Focus Group: Pilgrim’s Process

Four 16mm films from the 1970s, 1980s and early 2000s chart a trajectory of “strange pilgrimages”—both real and imagined—through the maze of permeable structures that make up our contemporary urban landscape. Hollis Frampton’s landmark Nostalgia (1973, 35 mins.) tells of the artist’s esthetic transformation through a series of deteriorating photographs. Abigail Child’s Mutiny (1983, 11 mins.) casts the interior and exterior facades of the city itself as instruments for musical and visual play, while Julie Murray’s Untitled (light) (2002, 5 mins.) posits the post-9/11 nighttime sky as something both heavenly and ominous. Finally, Deborah Stratman’s breakthrough film In Order Not To Be Here (2002, 33 mins.) is a lucid and mysterious rendering of empty shopping malls and parking lots that segues into a fearful meditation on surveillance and the boundaries of urban transgression. (85 mins.)

Nostalgia (Hapax Legomena I)
Hollis Frampton
1973, 16mm film, 36 minutes

“(NOSTALGIA)…is a film to look at and think about, not a film that seizes your mind and forces its sensations on you. It liberates the imagination rather than entrapping it. It raises questions about the nature of film, the tension between fact and illusion, between now and then. It advances our understanding of film magic, and for this I am grateful.”—Standish Lawder

“In (NOSTALGIA) the time it takes for a photograph to burn (and thus confirm its two-dimensionality) becomes the clock within the film, while Frampton plays the critic, asynchronously glossing, explicating, narrating, mythologizing his earlier art, and his earlier life, as he commits them both to the fire of a labyrinthine structure; for Borges too was one of his earlier masters, and he grins behind the facades of logic, mathematics, and physical demonstration which are the formal metaphors for most of Frampton’s films.”—P. Adams Sitney.

Abigail Child
1983, 16mm, 11 minutes
Featuring Polly Bradfield (violinist), Sally Silvers (dancer), Erica Hunt (poet), and Shelley Hirsch (singer).

“This movie is a new kind of classic, it has invented once and for all the machine-gun sound of explosives and composed sentences with speeded-up speech and wild singing, laughter, hardly [at] all understandable, with violins screeching like falling bombs and a Hispanic grind dance …. There are tender closeups in interviews with women, and marvelous documents of dancers, street performers, all races & styles. These are brave and straight-talking people; this is a feminist film, and it is important. All the sound makes a talky song of many voices.”—Anne Robertson, X-Dream

Untitled (light)
Julie Murray
2002, 16mm film, 5 minutes

“The film’s haunting images are accompanied by the continuous sound of a helicopter circling overhead, which at the close gives way to the distant sound of police sirens. The beams of light, which seem to emanate from above, could be confused with helicopter searchlights, a reading whose symbolic significance evokes both security and baleful scrutiny. These sounds, however, are not only immediately associated with the events of September 11; they have also become a ubiquitous presence in the urban sonic landscape. Murray reveals the subtle disconnect of sound and image only gradually, allowing conscious recognition to develop slowly in viewing the film.”—Whitney Biennial 2004 catalog

In Order Not To Be Here
Deborah Stratman
2002, 16mm, 33 minutes

Images of suburban surveillance and violence that push up against the limits of the real. An uncompromising look at the ways privacy, safety, convenience and surveillance determine our environment. Shot entirely at night, the film confronts the hermetic nature of white-collar communities, dissecting the fear behind contemporary suburban design. This is a new genre of horror movie, attempting suburban locations as states of mind with original electronic music by Kevin Drumm.

Programmed by Scott Stark for Experimental Response Cinema.

Focus Group: Pilgrim’s Process is presented in collaboration with Experimental Response Cinema and in partnership with The Contemporary Austin.

About the Program

Focus Group is an experimental film screening series introducing visitors to seminal filmmakers and their contemporary counterparts. Accompanied by presentations from film aficionados, the screenings stimulate conversation about experimental film and its various formats.

Focus Group is presented in collaboration with Experimental Response Cinema, an Austin-based collective ofavant-garde film and video artists devoted to bringing local, national and international experimental films to Austin screens.

Find out how to get discounted parking to attend this VAC event!