Harun Farocki - Die Schulung AKA Indoctrination (1987)

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"This film is about a five-day seminar designed to teach executives how to "sell themselves" better. This course, designed for managers, teaches the basic rules of dialectics and rhetorics and provides training in body language, gesture and facial expression. The aim of selling something has always been a principle of mercantile action. Yet it was only through the marriage of psychology and modern capitalism that the idea of selling oneself was perfected." - Lutz Hachmeister, television journalist and professor of communications.












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at 11:40 AM  

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy - Soft Rains & Our Second Date (2003)

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In this new series of works, the McCoys present electronic installations that examine narrative spaces. Extending from previous work of databased television and film material, the artists new work further explores the idea that thought, experience and memory are structured through genre and repetition.

Entering the gallery, the viewer sees seven platforms each containing a tiny fragmentary film set. The platforms each embody images and sounds from a particular cinematic genre (the eighties slasher, the fifties melodrama, the sixties art film, etc). The platform/genres can each stand autonomously or together they produce a cinema-hopping amalgamation of themes and eras. Over 50 miniature video cameras and lights are suspended over the sets, creating a new filmic entity generated live. By exposing the film sets together with their film, the McCoys expose and yet retain the magic of movie-making. We can see the working parts of the apparatus, but are still won over by the whole. The sets themselves are an exploded spatial view of what one experiences temporally in film.

The images are shot by several cameras simultaneously, each from its own angle, each focused on a different area of the set, and the multipart compound of images that these cameras together create is then sent to a computer running custom software that picks from the range of choices, “editing” it into the seven movies.The McCoys handle the passage of time by spreading “actors” and locations out in space to represent different moments, which are then intercut onscreen to suggest movement in time and place. Each story is told in six to ten shots.

In the rear gallery, the McCoys present “Our Second Date”. This piece extends the form of “Soft Rains” by including the artists themselves within the constructed narrative. In “Our Second Date”, the couple can be seen watching a movie which is being created adjacent to them on a rotating set. This piece begins a new cycle of work which examines the role that media has played in the development of the artists' relationship.






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at 8:29 PM  

Martha Rosler - Secrets from the Street: No Disclosure (1980)

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1980, 12:20 min, color, sound
Secrets From the Street examines the intersection of cultures and classes as exemplified by the street life of San Francisco's Mission District. This videotape, produced for an exhibition held jointly at San Francisco's City Hall and its Museum of Modern Art, argues — against the show's theme, Secrets From the Street: No Disclosure — that accounts of cultural life that omit the question of social power are mythical: The real "secret" is the obscured relation of economic and political domination exercised by one's own culture over the observed subculture. Or, as Rosler states in the tape's voiceover, "The secret is that to know the meaning of a culture you must know the limits of meaning of your own."

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at 8:27 PM  

Yoko Ono & John Lennon - Rape (1969)

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In November 1968 work began on one of one of John & Yoko's most ambitious film ventures, a 75-minute mini-feature called Rape. It starred Eva Majlata, a 21 year old Hungarian actress who couldn't speak English. She cannot escape the prying attentions of the camera which follows her around the streets of London, through a park, allowing her no privacy and almost causing her to walk into the path of a truck. She attempts to escape in a taxi, but is still followed. She is eventually cornered in an apartment from which she apparently cannot escape and her tearful pleas to the camera remain ignored. Rape was shot when John and Yoko were both at Great Charlotte Street Hospital following Yoko's miscarriage. The cameraman was Nick Knowland, who worked on most of John and Yoko's productions.

The film received its world premiere on Austrian Television on 31st March 1969. That year it was also shown at the Montreux Television Festival and the Mannheim Film Festival. A day after the Austrian TV broadcast John and Yoko held a press conference in Vienna. John commented: "We are showing how all of us are exposed and under pressure in our contemporary world. This isn't just about the Beatles. What is happening to this girl on the screen is happening in Biafra, Vietnam, everywhere." The theme of the relentless, clinical camera lens, 'raping' the privacy of individuals or groups for the entertainment of the viewing public intrigued critic Willie Frischauer, who wrote in the Evening Standard; "This film does for the age of television what Franz Kafka's The Trial did for the age of totalitarianism."










