Mur Murs, a Film Series
After a pandemic hiatus, “Mur Murs” is back! Taking its name from the Agnès Varda film and inspired by that film’s vitality and diversity, “Mur Murs” is a one-day film series presenting contemporary artists’ cinema in Los Angeles. This edition will consist of two programs of new moving-image works responding to the contemporary moment placed in dialogue with resonant historical works from avantgarde, experimental, documentary, and creative non-fiction cinema. Agnostic in genre and format, it also includes recent archival restorations and (re)discoveries. Excited to return to the physical space of the cinema, “Mur Murs” will include a combination of in-person and streaming experiences.
In person: curators Rebecca Baron and David Dinnell; filmmaker Janie Geiser among others
Traversing genres, these films reflect on heightened moments in time. The series begins with Oh My Homeland (4 min, 2019), the third work in Stephanie Barber’s series of minimal single shot 16mm films. “A film about identity, love, power, patriotism and the transcendent potential of art through the viewing of a face receiving adoration,” Barber’s film is a portrait of the great soprano Leontyne Price as she receives rapturous applause during her farewell opera performing the title role in Verdi’s Aida.
James Edmonds’ 16mm film A Return (6 min, 2019) depicts interior space through a deftly edited “series of rapid contrasts, a synthesis of elemental and everyday experience, (where) structures shift and intermingle and two worlds become one” (JE).
Surviving You, Always * (18 min, 2020), the first of two films by Morgan Quaintance in this series, places the voice of Timothy Leary advocating for the liberatory potential of psychedelic drugs with still photographs and textual recollections by the filmmaker of his own memories and personal experiences in 1990s South London.
Affonso Uchôa’s Seven Years in May (41 min, 2019) portrays Rafael, a young man from a working class neighborhood in Brazil, recounting a past experience, through simple and powerful storytelling, of surviving police persecution. “Seven Years in May could be read as a political fable that prefigures Brazil’s complex situation, but also as a mythological tale full ofhope, in which it is still possible to imagine another future for the country” (Elena Lopez Riera).
Teal * (5 min, 2019), a 35mm film by the Vienna-based artist Björn Kämmerer, reveals a series of mirrors falling downward through a fixed frame, and in “rhythmically timed intervals, crashing to the surface in fits of syncopated destruction. A tautological consideration of space, disposability, and cinematic iconography (and as such a literal object lesson in repetition), Teal recalibrates the mind’s eye through the subtle application and disruption of familiar forms” (Jordan Cronk).
Brazilian actor/playwright/director Grace Passô filmed República (16min, 2020) in her São Paulo home at the beginning of the quarantine and creates a riveting performance as “a Brazilian woman who wakes up in a country overwhelmed by violent acts” (GP).
This program features films engaged with the relationship between their (im)materiality and their content. Starting with the 35mm film Cavalcade * (5min, 2020), Johann Lurf’s hypnotic film addresses visual perception itself.
In Minjung Kim’s “The red filter is withdrawn.” (12 min, 2020), memories of uprisings and massacres are found in every corner of Jeju, a self-governing volcanic island province in South Korea. The text in the film quotes the script of Hollis Frampton’s performance, A Lecture (1968), and turns the caves and bunkers of Jeju Island into camera lenses and projection screens, evoking the island’s colonial history while questioning the meaning of image-capturing itself.
Apiyemiyekî? (27 min, 2020) by Ana Vaz animates drawings made by the Waimiri-Atroari, a people native to the Brazilian Amazon, and transposes them to the landscapes and sights that they narrate, echoing their question, Why did Kamña (“the civilized”) kill Kiña (Waimiri-Atraori)? Apiyemiyekî? (Why?).
Babette Mangolte’s 1978 film There? Where? (8 min, 1979) is “a naive look at Southern California, and/or an essay on displacement through the disjunction of Southern Californian images and offscreen voices. Where is the location of these voices, here or there?”(BM).
Janie Geiser’s Reverse Shadow (8 min, 2019), is a haunting dream of a film that draws out the anxious connection between the past and present.
Morgan Quaintance’s Early Years * (15 min, 2019) is a portrait of Jamaican-born artistic polymath Barbara Samuels, and Quaintance’s mother. It features an account of her first generation, diasporic experience in London, and her discovery of the liberatory possibilities for self-actualization offered by an early entry into creative life (MQ).
Justin Jinsoo Kim’s Personality Test (8 min, 2021) is another portrait film of the artist’s mother. Constructed from inkjet printouts, this animated film draws out Kim’s mother’s memories of a formative trip to the mountains as she answers questions posed in an internet personality quiz.
The program concludes with Harmony Holiday’s moving God’s Suicide (15 min, 2020), which addresses Baldwin’s little-discussed suicide attempts. The film focuses on two figures: the author James Baldwin and the artist’s father, the soul musician Jimmy Holiday. As she explains, “Two Jimmys I love and who teach me their startling immortality daily deserve the space to discuss their demons as much as their gifts.”
In this final program of the series, geological time is considered alongside the lived experience of time. Opening with Shinya Isobe’s 16mm film 13 (10min, 2020) in which the filmmaker left his camera in exactly the same spot for five years to shoot a picture of the sunset every thirteen seconds, the film invites us to contemplate our relationship to the cosmos.
The film is followed by Rosa Barba’s Aggregate States of Matter * (18min, 2019), a 35mm film depicting the grandeur and immensity of the Andes at a time of unprecedented environmental fragility.
Petna Ndaliko Katondolo’s Kapita (21 min, 2021) is the second in his triptych of films dedicated to “recoding aesthetics”, where he “pursues the omitted, the invisible” through the use of archival films of the Congo from the early 20th century intertwined with contemporary images to “expose patterns of extraction and burial to decode colonial representations—and exploitation—of central African land and people and mine the archival films for what they make invisible: the black-skinned workers evaporated by cameras calibrated to white, the collateral death and destruction interred in infrastructure”(PNK).
In Stay With Me, the World is a Devastating Place (8 min, 2021) Angelo Madsen Minax mined 80 hours of footage, all from the year 1970, from the vaults of a Dallas TV station to construct a kinetic montage where ”the news anchors are reimagined as pseudo-divine bearers of a potential truth, transplanted from 50 years in the past and appearing before our eyes to weave a proclamation of impending doom. In poetic decree, we are told in great detail the peril of our world, yet offered no explanation of how to prevent it, nor the definitive cause. From past images, a future-image is constructed” (AMM).
Blue and Laura Kraning’s Las Breas (12 min, 2019) “is an observational portrait of three tar pits, of which there are only six in the entire world. Situated in three distinct landscapes in Southern California–urban Los Angeles, the oil fields of the San Joaquin Valley, and Carpinteria Beach – Las Breas investigates the spaces between archiving the pre-historic and the contemporary industrial landscape” (BK &LK).
The program closes with a 35mm print of Pat O’Neill’s unforgettable film Horizontal Boundaries * (22 min, 2008), a film engaged with, in the words of O’Neill, “defining parameters for the representation of space and time.”
Films wtih an * are only available for in-person screenings.
The Jack H. Skirball Series is organized by Bérénice Reynaud and Eduardo Thomas and funded in part by the Ostrovsky Family Fund. The program Mur Murs is supported by the office of the Dean of CalArts School of Film/Video.