Dispatches From the B.A.D.


Dispatches From the B.A.D.

  • Dawn Roe

    Dawn Roe, is an artist and educator. She divides her time between Asheville and Winter Park, Florida where she is an Associate Professor of Art at Rollins College. Her work...

Jeremy Moss @ Mechanical Eye Microcinema
Featuring guest blogger, Ursula Gullow - Artist and arts advocate extraordinaire

Jeremy Moss, That Dizzying Crest
This column began in the hopes of invigorating the Asheville arts community by focusing on the up and coming micro-neighborhood we’ve playfully dubbed, the B.A.D. (Broadway Arts District). Enlivening the conversation through promotion of challenging idea and concept based exhibitions and programming within the B.A.D. seemed a logical and manageable starting point. But there is plenty of room for outside participation in Dispatches from the B.A.D. from adjacent arts-related spaces/organizations, as well as contributors.  This week, we are pleased to feature a review of a recent screening event co-sponsored by The Media Arts Project and Mechanical Eye Microcinema
The advocacy work of the Media Arts Project was acknowledged in an earlier B.A.D. column, but I’d also like to take a moment to stress the importance of ad-hoc/experimental arts organizations such as Mechanical Eye.  With no outside funding or a space to call home, co-founders Charlotte Taylor and Lisa Sousa travel their mobile Microcinema to unique locations each month.  This month, touring artist Jeremy Moss was in attendance along with his work, generously hosted by Kairos WestUrsula Gullow’s thoughtful response to Moss’s 60-minute program offers a unique perspective that highlights her response to the varied works in relation to her own position as an artist, attending the event with preconceived notions of Moss’s oeuvre, as well as the (sometimes) problematic nature of the artist Q&A period.
Ursula and I engaged in conversation about her experience at the event and subsequent synopsis, and a brief bit of dialogue between the two of us is injected into her review, below.

Jeremy Moss, Cicatrix
“The very thing that makes a film possible can ruin it.” This narrated sentence was one of many poignant moments comprising Jeremy Moss’ tightly curated 60-minute program, encompassing seven of his short films, presented on Wed. Jan 7, at Kairos West. Collectively, the films conveyed a lush panorama of manipulated and layered images, droney soundscapes, glitchy abstractions, and exceptionally thoughtful edits. 

ROE: Would you be willing to expand on how that bit of narration affected you?  I’m guessing the line is referring to the nature of film as a light-sensitive medium.  What was it about this line that stood out to you?  Was it how it was encountered in relation to the particular visual that accompanied it, or did it have more to do with your overall impression of his work, and that somehow this line really encompassed something particular for you or stayed with you after the fact?  In other words, I guess, why was hearing/seeing this line particularly poignant?
GULLOW: This narrated sentence stood out for the poetic way it appeared and disappeared. It struck me as poignant for magnifying the slightest break between sustenance and decay.

Jeremy Moss, The Sight
Opening the program was "The Sight" (2012) -- a startling montage of obfuscated landscapes, “splintered celluloid” (from the program notes), and a warped choral soundtrack. At times the intense strobe-effect forced me to close my eyes, and even then I couldn’t avoid seeing flashes of light through the skin of my lids. I like this kind of thing though – being jolted awake (and on the coldest night of the year at that.)

Jeremy Moss, The Blue Record
The second film, "The Blue Record" (2013), was soothing in comparison. Somewhere around the 12th minute I realized that the images of dilapidated brick structures animated by light and dust particles, were not of giant tombs and/or incinerators that I had thought them to be, but were actually solitary confinement prison chambers. Shot on location at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, the video is described as a rumination of “what happens when the process of decay is arrested and ruins become commercial entities.”
For myself, however, "The Blue Record" was a meditation of time as I contemplated the unimaginable tedium of solitary confinement in contrast with the film's pulsating and purposeful succession of images. This was my favorite video of the night, and the narrator's distorted timbre has stuck with me since. (Watch/listen to a preview of it at http://www.jeremymoss.org/films/#/thebluerecord/.)
ROE: You mention that, for yourself, the work is a “meditation on time” – and it sounds like you were thinking a bit more specifically about past narratives and actual histories that potentially remain present in this very particular place, rather than seeing it as just an abandoned space.  Did you find that Moss’s work and/or approach sought to purposefully avoid the intrusion of the (former) solitary inhabitants themselves?
GULLOW: What struck me is that without the program, I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at -- and I didn’t for most of the film. I thought they were perhaps concentration camp incinerators, tombs, or even a monk’s chambers -- or at least that’s what they reminded me of. So when the essayist (the essay was beautiful and I wish there was a transcript somewhere) started talking about the Penitentary and touring it, I realized these were prison chambers...and really that moment made me realize how there is a universal design for the isolation and subjugation of humans. A chair in one of the shots, and a desk in another caused me to think of the person(s) who sat in it, hence, the time that passed according to their experiences versus mine.

Jeremy Moss, (Un)tethered
The final three films were based around original choreography by dancer Pamela Vail. "(Un)Tethered" (2014) was especially dazzling with its eighteen camera angles positioned at strategic locations to dissect each movement posed by Vail. The dancer turns once and the viewer experiences many perspectives of the singular motion. This is what I mean by thoughtful edits.
ROE: Can you talk a bit about why/how you find his manner of editing to be thoughtful?
GULLOW: In the opening paragraph, I mention his thoughtful edits and by this I mean that in spite of the rapid and almost glitchy quality of his films -- a characteristic often dismissed as a “random” effect in the editing process -- in this film,  each frame is meticulously timed so that the viewer sees one motion -- a leg raising up and stomping down, for example, occurring repeatedly  from many perspectives. This has a dizzying quality and enables a way of experiencing the single motion in a way that only video editing can do.

