Janie Geiser is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes performance, film, installation, and visual art. Geiser’s work is known for its recontextualization of abandoned images and objects, its embrace of artifice, and its sense of suspended time. Her work involves elliptical narratives, sublime use of superimpositon, and rich approach to collage.
“Geiser gives voice to the reaches of the unconscious, pointing to the abandoned splendor that exists prior to the rules of society and language.” —Holly Willis, Res, 2004
Experimental Response Cinema is proud to welcome Janie Geiser for an in-person screening of her lush and complex film and digital video works, most made within the last five years, including her most recent work, Flowers of the Sky which just premiered at the New York Film Festival. She will follow the screening with a q&a.
Kriminalistik (digital film, 2014, 4 minutes)
Evidence is scientifically arranged and catalogued, suggesting a corridor to knowledge. Elusive. Crimson.
Ghost Algebra (16mm/finished on digital, 2009, 9 minutes)
Sound collage: Janie Geiser
Under erratic skies, a solitary figure navigates a landscape of constructed nature and broken bones. She peers through a decaying aperture, waiting and watching: the fragility of the body is exposed for what it is: ephemeral, liquid, a battlefield of nervous dreams.
Using found and natural objects, rephotographed video, medical illustrations, and other collage elements, Ghost Algebra suggests one of the original meanings of the word “algebra”: the science of restoring what is missing, the reunion of broken parts.
Kindless Villain (16mm film/finished on digital, 2010, 5 minutes)
In Kindless Villain, two boys wander through a stone fortress, while the history of never-ending battle forms traces in the waters below. Seemingly alone in their island world, the boys succumb to fatigue, and to rituals of power. Scratched phrases from an ancient recording of Hamlet reveal a sad cry for vengeance. War is a child’s game, played quietly in this forgotten world.
The Floor of the World (16mm film/digital print, 2010, 11 minutes)
In a shifting landscape of dirt and sky, excavation and construction merge. Figures move back and forth between life and death, and possibly somewhere else. The ephemerality of existence is mundane knowledge in this world, where numbers mark the way. The floor of the world turns out to be easily pierced, liquid, permeable.
Arbor (16mm film/digital print, 2012, 8 minutes)
ARBOR suggests the fragility and ephemerality of memory and its artifacts. Geiser re-animates a set of photographs found in a thrift store, creating a liminal space between representation and abstraction, figure and landscape, fiction and memory. Gathering on a past hill, lounging on forgotten stone walls behind lost trees, the inhabitants of Arbor cycle through this one afternoon repeatedly, gradually dissolving into time or into the landscape without revealing what we cannot know, and becoming shadows in their own stories.
The Hummingbird Wars (digital film, 2015, 8 minutes)
A theatrical fiction, collapsing time and place: turn-of-the-last-century performers apply stage makeup as if for war, to engage in battle for the soul of the world. The injuries are more emotional than physical, but cut deeply just the same. A visual/aural collage film, drawing on sources as seemingly disparate as Ibsen’s A Doll House, Japanese Gagaku music, makeup illustrations for 19th Century actors, the biography of a Shakespearean performer, blooming and decaying flowers, and a World War 1 First Aid Book, The Hummingbird Wars suggests theater in a time of war, which is the theater of any time.
Cathode Garden (digital film, 2015, 8 minutes)
In Cathode Garden, a girl moves between light and dark, between life and death, a distant echo of the myth of Persephone. Found negatives and photographs, botanical and anatomical illustrations, abandoned envelopes, and ancient home-made recordings re-order themselves, collapsing and emerging in this liminal world.
Flowers of the Sky (digital film, 2016, 9:15 minutes)
Flowers of the Sky (a medieval term for comets) draws on two panoramic photographs, found in an LA thrift shop, that depict a gathering of members of the Order of the Eastern Star, a Masonic order. In the first photograph, taken at a banquet meal, everyone is seated at tables and facing the camera. In the second photograph, the people are facing away from the camera; a single figure stands and faces them, centered and raised on a stage.
Through isolating parts of the photographs and highlighting the different groupings of the Eastern Star members, Flowers of the Sky reveals and obscures the original event. There is a sense in the photographs of watching and waiting for something to happen. And something does. Nature reasserts herself, the figures double, vibrate, and rise, trying to escape their emulsive lives, suggesting a rapture that extends beyond their printed world.