In this collection of recent film work by North Carolina-based media artists Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat, celluloid film serves as both a material register and critical resource for interrogating the documentary image. Whether using discontinuous montage, handmade techniques for creating and processing images, or dramatic re-enactors, these five short films aim to extend the formal possibilities of non-fiction filmmaking as Brown and Gruffat attempt to describe and decipher life in the American South. Artists in attendance. Q&A to follow screening.
Sabine Gruffat is a digital media artist and filmmaker with a special interest in the social and political implications of media and technology. Her experimental and essay films explore how technology, globalization, urbanism and capitalism affect human beings and the environment. Gruffat’s films have screened at festivals worldwide including Viennale, MoMA Documentary Fortnight, Cinéma du Réel at Centre Pompidou and CPH:DOX. Gruffat lives and works in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Bill Brown is a media artist interested in ways landscape is interpreted, appropriated and reconfigured according to human desires, memories and dreams. His research interests include haunted houses, UFOs, memorial architecture and outsider archaeology. Brown’s films have screened at venues around the world, including Rotterdam Film Festival, London Film Festival, Sundance and Lincoln Centre. A retrospective of his films was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Brown lives and works in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Take It Down (Gruffat, 2018, 12:30)
Employing solarized colour positive 35mm film and animation of old postcard images of Confederate monuments in North Carolina, Take It Down documents how Southern identity continues to be bound up in the legacy of the Civil War and the Jim Crow Era. The film considers how these old memorials continue to be sites of conflicting politics and historical narratives.
XCTRY (Brown, 2018, 6:18)
Brown re-works 16mm footage that he shot years ago during a cross-country road trip from Chicago to Las Vegas. The spatial discontinuities of the road trip are rendered as visual continuities across three frames as Brown goes in search of the next town to fall in and out of love with.
Life on the Mississippi (Brown, 2018, 28:13)
A short essay film about a river and the limits of knowing it. Using Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi as a road map, Brown travels from Memphis, Tennessee to New Orleans and considers ways river pilots, paddlers, historical reenactors and civil engineers attempt to know the river through modelling, measurement and simulation.
Framelines (Gruffat, 2017, 10:14)
An abstract scratch film made by laser etching preset patterns onto the film emulsion of negative and positive 35mm film. The strips of film were then re-photographed on top of each other as photograms. The soundtrack is created by filtering and layering the noise made by the laser-etched 35mm optical track.
Amarillo Ramp (Brown + Gruffat, 2017, 24:10)
A portrait of sculptor Robert Smithson’s final earthwork. Employing filmmaking strategies that are both responsive to the artwork’s environmental context and informed by Smithson’s own art-making strategies, the filmmakers encounter the Ramp as an observatory where human scales of space and time are set against geological and cosmic scales.