Film About a Father Who by Lynne Sachs (2021, 74’)Wednesday 4 August 6:00 PM Boedecker Cinema
on a painstaking personal archive of images, home movies, and interviews, Film
About A Father Who is a rare kind of cinematic portrait: one that succeeds
in expanding our understanding of the filmmaker, her protagonist, and their
relationship through its structure, aesthetic, and method. A beautiful
accumulation of time, contradictions, and a multitude of perspectives reflects
the all-too-familiar operatic dynamics of family.
screening will be followed by a conversation with the artist and a reception
with light refreshments.
Workshop: Day Residue A filmmaking workshop on the every day with opening night artist Lynne Sachs. Thursday 5 August 9:30 – 11:00 AM Grace Gamm Theater
to Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams, our day residue is composed of the memory
traces left by the events of our waking state. In this workshop, we explore the
ways in which fragments of our daily lives can become material for the making
of a film poem. While many people in the film industry rely upon a
chronological process that begins with the development phase and ends with
post-production, our Day Residue workshop will build on an entirely different
creative paradigm that encourages artists to embrace the nuances, surprises and
challenges of their daily lives as a foundation for a diaristic practice.
workshop will include screenings of some of Lynne’s recent short film poems,
including Starfish Aorta Colossus (2015), A Month of Single Frames
(2019), Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home (2020), and Girl
is Presence (2020) as well as excerpts from her feature Tip of My Tongue
Clint Roenisch Gallery is pleased to present our summer group show, A Temple Most August. The exhibition brings together artists from London, Vienna, Moncton, Brussels, Toronto, Santa Fe, Montreal and Brooklyn, presenting paintings on silk and linen, glasswork, photography, an amphora, photocollage, textiles, embroideries, and a mesmerizing film. After a trying winter and reluctant spring the exhibition heralds the unfurling of more canicular days, verdant and open, the senses receptive. In 1672 a haiku master in Edo began to attract a steady following of disciples, who supplied him with a small hut in which he could write and teach. A banana tree, exotic to Japan, was planted in front of the hut, and pleased the poet so much that he took for his writing name “Bashō,” the Japanese word for “banana plant.”
“Temple bells die out. The fragrant blossoms remain. A perfect evening!”
– Bashō, circa 1688
Featured Artists Abdul Sharif Baruwa Anna Torma Emma Talbot Heather Goodchild Jennifer Murphy Lorna Bauer Lynne Sachs Sarah Cale Willard van Dyke
An exhibiting filmmaker’s thoughts on the recent online festival, Prismatic Ground.
It began, as so many things do these days, with a tweet: in October 2020, Inney Prakash, programmer of the Maysles Cinema’s “After Civilization” series, put out a call for experimental documentary films. The resulting festival, Prismatic Ground, debuted in early April with a diverse line-up of new and repertory non-fiction films that ran the gamut of genres, styles, and techniques. Imagine: a programmer directly engaging with his community of filmmakers with an open-hearted all-points-bulletin was the antithesis of conventional festival gatekeeping. The refreshing prospect was a beacon to filmmakers struggling to create and exhibit work during a traumatic and hostile time.
Prakash’s call for submissions caught my attention on that fateful October night: for once, my endless Twitter scrolling put me in the right place at the right time. For the last four years, I’d been dutifully at work on a narrative feature concerning Julian of Norwich, an obscure 14th-century woman mystic. With development and production on indefinite hold, I resolved to keep in “fighting shape” by making whatever I could—however I could—about Julian’s ecstatic religious experience. I had originally set out to make a companion piece, a sort of altar to this long-overlooked religious icon. What began as a few standalone tableaux eventually turned into The Sixteen Showings of Julian of Norwich, a bricolage of stop-motion animation, back-projection, and collage.
I was very fortunate to have a job for most of last year, but working well beyond the customary 40 hours a week in these new circumstances was disastrous for my mental health and creative practice. For the first few months of this solitary arrangement, I was lucky if I ended each day with just enough energy to bathe and feed myself. Readers, no doubt, will recognize this feeling immediately—a pervasive fogginess, a dearth of initiative, contained on all sides by fear, dread, and exhaustion. The immediate reaction for many of us possessing an artistic temperament is to heal through the work, to create from a place of self-preservation as a therapeutic exercise (because, to be perfectly honest, very few working artists can afford traditional talk therapy).
After a nights-and-weekends work schedule, I finished a short film in my little office consisting of whatever I had on hand. It’s a wild departure from my usual narrative practice of snappy dialogue and meticulously-designed sets, edging my practice into a heretofore unexplored aesthetic and style.
Sixteen Showings was my first attempt to make a film without in-person collaborations: Tessa Strain’s narration, Matt Macfarlane’s original score, and Eliana Zebrow’s rich sound mix were directed entirely over email. The film was tangential to my would-be narrative feature, but very much apiece with my overarching vision. Finishing this solo effort was a balm—somehow I had made something new despite… well, you know, everything. But what now? Surveying the fruits of this months-long process, I struggled to conceive of a suitable afterlife beyond the customary Vimeo upload. Where could I screen this? What context could there possibly be for a theological exploration of isolation, plague, and revolt? Calling it a “shut-in watercolor movie,” or “moving altar,” while elegiac, didn’t quite fit the bill.