Jeremy Moss, Chroma
I personally favored "Chroma"(2012) for it's bombastic color, frenetic edits and visual zeal. This was the loudest visually -- probably heightened by the fact that it had no accompanying soundtrack.
ROE: This seems like a really key element.  Moving image works are inherently affected by their soundtracks – and, even when works are seemingly devoid of such, the silence that permeates (punctuated by ambient sounds in the screening room) has a huge impact, drastically impacting the perceived pace, flow and rhythm.
GULLOW: What you said is exactly correct. The quiet of the film amplified the (kind of awkward) sounds of the room, and amplified the visual “noise” of the images. 

Jeremy Moss, Those Inescapable Slivers of Celluloid
After the last image of Moss’s program faded out and the lights were turned on, a Q & A commenced between Moss and audience members who were mostly curious about technical aspects and/or the meaning of certain images.  Moss patiently described his Mormon roots in Utah and the phenomenon of animal carcasses and buried pornographic magazines he and his friends would find in the desert– images from the third film of the night -- "Those Inescapable Slivers of Celluloid" (2011) -- that resounded strongly with some of the attendees. 
ROE: In our conversation about your experience at this event, you mentioned the difficulties of thoughtfully processing works that have just been encountered, leaving audience members unable to quickly compose a question for the artist that thoughtfully considers the content – often resulting in a barrage of technical questions or, “how’d you do that?” queries, or cursory questions related to visual highlights.  What is the role of the artist Q&A?  How do you think audience members can contribute to a meaningful dialogue in situations like this?  What is the role of the curator or event organizer, or the artist themself?  Can/should these conversations continue in on-line forums or meet-ups of some sort?  How can we do better?
GULLOW: Yes, often with films I need time for them to marinate conceptually, so questions about the technical process might be a more comfortable route to go directly after a screening. Also, let’s face it, the viewer that is him/herself an artist, often experiences art via their own channels of making. Perhaps the filmmakers of this audience were primarily thinking about Jeremy Moss’s technical applications in regard to his work, hence the technical questions.
In a more institutional setting a Q&A has the potential to take a more formal or academic role. In a casual setting -- such was the case at Kairos West -- the Q&A may take more of a “sharing” role. But ultimately I think the Q&A provides a opportunity for the artist to engage with the audience in whatever way they want to, or need to, and that is a different experience for everyone.
The level of discourse might actually depend on the presenter (e.g., featured artist, curator, etc). Speaking with Jeremy after the program he confessed that he has a tendency to feel “awkward” at the Q&A’s but he was pleased with the level of interest he received from this particular audience. I also thought the discussion was energetic and the audience was very engaged in the program. Several people spoke with the artists afterward as well.
Many artists prefer to “let the work speak” (and the program notes.) During his Q&A Jeremy Moss elaborated on his Mormon upbringing -- mostly because the porn/dead animals/desert video seemed to have ignited the most responses and questions. I think perhaps the organizer of events like these can be familiar with the artist’s work and have a list of questions prepared for the filmmaker to steer the direction of the questions if necessary. This requires research, which takes time and resources that not all organizations possess -- certainly not ad-hoc groups that are operating on no budget, whose organizers work full-time jobs.
I think it’s important to recognize that this screening was an art event first, and any discussion around it was supplemental and should not be a requirement of the viewing process. While ideally I’d like people to talk about art all the time, in reality we can’t force this kind of thing. Sometimes the best discussions take place weeks later over cocktails.
ROE:  All great points, Ursula!  It’s true, audiences are often comprised of makers and we often have the urge to “talk shop” with one another, but we are thinkers as well as makers and finding space to comfortably and openly talk through ideas can be difficult to find.  I agree with you that meaningful conversations often take place after events  - with the artist/presenter themselves in a more casual encounter, or with groups of friends - and maybe as a community we can work toward creating more opportunities for this kind of follow-up. And related to that, we can do our part to support these volunteer organizations by attending events and contributing to the dialogue.
What a fun night! In spite of the bitter cold, a cheerful crowd of twenty people made it out and no one left early. Thank you Jeremy Moss for stopping through Asheville on your film tour and thank you Kairos West for providing a space. Thanks also to Mechanical Eye Microcinema for inviting The Media Arts Project to co-host the event. Let’s do it again soon.
- Ursula Gullow
Ursula Gullow resides in Asheville, NC where she maintains a studio and teaches painting and design classes at A-B Technical Community College. Gullow exhibits her work regularly both regionally and nationally, and a selection of her works are currently on view at Haen Gallery in Asheville. Her work has been recognized through awards, scholarships and residencies and she is actively involved in the Asheville arts community, having written numerous articles about art for regional publications, and also producing a television series about artists for the WNC public access community television station, URTV until 2008. Gullow currently serves as Program Director of The Media Arts Project in Asheville.
Dispatches from the B.A.D. is a semi-regular column primarily focusing on exhibitions and events at non-profit visual art spaces in The Broadway Arts District in downtown Asheville.