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at 1:40 PM  

Ange Leccia - Perfect Day (2007)

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Latest Ange Leccia video. A recollection of almost 40 years of career.
A giant image-jukebox, from early 70s autoportrait to films for Alain Bashung / Elli Medeiros, private karaokes to "video sculptures" applied to John Travolta or Maria Callas, and much much more.




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at 11:26 AM  

Marine Hugonnier - Ariana (2003)

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Ariana was a major three-part film and photographic project that was shown concurrently at Chisenhale Gallery and MW Projects in Shoreditch, east London.

Ariana investigated the relationship between landscape and history. It explored ideas of utopia and resistance, questioning the tools of cinema and western ideas of viewpoint and panorama. Recorded in Afghanistan during 2002, Ariana details a journey to the capital Kabul, and to the beautiful Pandjshêr Valley, a region that has historically resisted the invasions of Soviet and Taliban ideologies.

Hugonnier's 16mm film, which was digitally projected at Chisenhale Gallery, charts the journey of a film crew. On arriving in the Pandjshêr Valley, their intention is to investigate how the landscape has determined the region's history. To do so, the crew attempts to find a vantage point to record a panorama of the entire valley. Access to this viewpoint is refused, because of its strategic value and the crew returns to Kabul to record the ruins and traffic of the city. The crew obtains permission to shoot a final panorama. The view allows them to gaze over Kabul and across to the Hindu Kush Mountains. They realise that this spectacle gives them a feeling of euphoria and totality. They decide to stop filming.

Ariana also featured a suite of large-scale 'portrait' photographs of unnamed mountains in the Pandjshêr Valley and a photographic album, featuring a collection of 36 small-scale images taken by Hugonnier throughout the trip.

Ariana was commissioned by MW projects and Film and Video Umbrella in association with Chisenhale Gallery. It was supported by the National Touring Programme of Arts Council England and was sponsored by Guy and Marion Naggar and Alan Djanogly.





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at 5:13 PM  

Harun Farocki - Bewerbungen aka The Interview (1996)

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"In the summer of 1996, we filmed application training courses in which one learns how to apply for a job. School drop-outs, university graduates, people who have been retained, the long-term unemployed, recovered drug addicts, and mid-level managers - all of them are supposed to learn how to market and sell themselves, a skill to which the term 'self management' is applied. The self is perhaps nothing more than a metaphysical hook from which to hand a social identity. It was Kafka who likened being accepted to a job to entering the Kingdom of Heaven; the paths leading to both are completely uncertain. Today one speaks of getting a job with the greatest obsequiousness, but without any grand expectations." Harun Farocki






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at 1:04 AM  

Philippe Parreno - The Boy from Mars (2005)

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The Boy From Paris By Bruce Sterling

Philippe Parreno's The Boy From Mars is "science fiction." Better yet, it's "architecture fiction." There is no Martian boy in this film. It does feature a rather weird building, however. In some solemn, rural, Southeast Asian retreat, the dark, marshy earth is infiltrated by unearthly lights. A constellation of UFOs wanders the zenith, a pack of gentle flame-beings from beyond. The wind-tattered storm clouds are some how frozen stiff against the sky.

We see no human beings, but some intelligent entity has an agenda in this place. A strange orange glow infests an alien structure. This ragged, rambling creation looks comfortably at home in an Asian rice paddy, but, after a closer look, it makes no sense. Could it be a broken greenhouse? A geodesic aircraft hangar? It is multi-legged like a caterpillar, it has flapping, tattered plastic walls, and rigid stalks for rafters. Plus, it radiates a thick, warm light. This place is clearly unfit for any merely human habitation. Inside this place, some entity has harnessed a patient water buffalo to an electrical generator. It's a bizarrely ingenious device of weights, light bulbs and pulleys straight off the set of Spielberg's E.T. the Extraterrestrial. The gentle soundtrack cannot distinguish between the sighing of the wind and the calm grinding of this alien machinery. Exotic plants dance on the windy slopes of the hills. A healing rain comes, eventually. The foggy sky resumes its motion, the sun peeps in, glares at the invaded Earth, and quietly retreats. Everything seems in good order. The placid water buffalo our hero, if this piece has one calmly endures a close encounter with a swaying alien light beam.

