The Ray Carney Absurdity

Pondering an upcoming essay around the theme of why underground film and other movements fail, I encounter the recent drama amidst the so called “indie film” world, this involving Ray Carney who has been a pioneer and vocal stronghold in supporting real cinematic arts versus the assembly line entertainment fluff outputted by Hollywood. And doing so as a professor at Boston University, some saying among the top film prof’s in the country for so strongly advocating Art over Hollywood. Apparently a rarity in academia. And Carney has been faced with hardships within his academic home, BU related to his views.

A taste of Ray:

It is a wholesale failure of the educational system to educate and inspire a generation of students with a vision of the possibilities of art. When colleges and universities show movies “students want to see” or organize courses around popular TV shows or incorporate the trash of the Internet into the curriculum, they are denying students their legacy. It takes a lot of knowledge and effort and learning to be able to grapple with Shakespeare or Mozart — or Cassavetes or Bresson! The students are being denied the opportunity to obtain that learning. The universities are conspiring with the culture of sales and hucksterdom rather than offering a way out of it. That is the story of American education in the arts and humanities. And it’s a tragedy. If the students understood how they are being cheated, they would be picketing in the streets.

So, this recent letter from filmmaker Mark Rappaport, whom Carney has always praised highly, has been riding the intranet waves in recent days, leaving one to wonder if the constant fight has taken a toll, mentally, on Carney to the point of taking absurd actions against the very same films he once cherished and supported.

September 2012

To all filmmakers, film critics, film archivists, film academics, curators, festival directors, and film enthusiasts everywhere—
I am writing to you because something very unforeseen, very unexpected, and most unpleasant recently happened in my life,
When I moved to Paris seven years ago, I had to decide whether or not to take with me copies of my films, video masters, early drafts of scripts, duplicates of reviews and announcements, etc. When I mentioned this to Ray Carney, tenured professor at Boston University and author of several books on John Cassavetes and who also claims he is “generally recognized to be the leading scholarly authority on American narrative art film,” he eagerly offered to hold all of my materials. I accepted his offer, with the understanding that he would return them to me upon request and that they remain at BU. Five years later, in 2010, I requested the return of some of my video masters to make copies of them for various film archives in Europe. Carney duly returned those video masters to me. They were in excellent condition.

Since that time, various companies have expressed interest in streaming my films, and UCLA, in conjunction with The Sundance Institute, have volunteered to archive video masters of Sundance alumni films. In early April, I made several requests to Carney for the return of my materials. I sent Carney several e-mails (to various e-mail addresses), and I called his home and office and left numerous messages. Carney ignored all of my attempts to reach him. As a result, I hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts, where a judge issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Carney. The court entered a default against Carney (who had not responded to my complaint) and ordered Carney to return the materials to me, or else be held in contempt of court. After that, Carney hired a lawyer who stated Carney intends to defend his conduct by arguing that I “gave” him the materials outright as “a gift.”

There is much at stake here for me. Without the digital video masters, my films, everything prior to 1990, Casual Relations, Local Color, The Scenic Route, Impostors, Mark Rappaport—The TV Spin-Off, Chain Letters, plus the High-Definition version of Exterior Night, cannot be made available for streaming, commercial DVDs, video-on-demand, or any electronic delivery system down the road. My life as a filmmaker, my past, and even my future reputation as a filmmaker are at stake. I gave Carney no rights to my materials except the right to hold them and return them to me on request. His lawyer has refused to disclose the current location of my materials.

Carney tried to cast doubt on the truthfulness of the inventory I presented. Furthermore, under oath, he stated “some of the items I received I no longer have because I gave them away to third parties. I discarded other items due to the degraded and unusable condition they were in when I received them. Finally, I discarded other items at later dates after they were worn-out by the normal wear and tear of being used.” This is sworn statement from Carney who, earlier, on his website bragged, “Mark is a great friend and gave me almost everything he owned when he left New York for France… So I am now the ‘Mark Rappaport Archive.’ I have the largest collection of material by him in the world: file cabinets and storage bins full of amazing things: production notebooks, film prints, rough drafts, revisions, scripts, film stock, DVDs, tapes, notes, jottings, journals, etc. etc. etc. It’s a dream come true for me and one of the major film collections by one of the world’s greatest artists. All being preserved for posterity at any cost.” http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/aboutrc/letters57.shtml (PLEASE NOTE: If this interests you, go to the website before this entry is removed.)