Enter Inney Prakash’s well-timed tweet and timely festival. Emboldened by his transparency and programmatic voice, I steeled myself for yet another humbly-toned inquiry. When Sixteen Showings was selected, I was shocked, ecstatic and, in a way, relieved: if there was an audience for this film, surely I would find it at Prismatic Ground. Having never enjoyed a virtual premiere, I went into the experience as a total neophyte. But for every gripe there was praise in equal measure: the pleasure of connecting with an otherwise distant viewership, public recognition for work made under great duress. Prismatic Ground helped me recontextualize what felt like a moving target. More than a descriptor or genre, “experimental documentary” affords artists a wide berth to do just that: experiment with cinematic and journalistic techniques within a nonfiction framework. To that end, I began to understand the dual significance of Sixteen Showings as a documentary about Julian of Norwich’s life and, by extension, my own.
In a festival space laid low by last year’s pandemic, Prakash saw an opportunity to challenge “the toxic or tedious norms governing festival culture, and to emphasize inclusivity and access.” Where the year’s higher-profile festivals sought to replicate the exclusivity of their in-person events with geo-blocked premiers and Zoom happy hours, Prismatic Ground promised viewers a deliberate antithesis. Its programming, ethos, and even web presence were tailor-made for the online space, prioritizing widespread access and a filmmaker-centered focus on screenings and Q&As. Prakash’s curation was mission-driven: “It was important to me to strike a balance,” he said, “between early career and established filmmakers, palatable and challenging work, passion and polish.” The line-up generously gave equal weight to artists at every stage of their process. Instead of single-film, time-sensitive screenings, audiences enjoyed free reign to explore and engage of their own accord, a heretofore unheard of format—online and off.
Organized in a series of “waves,” Prismatic Ground was structured around four separate collections touching on simultaneously personal and societal themes. It was reassuring to screen Sixteen Showings alongside equally intimate works, each with a different visual and philosophical approach. I was, and still am, grateful to Prakash for including my film. Despite being a newcomer to experimental filmmaking and documentary, I never once felt like an impostor. That feeling carried over to my experience as a viewer as well: these were films unlike any I’d seen, whether due to their newness or, in the case of repertory titles, my own lack of access. I am grateful to the festival for offering an avenue through which to engage with the work of other like-minded artists.
I was eager to hear from my fellow filmmakers about their road to the festival and experience as participants in this bold experiment in public exhibition. While we all arrived through different avenues, I immediately noticed a shared resonance. A wide net-approach to programming naturally attracted filmmakers reeling from the exclusionary nature of the mainstream festival circuit. Filmmaker Angelo Madsen Max (Two Sons and a River of Blood, 2021) was quick to note how “Inney was able to really access all of the different layers of what the piece was doing.” For director Sarah Friedland (Drills, 2020) it was the fervor of how Prakash had “created the festival he wanted to exist, instead of trying to reform an established festival” that drew her to the event.
For filmmakers navigating constraints brought on by the pandemic, and its ongoing economic aftermath, social media provided the sense of community missing from in-person festivals. Elias ZX (You Deserve The Best, 2018) was already familiar with Prakash’s programming work on “After Civilization” when they submitted their film. “We became friends through Twitter, [and] he told me about his plan to make an experimental documentary festival.” Screening online “gave my film space to breathe in a way that is really uncommon for festivals. Every viewer was allowed to have a completely unique experience with the film.” Virginia-based filmmaker Lydia Moyer (The Well-Prepared Citizen’s Solution, 2020) saw the festival as a chance to broaden and strengthen these seemingly disparate filmmaking communities. “As a person who lives in a rural place, it’s great that so much interesting work has been available this year to anyone who’s got enough bandwidth (literally and figuratively).” Moyer said. “The way this is set up is for online viewing, not just trying to transfer an in-person experience online.”
Programming the work of early career filmmakers alongside more established artists was more than a canny curatorial choice. The variety presented across these four waves expanded the audience’s access to repertory titles, while simultaneously reiterating the connection between both older and more recent offerings. Prismatic Ground’s streaming platform and presentation stood out for director Chris Harris (Reckless Eyeballing, 2004), who “had some streaming experiences that weren’t so happy in terms of the technical aspects.” The festival’s creative exhibition format was especially taken by “the mix of programming, special live events, and the flexibility of accommodating filmmakers with the option of live and recorded Q&As.” For prolific filmmaker Lynne Sachs, Prismatic Ground represented “an entirely new, unbelievably adventurous, compassionate approach to the viewing of experimentally driven cinema,” emphasizing that the festival itself was “beyond anything I have ever seen in my life.”
Among the filmmakers I spoke with, Prismatic Ground’s liberal approach to exhibition belied a tremendous sense of potential for artists navigating a post-COVID festival ecosystem. Harris noticed an “[increasing] festival bandwidth for underseen/emerging Black experimental filmmakers,” a tendency that he “[hopes] to see continue after COVID.” In lieu of a return to in-person only screenings, the general consensus saw streaming as a fixture in future festivals. “I don’t think it is going to be possible to put the toothpaste back in the tube here,” noted Zx, emphasizing that “more access will be good for filmmakers… and will challenge programmers to be more competitive, to release more obscure films that are harder to find.”
Prakash’s groundbreaking work has already heeded the call, citing critic Abby Sun’s Berlin Critics’ Week essay “On Criticism” as a guiding principle. “Festivals aren’t merely reacting to social conditions,” Sun writes. “They are often the primary creators of them.” Prismatic Ground’s focus on diverse curation and access reaches well beyond the artistic ramifications. Prakash’s end goal is emboldening, a manifesto of sorts: “Enough of premiere politics, prohibitive pricing, playing only the same handful of films at every festival. Let’s create better conditions. There is a moral imperative to keep doing virtual screenings now that we know we can and how.”
In these times of crisis we are getting so much information we would probably have ignored if things were different. Such tidbits include details about aerosols that potentially spread viruses and how they disperse in a room when we exhale, or the necessity of good ventilation in spaces where we like to spend time — like a movie theater.