Friends from far away show up: a set of blurry, two-legged tourists, invading the spidery building. They move slowly and meditatively behind their steamy walls of glowing film. Although they're not human, one gets the impression that they've earned the right to visit. Maybe they'll settle down.

The Boy From Mars is about the joys of being alien. Philippe Parreno (playing the intriguing role of "The Boy from Paris") was able to vent his customary ingenuity on the Thai artist's retreat of his friend and collaborator, Rirkrit Tiravanija. This locale was anonymous, off the electrical grid, basically a fertile patch of mud in the middle of nowhere. Anything and nothing was possible there. So, Parreno and architect Francois Roche invaded this timeless Asian farm and boldly created an architectural freak. It's the hybrid of a science fiction film-set, a green design showpiece, an assembly hall, and an international artists' squat. Plus, it's literally powered by a water buffalo. It must be well nigh perfect if Martians happen to drop by.

Furthermore, this construction, whose artsy French origin couldn't be any more alien to Thai rurality, suits its locale remarkably well. Perched in a Chiang Mai rice field, it looks as imperturbable as a pig in mud. This work is especially apt for a period in which machines from Earth are invading Mars. As I write this, Spirit and Opportunity, those twin American hot-rods, are vigorously filming the unresisting Martian landscape. As video performances go, that scientific stream of images from that alien planet: those dull, eroded Martian hills, smears of ancient salt, spinning mechanical drills, ferocious close-ups of Martian pebbles and sand...that is hard for artists to match, but The Boy From Mars makes an attempt

In our epoch, Mars finally became banal. Now we humans are importing all its strangeness. Thanks to this Parreno piece, I can appreciate that simple truth.




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at 1:02 AM  

Jeremy Blake - Century 21 (2004)

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Jeremy Blake studied traditional painting in art school. "If you had asked me if I was interested in computers as a tool to make art, I would have said no," he says. But when Blake graduated from Cal Arts in 1995, he needed a job - and found a gig in New York as a digital photo retoucher. "I worked for a Corsican guy who berated me in French because I was so bad," Blake recalls. "After a few months he said, 'Jeremy, I'm very sorry because you are cool guy, but you have no future in computer!'" The job was a disaster, but the experience of manipulating images pixel by pixel lit a fuse. "The computer is the visual equivalent of an electric guitar," Blake says. "I was trained on an acoustic."

Ten years later, Blake has combined painting and computers to produce a techno take on traditional portraiture. His latest subject is Sarah Winchester, the eccentric heir to a firearm fortune. After her husband and infant daughter died in the 1880s, she concluded that the family was cursed, haunted by the spirits of those killed with Winchester rifles. On the advice of a medium, she built an enormous mansion in San Jose, California, to appease the ghosts. "I had read about it as a kid," Blake says. "I knew it was a house built around superstition - a fear of dead gunfighters - and it seemed to reflect contemporary events." Blake's 51-minute portrait of Winchester is contained on three DVDs, which will screen together in the US for the first time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art beginning February 19.

The first film, Winchester (2002), opens with the family mansion fading in and out of focus as the shadow of a gunman drifts across the screen. Odd elements are juxtaposed - cowboys from old ads morph into tracings of the house's art nouveau wallpaper. The second DVD, 1906 (2003), returns to the mansion after the great '06 earthquake. A maze of cracked plaster, winding corridors, and stairways to nowhere becomes a metaphor for Winchester's deteriorating mental state. Blake widens the view in the final chapter, Century 21 (2004), to explore the sickness - and the sexiness - of American violence. Each film runs in a continuous a loop - no titles, no credits. "Neurosis," Blake says, "is a broken record in your head." The cumulative effect is somewhere between a great expressionist painting and a bad acid trip.

