Mar 24, 2022 at 7:30 pm
Human Human Human
With Carl Elsaesser & Mary Helena Clark
We welcome you to a celebration of filmmaker Carl Elsaesser’s body of work in a night that explores the ineffable difficulty and complexity of representation, of a human portrait. We’ll screen five of Elsaesser’s films as well as interspersed work that has inspired and informed his practice, including Joon soo Ha’s Just (2002) and Chantal Akerman’s The Chamber (1972). What Herb Shellenberger describes in Elsaesser’s work as a “feeling of immersion—the commingling of what’s on screen and the viewer’s immediate environment, a sense of participation and physicality (with)in the work” is readily apparent across this collection of short works that deftly traces at the notion of the human. Leo Goldsmith named Elsaesser’s latest Home When You Return in Senses of Cinema’s 2021 World Poll.
Elsaesser cites Trinh T. Minh Ha’s fabulously titled essay ‘The Totalizing Quest of Meaning’ when describing this personal quest in his work:
“She describes truth as a fluid modality: always moving, always on the run, and a challenge therefore to be constantly pursued and never found or fixed. It’s a challenge I’ve taken to heart as a practice. Over the course of these 5 films, I set out to trace a body after the person is gone; My hope is that in the same way my latest film (Home When You Return) conflates an amateur filmmaker with my grandmother, these portraits can collapse you into their resonant absence, to provide a space for you to identify not only with the position of filmmaker, but with that of the absent body. That absence is not a ceasing but an ongoing of human modes of touch, connection, and belief.”
Following the program, Elsaesser will be joined by filmmaker / artist Mary Helena Clark for dialogue after who will guide us along through the central inquiries at the heart of this work.
“how do I depict you—that is, without fixing or totalizing your nature? How do I explore these seemingly infinite languages to film and video and extend them to you, to tend to, to hold, to fight, to antagonize, to release, to liberate?” – Carl Elsaesser
Come through to think this through together in a dialogue following the program. Proof of vaccination is required for entry and seating is limited.
6 min., 2002, Color, Joon Soo Ha
Through a process of degeneration of both sound and image, Just endows the iconic American flag with new context and implication. The image is repeated by generations, using different processes such as digital video, computer printout and photocopying, and then combined with degenerated sound. Single frames of original digital images are exported, and evolve through the repetition of process, before being metamorphosed back to digital image by scanning and rendering. This working process explores how differently an image can be read when put in a specific context, which separates it from its universal meaning. In Just the process not only conveys the idea but also creates the concept, and the form of Just acts as a clue to decipher the content. Just plays with image, sound and language but breaks down their karma and builds up new combinations of meaning.
7 min., 2014, Color, Video, Super 8, 16mm
I reconcile the violent act. Project Gasbuggy pertains to the site where the first of three nuclear bombs was dropped a mile into the earth as part of a government collaboration with natural gas companies to see if nuclear energy could be used to free up natural gas in the earth. As a result of the radiation from each explosion, the land was labeled a dead zone where no harvesting or development of any kind is allowed.
The Misbehaving Image
13 min., 2016, Color, Video, 16mm
A suspended portrait of Rose (1932-2014) amidst a discursive plane. A film must have a tipping point within the discursive understandings of itself where a portrait can be released from the logic of the piece and stand on its own.
Vague Images at the Beginning and End of the Day
8 min., 2015, Color, Video, Super 8, 16mm
A hug/punch eulogy for all things impossible now. Vague Images is a sketch book of images and sounds from the year wrapped around a trip out to Loomis, South Dakota to find the abandoned farm where my grandfather grew up. At the same time the film is a travelogue of my frustrations and understandings of gay sexuality. The two are connected.
The Chamber by Chantal Akerman
11 min., 1972
In Chantal Anne Akerman’s early short film, The Chamber (1972), we see the furniture and clutter of one small room in an apartment become the subject of a moving still life—with Akerman herself staring back at us.
Itinerary of Surfaces
8 min., 2020, Color/BW, Video, 16mm
What I am//What you are//salt and sweat on my tongue.
A quarantined love letter of domestic imagination. A year of rain and other fluids. Contentment is a difficult emotion. 26 Main St. Bucksport, ME
Home When You Return
30 min., 2021, Color, Video, 16mm
“Superimposing the stories of two women—the filmmaker’s late grandmother and the amateur filmmaker Joan Thurber Baldwin—Home When You Return explores the psychogeographies of mourning through a variety of modes, from documentary to melodrama. Emptied and put up for sale following its matriarch’s passing, the family home becomes the site of a winding tour through polymorphic representations of the past in media and memory.” – NYFF Currents description
Carl Elsaesser (1988, USA) graduated from Hampshire College and University of Iowa. He lives and works between midcoast and interior Maine and Brooklyn, NY. He has made several short films which have screened at festivals in New York, Michigan, Amsterdam, Korea among others. In his work, Elsaesser mixes genres and materials to produce work that “critically investigates the overarching presence of the historical without losing sight of individual experiences of human connection.”.
Mary Helena Clark is an artist working in film, video, and installation. Her montage-driven work explores the potentials and limits of intelligibility, agency, and affect. Her films have screened at festivals and venues including the International Film Festival Rotterdam; New York Film Festival; Toronto International Film Festival; Cinéma du réel, Paris; Viennale, Vienna; ICA London; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius; and the 2017 Whitney Biennial, New York. Exhibitions include MIT’s List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; MOCA Detroit; Künstlerhaus Stuttgart; Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco; Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, Connecticut; and DOCUMENT, Chicago.