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Rooftop Cinema: Yippie!, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

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

Two experimental documentaries capture the political and artistic chaos of 1968. Info

"Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One."

"Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One."

This installment of Rooftop Cinema consists of two documentaries from the '60s that make use of ironic distancing to grapple with their subjects, both producing humor that is not so infectious as it is unbelievable.

The 1968 short film Yippie! is one of the satirical dispatches the Youth International Party, produced through its practice of "symbolic politics." The film responds to the notoriously violent 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, in which police beat anti-Vietnam War protesters, including Yippies, with clubs. The Yippies manage to scrape up some humor from the bottom of the barrel of the police-state, and announce their infamous pig as a candidate in the election. (Fun fact: Roseanne Barr once performed at the Yippie museum. Do with that knowledge what you will.)

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, also released in 1968, is an experimental documentary about a documentary about the filming of an audition scene that's acted out over and over again, the entirety of which William Greaves vaguely directs. There are several moving parts that make this cinema-verite hall of mirrors work. One is the central audition scene, which is an argument between a man and a woman that switches moods and locations in Central Park several times, and is sometimes pathetic, sometimes almost violent. Next we have the actor and actress discussing their roles, where it becomes clear that they're still acting for the camera, along with the crew, who attempt professionalism in the face of confusion and material problems like running out of film. Then, the documentary threatens to cave in on itself when the crew begins filming their own segments in which they argue with each other about whether or not the director knows what he's doing and about what the film even is itself. Greaves himself is clearly acting as a misogynistic director who has no idea what he's doing, though the truth inherent in that performance is up for debate. In this way, the documentary slices closer and closer to a reality that many of us believe exists, but which apparently becomes just barely unreachable once forced under the camera lens. It's also entertaining to watch this group of people struggle to understand what the hell is going on, while you yourself struggle to understand what the hell you're watching. —Reid Kurkerewicz

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