As a festival whose films often directly reflect the events around us, it’s hard to get around a subject as all-encompassing as the pandemic. At the same time, we wanted to avoid a sensationalistic gaze and tried to take the pandemic as a departure point to throw open the windows and follow our desire and curiosity to let in the bizarre, the drama, the memories, the journeys toward everywhere and nowhere — in short: to let in some fresh air for once and take a deep breath. How does that pretty song by the Hollies go? Sometimes / All We Need Is THE AIR THAT WE BREATHE … (de)
MEMORIES OF TRAVELING Oh, to finally pack our travel bags again! Approaching this semblance of freedom and experience via memories, five female filmmakers let us partake in their journeys—whether it’s with their own footage of past travels, found footage of the travels of others, or footage they’ve been given by someone to work with. We tour Austrian lakes, an American beach, the Middle East, the big blue on a big ship, and elsewhere—also in search of ourselves and our place in this world. Let’s embark on this journey together! (db)
CURATED BY Doris Bauer (Vienna Shorts)
SEEEN SEHEN Bady Minck AT 1998, 5 min 12 sec
A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES Barbara Hammer, Lynne Sachs US 2019, 14 min 9 sec
THERE ARE NO WRONG CHOICES Anne Collet BE 2015, 30 min
The PHI Foundation presents Severing the Impact on Memory, an online video program in conjunction with the exhibition Lee Bae: UNION.
Through processes of reimagination, preservation and transformation, memory allows us to narrate reality and a fictionalized memory, to look into the past, the feeling of belonging, and death. This video program explores the memory of what makes life tangible, and considers how both the body and nature experience, measure and translate the impact of change. This program includes videos by Patricia Domínguez, Jean-Jacques Martinod, and Lynne Sachs and Barbara Hammer.
A podcast in conversation with Patricia Domínguez, Jean-Jacques Martinod and Lynne Sachs was launched in complement to the online video program.
La Bala de Sandoval (Jean-Jacques Martinod, 2019, 17 min 10 sec, Spanish, English subtitles) A Month of Single Frames (Lynne Sachs and Barbara Hammer, 2019, 14 min, English) La balada de las sirenas secas (The Ballad of the Dry Mermaids) (Patricia Domínguez, 2020, 31 min 39 sec, Spanish, English subtitles) La balada de las sirenas secas (The Ballad of the Dry Mermaids) by Patricia Domínguez was commissioned by TBA21 for st_age.
Curated by Victoria Carrasco, PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art The videos will be presented in their original language.
A Month of Single Frames Lynne Sachs and Barbara Hammer, 2019 In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had an artist residency in a shack without running water or electricity. While there, she shot film, recorded sounds and kept a journal. In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her images, sounds and writing from the residency to filmmaker Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material. Through her own filmmaking, Lynne explores Barbara’s experience of solitude. She places text on the screen as a confrontation with a somatic cinema that brings us all together in multiple spaces and times.
La Bala de Sandoval Jean-Jacques Martinod, 2019
Isidro meanders through the rainforest while he and his brother remember the times he found himself face to face with death itself.
La balada de las sirenas secas (The Ballad of the Dry Mermaids)
Patricia Domínguez, 2020
For La balada de las sirenas secas (The Ballad of the Dry Mermaids), Patricia Domínguez collaborated with Las Viudas del Agua, a group of water defenders, educators and herbalists who are devoting their lives to the fight for liberating the water resources within their communities in Petorca, Chile. The Ballad of the Dry Mermaids examines the complex flows of water in terms of the possibilities for crying, actualizing memory in the digital era and creating multi-species myths of resistance in the capitalist system.
Victoria Carrasco Born in Montreal, Victoria Carrasco is a Canadian and Chilean curator. She currently occupies the role of Gallery Management and Adjunct Curator — Public Programs at the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art. She holds an MA in Performance Curation from the Institute of Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University; a BA in Environmental Design from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and a BFA with concentration in Photography from Concordia University. She was awarded the 2019 Ford Foundation ICPP Leadership Fellowship from Wesleyan University.
Her research examines the limitations of public art as performance as a utopian concept through notions of space, medium, and legacy. Her curatorial practice extends from gallery management— challenging processes and promoting equality within workplace culture, and studying the visitor experience in a mediatory context of discussion and transmission of knowledge—as well as developing collaborations and relationships for the presentation of performance.
Patricia Domínguez Bringing together experimental research on ethnobotany, healing practices, and the corporatization of wellbeing, the work of Patricia Domínguez (b. 1984, Santiago, Chile) focuses on how neoliberalism perpetuates colonial practices of extraction and exploitation.
Recent solo exhibitions include Madre Drone, CentroCentro, Madrid, and Cosmic Tears, Yeh Art Gallery, New York (both 2020); Green Irises, Gasworks, London (2019); Llanto Cósmico, Twin Gallery, Madrid (2018); Eres un Princeso, Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, Ohio; Los ojos serán lo último en pixelarse, Galería Patricia Ready, Santiago; and Focus Latinoamérica, ARCOMadrid, Madrid (all 2016). Recent group exhibitions include Gwangju Biennale, Korea; Transmediale, Berlin (both 2021); MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image, Montreal; The trouble is staying, Meet Factory, Prague (both 2019); What is going to happen is not ‘the future’, but what we are going to do, ARCOMadrid; Working for the Future Past, SEMA, Seoul (both 2018).
