Newsroom

Glasstire on “Sound, Speed, Marker”

18 Apr 2014

SSM_090_srgb

Giant, 2014. Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
High Definition video with sound 30min., loop. Courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin. Commissioned by Ballroom Marfa

Glasstire recently reviewed Ballroom’s current exhibition, Hubbard/Birchler’s Sound, Speed, Marker. An excerpt:

The evolution from documentation to dispersion is fulfilled in the last video, Giant (2014), which was commissioned by Ballroom Marfa. It is shown in the largest space, on three screens that fill the long wall in the gallery. When we see a continuous image across this expanse, the extreme horizontal aspect ratio calls to mind the epic grandeur of the eponymous 1956 film itself. Hubbard and Birchler’s formidable technical prowess allows them to capture stunning shots of the landscape, sunsets, thunderstorms, even ants swarming a dead grasshopper. The site of these natural wonders is an abandoned film set constructed by Warner Brothers for the original Giant. Now it is merely a skeletal ruin perched in the landscape, an armature about which the degradations of nature continue unabated.

Its role as an armature is twofold. It is a frame through which we see the landscape, in the present, and it is a relic, through which Hubbard and Birchler imagine the drafting of the contract between Warner Brothers and the land owner on which the structure was to be built. Giant cuts back and forth between these two scenarios. They introduce a new element that was absent from the previous two videos, historical reconstruction. A secretary in a sunny office in February 1955 sits at her typewriter, consulting the shorthand on her notepad, typing up the contract. We get extreme closeups of the typewriter mechanisms, the keys striking the paper, the carriage return; the secretary, all lipstick and eyeliner, smokes, is visited by a male supervisor, and gazes wistfully out the window for some reason.

Giant dispenses with spoken language altogether, and the convention of talking-head interviews. There are no “real” people telling their stories. The site of the historical movie is not defined by absence, as in the previous two videos. Instead, the history is concrete and well documented, which seems to grant license to Hubbard and Birchler to push further away from narrative. In this, they achieve fantastic visual pleasure with the landscape scenes in the present.

Continue reading over at Glasstire.

Watch Vidas Perfectas Via Live Stream

17 Apr 2014

ashely_wanterman_01biennial01_1140

Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman, Performance of El Parque, Vidas Perfectas, Irondale Theater, Brooklyn, NY; December 2011, Pictured: Ned Sublette as ‘R’, aka Raoul de Noget, Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Phillip Stearns.

For anyone unable to make it to the performances of Vidas Perfectas at the Whitney Biennial, be sure to tune into the performance’s live stream beginning today.

Here is the schedule (all times EST):

each episode is 30 minutes, plus 15-minute changeovers between episodes

Thursday, April 17

1:30pm (El Parque, La Iglesia)

4:30pm (La Iglesia, El Parque

Friday, April 18

1:30pm (El Banco, El Salon)

6:30pm (El Banco, El Salon, El Bar)

Saturday, April 19

12pm (El Supermercado, El Banco)

4:30pm (El Bar, El Patio de Atras)

Sunday, April 20

12pm (El Supermercado, El Bar)

4:30pm (El Parque,

N+1, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal Reflect on Robert Ashley, “Perfect Lives”, and “Vidas Perfectas” at the Whitney

16 Apr 2014

vidasperfectas

Vidas Perfectas premieres tomorrow at the Whitney Biennial and many have taken this opportunity to reflect on Robert Ashley’s legacy and the great works he left behind, particularly this recent three-opera series at the Whitney.

In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Corinne Ramey discusses with director Alex Waterman what drew him to Ashley’s operas:

“That’s the genius of Bob’s work,” said Mr. Waterman, in the Williamsburg apartment he shares with his wife Elisa Santiago, who performs in “Vidas Perfectas,” and their toddler son. “His idea of an opera is that it’s characters in a landscape telling stories musically.”

For Mr. Waterman, a major attraction of Ashley’s work is the idea of music as a social and collaborative process, where a less formal interpretation—like that of the performance collective Varispeed, which produced a site-specific “Perfect Lives” in the Catskills—is just as valid as Mr. Waterman’s more formal one.

“I’m interested in music not just as a way of organizing sound,” said Mr. Waterman, “but as a way of thinking about who we are when we gather together, and how we listen and speak together, and how we produce things together.”

