STEPHEN CONNOLLY: Occasional Pieces and Afflicted States
Sunday June 13, 2010, 7:30 pm Los Angeles Filmforum presents STEPHEN CONNOLLY: Occasional Pieces and Afflicted States
At the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. at Las Palmas, Los Angeles
Stephen Connolly in person!
Filmforum is delighted to host the premiere screening for UK-based filmmaker Stephen Connolly here in Los Angeles. One of the leading strands of experimental film today utilizes observational documentary techniques, without necessarily tying the edited film to a clear narrative or leading character. Instead, the work investigates the social, political and historical terrain of contemporary spaces and landscapes through shards of space and prolonged gazes. Connolly's short films retain the sensitivity to light, rhythm, and perception that characterize all fine experimental and documentary work. If you are a fan of films by such artists as James Benning, Naomi Uman, Ben Rivers, Vera Brunner-Sung (whose film Common Ground traverses some of the same terrain as Connolly's Great American Desert), and Laura Kraning, we think you'll find this show of great interest.
Admission for Filmforum screenings: $10 general, $6 students/seniors, free for Filmforum members
"Some of the strongest cultural responses to the shifts in the political and social landscape that followed 9/11 have come through film, and particularly through the mode of documentary. Stephen Connolly (born Montreal, 1964, lives in London) is an artist-filmmaker who employs the investigative and reconstructive aspects of documentary, exploring how its formal conditions can reflect on both individual and social agency.
Shown at film festivals as well as in gallery contexts, Connolly's work uses various practices associated with conceptual film, including atemporality and montage, while always emphasising a central motif or subject. The artist does not foreground his own presence, but employs a multitude of voices and modes that include direct commentary, reportage and reconstructed speech.
Connolly's Film for Tom (2005) attempts to piece together elements of a deceased friend's life. It is a portrait, yet one that is necessarily fragmented - in response to a personality that was not straightforward, and that was not comfortable within 'conventional' society. The artist's own audio recordings of Tom, conversing on politics and on his place in the world, are coupled with images and sounds that operate as traces of the man: an answer-phone message from his old school, reporting an entry in the school records; images from an archive of his photographs. Film for Tom is a searing and poignant act of remembrance, but also a rounded expression of the difficulty of understanding an individual's position in the world.
Connolly's earlier film The Whale (2003) is described by the artist as "an oblique meditation on safety, fear and notions of faraway places". Here the fleeting image and voice of Ulrike Meinhof, who was one of the leading members of Germany's Red Army Faction, is intertwined with footage of people in an urban park and of a walk through Cairo's City of the Dead. A dialogue between mother and child unites these disparate elements.
In Connolly's hands the documentary is a nonjudgmental form, un-dogmatic about its status as historical document or mode of investigation. Great American Desert (2008) moves from contemporary footage of recreational vehicles in the Arizona desert, to images of a re-staging of the Hiroshima bomb as propagandistic entertainment within the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1945. Through a mode of filmmaking rooted in the personal and quotidian, Connolly highlights the origins of our culture of spectacle and leisure - a culture that can obfuscate both history and truth. - Richard Birkett, Nought to Sixty
Institute of Contemporary Art London, 18.08.08
the reading room (2002, 2 min 45 sec, 16mm/video, silent)
the reading room traces the movement of visitors to the British Museum reading room through an entire working day in under three minutes and in silence.
The film is an exploration of the changing place of the archive. Using an elevated camera, a single 'master' shot film reveals the layout of the library as a panoptican, a structure envisaged as an ideal prison by Jeremy Bentham (1785).
Bentham described his design as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example."
Film for Tom (2005, 12 min, s16/video)
A lyrical homage to a friend and formative influence. Tom in voiceover is eloquent and effusive, yet finds no resolution to issues that haunt him. Near the conclusion of the film, a dramatic offscreen event complicates our understanding of the images and spaces we have seen.
'...Connolly's angular, beautifully shot 'Film for Tom', which broods upon the life and death of a bright, troubled outsider, is breathtakingly measured and sure-footed.'
'New Contemporaries', Martin Herbert, Time Out London 15.11.06
Special Mention, Tiger Awards for Short Film, IFFR 2006
Girot Award for Editing and Editorial, 45th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2006
Postcard from Istanbul (Shoeshiners) (2002, 6 min, super8/video)
The camera in Postcard from Istanbul seeks out the shoeshines of the city and exchanges
the price of a shine for a short portrait on super8.
The Afflicted States Series
The afflicted states series of films was begun in late 2001, a historical moment when exploring the relationship between the individual and state seemed to take on a new urgency. These short films see the present through the past, seeking to locate significant but overlooked precursors to the contemporary. Their images seek to register a social experience of landscapes at points of discursive excess and obliquely explore 'social liberty'. The series is responsive to ongoing events and not proceeding according to a plan, instead it presents an alternate topography of spaces, places and interests.
The Whale (2003, 9 min, 16mm)
'A deliberation on the state of nature and the nature of the State. The Whale combines several disparate components (including a parent-child dialogue on the relative threats posed by wild animals, an archival television interview with notorious RAF operative Ulrike Meinhof and citations from Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan) to consider the need for a renewed communal sensibility in contemporary society.' -- Jeremy Rigsby, Images Festival, Toronto 2005
Great American Desert (207, 16' min,16mm)
The camera of Great American Desert observes a scrubby Arizona desert, seasonally occupied by recreational vehicle dwellers. Other elements emerge in juxtaposition, including an account of the men who carried out the Hiroshima bombing and a spectacle staged shortly afterwards in celebration of this event.
The film invokes an examination of 'social liberty' in the West in relation to war, spectacle, the environment and consumerism.
"Stephen Connolly's Great American Desert, 2007 dwells both in the past and the present, geographically as well as temporally. The people within its structure seem to be looking for something elusive to them; it is as if they are trying to sustain a sense of limbo for as long as they can.
"The film is ultimately about a relationship to place which seems defined through notions of spectacle and leisure. The spectacle lies in the re-creation of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic explosions (staged in Los Angeles only three months after the actual events) which haunt the landscape, leaving it emptier than it ever was, and the leisure lies in the idle killing of time undertaken by its transient population." -- Graham Gussin, artist and curator, Spring 2008
Más Se Perdió (2008, 14 min, 16mm)
Más Se Perdió (we lost more) explores a number of filmic options of showing place - Havana, Cuba. A public exercise area is shown in a single shot and in real time. The ruins of the National School of Ballet - an example of a unique form of modern architecture - is explored through spatial movement and narrative. A street scene is repeated three times - with different sound treatments questioning each time the sufficiency of the representation.
Interview for IFFR of Más Se Perdió premiere, Jan 2009:
Stephen Connolly was born in Montreal, Canada (1964) and now lives in the UK.
Connolly's work arises from an interest in exploring the relationships between the individual and the social worlds through documentary and places equal importance on sound in constructing cinematic allusion and meaning. His films has been included in numerous festivals worldwide, including the Rotterdam IFF, Images Toronto, Ann Arbor FF, and he has recently had solo screenings at the British Film Institute and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London UK. LUX (www.lux.org.uk) distribute Connolly's films. More at Connolly's website: http://www.bubblefilm.net
This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. Additional support generously provided by the American Cinematheque.
For the screenings at the Egyptian Theater:
Parking is now easiest at the Hollywood & Highland complex. Bring your ticket for validation. Parking is $2 for 4 hours with validation. Enter that complex on Highland or Hollywood. The theater is 1.5 blocks east.
Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
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