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.
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.