Paul Grimstad focuses on the importance of Ashley’s Perfect Lives: A Television Opera for N+1 Magazine. An excerpt:

While the operas for television might seem yet another way in which the calculatedly outrageous became a commonplace of 20th-century art, Ashley’s work looks more like an ingenious trick of defamiliarization whereby that quaint banality “television” is transformed into a medium for opera. In the end, I think, Ashley was mostly interested in the sound of Americans talking to each other, or talking to themselves: insistent, often indistinct, never meaningless, demotic. In these voices can be heard something revelatory and strange, as if someone took the lid off life and let us see the works.

Finally, Steve Smith eulogizes Ashley in The New York Times. Finding comfort in the fact that Waterman’s new productions of Ashley’s work manage to both be faithful to Ashley’s vision while cleverly building upon them. An excerpt:

What I have appreciated most about previous reconceptions of Ashley’s operas was the extent to which newcomers found fresh possibilities. Already in “Crash,” broadened horizons were evident. Ms. Bell’s inquisitive “yeah” was not Mr. Pinto’s hipster aside. Mr. McCorkle’s stammer was more pronounced than Ms. Kidambi’s. Ms. Simons and Mr. Ruder employed distinct hues of wistfulness. If the specter of death haunted this wistful, articulate swan song, prospects of preservation and renewal were also at hand.

After extensive filming on location in Marfa, Vidas Perfectas will debut at the Whitney Biennial tomorrow, April 17, 2014. Please join us here in Far West Texas as the production returns to Marfa and El Paso from July 10-14.

“The Repeater” talks to Jeff Zeigler and Mary Lattimore about “La Révélateur”, Marfa

26 Mar 2014

br123013_3

The Crowley Theater, December 30, 2013. Photo by Lesley Brown.

On December 30, Jeff Zeigler and Mary Lattimore visited Marfa to score Ballroom’s fifth-annual New Year’s eve film: Philippe Garrel’s, La Révélateur (1968). Music blog, the Repeater, recently met with Zeigler and Lattimore to discuss their thoughts on west Texas, why they were attracted to La Révélateur, and what’s next for the duo.

Here is an excerpt from part I of the interview, where the musicians discuss creating the score:

Jeff: Despite our previous experience scoring films, the task was not easy. We started by just watching the film and trying to come up with themes, not totally sure what approach to take. While the film has some general recurring ideas—relationship conflict, emotional distance, and coming of age— this doesn’t totally translate into an obvious angle from a musical standpoint.

We decided to start from the most logical path: Improvising to the film as a whole, coming up with musical themes from that, and then building it into a cohesive idea.

Mary: ….We set up in Jeff’s studio and watched the film once through in silence, getting to know the characters. We pinpointed the family’s recurring activities. The film’s pace varies from almost excruciatingly slow, to measured and weary escape, and then to rapid, terrorized flight. So, one of our objectives was to create sounds that reacted instinctively to the movement or stillness in the film. Some of the most memorable scenes were of the couple running through the forest, of the boy moving through a tunnel, and of waves delivering swans elegantly to shore. The boy is the hero of the film, and carries with him a levity and playfulness that contrasts with the dark and troubled parents, and we wanted to focus on that, too.

When we watched the film a second time, Jeff and I jammed from a static drone, and then I started to play a slow melody as the boy walked through a lonely tunnel. This melody came back and morphed into different keys later on, whenever the slow walking reappeared. We created a few themes, and then took them to different places depending on the action. Jeff’s melodica was a really important voice in the melody. He would play a mournful ribbon over my repetitive figures, and the combination of instruments fit together very organically.

Some of the music was just texture, noise, lowered loops of fingernails scraping on harp strings and aggressive banging on stuff. Some of it was silence and negative space. I made Jeff take over the scene of the laughing boy in the bathroom because I had no idea what to do. Our notes were just pages of “Fur Coat = Sparse. Boy Walks Alone. Crucified Parents Theme F#. Silence – Wall Words. Slow Crucified Parents. Tunnel Bed Thick Gliss. Boring Bedroom 2. Fast Train Dm-Cmajor,” and on and on in our language.