Elsewhere, he describes me as “a genuine national treasure.”

The judge, at a pre-trial hearing, demanded that Carney supply the court with a full inventory of what he still had, what he gave away, and what he destroyed. Carney subsequently delivered a full inventory—which included absolutely everything I gave him. None of it had been given away or destroyed. Although he clearly had perjured himself, I was ecstatic to learn my materials were intact. After four and a half months of this, Carney got in touch with me to propose a deal, saying, “I sincerely wish you well and I am sorry this issue has come between us.” “I am willing,” he writes, to “ship everything back for a modest consideration, simply to cover my costs and the time and trouble of having stored the material for the past seven-and-a-half years.” In return for my own films, I was to pay him $27,000! Some may call this extortion, I call it merely outrageous. Just to put it in perspective, that would equal 3 years of the monies I get from Social Security. To continue the suit to trial would have cost me about the same amount, in addition to the thousands I had already spent. I couldn’t afford to continue.

Just when I filed for a dismissal of the suit, Carney demanded back, because he claims they were part of “the gift” I gave him, the video masters that he returned to me in 2010—namely From the Journals of Jean Seberg, Postcards, Exterior Night, and John Garfield.

I’ve heard somewhat similar stories from other filmmakers, although none quite as breathtaking as this.
For a variety of reasons, I think this is a cautionary tale you might consider emailing to colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who are interested in the conservation and protection of works by non-mainstream filmmakers, film preservation in general, and archiving not just films but film-related artifacts of the recent past by independent filmmakers. Please feel free email this letter, post this on Facebook pages, and submit it to various blogs.

If you want to write about this situation, I have much more information.
Mark Rappaport


Prof. Carney has seemed to have gone into hiding after these alleged revelations have surfaced, and some, most notably filmmaker Jon Jost, colleague/friend of Ray, has suggested perhaps a sort of breakdown, mental or otherwise, may have occurred as repeated efforts by Jon to help resolve, buffer, or simply understand the situation, have all gone unanswered.

Glancing at a larger picture, a broader view, I think about the idea of collapse, in particular the “end days of arts”, where eventually everything gets streamlined into one channel – such as a single FM hits only radio station recycling the same song shuffle over and over.

The end of arts single channel system, comes to full fruition, when the margins begin bickering with one another, or begin losing it altogether, sucked into single channel behaviors – behaviors which Ray Carney’s alleged “pay me 27 grand for your rights back” attack , seems to suggest.

 “The margins define the page”. – Hal Hartley.

And when the margins go, guess what you got left. Carney was a significant voice from the margins. Though a few of the artists here on AVA have spoken with Ray casually and personally in the past in positive, enlightening talks, his attention or care towards this margin, AVA, is negligible. But being the said significant voice in the larger picture, makes this an important matter to resolve, and understand, for the sake of everyone swimming around in the sidebars of the last gasp single channel nearing environment.


Jon Josts open blog post.

Carney internet letter PDF


Comment with news, if any.

AWKWARD LOVE by Matthew Topartzer

still from “Awkward Love”

The new season of absurd is here as more new video works from the artists should, hopefully, be rolling out soon and will be posted up as they come. 

The first to come out of the gates is Matthew Topartzer with his feature documentary of sorts, “AWKWARD LOVE”.

