The seven short films included in the} journey map our interior world, a landscape dominated by our ubiquitous use of screens.

Commissioned by Maria Petschnig in 2019, the works oddly anticipate the conditions of the COVID-19 global pandemic, where virtual platforms — as a matter of survival — have supplanted physical connection. In the films, we navigate environments that are deliciously shareable, from an aquarium of bizarre creatures controlled by algorithms to manmade jungles to intimate scenes of joy and loneliness. Working across genres, these filmmakers comment on a shared sense of disconnection. They explore how technological devices have estranged us from nature, dulled our sense of empathy, and even compromised our ability to form authentic relationships. Far from didactic, however, the} journey takes us along on an emotional ride whose affective peaks and valleys mirror the complicated interface between screen-based technologies and human users.

Some artists point to the role of the artist/activist, and how their work gets disseminated. Michel Auder’s HIGH LIFE combines details of French realist painter Gustave Courbet’s paintings with voyeuristic footage. Several works concern themselves with the construction of intimacy over screens, where distinctions of public and private life break down. Keren Cytter’s Onanism depicts an afternoon of self-pleasure through a kind of glitchy filmic alienation; Maria Petschnig’s THE FEEDBACK, on the other hand, positions screen-based technology as both a balm and an accelerant to artistic vulnerability. Dani and Sheilah ReStack use the camera as a tool to reimagine family life, intergenerational connection and their relationship to animals in Go Ask Joan. In other films, technology emerges as a metaphor for human cruelty. In Phillip Birch’s Dreamcast out of Space, an animated aquarium populated by human-fish hybrids uses AI to envision the possibilities of institutional escape. Carolyn Lambert’s Aerosol Parasol Jump documents human attempts to replicate the role of birds and bees. Martin Roth’s untitled (theater) presents a rhythmic tour through simulacra of natural environments and the violence imposed through scientific experimentation.

Wendy Vogel, Fall 2020

Curated by Maria Petschnig
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