“Movie Mountain (Méliès)” in the Hudspeth County Herald

20 Feb 2014

Movie Mountain (Méliès), 2011 Production still High definition video with sound

Movie Mountain (Méliès), 2011
Production still
High definition video with sound

Drew Stuart, editor of the Hudspeth County Herald, writes about the 2011 installation of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler’s Movie Mountain (Méliès) at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York. The film documents the forgotten history of an otherwise unremarkable geographic feature outside of Sierra Blanca, and Stuart speaks with John Elder, one of the Hudspeth County residents participating in the project. Movie Mountain (Méliès) will screen alongside 2009’s Grand Paris Texas and the premiere of the Ballroom Marfa-commissioned Giant as part of Sound Speed Marker, opening here in Marfa on February 28, 2014.

From the January 28, 2011 edition of the Herald

Featuring Sierra Blanca Residents, Movie Mountain Film Screens in Manhattan

This month and next a group of Sierra Blanca-area residents are making their presence felt almost 2,000 miles, in a rather unlikely location: a gallery in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Méliès, a film by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, opened at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery Jan. 8, and screenings will continue through Feb. 5. The film focuses on Movie Mountain, an unassuming peak northeast of Sierra Blanca; the film uses conversations with local residents to explore that peak’s somewhat shadowy connection to the silent-movie era.

Hudspeth County residents included in the 24-minute movie include David Armstrong, Kit Bramblett, John Elder, Tom D. Ellison, Gary Jennings, Ben Lowry, Julio Marta, Sara Marta, Tom Neely, Christina Ramirez and James Rush. The New York Times printed a positive review of the film on Jan. 13, describing it as “beautifully made.”

Located on old McAdoo ranch land, the peak has been known as Movie Mountain for many decades. According to local lore, a silent-film crew shot footage at the hill in the early part of the 20th century. Local memories of the filming are scant on details, and footage from a film at Movie Mountain has not been found or identified.

LE RÉVÉLATEUR Poster by Ross Cashiola

17 Dec 2013

Poster by Ross Cashiola

Just got in the Le Révélateur posters, hand-drawn by the multi-talented Ross Cashiola. This is our fifth (!) annual New Year’s film program, and we’re screening Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur (1968) with a live score by harpist Mary Lattimore and synth player Jeff Zeigler. That’s December 30 at 7 pm — more details here.

Also for your calendars: we’ll have a New Year’s Eve Open House at the gallery on December 31 from 4-6pm. Stop by for refreshments and a two-for-one poster sale (may I recommend the Le Révélateur poster, with perhaps this, this, this, this, this, or this?)

¡Feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo!

North of South, West of East on a Brooklyn Rooftop

1 Aug 2013

A special screening of Meredith Danluck‘s North of South, West of East is happening this weekend as part of Rooftop Films’ 2013 Summer Series. As Danluck explains:

Come out Friday to see my four screen feature, North of South, West of East that we produced with Ballroom Marfa, Ex Vivo and Leslie Fritz. It screened this year at Sundance and features Ben Foster, Stella Schnabel, Sue Galloway, James Penfold and local Marfa punks, Solid Waste as well as an original score by John “Johnny Pockets” Carpenter.

It’s literally four surrounding screens with four narrative films playing in perfect symphony. Rooftop has set this up outside, with 200 swivel seats so it’ll be super fun and… it’s free.

Get all the details at rooftopfilms.com.

An Alix Pearlstein Primer

18 Jul 2013

Some background reading on Alix Pearlstein for those of you still cramming for Ballroom’s Friday opening of our installment in the Artists’ Film International series. Click here for all the details.

From the December 2012 issue of Artforum:

image

From “The Nothing Act”, a profile of Alex Pearlstein’s recent work in the April 2013 issue of Art in America:

The circling camera of The Drawing Lesson was a device Pearlstein also used for her 2008 show at the Kitchen. Having created the four-channel video After the Fall in the venue’s black box theater downstairs, she then showed the piece in the white box gallery upstairs, alluding to the differing modes of performance in theater and art. Filmed using a set of four cameras, the video first shows a couple on the verge of having sex, and then the interplay between two groupings of actors, one in pink-and-red costumes and the other in gold-and-black. A couple of the actors feign injury from altercations. The way the actors are divided by costume and actions harkens back to Pearlstein’s earlier, more allegorical work. But the constant observation of the actors by the camera, as well as the greater immediacy of their connection with the viewer, makes the work feel more elemental. Building on such effects, Pearlstein went on to adapt the premise of the musical A Chorus Line (the 1975 play and 1985 film) for her video Talent (2009). A Chorus Line, which ran for over 6,000 performances, setting a Broadway record, is about actors auditioning for parts in a new musical. They laugh, cry, sing, dance and tell heartbreaking stories about themselves and their careers. Pearlstein stripped the musical of its songs and dialogue, leaving only the wondrous, spontaneous ephemera of actors at an audition: waiting, hopeful, bored or yearning for attention. At one point they share a loaf of bread. They turn their acting personas on and off and mingle occasionally, though they mostly stay in line as the camera moves in a parallel track back and forth across them.

Continue reading

And finally, an excerpt from a Q&A between Pearlstein and John Pilson in the Winter 2013 issue of BOMB:

JP You’re an artist who has not become all consumed by video, but who sees the opportunity of it containing everything. I remember asking you for advice about how to edition things. I was feeling a little insecure about DVDs, thinking that I had to make nice boxes for them or something. You set me straight, “You have absolutely nothing to make up for. Everything you have to say has been put into that video. Nothing is required to make it more of an object.”

AP I’m glad I said that.

JP Those anxieties never exactly go away, but what you said really helped. It also seems completely in line with your work because it never points outside of itself. You rarely seem to be imitating anything: your videos don’t look like movies or TV shows, and they’re not cinematic, necessarily. Everything in them is active: the camera, ideas about performance, acting, figures, and space. Everything is competing for our attention. Anybody using the moving image has to contend with genre. With TV, you could measure in milliseconds how long it takes to know what you’re looking at: the news, porn, a documentary, or a reality show. Video artists have to contend with that, but they also have a great opportunity to question the assumed passivity of the viewer.

AP I consciously evade genre. Although, there are moments that may suggest a genre, say sci-fi in Light (2012) or suspense in Distance (2006)—but the suggestion is misleading, impure, and it doesn’t hold.

JP One does get the sense in your work that you’re scrutinizing something, or many things at once. I’m curious about what those things are?

AP The center point of what I’m thinking about right now is the affective space and the fundamental relationship between the camera, the viewer, and the subject—and what activates it. Camera movement, positing the camera as a viewer, and the gaze from the subject to camera can activate this. Light and sound can activate that space too. In both works up now at On Stellar Rays—The Drawing Lesson (2012) and Moves in the Field (2012)—a powerful light and a shotgun mic are mounted on the camera. As the camera nears, the subjects become very brightly lit, almost blown out, spotlighted, and you can hear their breath. These elements act to implicate the viewer.

Keep reading in BOMB.

—————————–

The opening reception for Artists Film International — Alix Pearlstein takes place Friday, 19 July 2013 from 6–8pm. There will be an exhibition walk-through with Alix Pearlstein on Saturday, 20 July 2013 at 10am. All events are free and open to the public at Ballroom Marfa.

An Introduction to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

12 Jun 2013

image

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song screens at 8pm on 12 June 2013 at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas as part of Ballroom’s New Growth Film Program, co-curated by Rashid Johnson and Josh Siegel, MoMA. Admission is free and open to the public.

Note: For this screening, viewers under 17 will require an accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is Melvin Van Peebles third movie, which he wrote, directed, produced, composed music for and starred in. Dedicated to “all the sisters and brothers who had enough of the man,” the film follows a young African American man on his flight from white authority. No studio would agree to fund the film, so Van Peebles financed it independently, shooting over a 19-day period, performing his own stunts and several unsimulated sex scenes. Sweet Sweetback is hailed as the beginning of blaxpoloitation as a genre and Van Peebles refused to submit the film to the all-white MPAA ratings board for approval. His opinion was that they were not a jury of his peers and they’d been approving crippling images of people of color for years, so why let them dictate his cinematic agenda? In the end, the film received an X-rating and Van Peebles made T-shirts that read “Rated X by an all white jury,” and incorporated it into his marketing campaign.

In the book Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: A Guerilla Filmmaking Manifesto, Van Peebles recounts that the idea for the film materialized during his first soul-searching and auto-erotic trip to the Mojave Desert. Looking out at the at an endless row of electric pylons sandwiched by sky and land, he thought it through: