the Glass (2016, Brett Kashmere, digital video)

4: Jennifer Proctor / A MOVIE by Jen Proctor

In editing together a diverse set of clips from YouTube and LiveLeak, Jen Proctor re-imagines Bruce Connor’s seminal found footage film A MOVIE (1958) for the digital era. In the 1958 original, Conner assembles clips from newsreels, westerns, soft-core pornography, travelogues, and other sources to create a dizzying procession of images depicting the triumphs and follies of the human experience. Depicting a wide scope of activities—from bombs dropping to cars crashing to bridges collapsing—A MOVIE splices together a tapestry of our collective fears, desires, and aspirations culled from popular culture, re-presenting them to the audience in a provocative and, at times, unsettling manner. Proctor, in an almost shot-for-shot remake, carries this method into the 21st century and explores how these historical and visual icons have both evolved and remained the same over the intervening decades. Proctor’s A MOVIE sources materials from the deep well of video content offered by the online world, commenting on the pervasiveness of material available for re-appropriation and how this ever-expanding flow of information continues to reflect the fears, desires, and aspirations of contemporary society—all of which are now funneled through social media channels, streaming video, and a global network of interconnected digital devices.


Watch Conner’s original side-by-side with Proctor’s remake to see these works in direct dialogue with each other.

A MOVIE by Jen Proctor (2010-2012, Jennifer Proctor, digital video, 11:45)

5: Phil Solomon / Rehearsals for Retirement

Solomon’s haunting, atmospheric exploration of loss and grief was made entirely within the virtual world of the video game Grand Theft Auto following the death of his lifelong friend, the filmmaker Mark Lapore. Floating through the computer-generated landscape devoid of players and the action of the original game, the viewer encounters a series of poetically charged moments evoking both melancholy and wonder at what might await us after death. 

The title of Solomon’s piece was taken from the work of American songwriter, Phil Ochs. Read the lyrics to his original song.

Rehearsals for Retirement (2007, Phil Solomon, digital video)

6: Evan Meaney & Amy Szczepanski / Big_Sleep™

Big_Sleep™ is a documentary and poetic essay-film taking place entirely within the space of the artist’s computer desktop. Multiple windows open to display video clips, text, images, and software, often overlapping and drawing the viewer’s attention to multiple places at once. The work explores the “archival urge,” or the collective desire to indefinitely preserve the films, photographs, documents, and other objects which constitute a record of the past, and the many challenges related to sustaining these collections in museums, archives, and other collecting institutions. Using the work of William Birch, one of the most prolific newsreel cinematographers of the 20th century, as a kind of case-study, Big_Sleep™ surveys the efforts of archivists to preserve motion-pictures using digital technology and reveals the inherently melancholy and existential nature of this labor. Through multiple voice-overs with experts in the field and the use of archival audio, viewers hear explanations of preservation and digitization processes alongside intimate recordings made between Birch and his family, infusing the technical challenges of preservation with a dimension of humanity and strong emotional themes. The paradox of digitization—that it both increases access to archival materials but puts it at great risk of loss due to file corruption and technological changes—begs questions related to how and if future generations will be able to access materials from our current moment and how “found footage” filmmaking will persist.

Additionally, as part of their larger project exploring archival practices, Meaney and his collaborators developed the Big_Sleep™ Media Encoder, a tool for preserving digital data in a permanently stable but permanently inaccessible file-format. This piece also serves a “software demo” of this process wherein the clips shown are also being encoded into this format.

Learn more about the larger Big_Sleep™ project by visiting the artist’s website

Big_Sleep™ (2015, Evan Meaney, digital video, 27:44)

7: Peggy Ahwesh / She Puppet

Well-known video-game heroine Lara Croft takes on a very different mission and persona when controlled by filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh. Captured and edited over months of playing the original Tomb Raider, She Puppet re-centers the viewer/player’s attention on Croft’s entrapment in an artificial world of rendered polygons full of roving enemies. A series of voice-overs read excerpts from critical texts by feminist science-fiction author Joanna Russ, Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, and jazz icon Sun Ra, imbuing the video game’s landscapes of with an otherworldly eeriness that also feels strangely familiar.

She Puppet (2001, Peggy Ahwesh, digital video)

8: Jeanne Liotta / Sweet Dreams

Originally created as a karaoke video as part of the PDX Film Festival, Jeanne Liotta’s playful romp in the Second Life® universe takes place at the virtual destination Beneath the Tree That Died created by the artist AM Radio. Following Liotta’s avatar through a cosmic, surreal voyage, a viewer is invited to reimagine the 80s pop hit “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics in their own, unique way.

Sweet Dreams (2009, Jeanne Liotta, digital video)

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