As early as Maya Deren’s “Meshes of the Afternoon” (1943), the architectural interior has been a powerful trope and a structuring figure in experimental film and video work. INTERIORS brings together nine pieces from the last four decades of moving image culture that expand upon and intensify Deren’s foundational gesture, and they do so from a variety of perspectives: whether it be a formalist imperative, a feminist provocation, poetic reverie or playful reflexivity. In an age when spectatorship has become increasingly private, and the exhibition space of cinema collapsed into the space of the living room, these works are a potent reminder of the ways in which visual media influence our psychic and physical relation to the spaces of modernity we inhabit.
“Interieur Interiors (To A. K.),” Vincent Grenier, 1978, 16mm, b&w, silent, 15 min.
A vast expanse of grayscale, a thin black line running from top to bottom of the frame, a shifting black mass on the extreme right: what initially appears to be a minimalist color field painting turns out to have its representational origin in a door, a corner, and the chain of a light bulb. Made in the heady days of structuralism, Grenier’s film is a stunning interrogation of film’s complicated relation to artistic modernism.
“Dust Studies,” Michael Gitlin, 2010, DVD, color, sound, 9 min.
“Meandering headwaters of a young child’s language” (MG), this piece is indeed reminiscent of the photographs taken by the young Jacques Henri Lartigue. A small-scale documentary executed with both whimsy and precision, “Dust Studies” joins an illustrious lineage of dustworks first inaugurated by Man Ray and Duchamp in 1920.
“Group V: Endurance/Remembrance/Metamorphosis,” Barry Gerson, 1970-79, 16mm transferred to DVD, color, silent, 11 min.
Like a short story collection, the individual reels that make up “Group V” each stage a tension between inside and outside: light streaming in through an unseen window, a backyard viewed through glass, a close-up of plants in ambiguous space with just the slightest indication of a framing boundary on the left. One feels the filmmaker dissolving into his space through the camera in this exceedingly subtle drama of consciousness.
“Running Outburst,” Charlemagne Palestine, 1975, DVD, b&w, sound, 6 min.
Primarily known for his work as a minimalist composer and performance artist, Palestine has been making experimental video since the mid-1970s. “Running Outburst” finds the artist wielding his somatic camera to stage a violent and frustrated occupation of an empty studio space, running around in circles until out of breath, slowing down and then running again, leaving the viewer similarly exhausted.
“Restoring Appearances to Order in 12 Minutes,” Coleen Fitzgibbon, 1975, 16mm transferred to DVD, color, sound, 11 min.
Made the same year as Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman,” this film is a meditation on women’s space and women’s work. A filthy sink is meticulously scrubbed for twelve minutes in static close-up. A rare female voice in the masculine world of structural cinema, Fitzgibbon’s work shares that movement’s formal concerns while nevertheless refusing to let her labor quietly vanish into the finished product. Transcendence is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.
“Whispering Pines 2,” Shana Moulton, 2003, DVD, color, sound, 4 min.
For the past decade, Moulton has created a series of videos that parody various aspects of new age and consumer culture. WP stars Cynthia, a mute, unhappy, and perpetually constipated character played by Moulton herself. In this installment, Cynthia stumbles around her home in a dress that doubles as both a seat cushion and a video monitor as various tchotchkes reveal their magical properties. What she ultimately finds, however, is a dead cat.
“Corridor,” Standish Lawder, 1970, 16mm, b&w, sound, 22 min.
1970 saw the birth of a new, if short-lived, genre: the structuralist hallway film. Set to the music of Terry Riley, “Corridor” is composed of shaky zooms and tracking shots, negative printing and multiple exposures that reflect Lawder’s experience as a test subject for the Max Planck Institute. The hallucinatory appearance of a nude female body in “Corridor” shores up some of the gendered implications of Gehr’s scenario in “Serene Velocity”: the hallway as vaginal space, woman as unobtainable vanishing point… “obscene velocity,” perhaps?
“Home Stories,” Matthias Müller, 1991, 16mm, color, sound, 6 min.
Audrey, Lana, Tippi, Kim, Lauren and Jane each wake up, answer the telephone, look scared, and run around in fright throughout their homes in this classic piece of found-footage madness. One is left to ponder just what it is these hysterical women are running from: the director’s gaze? the frame itself?
“The Fourth Watch,” Janie Geiser, 2000, 16mm, color, sound, 10 min.
In a miniature house made of painted tin, silent film figures flicker brightly and vanish. Geiser’s film reveals a domestic landscape literally suffused with the specters of films past; their melancholy somnambulism is a reflection of woman’s traditional role as a passive consumer of images. Music by Tom Recchion.