If you took about a dozen thrift store or dumpster doven home movie shot VHS tapes, laid them on the ground and stomped on them continuously so they form one small clump, you might end up with Awkward Love. Like his previous film Mustard and Beer, this one is also comprised mostly of found VHS home movie footage. Of course it’s not as easy as a stomp job, as Topartzer went through a likely long and arduous process of selecting sequences, intersplicing them together and then interjecting his own more modern 3-D graphics into the mix.

Some of the manipulated imagery is beautiful, and some, if not a lot, of the found footage sequences are ugly and dull. The found segments go from horrible school video projects to talent shows to a bizarre failed short film called “Meat Hand”… and to everyday dull and awkward life; behind the consumer camera is someone with the belief that these recorded precious dull moments will be lovingly cherished forever. Instead, they get discarded. In some cases they’re found and used years later as part of surreal absurdist video art.

With AWKWARD LOVE, Topartzer doesn’t gimmick the material around with fast edits or clever and too easy attempts for laughs. Rather he let’s the original material roll…and speak for itself. This forces the viewer to sit through the sometimes excrutiating dullness and contemplate the absurdity of the act of filming these events; the haphazard choice of shots and subject the cameraman employs, the reactions of those being filmed, and the actual material itself. The real life moments we love, are often the dullest, most drawn out and uninteresting moments when recorded.

You have to factor in the time piece element to AWKWARD LOVE as well. These are once in a lifetime captured reactions and shooting styles, as video technology was newer at the time, more exciting, more clumsy, more seemingly “important”, whereas now we live in a world where nearly everyone has a video camera in their pocket, as part of their cell phone, and impromptu recording has become robotic, brief, and now delegated straight to instant social media publishing; a sort of one night stand, a sort of cheap love. With old consumer camera recordings, the act of filming was fresh and recorded as part of an intended longer relationship. 

The verbal reactions also make this a period piece as in one segment a young child says to his teacher, “You should put this on pay per view”, unaware that a thing called YouTube would soon trump such reactionary language.

Speaking of YouTube, unlike Topartzer’s past film MUSTARD AND BEER, (in which he was one of the first video artists to put a film on Amazon’s instant video, and charge for it) AWKWARD LOVE can be seen on YouTube for free as Matt chose to use that platform to upload it on.

YouTube is probably the worst place to watch this film. The small screen that most people won’t bother enlarging, the short attention span that YouTube watching has ingrained in most everyone, the buffering problem for some.  For most people Awkward Love is going to be a difficult, frustrating, annoying and long winded viewing experience as is. Using YouTube as a platform makes it even more brutal of a viewing experience. Topartzer probably knows all this, and probably doesn’t care.








PRECIOUS – A Novel by Collapse’s Kelly Broich

Kelly Broich is mainly known for being the front man for COLLAPSE, the video art/filmmaking/ex-theater group out of Boise, Idaho. But with a new release this week, he unveils another side not involving cameras or actors. Apparently, in between productions, Broich has been laboring away at a literary work of satire. A novel called PRECIOUS.

 I say laboring because PRECIOUS is a book which after reading had me wondering if novel writing will be more of a full-time devotion for Broich. It’s a very well-written book. And if you didn’t know his other side you’d think his main craft was novel writing, rather than, directing, scriptwriting and performing in an avant-garde production company.

 PRECIOUS starts somewhere in suburban America, with a classic suburbanite heavyset woman, a widow named DORIS, who just lost her cat. Tension mounts as Precious the cat fails to surface after the usual calling out and waiting time is employed. Then a grisly discovery is made.

 Soon after, we are introduced to CALEB, Doris’s 42 year old live at home son, who works as an equipment manager for the local minor league hockey team. Caleb learns of his “sisters” fate, and is stung to the core at the loss for many of the usual reasons one loses a pet, but mainly for another reason: a fantasy-based, bordering on perverted, reason, which reveals the Caleb character more fully.

 The loss of Precious requires drastic action to be taken. For reasons of closure and for reasons of revenge. Also, for reasons of a newfound cable television based religion.

