March 28th – Focus Group: The Screening Room with Suzan Pitt

Join us for the second edition of the Visual Art Center’s series featuring Robert Gardner’s The Screening Room! For this screening, the Visual Arts Center will be showing the episode focusing on animator Suzan Pitt. Preceding The Screening Room, ERC’s Rachel Stuckey will do a presentation on women animators and showcase films by Janie Geiser, Daina Krumins and Gunvor Nelson. All films will be on 16mm.

Rachel Stuckey is a moving image artist and native Austinite who works primarily with video, film, and across media in live-action and animation to make exploratory, non-narrative films. She holds a BFA in Experimental Filmmaking from the University of Colorado at Boulder and will begin her graduate studies in Transmedia at The University of Texas this fall.

Event Details:

March 28th, 2013
Visual Arts Center (map)
Auditorium , Room 1.102


Secret Story by Janie Geiser
8.30min / 16mm / sound /1996
Music composed and arranged by Dick Connette.
Vocals by Sonya Cohen.
Music produced and arranged by Dick Connette and Scott Lehrer, engineered by Scott Lehrer. Soundtrack by Janie Geiser and Dick Connette, engineered by Beo Morales.
The Secret Story arose as a response to several beautifully decayed toy figures from the 1930’s that were given to me as a gift.  These figures, and other toys, objects, and illustrations that I found from the period between the world wars, suggested a kind of unearthed hidden narrative which I have attempted to re-piece together, as if these figures were the hieroglyphics of a just-forgotten tongue.  The Secret Story revolves around the central figure of the woman, and her girl-double, who look  somewhat like a versions of Snow White.  She wanders through landscapes of rivers and floods, home and war,  and memory and illness, culminating in an ecstatic walk in the forest, suggesting both the dark and cathartic trajectories of the richest fairy tales. —Janie Geiser
In his review of the 1996 New York Film Festival in Film Comment, Paul Arthur writes:
“Geiser’s film …creates a child’s vision of domestic immersion and foreboding out of crudely articulated antique dolls, toy blocks, and paper cutouts.  Against a photographic backdrop of a floodbound house, figures of mother and daughter exchange symbiotic knowledge of household routines, tasks, or games …  Recurrent images of a doctor and a nun, along with shifting veils of color, evoke a condition merging physical illness with spiritual floating.  the “secret is never spelled out, the degree of emotional affect generated by or around Geiser’s expressionless objects is compelling.”
The Secret Story was chosen by Film Comment’s Gavin Smith as one of the Best Short Films of 1996.

Babobilicons by Daina Krumins
16min / 16mm / sound / 1982
“Daina Krumins’s 1982 BABOBILICONS is a spectacular special-effects study of molds, mushrooms and similar vegetation.” – Richard Shephard, The New York Times
“Daina Krumins’s BABOBILICONS is a truly surrealist work in terms of both its process and product. Krumins takes time to make her films. It took her nine years to create this remarkable animated short, yet her method is in line with the surrealist affinity for chance operation. She cultivated slime molds on Quaker five-minute oats in her basement, planted hundreds of phallic stink-horn mushrooms, and put her mother behind the camera to film them growing. The results are sexual and bizarre. She combined ordinary objects – wall sockets, candles, and peeling paint – to get unnerving, dreamlike images. Porcelain fish jump through waves; mushroom erections rise and fall. Her Babobilicons – robotlike characters that resemble coffee pots with lobster claws – move through all this with mysterious determination. Anyone who orders 10,000 ladybugs from a pest control company to film them crawling over a model drawing room definitely possesses a sense of the surreal.”
– Renee Shafransky, The Village Voice
Awards: Bronze Hugo, Chicago Int’l Film Festival; Sinking Creek Film & Video Festival; Atlanta Independent Film Festival; SF Art Institute Film Festival.

Field Study #2 by Gunvor Nelson
8min / 16mm / sound / 1988
Another collage film. Part of the on-going series of “Field Studies” (which includes FRAME LINE, LIGHT YEARS, and LIGHT YEARS EXPANDING) combining live action with animation. Superimpositions of dark pourings are perceived through the film. Suddenly a bright color runs across the picture and delicate drawings flutter past. Grunts from animals are heard. – GN

More from the VAC webpage:

Focus Group is a screening series centered on experimental film in its various formats, including but not limited to 16mm, 8mm, and digital video. Focusing on seminal filmmakers from the past and their contemporary counterparts, the screenings are introduced by artists, filmmakers, critics, and curators who additionally present discussion topics ranging from innovative approaches to the medium to issues in contemporary film culture. Through this exposure to unique and often rare films, as well as the critical dialogue surrounding them, Focus Group enables a broader understanding of the possibilities of cinema.

Screening Room, a 1970s television series that aired in Boston, invited independent filmmakers to screen and discuss their work on a commercial affiliate station (ABC-TV). The unique program, developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner, gave equal exposure to animation, documentary, and experimental film by artists such as Jean Rouch, Jonas Mekas, Hollis Frampton, Yvonne Rainer, and Michael Snow. Each episode featured conversations with filmmakers about their work, as well as excerpts, and often full-length films. The filmmakers that were presented on the show are now considered among the most influential contributors to their respective genres. Produced and released by Studio7Arts, an organization founded by Robert Gardner to support nonfiction media, the rarely seen Screening Room episodes are still invaluable today to creative thinkers, regardless of what medium they work in.

This spring, as part of the newly branded series, Focus Group, the VAC presents a different episode of Screening Room each month, providing a wide range of anecdotes, explanations, and methodologies from pioneers in film. Videos and films hand-picked by members of Experimental Response Cinema precede each screening.

For March’s edition, the VAC presents the July 1975 episode of Screening Room with Suzan Pitt. An animator and painter whose surreal films have gained her worldwide acclaim, Pitt pushes the boundaries of the animated form, sometimes working with live actors or using animation in operatic stagings. She has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of Art, the Holly Solomon Gallery in New York, and the Stedlijk Museum in Amsterdam, and she currently teaches at the California Institute of the Arts. In this episode of Screening Room, Pitt screens and discusses the films BowlGardenTheatre, Marble GameCrocusCelsWhitney Promo, and Jefferson Circus Songs.

Special thanks to The University of Texas at Austin Fine Arts Library and its staff for supporting the educational mission of the Visual Arts Center through acquisitions of works like Screening Room.

The Visual Arts Center (VAC) is positioned as a place for the intersection of art education and art evolution. The center is a new exhibition and research space within the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin that will highlight internationally acclaimed artists, as well as students, faculty, and alumni through multiple programs. An adaptive reuse of the space in the Art Building previously inhabited by the Jack S. Blanton Museum, the VAC was designed by renowned architects Lake | Flato and provides an additional 22,000 square feet of space to the department.

The Visual Arts Center draws together a uniquely diverse arts community of students, alumni, faculty, guest artists and creative voices from around the world. This beautiful facility — with its airy hall, collegial gathering space and inspiring art exhibits — forms the new intellectual and emotional center of this dynamic community.