She has recently been the recipient of the SIMETRIA prize to participate in a residency at CERN, Switzerland (2021), among others. Her work has appeared in books such as Younger than Jesus: Artist Directory (New Museum/Phaidon Press, 2009); Health (MIT Press/Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2020), Technics Improvised: Activating Touch in Global Media Art University of Minnesota Press and Contemporary Art and Climate Change, Thames & Hudson’s World of Art series (both 2021). Her studies include a Master’s Degree in Studio Art from Hunter College, New York (2013) and a Botanical Art & Illustration Certificate from the New York Botanical Garden (2011). She is currently director of the ethnobotanical platform Studio Vegetalista.
Jean-Jacques Martinod Jean-Jacques Martinod is an Ecuadorian-American filmmaker and multimedia artist originally from the city of Guayaquil. His works oscillate between modalities of hybrid cinemas using methodologies that experiment with archival materials, celluloid film, analog tape, digital media, synesthetic operations, personal mythologies and travelogues, in bifurcations that stand out among the ramifications of the aforementioned. His work has been exhibited at the Cinemateca Nacional del Ecuador Ulises Estrella, the Los Angeles Center for Digital Arts, the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, and festivals that include FIDMarseille, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Images Festival, Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival, European Media Arts Festival, Les Inattendus film festival (très) indépendants, Sheffield Doc/Fest, ULTRACinema Experimental Festival de Cine Experimental y Found Footage, among others, as well as galleries, cultural centers, and clandestine DIY screenings. He is also co-founder of EVIDENCE, a micro-publishing project that releases radical poetry, visual arts, photography, and also para-essayistic works within the world of avant-garde cinema. He received his MFA from Concordia University in Montreal where he was a member of the Global Emergent Media Lab, Fabrique-mondes and the Centre for Expanded Poetics.
Between 1994 and 2006, Lynne produced five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany—sites affected by international war–where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions. Witnessing the world through a feminist lens, she expresses intimacy by the way she uses her camera. With the making of Your Day is My Night (2013) and The Washing Society (2018), she expanded her practice to include live performance. As of 2020, she has made 37 films. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana, China Women’s Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest have all presented retrospectives of her work. She received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts. Tender Buttons Press published her first book Year by Year Poems in 2019. On the occasion of the 2021 virtual theater release of her latest feature, Film About a Father Who, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the artist’s maddeningly mercurial father, the Museum of the Moving Image presented a career-ranging survey of Lynne’s work. Lynne lives in Brooklyn with her husband filmmaker Mark Street. Together, they have two daughters, Maya and Noa Street-Sachs. lynnesachs.com
Severing the Impact on Memory – Conversation with Artists Patricia Domínguez, Jean-Jacques Martinod, Lynne Sachs, and curator Victoria Carrasco
In this podcast, Victoria Carrasco (adjunct curator of public programs, PHI Foundation) meets with artists Patricia Domínguez, Jean-Jacques Martinod and Lynne Sachs. This conversation took place in the lead up to the event Severing the Impact on Memory, an online video program presented in conjunction with the exhibition
Through processes of reimagination, preservation and transformation, memory allows us to narrate reality and a fictionalized memory, to look into the past, the feeling of belonging, and death. This video program—Severing the Impact on Memory—explores the memory of what makes life tangible, and considers how both the body and nature experience, measure and translate the impact of change.
In this conversation, the curator and the artists explore the topic of memory within the context of this program as well as the pandemic, and respectively, through the creating process of the videos and their impact. They discuss reimagining and re-enliving, how to preserve moments, either through the impermanence of video art, and how the body can connect and reconnect to memory, nature and the future.
In 2018, one year before she passed away, the influential feminist filmmaker Barbara Hammer revisited a project she had worked on 20 years prior, compiled over the course of a month while living in one of Princeton’s Dune Shacks. In this short film created in collaboration with experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs, we are immersed in Hammer’s observations from the dunes through film, writing, and photography.
The film is structured around Hammer reading from her 1998 diary while images from her month of seclusion capture the biodiversity of the sand dunes. The result is an incredibly potent study of life in all its many forms and the difficulty of facing one’s own mortality. As Hammer looks back on her younger self, layers of memory cascade over each other as the images of the sand dunes slide together to form a compelling montage of the natural world.
This is a posthumously collaborative work in which Sachs’ friend Barbara Hammer entrusted her with a selection of unfinished material from a 1998 residency and offered her the opportunity to complete the film as she saw fit. The resulting work incorporates Hammer’s highly formalized attention to seaside landscapes — sand dunes, expansive horizons — in what amounts to a retroactive diary film.
The soundtrack mostly consists of audio recordings of Hammer describing her relationship to the space and how it affected her work and her thinking. The result, as you might expect, is a kind of sidelong contribution to Hammer’s filmography: we see her muscular lyricism as organized through Sachs’ somewhat more linear compositional tendencies. It’s far too alive and present-tense to be a eulogy. Just a lovely, hard-to-position hybrid object.
– Michael Sicinski
When the act of making art (whether a film or any other form) seems lonely, this experimental short proves that isolation is broken when there’s an audience, when there’s reinterpretation or appropriation, building a dialogue through time that even transcends death. The musings about a life’s end become thus universal and we can see ourselves in our finitude, in the idle reflection of nothingness about to become.
– Pos Manero
Turning an unfinished film project from pioneering queer experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, into a remarkable kaleidoscopic journey, director Lynne Sachs seeks to present a study of life with her film, ‘A Month of Single Frames’.
Offering a relaxing and potent exploration of time and location, this is visually alluring and structurally intricate experimental work from Sachs, in which there is much to absorb and reflect upon
.- William Leesee
Strikingly familiar. A love letter to nature, Hammer emphasizes the dichotomy between simple and complex.
“You are alone. / I am here with you in this film.”
