Moving Images in New or Old Formats: A New Curatorial Project Featuring the Work of Lily Sheng

Lily Sheng, Still from Mercurial Matter, 16mm to HD with sound by Michael Sidnam, 2014 - 2015, 6 min.

Lily Sheng, Still from Mercurial Matter, 16mm to HD with sound by Michael Sidnam, 2014 – 2015, 6 min.

As part of a curatorial residency at the AC Institute, a non-profit art organization focused on experimental media and performance, I had the chance to do several studio visits with artists working in video and the digital space last month. Among them was Lily Sheng, a Queens-based artist who makes films, videos, and hybrid moving images in her studio near the International Studio and Curatorial Program in East Williamsburg. Lily showed us a video work, Mercurial Matter, and a film work, Point, Line, Plane. In both, dense, abstract imagery moves quickly, sometimes at odds with the synthetic music that builds to a feeling of dissonance and unease.

Lily Sheng, Still from Point, Line, Plane, a film collaboration with Antonia Kuo, 16mm expanded cinema with live sound by Michael Sidnam, 2015, 11 min.

Lily Sheng, Still from Point, Line, Plane, a film collaboration with Antonia Kuo, 16mm expanded cinema with live sound by Michael Sidnam, 2015, 11 min.

Both the video work and the film projection she showed us were rich, multi-sensory experiences, deeply connected to the history of experimental film, although subsequent discussion revealed a different, purely digital mode she also sometimes works in (as seen in the image below). It was a pleasure discussing the many mediums with which she approaches the moving image and the technical processes behind her work. For example, Point, Line, Plane involved making photograms on the film itself to create a pair of black-and-white images, which she then showed as a dual projection, sometimes coloring the image with gels.


As a result of that studio visit, I am excited to be arranging an exhibition and screening of Lily’s work at the AC Institute. Lily is creating a new series of animated GIFs as an homage to experimental films by deceased female artists, taking advantage of the concept of an online exhibition that the AC Institute proposed as part of my curatorial residency. While animated GIFs are ubiquitous on the web, Lily’s thoughtful consideration of the transfer and degradation of information show how well the format can be adapted to artistic purpose as she creates GIFs that, inherently reductive, highlight the limited, ghostly nature of film on the Internet. Considering the uncertainty of film preservation as we move into a digital era, the exhibition “Lily Sheng: Avant-GIF” will go online November 10 and be complimented by a performative video and film screening of recent works by the artist on November 18.

Lily Sheng, Still from Kabukicho,

Lily Sheng, Still from Kabukichō, 16mm with live sound by Michael Sidnam, 2015, variable duration (5 – 8 min.)

Oliver Laric’s Versions at the Hirschhorn Museum, Washington D.C.

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What do two Disney scenes have to do with Photoshoping missiles being fired? Or, for that matter, with a clearly computer-generated chair design and a white porcelain sculpture of a curiously bedecked man’s head? Ostensibly nothing, and I think that remains the case even after viewing Austrian artist Oliver Laric’s video Versions at the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington D. C. several times. The linking thread in the chain of images in Versions is the accompanying female voice. In doing so, the artist makes the point that the linking thread of many contemporary cultural products in the remix culture of today are works of just such an amalgamated sourcing.

Oliver Laric Versions 2012 from Seventeen Gallery on Vimeo.

With the utmost professionalism and authority, the voice expounds on the philosophy of images, image-making today, and copies through such examples. Perhaps surprisingly, such a theoretical topic does not become boring, and if heavy-handed, pointedly so. Just as the images are created and remixed to tell this story, the words are also largely a remix. Taking from both high and low culture, Laric quotes from Borges but also James Brown, thus mimicking the same questions of authenticity and originality that he is tackling.

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To quote the video: “It’s the real thing. Hybridize, or disappear.” On view at the Hirschhorn through October 5. More information available here.

Review: Bernd Oppl at the Georgia Museum of Art


Bernd Oppl, Sick Building, 2012; video (still).

A new review of mine about the quietly horror-inspired videos of Austrian artist Bernd Oppl is up on Burnaway Magazine. If you have the chance to visit the Georgia Museum of Art before September 16th, the three videos form a really interesting, only slightly unsettling, exhibition.

“Inhabited” is usually a reassuring word. The works in “Bernd Oppl: Inhabited Interiors” at the Georgia Museum of Art, however, beg the unsettling question: who, or what, is inhabiting these interiors? Three short works—FlockHotel RoomSick Building—by the Vienna-based artist are being screened in silent rotation, none of which depict a human presence. According to curator Laura Valeri, the artist considers the spaces themselves as the protagonists. Continue…