Summer at the movies can be a frightening affair: Broadway musicals at the Paramount, Aliens at the Alamo, and grown men in iron, bat, and spider costumes can turn anyone into a clueless screaming teen from I Know What You Did Last Summer.
No need to fear, though. Brought to you by this year's New Media and Sound Summit (NMASS), Experimental Response Cinema won’t force any 3-D glasses upon you — just some good old fashioned, thoughtful avant garde filmmaking.
Experimental Response Cinema is an Austin, Texas-based collective of avant garde film and video artists devoted to bringing local, national and international experimental films to Austin screens. This motley crew has been redefining the avant garde cinema scene in Austin with one of a kind screenings like Orbit, a Space themed show that would make Carl Sagan blush and the animated pop collage films of Kelly Sears.
So what differentiates avant garde from traditional cinema? The same things that differentiate poetry from prose, maybe?
“I think in a lot of cases that that is a good metaphor,” said ERC director Scott Stark. “Like poetry, you can devise your own rules with avant garde cinema and aren’t necessarily dictated by plot, character and other devices. Also, both art forms are highly characterized by ambiguity."
Avant garde cinema tends to ask more of its audience than what a traditional night at the Alamo would.
“It leaves a lot more up to the viewer in terms of emotional response," said Stark. "There aren’t a lot of emotional and story cues. I, and I think the people who have come out to screenings, find that opportunity to be really rich.
While ERC won’t be screening the much anticipated experimental blockbuster Floating Plastic Bag II: The White Bag Rises in Imax, they do have two upcoming screenings in conjunction with N.M.A.S.S fest this week.
Steve Cossman: Direct-er’s Cut
Some things were just made for artistic violation: bathroom stall walls, billboards, consciousness and — apparently — film. The process of manipulating the last item is called direct filmmaking.
“Direct filmmaking encompasses various camera-less methods (such as scratching, painting and masking) through which a film maker produces and alters images by directly manipulating the surface of the film frame,” states the exp response cinema press release.
Whether one has noticed it or not, examples of DFM have been sprinkled in to our pop culture consciousness. No better example than the popping animated colors of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World title sequence, which appears like an animated version of a Rothko or Hans Hoffman painting. Indeed, DFM’s distance from abstract expressionism might be one of truckloads of money and public consensus.
For film makers, direct film making allows them to escape the law of mimesis that seems to govern camera-based filmmaking. Instead of replicating a reality, many direct film makers like Steve Cossman are drawn to the ultimate creative reign that DFM affords.
“Working with a camera, you have a set frame rate, and you have a number of tools on the device that allow you to be precise in some sense,” states Cossman. “With DFM you really have the possibility of blurring all of the lines of the frame — pun intended.”
Austin might not come off like a violent urban environment prima facie; however, the harsh facts of city living are still here, albeit unnoticed.
Loosely themed around the idea of “penetrating and surviving inside the seductive toxicities of the urban environment,” the selection of films within Urban Overload intend to turn our heads to the beauty and ugliness of our city slicker reality.
According to the curator Scott Stark, “A lot of the films in [Urban Overload] probe the idea of how we psychologically negotiate the urban environment."
Likewise, the films on the bill point to the overlooked nexus of nature and city, as Compressive/ Percussive addresses the phenomenology of the I-35 overpass at 32nd St. throughout the course of the day; and Swoop “considers human-animal interactions through optical rhythms and flight patterns” of the many birds who are always pleasantly surprised to find a free hotel (I-35) each time they pass by.
Urban Overload screens on Thursday June 14 while Direct-er’s Cuts will screen on Friday June 15. Both will screen at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre. For more information regarding Experimental Response Cinema (and floating plastic bags) visit www.experimentalresponsecinema.blogspot.com.
Tickets to the ERC shows this week can be purchased at www.nmassfest.or