I will find myself returning to this piece, again and again, like a bird to its nest.
– Josh Korme
A lovely personal short. Old footage is repurposed with time, just like mundane elements are repurposed in this old footage, creating a nice little cyclical mood. Beautiful textures are created using close-ups or slight alterations of image, revealing new sides to old things. The sound design adds another layer, modifying and complementing the textures, while the dialogue between two creators closes the gap between twenty years. ‘A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)’ is a movie of time stopping. It’s the breath you take when contemplating a breathtaking natural landscape. The fresh air fills your lungs and you stop, peacefully. You live in this moment. This is it.
– JP Nakashima
I wish I could put this film in a tiny glass jar and just keep it forever. It reminds me of warm summer days in Massachusetts and being read to by my grandparents – even if what’s being said is serious. Vivre sa vie (live your life), and love it as fully as you can.
There’s a magic to the creation of a beautiful image—as someone without the ability to create images, it’s very mysterious to me. I love to watch people draw: they set down lines on paper. I can do that too! The lines are dead, they don’t mean anything. But then something suddenly happens, which I don’t understand at all—now the lines are a picture. That incomprehension is at the root of what I love about visual art.
It’s nice to watch someone completely fail to create beautiful images—to feel the disconnect between the beauty they observe in what they see and their ability to create a representation of that beauty that can communicate it to others. It reminds you how special and rare that talent is, that it can’t be taken for granted, however easy it might be to take it for granted if we only watched things that were good.
The strength of this short lays on the combination of all its different layers, and how they play off themselves. Not only do we get different visual elements, such as Hammer’s quotidian footage and visual experiments, but we also get to see her reflect on them and her experience through the reading of her own diary. This gets more complex when we consider Sachs own ideas, expressed through her editing and subtitles. Its a warm and casually profound short revolving around the creation of art and the possible dialogues between different artists, as well as artists with their audience.
A wonderfully poetic and existential celebration of nature. Incredibly comforting. What’s not to love?
i am overwhelmed by simplicity; there is so much to see
navigating the intricacy embedded within simplicity—an echo of all things grand and imposing—hammer and sachs meld their minds in this gorgeous ode to everything, to nothing. a woman dying as much now as she was back then reminds us that there is as much lucidity in stillness as there is movement; sand as there is in sea; dreams as there is in consciousness.
hammer shatters time’s linearity to transport us back to cape cod in 1998, but the time and location doesn’t matter. with this project, we are here in the now, we are back in the past. she was there, and she immortalised it on film, but film or not, her spirit would always remain—her connection with the place, her manipulation of it for shots, her frustration, her joy. empathy and a mutual gaze means we are not alone, she is with us in this film, even long after she’s gone.
”I feel compelled to do nothing. There is nothing to do. Everything waits expectantly for discovery.”
I love the dull haze of this film, the general view and focus on time but that focus blurred by time, a lost moment in memory that doesn’t exist any longer but refers back to a formative time and place through the fog of human living.
Todd May, explaining Deleuze and Nietzsche, once wrote that there is no such thing as being, only ever becoming. This is a film about a time of becoming, with being fading into obscurity and impossibility. Nothing is the way it is for very long, least of all our experiences.
Themes of wind, memory, fading sun, morphing colours, the eternal presence of difference that rises and fades as we watch, it’s beautiful.
”Why is that I can’t see nature pure and whole, without artifice?”
We are all here together. I am here alone.
Barbara was actually my great-aunt, and seeing these fragments of her makes me wish I was able to spend more time with her before she passed. She was such a fascinating woman and it would have been amazing to get to know her when she was younger. This collaborative piece recalls her ability to evoke that raw, often romanticized ideal of filmmaking, that you can draw retaliation by shooting the simplest things around you. Lynne Sachs’ composition draws these individual pieces together into a lovely experimental work that showcases how the spirit of everything around us can create art and companionship.
– Mason Carr
“The sadness of departure, the inevitable ending of breath, and blood, coursing. The complete and thorough blankness. Is this why we make busy, she wondered, so that we won’t have time to contemplate the heart-wrenching end to this expanse called life?”
Beautifully captures the joy of experimenting with film, the drive to capture and make sense of ourselves and our environment through photography, as well as contemplating our mortality and the ephemeral nature of life through the hopefully immortal medium of film.
– Jorge Olvera
Hammer’s beautiful film and her voice create a wonderfully meditative state. There’s something quite special about watching this film, essentially a home video for decades, that gives its gentle images a deep power. It’s wonderful, too, to hear Hammer’s voice read out her diary and reflect quite honestly about death. Whether you believe in any kind of afterlife or not Hammer’s words about keeping busy to avoid the truth of our impending deaths is refreshingly bleak but beautiful.
made for and with barbara hammer, connection, collaboration, living with art, nature read through art, through living, watched on my childhood bed on a spring afternoon before a walk, with what could be seen as the less than ideal watching circumstances, could see my reflection on my laptop during the dark scenes, reminding of my existence, living with the film, living as the film runs, time, process, loss, revisitation, derek jarman, death, nature and art, cottage by the sea, morden nature, a vine growing on the side of something, use of another’s archive –
A beautiful tribute to Barbara Hammer, detailing the world she lives in with a fresh gaze. A conversation about mortality and continuation. Something struck me in this short film, from the small amounts of text to the beautifully written poetry. Recently I’ve been reading up on a lot of queer theory, and to see things like embracing the failures of experimentation is really incredible. Something magical is within this short film, and it got me glued from start to finish.