 From here the novel sends you on an absurdist fictional journey, which is based on very realistic ingrained human beliefs. The unimagined consequences spiral into a bizarre and chilling climax. An excellent last chapter wraps the story up, and you’re left with a slew of satirical yet true to life issues for the mind to gnaw on over the coming days.

 PRECIOUS is both an American novel and a human novel.

 Broich manages to cover a fair chunk of classic Americana in very short time. Suburbia, sports addiction, American huckster religion, mindless consumerism, and classic overbearing parenting, are all succinctly tackled to impressive depth. They are also dealt with in a unique descriptive and often hilarious style. Caleb’s absurd athletic failings are that which you wouldn’t think. Instead of relying on beauty, Broich goes with chubby. Sex is handled in a rare way; the way it actually is in real life, simple and sloppy.

 The human aspect of the novel centers on a few different themes, one of which is the relationship we have with nature.

 PRECIOUS puts into play the idea of how humans create parameters as to what they accept as worthy animals, to be cuddled and “owned”, and unworthy animals to be shun, and even exterminated. Yet both belong to the same club, with the same instincts; yet exist within these different parameters based on the living situation which humans have established.

 It’s this mix of going from sanitized suburbia, directly into the complexities of  nature, that really make Precious a strong, solid read, with deeper issues to explore.  Intertwining these two in such a seamless satirical manner, had me questioning the absurdity of our living situation and the boundaries that we pretend exist, but in reality are invisible. Caleb physically crosses those boundaries as he takes a few steps out of a manufactured neighborhood and enters into “nature”. And then he invades nature. All because the reverse had happened, and humans believe that somehow both sides should be able to see and respect these imaginary boundaries which they created, which of course is illogical thinking.

 Perhaps it is Caleb’s simpleton nature which summons up a natural sense of overwhelming guilt for realizing he fell for the lie. While ingrained in the life of a sugar eating, living with mommy adult, he hasn’t had the commitments that most adults have had, thus he never developed a sense of ownership into a way of life which rationalizes the above boundaries. There is still some natural animalistic instinct in Caleb, to which he connects with. As we see unfold in the pages of PRECIOUS, this connection with the animal can be a redeeming and reassuring positive. But mixed with the human ego, it can also be a devastating and diabolical negative.

 The theme of the imaginary boundary is satirized in different situations throughout the novel. The idea of  crossing over to the other side and being accepted, the divide of deceased father and the still trying to please son, the boundary crossing of calling your mom a cunt; all explored in gut hilarious fashion. 

 PRECIOUS will have you connecting with the characters, laughing at their situations, and questioning the motives behind the bizarre human connectivity we have with nature and with our own manufactured reality.

author Kelly Broich

PRECIOUS is now available on Amazon. Get it here.


Chris Marker Goes

The digital/internet age creates a plethora of simultaneous obituaries of those in the know when they pass; often they are the same, re-written, wiki-pediated down to highlights obit pieces; whereas past passings would have had longer effect and more word of mouth spreadings where people would share with one another their personal favorite films or stories or screenings rather than be told what an establishment viewed as important.

Often this sudden obituary blitz effect via the internet will produce a sudden boost of “fame” and notoriety for the one, now gone, who, ironically is now unable to enjoy his new found recognition and appreciation.

Sometimes the deceased is elevated to greater grandeur than ever before. Mike Kelley suddenly became known as “L.A.’s most important artist”, a sentiment not often heard before his passing (and sadly if as much recognition was granted him the months before he chose to end it, it would likely serve as at least a distraction to his depression, possibly increasing his years).

Jeff Keen became elevated as a filmmaker now known and recognized in the U.S., something that should have happened decades ago while alive.

I propose for all artists reaching a certain age or milestone of sorts in their endeavors that a fake obituary occurs, wherein we all “act” as if the person has died, yet full knowing he hasn’t, yet celebrate as if he/she has died, which is essentially what we do anyway when they do pass. We celebrate. Let’s stop playing the “they’re dead, now we can talk more about their work” game.