Each frame of the trilogy is constructed in layers, like a conventional painting. Blake combines video, drawings, gouache, still photography, 8- and 16-mm film, and CG graphics. "For me," he says, "the computer is a way to get all your favorite mediums around the dinner table - and get them arguing." The technique places Blake among the new masters working with computers today who have moved beyond whizbang effects to celebrate pure aesthetics. "There are many people working with an individual medium," says Christiane Paul, a curator at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, where two of Blake's DVDs are in the permanent collection. "What distinguishes Jeremy is that he works in a variety of mediums in a very painterly way."

Blake has taken his craft beyond the gallery walls. He designed the cover for Beck's Sea Change album and produced abstract visuals for Paul Thomas Anderson's film Punch-Drunk Love. Trading art-world pretensions for the practicalities of the music and film studio were welcome changes: "I like artists who don't feel superior to the culture they critique."

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The Winchester trilogy was inspired by my interest in the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The Mansion is an architectural wonder that Sarah Winchester, widow of the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, constructed over the course of 38 years, beginning in the late 1800's. After suffering the premature death of her child and then her husband, Winchester, informed by her deep belief in Spiritualism, concluded that the angry spirits of those struck down by her family's guns had cursed her. An advisor agreed and suggested that she build an enormously large house--an endeavor that would both accommodate good spirits and ward off evil ones with the sounds of never ending construction. The result is an eccentric, sprawling 160-room mansion, well outfitted for the undead with staircases going nowhere, doorways leading out into open air several stories above ground, and miles of darkened hallways for the spirits to roam.

The Winchester films combine 8mm film footage, static 16mm shots of old photographs, hundreds of ink drawings, and intricate frame-by-frame digital retouching. They are meant to provide an abstract and emotional tour--not so much of the architecture, but of some of the more fearful chambers of Sarah Winchester’s mind. The abstract imagery represents supernatural activity, heightened by paranoiac glimpses of shadowy gunfighters, painterly gunshot wounds blossoming into Rorschach patterns, and a spectrum of images from Winchester rifle advertisements. The entire series is informed by the idea that the Victorian aesthetic (embodied by the Mansion's architecture) and the psychedelic sensibility (referenced through hallucinatory manipulation of the film) are sympathetic opposites.

My interest in the Mansion is rooted in an understanding that the site is more than just a monument to one person’s eccentric preoccupation—it is the tangible outcome from a collision of social and historical narratives. The series ties together several mythic strands fundamental to an American national identity in an attempt to justify Winchester’s architectural free-for-all. The figure of the gunfighter facilitates spiritual regeneration through violence, and lawmen and outlaws are thus treated with reverent trepidation—as are the ghosts of their victims.

Beneath the dreamlike flow of images, the structure of the films is very deliberate:

Winchester combines static 16mm historical photographs of the house, drawings, and laborious digital manipulation to convey a psychological portrait of the house. Accompanied by a moody soundtrack, the piece opens with a black-and-white shot of the architectural facade. Superimposed over the house, the silhouette of a gunfighter fills the frame, alluding to the Winchester legacy. As the film unfolds, both mansion and rifleman are eclipsed by veils of saturated color and kinetic abstractions. Painterly shapes resembling gunshot wounds morph into Rorschach–like inkblots and back again into rifle–bearing specters.

1906 takes much the same approach with synthesized film footage as well as images from my paintings and drawings, but it shifts its focus to the interior of the mansion and the parts of the house that suffered most in the earthquake of 1906. Sarah Winchester chose not to repair certain damaged sections, preferring to build around them, as she imagined that the house's resident spirits disapproved of these accommodations. To shoot live footage for this DVD, I used Kodak 8mm for its simultaneous painterly and touristy quality. The film begins and ends at the highest point of the house, creating a continuous sense of descent, and uses the sounds of construction mixed with period music.

Century 21 moves from the roof of the Winchester house to zoom in on a complex of three domed, space-age movie theaters situated across the street: Century 21, Century 22 and Century 23, alluding to the fact that it is film, TV and the media that perpetuate the icon of the gunfighter. The work consists of three short sections intended to represent what is “playing” in each of the theaters. These include richly layered montages of the Old West and pop-culture imagery, as well as art and film celebrities who appear as phantom stand-ins to embody the specters of the Cowboy and of Sarah Winchester herself.

The Winchester series distills and abstracts American myths of violence and spiritual reconciliation.









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at 1:01 AM