“I’m overwhelmed by simplicity”-
A sadly moving picture of a moment in time that continues to evoke wonder. I was moved to tears over the connection I felt through this. It was a pleasure to have shot out in that area. It’s a very connected place…
There’s a very quiet experience involved with being queer that resonates through this film and I think my life is just going to be figuring out what that is.
Prismatic Ground is a new film festival centered on experimental documentary. The inaugural edition of the festival, founded by Inney Prakash, will be hosted virtually in partnership with Maysles Documentary Center and Screen Slate. Catch the ‘Opening Night,’ ‘Centerpiece,’ and ‘Closing Night’ events live via Screen Slate’s Twitch channel. The rest of the films, split into four loosely themed sections or ‘waves’, will be available for the festival’s duration at prismaticground.com and through maysles.org. On April 10, at 4PM ET, Prismatic Ground will present the inaugural Ground Glass Award for outstanding contribution in the field of experimental media to Lynne Sachs. Other live engagements TBA.
1. How did Prismatic Ground get on your radar, and what drew you to the festival?
I met Prismatic Ground Film Festival director Inney Prakash about a year ago when I was teaching my very first virtual film and poetry workshop at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem where Inney works as a programmer. Of course, the workshop was supposed to be a face-to-face experience, but it was May of 2020 and there was no way that was going to happen! We were living in the beginning of a global pandemic! Inney was a critical part of our pivot to an online experience that could nourish participants from anywhere in the world. To our surprise, it worked extraordinarily well and 17 participants from the US, Ireland and Uruguay collaborated on making a series of fantastic video poems. From that point on, I have a feeling that Inney started to think that anything was possible in terms of making and viewing non-commercial, experimental documentaries. A few months later, he wrote to me to ask me if I would accept the first ever Ground Glass Award from his new founded Prismatic Ground Film Festival. I love the name of the award and thoroughly understand the meaning of the term “ground glass” since I have been making 16mm films since the mid 1980s! By the way, “ground glass” is the frosted glass surface in a film camera that allows the light projected from the lens to bounce off of a mirror and then be recorded as an image on the film surface.
2. What has your experience been with virtual premieres and screenings? And how has Prismatic Ground been different, if at all?
I had four films circulating in 2020 and 2021, “A
Month of Single Frames” (14 min) and “Film About a Father Who” (74 min.), “Girl
is Presence” (4 min.), and “Epistolary: Letter to Jean Vigo” (5 min.), plus career
retrospectives at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City and at the
Sheffield Doc/ Fest in the UK. I was also on the jury for the Ann Arbor Film
Festival and the FestCurtas Belo Horizante Film Festival in Brazil. It’s been a
daunting but exciting year. Everything was virtual, but somehow it worked. I
loved these experiences and felt that they successfully brought filmmakers from
all over the world together. The “in real life” experience can often be quite
elitist just because air travel and hotel accommodations are so extraordinarily
Ground embraced an entirely new, unbelievably adventurous yet compassionate
approach to the viewing of experimentally driven cinema, beyond anything I have
never seen in my life. Inney presented
such an astonishing array of FREE work, never privileging a feature film over a
shorter work, or a more accessible film over a more challenging one. His Q and A’s were informed, respectful and
want to say something about the festival website design and graphics which
subtly forced all of us as audience to watch the films with focus and
commitment. You could not scroll through
a film or go backward or forward. While you were allowed to pause, you could
not be a dilettante and hop around from one film to another without losing your
place in a movie. This created the
closest experience to the one we have in a theater that I have ever witnessed
online. In addition, the aesthetics of the website allowed Inney to frame each
film on a page in relationship to others in the same “wave” which meant that
you were always aware of his curating and the intricate relationships and
themes he wanted you to recognize between the films.
Do you have a dream vision for a post-COVID festival ecosystem? Can be as broad
as “more digital screenings,” or as specific as “curated
specifically for underseen/experimental artists,” anything at all.
I think that the virtual is here to stay, but I also am praying for a return to being in a space with other people, with all the breaths, whispers, laughs, weeping, and shuffling of our bodies. We must accept that the virtual is vital. It allows homebound, less affluent audiences to access work outside mainstream, commercially driven movie culture. It can also put less emphasis on box office revenue which means experimental, underground, alternative cinema can travel on the magic carpet of the internet. I have noticed that more and more people throughout the world are becoming interested in the history of avant-garde film. They are discovering the work of artists like Jonas Mekas, Chick Strand, William Greaves, Carolee Schneemann Fernando Solanas and others, not just in museums or in classrooms, but at home. This is a revolution of the mind, the eye and the ear!
4. How has the last year of relative isolation influenced your work, if at all?
Despite the annus horribilis of 2020 (and
beyond), I have actually met really interesting, dynamic, risk-taking people in
the filmmaking community, all through the virtual portal of Zoom. For example,
I was incredibly sad not to be able to attend the retrospective of my work at
the Sheffield Doc/ Fest and at Prismatic Ground, but I was still able to meet
Trinidadian essay filmmaker Che Applewhaite through our shared screenings at both
festivals. Over the last few months, we have corresponded a great deal and recently
even managed to meet in person here in NYC.
As I mentioned, I was on the jury for the 2020
Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Belo Horizante International Short Film
Festival in Brazil. While I was not able to talk, face-to-face, or hang out in
local bars with my fellow jury members after the screenings, we did develop
quite profound relationships that allowed us to share our aesthetic passions
and our personal pandemic struggles.
artist, I was able to make several short films that reflected my thinking
during these troubling times. One of my most lasting discoveries has been that
you can actually make collaborative work with artists from anywhere on the
globe, and that this interactive experience can be revelatory. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this
could be possible. Over the course of the last year, I found creative and
intellectual comrades with whom I could work on such a surprising and
generative level. Who knew?