And with that said, as hypocrisy would have it, I contribute to the above by the mention of Chris Marker being the latest in a seemingly string of experimenters to go this year.

Marker was a longtime experimental French filmmaker with a long list of films, photography, and writing. Essay style films was where his work really shined for me and many others, and yes Absurdism made it’s way into his work in various ways.

La Jetée tells the tale of a man haunted by memory in post-apocalyptic Paris. The entire 28 minutes of La Jetée is composed from photographs, apart from a single shot, showing the female protagonist of the film blink and wake up suddenly. Exploring themes of memory, time, and history, Marker’s time-travel tale is loved for its ability to effortlessly combine poetry and philosophy with science fiction; two seemingly oppositional themes that marry in many of Marker’s other films.  – From ArtFAGcity

Yet from nearly all the blogger obits, you can’t get away from the first and foremost mention of La jetee, a 30 minute or so short, and while experimental very much, also used as source/basis for a Hollywood feature film number. Some of  these news and blogger obits cast the idea that this was his only film made as the title would read something to the effect of “Director of La jatee, Chris Marker dies”, when in fact much more was done, and as ArtFagCity, cited above, points out some of his films were banned in both France and the U.S.

Perhaps the best write up on Markers passing was from the CinemaElectronica blog, where Jon Jost simply wrote the following, which allows, encourages, the viewer to do his own discovering:

A profound influence on many – and not just as film/media maker.  But things more important than that, though that was the tool he used.   Our brief sojourn on the planet was made richer by his.

Absurdism was more apparent in Chris’s life, as for as much recognition as he did get, he never was easily plopped into a nice, neat category. To add to this Chris rarely did interviews, and even photos of the man were rare. He was a cat lover and often used a cartoon cat image to take the place of his own (I believe an actual documentary he was in, he made the filmmakers use a cat image with altered voice in place of his own.)

Marker continued to work all the way towards the end, and was one of the few experimental filmmakers of his time to actually embrace digital technology when it first came out.

Not only that, Marker also committed perhaps the cardinal sin of the higher than thou experimental so called avant film crowd of the time. He had his own YouTube Channel in which he uploaded new experiments to.

“In another time I guess I would have been content with filming girls and cats. But you don’t choose your time” – Chris Marker

A German Absurdist Infiltration? – plus – “BERLIN SUPER 80”

A German Absurdist Infiltration? – OPEN CALLS CONSIDERATION

While film/video festivals have mostly rendered themselves irrelevant and obsolete – selections outdated and mainstream, still relying on the usual entry fee approach, not knowing how to handle, and rather ignoring since it’s easier, the plethora of artists publishing/screening their work online, etc etc etc., there is an angle that may be worth pursuing, the German angle.

Their video fests blow much of what’s happening elsewhere, especially in the States, away. Just the first few opening lines describing their events makes you want to read on, as opposed to the usual U.S. fest “festival statement” where you want to puke. And months later when you see their lineup of “mumblecore” films you want to…


From the transmedial fest in Berlin, entry fee: Free :

transmediale is Berlin’s annual festival for cultural activities crossing art, culture and technology. Entries are now open for the transmediale 2013 programme which will consist of installations, film and video screenings, workshops, performances, talks and discussions. Even though transmediale is always interested in works exploring new technologies, either as a theme or as form, no genres or media are excluded. The exhibition programme is particularly oriented towards artworks that explore ambiguous and problematic relationships to technology and challenge common perceptions of it as a rational or creative tool.

From the Hamburg International Short film festival. Entry fee – Free :

Since its foundation 28 years ago, the Hamburg International Short Film Festival has been celebrating short films as an independent art form, while offering an opportunity for film makers from all over the world to get in touch with an eager audience and with each other. The International Competition mirrors current global aesthetic tendencies and narrative structures. The German Competition offers an overview of the state of the nation’s short films and film academies. And in our long-standing and unique No Budget Competition, that had formed the festival’s nucleus and origin in 1985, we present works made with little money but plenty of ideas and commitment.


