Some American Landscapes

Some American Landscapes

Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 8 PM
Artists’ Television Access, 922 Valencia St (at 21st St) San Francisco

Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 8 PM
Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N Alvarado St (at Sunset Blvd) Los Angeles

The American landscape is examined in distinct ways in these recent experimental films. Jeremy Menzies’ Between the Lines uses time lapse and night photography to observe the human-built environment in a series of exquisitely composed takes. Rick Bahto’s Still Life depicts an arrangement of potted plants situated in locations around their native environment that have been transformed by human activity. John Palmer explores real and imagined fragments of the California landscape through a variety of alternative techniques in his Landscape Quartet. Finally, Shauna McGarry and Lorna Turner present alternate views of the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles in short Super 8 portraits.

Both screenings will be followed by a Q&A. In San Francisco, Jeremy Menzies and Rick Bahto in person. In Los Angeles, John Palmer, Shauna McGarry, Lorna Turner and Rick Bahto in person.

Program notes:

John Palmer. Landscape Quartet. 2008, 12 minutes, b/w, silent, 16 mm on video.
These four films, each with their own focus and visual style, are as a group meant to examine North American landscapes in relation to development/industrialization. Obviously, these are often at odds with one another, but I also wanted to explore the poetry and balances found in their co-existence. In the films, both the landscapes and their manmade counterparts become victims to shifts in permanence and scale as they overlap and commingle. I was initially inspired by the diversity of the land in Los Angeles. You can visit a series of seeming contradictions—the ocean, a refinery, a forest, and an urban skyline—in less than half a day, and find both majesty and vulgarity. I was thinking a lot about the ways that we perceive the beauty and make associations. I wanted to make something that read a bit like poetry, and to set up some visual mysteries that aren’t necessarily meant to be fully solved. Disparate images become abstracted; cranes and roots begin to represent ideas and feelings. I didn’t want the images to look as though they belonged to a specific day and time. I wanted them to read as documents, strange surveys of the land, that might have been captured at any point over the past 100 years.

Rick Bahto. Still Life. 2010, 17 minutes, b/w, silent, Super 8 mm.
An arranged still life of six potted plants native to the Sonoran desert are shown in locations around their native habitat, at the boundaries of human settlement. The five locations, while ostensibly wild or natural landscapes, bear heavy markings of human activity: a wash where construction debris is illegally dumped; a field where people bring glass objects and shoot them with guns; a palo verde near the base of a mountain under which children have dug a tunnel and constructed a fort made of trash; a wash that passes beneath a road and is transformed from desert floor to poured concrete, where teenagers hang out and sometimes set things on fire; and finally, a yet-undeveloped parcel of land surrounded by a barbed wire fence that has been partially knocked down during a car crash, debris from which has been left for at least six months on the roadside. The film was edited in-camera according to a score created out of serialized combinations of sets of activities to perform with the camera.

Jeremy Menzies. Between the Lines. 20 minutes, color, silent, 16 mm.
Filmed entirely at night, this film is a meditation on time, space, and light.  The nightly movements of a city, a planet, and their inhabitants burst out of the darkness in a fury of moving light while the camera remains static.  Exposing each of more than 28,000 frames one at a time for between 2 and 6 seconds, hours of time are condensed into mere seconds.  Shot in various locations throughout an urban landscape between the hours of 9pm and 6am, this film seeks to watch what typically goes unwatched.  Tides fall, people become a blur of colour, and the slow rotation of the Earth turns celestial bodies into moving pinpricks of light.

Shauna McGarry. Story-lines. 3 minutes, b/w, silent, Super 8 mm.
A study of story-lines.  Filmed in Echo Park, Los Angeles.

Lorna Turner. Untitled. 3 minutes, b/w, silent, Super 8 mm.
Description forthcoming.

John Palmer is a Los Angeles-based artist and designer. His films have been described as “complex image and sound collages that explore confused emotional and psychological worlds.” John’s work has screened internationally, including Pacific Film Archive, Experimental Film Today (England), Seoul Festival of Experimental Super-8 Films (Korea), Southern Exposure, Millennium (New York), Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema, and the Telluride International Experimental Cinema Exposition.

Rick Bahto is an artist currently living in Los Angeles who works primarily with Super and regular 8 mm film. He is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, where he studied with Janis Lipzin and Charles Boone, among others. His works have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Cinematheque, Chicago Filmmakers, The 8 Fest (Toronto), Seoul Festival of Experimental Super 8 Film and the New Nothing Cinema. He and composer Luciano Chessa have created several collaborative works for film and music, which they have performed at Cinefamily for the Los Angeles Filmforum, Old First Concerts in San Francisco and the Berkeley Arts Festival. He has curated several film programs that he has presented at Artists’ Television Access, the Echo Park Film Center and No Festival Required (Phoenix), and teaches workshops in Super 8 filmmaking and hand processing at the Echo Park Film Center. He also dabbles in performing contemporary music, including works by Mark So with the Dog Star Orchestra (volume 6) and Mauricio Kagel with  Monday Evening Concerts, and is an avid—though not entirely successful—gardener.

Born and raised in Northeastern Ohio, Jeremy Menzies moved to San Francisco in 2005 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, where he was introduced to West Coast experimental filmmaking. After spending 2007 in New York City, shooting films, curating screenings, and working at the Millennium Film Workshop and Filmmaker’s Cooperative, he returned to San Francisco where he now resides. Currently, he is curating film programs at Oddball Film + Video and working on various photographic and film projects.

Shauna McGarry is a filmmaker and writer, living in Los Angeles. She currently works for Showtime’s “Dexter” and has written for various television shows, including “24” and “South of Nowhere”. She is a volunteer instructor and administrator at the Echo Park Film Center and graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Bio for Lorna Turner forthcoming.