Marking it’s debut edition, Prismatic Ground is a film festival of endless potential. Space for experimental cinema, particularly short form, is hard to come by, and thankfully it appears as though a new, heavily curated festival is set to give these incredible artists a new ground to show their work. But again, it’s a first edition. What could they possibly collect on their first try? Well, if these seven(ish) films are any hint, we may be at the ground floor of one of the country’s most interesting experimental film festivals.
6. The Films of Lynne Sachs
Another sidebar, although not one found in the main program, director Lynne Sachs is being honored as the inaugural winner of the “Ground Glass Award,” the festival’s award given to a person who has contributed to the world of experimental media. Being honored by both the award and a pair of programs, eight of the director’s short and medium-length works are being highlighted here, led by one of her more well known works (at least recently), A Month of Single Frames (For Barbara Hammer). Made in 2019 but just now making its way out of the festival circuit, the short is actually also available on MUBI at the moment, and sees the director collaborating with late director Barbara Hammer by finishing her final project in what ultimately results in a profoundly moving and aesthetically captivating character study of sorts. Other highlights include Sermons and Sacred Pictures, Sachs’ 1989 documentary about Reverend L.O. Taylor, a Black Baptist minister with a passion for filmmaking, and also maybe the best film of the bunch The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts. This 30 minute experimental documentary from 1991 looks at the depiction of the female body throughout history, and is as provocative today as it ever has been. Sachs is also featured in the main slate with her 4 minute masterpiece Drawn and Quartered, another film about perception, looking and gender.
7. 4 Films By Bill Morrison
Starting off this preview of the debut Prismatic Ground festival, we turn to a sort of sidebar-within-a-sidebar. Structured largely around four “waves,” Prismatic Ground is highlighting films with similar themes and ideas, and for the first entry we turn to, of course, the first wave. Within the first wave known as “desire is already a memory,” Prismatic Ground is highlighting four brand new shorts from beloved director Bill Morrison. Including the likes of 2020’s Curly Takes a Bath By The Sea and 2021’s trio of Sunken Films, Wild Girl and The Ring, these collectively only run around 30 minutes, but are as entrancing a quartet of films as you’ll see all year. Chief among them is Curly Takes a Bath, which is a short the director produced during lockdown that is strangely one of the more moving explorations of the striving for freedom that lockdown has brought us. Sunken Films feels squarely in his wheelhouse as its story of lost films discovered is a topic found throughout his career, as is the idea of loss and decay, which is the topic of both Wild Girl and The Ring, the former being maybe the director’s most formally interesting work collected here.
5. Home In The Woods
The feature film highlighted in the fourth wave (the same wave as the above mentioned Sachs film), Home in the Woods is about as singular a vision as you’ll ever encounter. At once maximalist in its experimental aesthetic and yet born out of the most minimal of intents, Home is director Brandon Wilson’s exploration of a forest near the filmmaker’s own home in Oregon. However, this isn’t a rudimentary point and shoot style, almost zen-like document of metaphysical freedom. No, instead Wilson crafts a relatively narrative-free deconstruction of the cyclical nature of the world around us and man’s own relationship to the space we inhabit. Pairing incredible sound design with filmmaking choices ranging from dynamic color processing to the use of microscopic imagery, Home has an almost science-fiction like feel, despite being a decidedly tactile and organic work. Not so much born of the lockdown era as the perfect type of conversation piece with it, Wilson’s film is in many ways one of the great pandemic documents. A film about the beauty of nature that plays as both zen installation piece and hypnotic slow cinema deconstruction.
4. Too Long Here
Back to the wide array of shorts collected here, for one of the more anger-inducing viewing experiences of the festival. More or less a seven-minute short film looking at the day that former First Lady Pat Nixon inaugurated a stretch of land along the US-Mexico border as “Friendship Park,” Too Long Here is director Emily Packer’s recontextualizing this event opposite the increasing racism and xenophobia that has ultimately culminated with not just former president Donald Trump, but his “liberal” replacement Joe Biden potentially continuing the building of the disastrous border wall. A soul-crushing exploration of America’s failed promise and increasing descent into nationalism is the real focus here, with Packer using lushly restored footage from the inauguration set against what the viewer is keenly aware of as the future for this relationship. In just seven minutes Packer stacks her film with fascinating moments from that day in history, and culminates with an absolute emotional gut punch of a final moment. A fascinating, deeply important work.
3. The Annotated Field Guide of Ulysses S. Grant
From one singular picture to another. The Annotated Field Guide of Ulysses S. Grant is from director Jim Finn, and tells the story of General Grant, as he attempts to liberate the southern states during the 1860s. However, this isn’t your father’s historical documentary. Instead Finn takes things like board games and collectible trading cards to lay out the respective battles Grant found himself in, pairing these opposite modern day landscapes of former battlefields, all shot in gorgeous 16mm. An engrossing, travelogue-like riff on a legendary historical figure, Field Guide is a strange melting together of the revered (former battleground location footage) and juvenile (board games). This is also a brilliant piece of research, moving viewers from the border between Texas and Louisiana up to the coast of New England, pairing seemingly misplaced thing like a 1970’s inspired soundtrack with deeply textured and dense historical background, making this an endlessly surprising feature.