From the SXSW Film Festival, Austin, TX, USA entry fee: $25/$50 for shorts :

The SXSW® Film Conference and Festival features a dynamic convergence of talent, smart audiences and industry leaders in a uniquely creative environment. A hotbed of discovery and interactivity, the event offers invaluable networking opportunities and immersion into the art and business of independent film.

Notice the word “ART”  is sure to be mentioned in the first line of the first two German fests, while in the last festival the word “art” lands in the very last sentence, and is followed immediately by the word “business”.  It’s also preceded with the usual gag worthy marketing terms “dynamic” and “hotbed”.

On that note needless to say, the German outlets are much more open to non mainstream works, and seem to encourage the more out there, avant offerings. And much of the time, they are FREE to submit, which is a sad rarity in the States.

While one of the two recent open calls below is deadlined 6 days from now and the other a week later, it’s more the planting of the idea to start thinking about an Absurdist infiltration via Germany festivals.

It’s going to take YEARS for the U.S. to catch up with film/video art online, which many already note as worthy for cinematic screening, (and there are a few festival/outlet exceptions). Many of the Absurdists here already realize this and likely see film festival submission as a step backwards.

But with what the above has to offer, the existing environment that’s open to it, and of course the obscure glory of “making it in Germany”, eh, why not…



We will be monitoring more upcoming German festivals and events, and perhaps emailing out a collective infiltration plan to represent and offer up some works from our small corner of alt cinema history.

In the meantime here’s some strong roots as to perhaps why, in part, Germany maintains it’s celebration for the experimental. A DVD compilation of German experimental filmmakers from the late 70’s, early 80’s, “Berlin Super 80”.

From the DangerousMinds.net website:

Berlin Super 80 is a compilation of 18 short movies shot in Super 8 by West German experimental film makers during the late 1970s/early 80s. Featuring music by Malaria, Reflections, Einstürzende Neubauten, Frieder Butzmann and Die Tödliche Doris. It’s a hit or miss affair with films that range from the brilliant to the banal. Well worth watching for the flashes of genius.

Here’s the full hour/47 min. DVD comp. online:

01. Brand & Maschmann: E Dopo? (1981)
02. Christoph Doering: 3302- Taxi Film (1979)
03. Markgraf & Wolkenstein: Hüpfen 82 (1982)
04. Yana Yo: Sax (1983)
05. Maye & Rendschmid: Ohne Liebe gibt es keinen Tod (1980)
06. Stiletto Studio,s: Formel Super VIII (1983)
07. Walter Gramming: Hammer und Sichel (1978)
08. Georg Marioth: Morgengesänge (1984)
09. Hormel/Bühler: Geld (Malaria Clip) (1982)
10. Notorische Reflexe: Fragment Video (1983)
11. Jörg Buttgereit: Mein Papi (1981)
12. Die Tödliche Doris: Berliner Küchenmusik (1982)
13. Butzmann & Kiesel: Spanish Fly (1979)
14. Manfred Jelinski: So war das SO 36 (1984)
15. Klaus Beyer: Die Glatze (1983)
16. Markgraf & Wolkenstein: Craex Apart (1983)
17. Andrea Hillen: Gelbfieber 1982)
18. Ika Schier: Wedding Night (1982)

A DVD of these films is available with a music CD of Berlin bands as part of a box set, available here.

Jeff Keen : Longtime Experimental/Absurdist Filmmaker, RIP


Another longtime experimental filmmaker with Absurdist leanings takes the plunge to the nether worlds. At 88 Jeff Keen passes, as he leaves behind many forms of art from painting to poetry, and most notably, 70 some film works, a number that may not sound impressive to the new video maker generation who clog their video sharing channels with 100’s of “works”, but these, mostly made on film (expensive), show some time and care in their making, with added attention to tricks and genuine experiment. It’s an impressive and I would imagine satisfying number of completed cinematic art works.

Of note was his steadfast DIY style, utilizing friends and family, found footage and objects, as well as himself in and out of costume on camera.

