report from a screening

such cheerful reading these last two months
such cheerful reading these last two months

pictured above are the research books for a video project in progress, concerning a dark topic that for some reason i’ve wanted to treat in the A/V format ever since high school. (i do not struggle with major depression bc i read on stuff like this, i read on stuff like this because i struggle with major depression.) back then i was nursing career fantasies of making or editing historical documentaries in the Public TV fashion; like a Ken Burns for commie anarchists. in the intervening time my thinking about history and the treatment of history in cinema changed a great deal of course.

im hoping production will be done within three months, which would be obscenely fast compared to the working pace of my first video piece signed as Ba Jin. SHIVA took about two years to arrive in its current shape, and it just had its “premier” screening, appropriately on Earth Day, as part of the launch party of a student-run art and lit magazine.

As of this writing, ive been 13 days on medication for the first time in like six years, and i think it’s starting to ramp up in my veins, bc all day prior to the party i was so up. i spent the third week of April near-catatonic from a relapse, with things running smoothly on the wordpress thanks to queued posting. but that day i got a haircut, i upped my femme game with eyeliner and lipstick and a flower blouse, feeling like a cutie.

i honestly enjoyed myself at the launch party, which had wonderful sculptures propped along with the stacks of the 2015 issue. they were by the same artist, their subjects always done in deep earthy colors. their rough shapes looked like they came from the earth. Inside the magazine the artist had photographs of an amazing piece made entirely out of little loops of masking tape.

the readings were terrific, including erotic poetry, a prose piece titled “Sappho Reads Mrs. Dalloway,” and an uproariously funny play that was reportedly written in two hours by two women “on the floor with Taco Bell.”

my piece was last on the program, and what i expected to happen happened — almost everyone left except for seventeen people. i dont trust my memory of the original crowd — i think it’s much larger in my memory, but it must have been more than 30, unless im totally wrong.

so it should be! it was good to watch it with a small and dedicated group. 31 minutes is much too long for a student work, and it’s a lot to ask out of undergrads, or anybody in the kind temporal regime we have. Afterwards some enthusiastic artists told me that there is ways until they commit 100% to watching it through, and that it pays off. One poet had seen it three times while it was reviewed by the programing committee, and had wanted to see it again as soon as it was done (good thing it can be looped!).

SHIVA’s reception is encouraging for me as i finish planning for the next project. what ive been thinking about is re-organizing the familiar materials of historical documentaries in a way to try and find new possibilities for representing the past. In SHIVA’s case, the global assault on black and brown bodies by neoliberal capitalism is explored thru colonial footage and Dr. Shiva’s voice. watching it in the party i felt the strain between the audio and visual track, which sometimes felt severed entirely and other times brought disparate threads together in my mental stream.

two other art videos were screened. one called “Dream Absurdity” showed off a wide range of techniques, including something like stop-motion collage including, a mouth vomiting glitter, combined with avant-garde music and psychedelic imagery. The second one, “Lens Painting,” did what it says on the tin. a time lapse of paints, sometimes opaque and sometimes translucent as it covers the glass, smeared and swirled on the lens along with flower stems and leaves. on the audio track we hear the din of a crowded interior and occasionally an analog ringing phone.

im so tickled to see work ive made get shown in spaces and events such as these. and i hope folx screen them in other places, activist or otherwise, if they think it’d be appropriate. my permission is not needed. there is no copyright, it’s not my property.


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