2. The Films of Anita Thacher
The final director-focused collection on this list, Anita Thacher’s work is set to open the festival, with seven of her rarely seen shorts getting highlighted as the opening night centerpiece. This collection is led by the incomparable Loose Corner from 1986, which is being shown as a restoration-in-progress screening, as the Academy Film Archive is currently attempting to bring this masterpiece back to life. Cinephiles may find one of her later films, Cut to be compelling, particularly it’s fascinating use of image, sound and editing, and those, and I myself am transfixed by Loose Corner, maybe the most playfully kinetic of the films collected here. It’s a gloriously anarchic experiment in filmmaking and space, and features some of the most formally inventive sleights of hand you’ll ever find. These are exactly the type of one of a kind visual experiments that make Prismatic Ground a fantastic new player on the festival circuit, and will hopefully inspire more people to give these filmmakers proper respect.
1. Second Star To The Right And Straight On ‘Til Morning
Rounding out this list is arguably the most buzzed about film of the festival, and for just cause. Originally intended to be included on potential home video releases for the underrated Ben Zeitlin film Wendy, Second Star is the latest film from directors Bill and Turner Ross, and is not only likely never to make any release of the film they documented, but may very well never see the light of day commercially following this festival run. Billed as “too experimental” by the studio, this documentary is less about the making of the film itself and more about the spirit of the children that helped make it happen, embracing a sense of freedom and almost whimsy that is truly unlike any making of picture you’ve ever seen. Featuring little to know actual interviews, the film is more a collection of moments, of lives, all the while feeling decidedly of the Ross Brothers. Inherently a film about community, Second Star feels like a distant relative to a film like Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a film about performance and family, catching small moments like a child blessing someone’s sneeze in the middle of a conversation, all the while making these happenstances feel immensely moving. There simply aren’t filmmakers quite like these two, filmmakers with endless empathy and compassion.
Barbara Hammer has always been challenging. In memory of her work and activities, she provided materials for her short film, which will be released for the first time in Japan, and her own work in her later years, and produced a short film in collaboration with Deborah Stratman, Mark Street, and Lynn Sach. A special project to screen 3 works.
Feminist Queer movie month: Barbara Hammer
Feminist Ando Queer Film Month 2021: Remembering Barbara Hammer ■ Screening Date: 2021 March 31 (Wednesday) 19:20 ★ after the screening, held an online Q & A with phosphorus Sachs Director ■ screenings Works (4 works in total, 58 minutes in total)
“Bent Time” Bent Time America / 1984 / Digital / 22 minutes Director / Filming / Editing: Barbara Hammer / Music: Pauline Oliveros
▶ ︎ Rays bend at the edge of the universe, A work inspired by the remarks of scientists who advocated that time also bends. The scenery of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and the cityscape of New Mexico, taken with a 9mm wide-angle lens, along with the meditative original score of electronic musician Pauline Oliveros, feels like time is distorted. Bring.
“Vever (for Barbara)” Vever (for Barbara) USA / 2019 / English / Color / Digital / 12 minutes Director / Editing / Sound: Deborah Stratman / Shooting / Voice: Barbara Hammer / Text / Local recording: Maya Deren
Shape: Teiji Ito / Music: Teiji Ito, Teiji Ito, George Hardau / Provided by: Pythagoras Film
▶ ︎ A work created from each unfinished project by Maya Deren and Barbara Hammer. A video of Hummer traveling on a motorcycle in Guatemala in 1975 is linked to a story about the Haiti ritual and his own experience of failure that Delen met in the 1950s. Three filmmakers of different generations explore the possibility of replacing the power structure of which they are part.
“Many Ideas Impossible To Do All America / 2019 / Color / Digital / 11 Minutes Director / Edit :: Mark Street
▶ ︎ Jane Wardening (Brackage) and Barbara Hammer Hammer, who was looking to create a work from Hammer’s 1973-85 correspondence record, brought all the materials and footage of “Jane Brakhage” (1974) to filmmaker Mark Street in 2018. The work that was taken over and produced. Draws a complex friendship that connects Wodening and Hummer’s long distance.
“One Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)” A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) USA / 2019 / English / Color / Digital / 14 minutes Director: Lynne Sachs, Barbara Hammer / Photo: Barbara Hammer / Editing Text (Onscreen): Lynne Sachs
▶ ︎ In 1998, Barbara Hammer kept a diary by recording various sounds and landscapes around him while staying in a seaside hut in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, where neither electricity nor water was available. This work was produced as a process of confronting his own death by entrusting all the records created at that time to the filmmaker Lynne Sachs. Along with the eyes of observing the quietly buzzing colors and sounds of nature, thoughts about loneliness and aging emerge.
The Ann Arbor Film Festival provides direct support to filmmakers. Our 2021 awards competition presents $23,000 to filmmakers through cash and in-kind awards that include film stock, film processing, and camera rental. The three jurors Thorsten Fleisch, Lynn Loo, and Sheri Wills will virtually attend the six-day festival, viewing 116 films in competition and awarding the cash and in-kind awards. In addition, each juror will present a specially curated program of work during the festival. This year we are pleased to announce the addition of two more awards, the Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award and the Best Experimental Animation Award!
Many thanks to our awards donors. These valued donors make it possible for the Ann Arbor Film Festival to present awards to deserving filmmakers each year. Their generosity creates a positive impact on experimental film by providing support and recognition for talented artists.
An award from the AAFF not only confers prestige and financial support but also can qualify filmmakers for an Oscar® nomination by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the short film category. Qualifying awards include the Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, the Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film, and the Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film. Find a full list of the awards below.
Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award – $500
Barbara Hammer was a filmmaker with a profound commitment to expressing a feminist point-of-view in her work. In 2020, filmmaker Lynne Sachs received the Oberhausen Film Festival Grand Prize for a film she made with and for Hammer. With funds from the prize, Lynne created this Ann Arbor Film Festival award for a work that best conveys Hammer’s passion for celebrating and examining the experiences of women. Qualifying work by artists of any gender will be considered.