Keen is primarily known as a legendary underground filmmaker whose work and activities coincided with the emergence of expanded cinema. He was one of the original participants in the 60s at the London Filmmakers Co-op. The BFI and later the British Arts Council supported and enabled Keen to make films and devise a multitude of drawings and paintings. During this period, Keen maintained jobs as a landscaper in the Parks and Recreation department of his hometown, Brighton, and sometimes as a postal worker delivering mail. The artist made movies primarily on weekends with his family and friends in an ensemble cast and his painting and drawing studio was for 40 years a repository of props and art that accumulated to extraordinary effect that has been fully documented – from Experimental Cinema.

Keen seemed to garner recognition in the British experimental film world, but like many  Absurdist Video Artist’s here, his true appreciators we’re those outside the wall’s of avant institution.

“his work was often more appreciated by skaters and punks than followers of the canonical avant garde.” – the Guardian UK

Yet in the U.S. he hasn’t seemed to garner much recognition at all. In 1999, back when Underground Film Festivals mattered, the New York Underground Film Fest showed some of his work, and earlier this year his first solo U.S. gallery show, at age 88, was in New York at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery.

The Guardian has a good obit write up on Jeff Keen, written by someone who worked with Keen in 2008 to put together a massive DVD box set of his work. Here’s the Guardian article and below are some amazing shorts from Keen, from his 1967 most screened work “MARVO MOVIE”, to a later work in 1995, an interesting behind the scenes piece, and a 25 minute interview from recent years.






Interview with Jeff Keen:






U p d a t e s on A b s u r d i s t s — Part 3 : BRESS and BUZZ


Bress has released new works for 2012 , mainly “Under Performing” which seems to be doing the rounds at various galleries and museums around the country. The usual Art rags have write ups on the video works:

Viewers familiar with Bress’s recent works, such as his breakthrough 2009 video Status Report (recently exhibited at the New Museum in New York), know him for his almost overwhelming barrages of absurdist collage. He constructs tableaux from thrift-store detritus that he then photographs and green-screens onto various backgrounds. The videos made up of these collaged arrangements often interlace three or four entirely different scenarios, resulting in something akin to channel surfing—if all the channels were public access.

For “Under Performing,” Bress presented eight “portraits” (all 2012) in a mostly uniform format: framed flat- screen monitors. Most are about 28 by 22 inches and are displayed vertically. In one case, a pair of monitors forms a cryptic diptych of isolated, snowbound figures. Two family groupings—a cubist-faced set bobbing in a painted surf and four featureless inflatables, posed Sears-portrait-studio-style, replete with patterned sweaters and bad-haircut wigs—are hung in a horizontal orientation.  – excerpt from Art in America

Of note is his use of flat screen TV’s as visual picture frames for gallery purposes, an idea bounced around by other Absurdists here, and one as “Art in America” notes, has oddly (or not) been taken full advantage of:

Video artists have been inexplicably slow in taking advantage of certain possibilities inherent to flat-screen technology, specifically that of creating wall-hung screens with looping videos that occupy the space where one expects to find a painting. The bulk of Brian Bress’s recent show, “Under Performing,” addressed this peculiarity with the complex humor and formal inventiveness of his work from the last half-decade, but with a sharpened sense of focus.

Brian is always good about posting his work on YouTube after the gallery hoo-ra-ra wraps up, so hopefully we’ll get to view the recent works online in the near future.

For now it looks like someone took the liberty to give us a some glances of the latest work UNDER PERFORMING, unfortunately these appear to be shot off a smart phone sideways, and not converted back to right side up. Nevertheless:




Speaking of someone who should have multiple flat screens on gallery walls, looping together his seemingly limitless plethora of Absurdist mash…

Besides a few recent past weeks, Buzz has been continually churning out video re-works. Vimeo (as opposed to YouTube where Coastin has been heave hoe’d from numerous times) allows him much more leeway to play with the amateur/semi-pro porn mashing, where he takes a clip which is intended to be the “turn on” scene before the real action, and replays, edits and alters it to absurd proportions, sometimes waking up the viewer to realize how ridiculous getting turned on by a piece of flesh rounded and contorted to a certain shape can be. Meanwhile we hear audio snippets of Marshall Mcluhan, Robert Dobbs, and others in the background, sometimes vaguely, sometimes clear.

