Video Art in Chicago During Summer 2010

Roxanne Samer

Erin Cosgrove, What Manner of Person Art Thou?

In case you haven’t noticed, in the summer the Chicago art world tends to slow down. There are still the big exhibitions at the major art institutions, but, generally speaking, the gallery scene is a bit dead—no huge openings, no big parties, etc.—and most people choose to forgo such endeavors and simply enjoy the out of doors. Fortunately for the true art enthusiast (or indoor summer escapist),  there are still plenty of independent films and video works to be seen. You just have to know where to look. Luckily, we’ve done most of the looking for you. Here are a few profiles of what should be some of the most exciting (and air conditioned) screenings and exhibitions of themoving image to checkout this summer:

Erin Cosgrove: What Manner of Person Art Thou?: now through June 12th

This sixty-five minute animated film is currently on display at Gallery 400 on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus in the west loop. Though set in the present day, the dark piece appropriates its story and imagery from an 11th century tapestry, utilizing the violence and moralization therein through video format to comment on the disaster and destruction of contemporary culture. It screens Tuesdays through Fridays at 10am, 11:04am, 12:08pm, 1:16pm, 2:20pm, 3:24pm and 4:28pm and on Saturdays at 12pm, 1:04pm, 2:08pm, 3:16pm and 4:20pm.

Kenneth Anger, Ich Will!


The A/V Geeks present a night of classic campy 16mm school films that examine the behavior of potential wimps and what can be done fix it. Films include: Soapy the Germ Fighter (1951), William’s Doll (1985), Fears of Children (1951) and Neurotic Behavior–a Psychodynamic View (1973). Most A/V Geek films, of which there are over 23,000 titles, were rescued from dumpsters, forgotten closets and EBay sellers who didn’t appreciate what they had. Skip Elsheimer, the founder of A/V Geeks, curates film programs in venues across the country and sells DVD compilations based on films from the archive. More information about the titles being screened can be found here. CINEMA BOREALIS is located at 1550 N. Milwaukee (4th floor), and tickets are $10.

The 22nd Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival: June 17th-20th

This year’s Onion City Festival, hosted by Chicago Filmmakers, will feature new experimental film and video work by both well known and up and coming artists. Each afternoon or evening program will feature two to fifteen works, depending on medium and length. Screenings will be held at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark), the Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee) and the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State). A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, an eighteen minute video by the Thai filmmaker and SAIC alum Apichatpong Weerasethakul whose related feature film just won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival will be sure to garner a sizeable audience opening night. Kenneth Anger’s 2008 video, Ich Will!, which traces the homoerotic subtext in archival “Hitler Youth” film footage, should also be highly anticipated. There will be a Sunday afternoon program dedicated to three important women from the experimental film world, all of whom passed away within the last year: local filmmaker JoAnn Elam, filmmaker and founder of Canyon Cinema Chick Strand and film curator Callie Angell. The four days of programming will introduce viewers to over a dozen works by local artists such as Jake Barningham, Kyle Canterbury and Adele Friedman. It should be an amazing festival for long-time experimental film buffs and Chicagoans new to the scene alike. The full listing and program details will be available to the public shortly via the Chicago Filmmakers’ website.

The Seductiveness of the Interval: through June 27th

This multi-media exhibition at the Renaissance Society in Hyde Park originally served as the Romanian Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale. It features five works, including one film, two video pieces, a slide projection and a sound installation, by three Romanian artists, all of which are connected by the labyrinth-like corridors of a large white rectangular cube built by studioBASAR. For more information, read Chicago Art Magazine’s review of the exhibition.

Chuck Workman, Visionaries

The 17th Chicago Underground Film Festival: June 24th-July 1st

Perhaps the most promising week of the summer, this festival will showcase a series of great new experimental film and video pieces. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times has written about the festival in the past, “What you get for your money is not admission to the films but admission to a subculture,” and John Petrakis of the Chicago Tribune has called it “[t]he hottest and most ambitious festival on the local scene.” This year, the festival will be recognizing Jonas Mekas—founder of Anthology Film Archives, former editor of Film Culture and “godfather of American avant-garde cinema”—with its 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. June 25th, there will be a screening of the documentary Visionaries: Jonas Mekas and the (Mostly) American Avant-Garde by Chuck Workman, for which Mekas, Workman and film critic Fred Camper will be present for an audience discussion. A screening the following afternoon will highlight a few of Mekas’ most memorable experimental films from 1964-2003, for which the filmmaker will again be present. Also highly anticipated are Frankie Latina’s “cult-hit-to-be” Super-8 feature Modus Operandi, the world premiere of Scrappers, which documents two men’s scavenging for metal in Chicago’s backstreets, exposing the segregation of wealth and race that still exists in our city’s geography, as well as not one but six different evenings of short film and video programming. For more information, visit the festival’s page on the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website.

against a trans narrative by Jules Rosskam: July 19th @6pm

The Chicago Public Library will be hosting a free screening of Jules Rosskam’s 2009 experimental documentary against a trans narrative in its Sulzer’s Auditorium (4455 N. Lincoln) on July 19. The sixty-one minute film blends a wide-range of genre styles and techniques, confusing the boundaries of fiction and nonfiction, the imaginary and the real. The Video Data Bank recently acquired the piece and more can be read about it by searching their title index.

Bill Daniel, The Lost Pogo Dance Films

Bill Daniel, The Lost Pogo Dance Films (1965-1987): July 25th @8pm

The Nightingale Theater will be hosting an evening with “film tramp” Bill Daniel, in which he will be presenting a new program of recently unearthed 16mm music films featuring lost 1965 new footage of the Beatles in San Francisco, 1977 performance footage of the Avengers and 1980 footage of the two legendary punk/new wave Austin bands, The Huns and Boy Problems, filmed live at Rauls Club, as well as an early Johnny Cash kinescope and other curios. Most of this footage was once abandoned or lost and has recently been found, and will now be presented raw without editing. The pieces will, for the most part, be projected on silent 16mm. According to Bill Daniel, “There is a flavor of goofy nostalgia to much of the footage, but the images are also haunting–silent rock and roll ghosts, still singing, pogoing, sneaking hits on cigarettes, making direct eye contact, but mute…Each of the films has it’s own story, like if a stray dog at the pound could tell you how he got there. Part of the evening’s presentation is a telling of some of these stories, and a discussion on the relationship between underground music and film cultures.” The Nightingale is located at 1084 N. Milwaukee, and the event is $7-$10.

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle’s Always After (The Glass House), 2006, is currently on display at the Donna and Howard Stone Film, Video and New Media Gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago. From the end of June through October 2010, the gallery will be showing a work by French artist Pierre Huyghe, called Les Grands Ensembles, 1994/2001. Furthermore, video art and artists’ interviews on video can always be viewed on one’s own time by appointment in the screening room at the Video Data Bank on Michigan Avenue, across the street from the Art Institute.

If you know of any further screenings, exhibitions or festivals that should be added to these list, please leave the related details in the comments section below!