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Rooftop Cinema: She Collage & Other Shorts

  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 227 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

This impressive program of shorts spans a variety of experimental filmmaking techniques. Info

  "Magic For Beginners."

"Magic For Beginners."

This program of experimental short films— mostly using found footage and stop-motion photocollage animation—is a healthy mix of total abstraction and densely meaningful narrative. Kate Laine's She Collage and Kelly Gallagher's More Dangerous Than A Thousand Rioters both almost exclusively use photocollage cut-and paste techniques with craft materials and magazine cutouts. But while the former is an impressive exploration of the similar artistic techniques of Terry Braunstein, the latter tells the historical tale of anarchist feminist leader Lucy Parsons. These two pieces together showcase the diverse possibilities of the under-seen form. Karen Yasinsky's Marie and Caryn Cline's Notes From The Farm are the most unabashedly abstract of the pieces in this collection. Both use experimental and digital techniques to dissociate repeated images. Outer Darkness is one of a series of works in which artist Hannah Piper Burns re-cuts Bachelor contestants' scenes, surreally turning an (arguably) real person into a character with a narrative arc. Outer Darkness is a particularly harrowing rendition of this artistic gesture, which I refuse to spoil.

While each of the films collected here are impressive, Magic For Beginners stands out as one of the most thought-provoking experimental films I've seen in a long time. UW-Milwaukee film professor Jesse McLean's exploration of celebrity worship and image obsession is partially based on Andy Warhol's book Philosophy Of Andy Warhol, which, once the credits acknowledged this, sent me dashing out to find a copy (you can also read it online here). This film is so philosophically unsettling that I had to physically turn away during one particularly abrasive segment to remind myself that it was indeed only images on my computer screen that were making me feel this existential terror, and not some kind of digital demon. While I must acknowledge that, as someone who stares at a computer screen all day for his living, I may be particularly susceptible to this kind of critique, the film's use of personal narration makes it uniquely accessible, even as it utilizes nauseating image flashing. McLean juxtaposes these elements in such a way that the viewer is forced to confront the screen itself, and a creeping sense of emotional manipulation. —Reid Kurkerewicz