Buzz’s recent BUTTRESS FOR THE ALLZ AT ONCE works off this formula.

McLuhan who frequently talked about the “instant replay”, is essentially what Buzz employs by his continuum of repeated edits replayed in various over saturated, upside down fashion.

In “PEPPEY PERCEPTION” we do get the real action remixed into holograms of sorts while some excellent audio pieces of MCLUHAN talking about how artists predict the future play alongside the video saturation (note – McLuhan audio starts after the 1 minute mark).

The recent 15 MINUTES OF FAMEROUS can be seen as a companion piece to the above as Robert Dobbs explains the importance of Andy Warhol in a way you’ve likely never heard before. 





More updates on our absurdist video artists continue, this time it’s:


BOYD has been pumping out videos, but not the one’s we are used to seeing, rather videos of his completed artwork (drawing/painting), and also as of recently, some experimental vlogging which include his art, himself in his surroundings, and everything from random thought nuggets to bits of his personal past.  They work.

He hasn’t left filmmaking though, as the above video reveals. Boyd recently completed HOWARD (2012)  a 14 min. short featuring a headless main character who deals with the art conundrums which Andy seems to possibly be dealing with – be a painter or be an absurdo-weirdo video artist? He makes fun of the latter putting Headless in front of a video camera as he dances around absurdly, then gets tired so sits down in a chair for a supposed serious scene with a kermit the frog-head actor, but Headless can’t help himself; he plays with his balls while mumbling absurdities, eventually falling over the chair and passing out. Kermit-head says “I think you should go back to painting”

HOWARD has probably the best use of font/lettering in all Boyd’s pieces. Big colored block letters, making the dialogue pop out while interesting and easy to read. It also has some laugh the fuck out loud enormous penis shots that come out of nowhere, great absurdist dialogue, and some good music collaboration (shaun parker), which probably could have been used more throughout the whole film. It’s a big work which shows, I think, that Andy will still be pumping out video art, even as his paintings, especially portraits, continue to get better.

Andy’s art site can be found at: http://andyheckboyd.tumblr.com/

HOWARD (2012) by Andy Heck Boyd

Amos Vogel – Subversive Art Cinema’s Author and Curator Passes On

While AVA has been silent lately, some of us on the road, some writing for forthcoming projects (and yet others continuing to create video art at a pace I’m still trying to catch up with), it sucks that a reason for a new writing is yet another RIP…

This time it’s Amos Vogel, who sort of wrote the Bible document of underground film, entitled FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART. I once wrote a letter to Nick Zedd in the mid 90’s asking his recommendations for learning/seeing more underground things, the first recommendation he listed in his handwritten letter back to me was Vogel’s book.

For a while it seemed to be out of print, and even when the internet gave birth to Amazon and online booksellers I recall used copies going for a few hundred bucks. It since went down in price, but now I see it’s going for 50 or so used, perhaps due to the recent passing.

Jon Jost whose short film was featured in Vogel’s book, wrote a nice, and concise write up over on his blog, both on Amos Vogel and the state, or non state, of subversive art cinema

His death comes at a time when the commercialization of everything in the name of  “the Market Economy” has bludgeoned the kind of cinema he supported into a near-death coma.   I imagine he looked at the “independent” cinema which in its various guises and labels of the last few decades, as a sad denouement for the kinds of work he dreamed of, a sign that indeed the insidious forces at work in “the Market Economy” reduced most young filmmakers to imagining that a modest shift in television sit-com formulas constitutes “creativity.”

Jon’s blog post here – http://cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/rip-amos-vogel/