Prismatic Ground 2023

Kimi Takesue’s Onlookers (2023)

Soda Jerk, the art collective formed in 2022 by siblings Dominique and Dan Angeloro, will open the third edition of Prismatic Ground today with their latest feature, Hello Dankness. New York’s festival of experimental documentary and avant-garde film will present around sixty films at venues across the city before wrapping on Sunday with scènes de ménage, a trilogy of shorts that filmmaker Alexandre Larose says are “inspired by various habitual and imagined gestures/actions performed by my parents, mainly within the domestic spaces of the family home.” Like one out of every six films at the festival this year, scènes de ménage will be projected from celluloid prints.

Hello Dankness “devises an ultra-endurance meme sequence for these times,” writes Lauren Carroll Harris at the Notebook, adding that the seventy-minute work “explores the madness of U.S. politics in the age of social media—or, rather, the reeling feeling of it, revisiting the major news stories bridging the Trump and Biden administrations through over 550 pirated audio and visual clippings.” Soda Jerk “are righteous inheritors of the filmic avant-garde, via valid, established artistic methods of bootlegging and scavenging. Ingenuity is in the rearrangement of what already exists.”

The festival will pay tribute to three filmmakers who have passed away since last year’s edition. In February, the Berlinale’s Forum presented a program of work by Takahiko Iimura, a pioneer of experimental filmmaking and video art who was eighty-five when he passed away last summer. As Julian Ross pointed out, A Chair (1970) is “a video recording of a 16 mm projection of alternating clear and black frames onto an actual chair.”

Iimura “utilizes the brightness control function of the CRT monitor to alternate between different levels of brightness, something that wasn’t possible with a film projector,” wrote Ross. “A chair is the only visible object in A Chair, but its shadow—which occasionally makes an appearance due to the clear frame projections onto the physical chair—becomes visible as Iimura heightens the brightness of the monitor, and creates a subtle flicker effect. In such ways, Iimura’s experiments in both film and video continued to feed into each other as he investigated the distinct qualities of each through artistic practice.”

Talking to Offscreen’s Donato Totaro and Andre Habib in 2002, Michael Snow noted that he usually referred to his 1956 cut-out animation A to Z as his first film. He didn’t mention, though, that the five-minute work depicts a couple of chairs getting it on. “The fetish of commodities has rarely been handled with such a light touch,” writes Phil Coldiron in the festival’s program notes.

Two days before Snow died on January 5 at the age of ninety-four, a degenerative illness took artist Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, who was only forty-six. “The most widely seen works by Wolukau-Wanambwa were moving-image pieces that featured overlays of text on imagery related to colonialism in Africa,” wrote ARTnews senior editor Alex Greenberger.Promised Lands (2015), which featured in the 2018 Berlin Biennale, contains a long take of a sunset with words like ‘NO THEATRE’ periodically superimposed on it. On its audio is the sound of Wolukau-Wanambwa and her uncle Patrick, as well as spoken text by Theodor Hertzka, an Austrian economist who, during the nineteenth century, attempted to establish a utopian settlement for Europeans in East Africa.”

At the Film Stage, Edward Frumkin writes about five “must-see films” at the festival, including Darol Olu Kae’s Keeping Time, which focuses on drummer Mekala Session as he takes over as the new leader of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, a jazz ensemble founded in Los Angeles in 1961. “In addition to exerting family footage and scripted scenes in the luscious analog film, Kae utilizes music as the story’s action and vessel, unlike most docs where it supplements the participants’ testimonials,” writes Frumkin. Keeping Time is “a spiritual overture to maintaining communal lineage and the essence of interconnectedness.”

Filmmaker’s Natalia Keogan talks with Prismatic Ground founder and director Inney Prakash, recommends fifteen films—including Tsai Ming-liang’s Where (2022), the latest entry in the Walker series featuring Lee Kang-sheng moving with an almost imperceptible slowness through a bustling city—and points us to two more Filmmaker pieces. In March, A. E. Hunt spoke with Kimi Takesue about Onlookers, “a surprisingly funny observational documentary feature she shot in Laos.” The film is “the pithy result of her long look at a place and its tourism from untrodden angles. She is able to look at travel critically as well as see its potential—which, to her, chiefly, is its ability to reactivate and clarify one’s sight.”

Vadim Rizov profiled Lucy Kerr for last year’s 25 New Faces of Film, one of the magazine’s most popular and influential features. In Crashing Waves (2021), Kerr tells the true and “disturbing” story of a dangerous and decidedly unsafe stunt on a film set. Site of Passage (2022) “presents a group of adolescent girls playing four games with ritualistic intensity,” and in one of them, the girls lock limbs and lift themselves from the floor as if they were a single body. “In the culture I grew up in,” Kerr tells Rizov, “you’re encouraged to define yourself and make yourself stand out—this American mentality about being an individual and independent. So, part of my practice in performance is creating spaces of interdependency and making that visible.”

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