Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Soft Science: The Human Animal at Video Data Bank

Two of my videos (Nightspider, 2006 and Mudeye, 2009) are included in the video compilation Soft Science: Human Animal, curated by Rachel Mayeri. This anthology was recently screened at the Antimatter Film Festival, and has just been selected by the Video Data Bank for distribution!

Curated by Rachel Mayeri

A collection of ten short films from the intersection of science and art, Soft Science: the Human Animal investigates human-animal relationships and systems: allegorical stories, explorations in anthropomorphism, experimental documentation and interspecies collaborations.

Once Upon a Time
Corinna Schnitt | 2006 | Germany | 22:00
Corinna Schnitt’s Once Upon a Time is structured like a fairy tale. People leave their house for the day, and then animals enter one by one. First kittens and parrots arrive, followed by larger animals. They sniff each other, claw the furniture, and drink from a fish bowl. An unmanned video camera records what happens as chaos ensues. The effect is to tear apart the comfortable notion of domesticity—a term that suggests both taming and home—as shared between humans and animals, especially their pets.

Jim Trainor | 2004 | USA | 11:00
In Harmony, Jim Trainor’s darkly comic voiceover contrasts with his cartoon drawings of charismatic megafauna. The lions, dolphins, and bonobos depicted in his felt-tip pen animated films speak with brute honesty about their crimes, at least as they would be defined by human social standards: infanticide, gang rape and incest. Dubbed the “Walt Disney of Sexual Anxiety” by one film critic, Trainor’s film strips the warm fuzziness from the nature documentary genre.

Family Portrait
Nicolas Primat with Patrick Munck | 2004 | France | 3:00
Nicolas Primat was a unique and inspiring artist who passed away in 2009 at the age of 42. In residencies at zoos and labs, Primat worked closely with apes and monkeys, exploring and engaging in the social worlds of the human’s closest relatives. His intuitive performances with primates show a human who learned how to ingratiate himself with other species. In Family Portrait, the artist is swarmed by a playful troop of squirrel monkeys.

Night Spider & Mudeye
Julia Oldham | 2006/2009 | USA | 3:30
A self-proclaimed lover of bugs, Julia Oldham studies insects to understand them in a playful yet deep way, making contact with them and becoming them, to answer the question, “Can a creature so small and strange experience joy, fear, love and desire?” By engaging in their behavior, movements, and rituals, her approach to being one with the insect mind by biomimicry through dance has prompted her to observe a strangely intuitive connection to these movements, accessible through rhythms, patterns, gestures, and relationships.

Alison Ruttan | 2005 | USA | 3:00
In Alison Ruttan’s two-channel video installation, Impersonator, a young man carefully tries to mimic a cat’s slow decision to fight or flee. The cat paces the perimeter of the room; body hunkered down close to the floor, as if in anticipation of some unknown danger. The young man’s earnest efforts to mimic the cat merely reinforce that humans are closed off from the possibility of really understanding the cat. Instead, locked as we are in our own embodied reality, we have only learned to mimic other animals.

Baboons as Friends
Rachel Mayeri | 2007 | USA | 6:00
Part of the “Primate Cinema” series, Baboons as Friends is a split screen video juxtaposing field footage of baboons with a reenactment by human actors, shot in film noir style. A tale of lust, jealousy, sex and violence transpires simultaneously in human and nonhuman worlds. Beastly males, instinctively attracted to a femme fatale, fight to win her, but most are doomed to fail. The story of sexual selection is presented across species, the dark genre of film noir re-mapping the savannah to the urban jungle.

Polar Bear God
Deke Weaver | 2008 | USA | 14:00
Polar Bear God is a monologue set in the disturbing territory of contemporary environmental crises. The work connects polar bears, a drastic increase in the number of children with autism and the numbing frustration of office work. Originally part of Weaver’s The Ghosts of Prague, a full-length solo performance of interwoven short monologues and projected videos, Polar Bear God struggles to balance an instinctive, spiritual life with the daily 21st century grind.

Colin Ives | 2006 | USA | 4:00
In the San Joaquin Valley of California the kit fox has been more successful in the urban environment than in wilderness areas. Cities like Bakersfield have become, in a sense, a reserve for this endangered species. Nocturne’s intention is not only to acknowledge the individual lives of the animals represented, but also to forward the idea that they have an important presence in our contemporary city space—a presence that insists that the boundary between man-made and natural remains permeable.

Animal Charm | 1998 | USA | 4:00
In this masterful example of video montage, a monkey is mesmerized as he watches two dolphins toss a woman from snout to snout. Go cross-eyed with cross-cutting. Sometimes, in order to prevent the insidious absorption of mass media, it is necessary to apply Vaseline to your eyes and ears. Other times, you only need to watch Stuffing—it’s inside of everything. – Video Data Bank

Catherine Chalmers | 2007 | USA | 7:00
Known for her hyperrealistic photography, Catherine Chalmers’ experiment with wildlife documentary in Safari was produced in her studio with an unlikely choice of fauna. A macroscopic lens follows the point of view of a cockroach on adventures in an apparent tropical paradise, encountering exotic insects that Chalmers collected for the film. Chalmers’ lush rendering of a cockroach world is the artist’s attempt, as she says, “to try to understand what it is not to be human.”

Rachel Mayeri is a video and installation artist whose work often deals with the intersection of science, art, and society. Her previous video work includes Stories from the Genome and The Anatomical Theater of Peter the Great. Mayeri’s work has been screened at numerous venues, including ZKM in Karlsruhe, Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, MOMA at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York and Ars Electronica in Linz. She is currently Associate Professor of Media Studies at Harvey Mudd College and curates art and media events in Los Angeles.

No comments:

Post a Comment