Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

For your (lack of) consideration

December 02, 2008

from Arnold's pièce touchée (1989, 16 min., 16mm, b/w)

It is not news that the Los Angeles Times has long ago ceased to be relevant or publish anything worth reading. The paper has been so decimated over the last few years, there is virtually nothing left to recommend it to anyone. Arts coverage is no exception. And, while there are many fine writers who still work for the organization, with so little space devoted to them, it’s hard to imagine what they do with themselves most days. (And, if you think the L.A. Times web site is any better, you are sorely mistaken, my friend.)

The evidence of this decline is too numerous to detail at this point, but let me offer just the latest example. Sunday’s Calendar section featured an assessment of the REDCAT downtown on its fifth anniversary by three different critics, Mark Swed, Christopher Knight, and Charles McNulty, on the various successes and failures of the CalArts-run performance and art space to date. And, while time was spent on the music, theater, and visual arts programming, not a word was said about any of the experimental film or video programming that represents as much if not more of the facility’s overall schedule. (Dance was also overlooked, but who’s counting?) Of course, not mentioning the film program probably seems predictable in that this is a town with little history or reputation for its interest in film or the moving image.

The excellent REDCAT experimental and avant-garde film program has been co-curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud for all of the last five years and has featured a wide array of international artists who often appear in person in conjunction with screenings of their work. This year alone has featured some of the strongest screenings in the series, including works from Kenneth Anger, Ulrike Ottinger, and Paul McCarthy. Monday night’s program was another fascinating event featuring the works of Martin Arnold who presented several short films over the course of the evening. Arnold is mostly concerned in repurposing material from classic Hollywood films through various editing and processing techniques to create new objects that both expose and question not only the original material, but the whole project of film production as practiced in a particular place and manner. In three of the works, short pieces of film of rather mundane scenes are stretched out over many minutes by a process of quick and jerky repeats within these segments often creating chains of brief oscillations between only a few particular still frames. Suddenly menace appears in the peaceful domestic scene and Andy Hardy’s love for Judy becomes an Oedipal nightmare. It’s Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus writ large. The other film on the evening’s schedule was Deanimated an hour-long Bela Lugosi feature in which many if not most of the actors in the film have been digitally erased from each frame leaving only a succession of empty rooms in the context of rather creepy music. This subtraction achieves much the same goals of the shorter material though in perhaps the directly opposite fashion. It's fascinating work and hearing Arnold and the always interesting Reynaud speak about the material was thoroughly enjoyable.

In any event, the REDCAT, in addition to it's fine galley and performing arts series, continues to run one of the most worthwhile experimental film series in the entire city if not the country as a whole. And while our own local paper may not realize this, you can always read more about it at their website.


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