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Sep 29, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Can the Addict Speak?

with Devon Narine-Singh, John Freyer, Alia Ayman & Kalpana Subramanian

Can The Addict Speak? presents a program of short films reflecting on the familiar cycles and stages of those experiencing addiction. Organized with filmmaker / programmer Devon Narine-Singh, this series raises the question of how film can be used as a restorative tool. Proposing a broadened conception of what a film about addiction can look like, these seven shorts approach recovery through its recognizable touchstones.

Grounding the program in relational aesthetics and the use of symbolism to unpack subjects of addiction and recovery in late capitalism, UnionDocs welcomes John Freyer to kick off the program with his performance “Free Ice Water.” Following this performance, we’ll showcase a program of films that approach and question through radically diverse perspectives, reflecting on themes of presence, serenity, double consciousness, fraught systemic governance, physical memory, guilt, and transformation. As the series converges on a shared interest in addiction, it simultaneously hosts divergent perspectives, addressing a spectrum of subjects ranging from societal notions of women’s bodies to post 9/11 air travel.



15 min.
John Freyer

In the still-emergent tradition of relational aesthetics, FREE ICE WATER puts human relationships and their social contexts at its center.  Using a Ball Perfect Mason Jar, “free ice water,” and other ephemera to construct symbolic objects, the project acts as a catalyst for intimate dialogue on the subjects of addiction, mental health issues, trauma, and recovery in our late-capitalist, digitally networked world(s).


7 min. 2016, Kalpana Subramanian

Empyrean is a silent reflection on the magical quality of cinematic light. ‘Filmed’ with a mobile phone at the altar of celluloid cinema (a projection booth window), this piece responds to Stan Brakhage’s aesthetic vision, by re-framing his cinema as a source of light in itself. It is part of  a  series titled  Light Mediated – Eyes on Brakhage (2016).

The Body Besieged

5 min., 2009
Kelly Sears

Animated instructional photographs from yoga and workout books reveal bewitched and frenzied bodies and maneuvers. Exercising women move through a possessed psychic space that distorts and mirrors some of our daily routines. Their bodies point to haunted forces may lay behind a fevered sense of wellness.

"51 seconds on the 4th of july"

51 sec., 2018
Kelly Gallagher

Leave Me Alone and Let Me Die

10 min., 2019
Devon Narine-Singh

Remixing a wide variety of materials the film is diary and meditation on being a few months into recovery, and thought of what it means to surrender. Freddy and Jason linger in the Seventh Seal, Lee Kang-sheng watches Bojack Horseman and Laurie Strode tries to stop drinking. Alice Cooper sits the record straight alongside some Bollywood tunes.


11 min., 2016
Jessica Johnson

A woman hikes to a secluded section of the Seymour River in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve.

Close Shave

10 min., 2018
John Freyer

Close Shave unpacks the intimacy and vulnerability of a straight blade barber shop shave and the complicated relationships of service, friendship and privilege. Set in Richmond, Virginia, Close Shave re-enacts a specific turning point in the filmmaker’s life, which was enabled and supported by an unlikely friendship forged in a time of chaos.


14 min., 2017
Shambhavi Kaul

Airplane space is inhabited by characters for whom ‘escape’, one of the promises of airplane technology, proves elusive.

70 min

John Freyer is an Associate Professor of Cross Disciplinary Media at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. He earned his B.A. from Hamilton College and M.A. & M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. His works include his internationally renowned Internet project and book All My Life for Sale, Live IKEA, his national PBS pilot Second Hand Stories, and his readymade projects Walm-Art.com and Big Boy. His work has been reviewed in The New Yorker, The Sunday London Times, Artforum, Print Magazine and NBC’s The Today Show. In 2011 Freyer was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Stockholm, Sweden.

Kelly Sears lives in Denver, CO.  She uses experimental animation techniques to create work that move between the document, and the document.  Her films have screened at international festivals such as Sundance, Slamdance, South by Southwest, American Film Institute, Ann Arbor, Black Maria, Off+Camera Film Festival, Poland, Festival International de Films de Femmes de Créteil, France, and Tricky Women in Austria and has been invited to screen her short works in solo programs at Anthology Film Archives, The Pacific Film Archive, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Portland Art Museum, and the SF Cinematheque. Sears is an Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she teaches advanced filmmaking, animation, experimental documentary, and media archeology.

Devon Narine-Singh is a filmmaker, curator and scholar based in Long Island and Queens. His works have screened at Microscope Gallery, UltraCinema, The New School and The Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. He has presented screening and presentations at NYU Cinema Studies, The Film-Makers Coop, and Maysles Cinema.

Shambhavi Kaul‘s cinematic constructions conjure uncanny, science-fictive non-places. Described as creating “zones of compression and dispersion,” her work utilizes strategies of montage and recirculation, inviting an affective response while simultaneously measuring our capacity to know what we encounter. She has exhibited her work worldwide at venues such as the Toronto International Film Festival, the Berlinale, The New York Film Festival, the London Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Edinburgh International Film Festival, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the 2014 Shanghai Biennale and a 2015 solo show at Jhaveri Contemporary, in Mumbai.

Jessica Johnson is an award-winning experimental filmmaker based in Vancouver, B.C. She has made a number of short experimental films with a focus on narrative embedded within the landscape. These works often explore representation of space and time in the natural landscape with an attempt to subvert audience expectation. Her work has exhibited at the Polygon Gallery as well as festivals such as Vancouver International Film Festival, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Images Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival and Cinéma du Réel in Paris.

Joie Estrella Horwitz is an artist, filmmaker and curator based in Los Angeles, California. Born in the small bordertown of Nogales, Arizona her work contemplates the in-between space borders cast onto the identities of those in proximity. She attempts to illuminate the multi-dimensional complexities surrounding otherness. Horwitz uses 16mm film, digital media, and multi-channel video installation to conceptually portray the intricacies and layering embedded in human interaction. Her past curatorial experience was in partnership with the collaborative curatorial practice, Sorry Archive, that uses diverse disciplines and unconventional display formats to frame exhibitions and produce an ever-shifting series of events. She is currently completing her MFA in Film/Video at CalArts where she has received the Lillian Disney Scholarship and The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar Fellowship

Kelly Gallagher is a filmmaker, animator, and Assistant Professor of Film at Syracuse University. Her award winning films and commissioned animations have screened internationally at venues including: the Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery of Art, Sundance Film Festival, the Smithsonian Institution, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, and Black Maria Film Festival. She’s presented solo programs of her work at institutions including: UnionDocs, the Wexner, UC Santa Cruz, and Oberlin, among many others. Kelly enthusiastically organizes and facilitates film workshops, camps, and masterclasses for communities and groups of all ages.

Kalpana Subramanian is an artist-filmmaker, educator and a Ph.D. candidate at the department of Media Study, University at Buffalo. She is interested in transcultural and interdisciplinary approaches of inquiry into the aesthetics of experimental film and media. Her short films have been screened at festivals worldwide and have received various honors. Her recent films include the series Light Mediated: Eyes on Brakhage (2016) and Tattva (2018). She was a Fulbright Nehru Academic and Professional and Excellence Fellow at the University of Boulder Colorado in 2015-16 and a UK Environmental Film Fellow in 2006. ​

Alia Ayman makes and curates film and video and lives between Cairo and New York. She is the cofounder of Zawya, an art-house cinema located Cairo and a doctoral student at NYU where she is working towards a dissertation on decoloniality, difference and the global circulation of documentary images.

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Sep 29, 2019
7:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Free – $10.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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