One of the more salient through-lines of the works assembled in The On Screen Program 3, Siting Cinema, is the idea of a pitch, or at the very least, a kind of proposition. Of course, any work of art is a proposition of some kind; it asks you to believe in it, to accept as given the universe that it tries to create. I’ve always thought that the degree to which artwork is successful is directly proportional to the absorptive powers of its universe.
Which is one of the reasons I love love love Oliver Husain’s work; the seamless logical and aesthetic structures of his videos are always seductive and engaging, especially considering (for the most part, or at least to my knowledge) they wear their construction and their artificiality on their…can videos have sleeves? I caught “Mount Shasta” at Nuit Blanche this year, and I’m giddy to see it included in this program. It opens with a pitch, in the form of scrolling text: Husain proposes a narrative in which seafaring tourists find their way into a mystical cave. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in some kind of Max Ophuls-esque industrial circus space, layers of transparent cloth, wire armatures and other props dotting the fore-, middle-, and backgrounds. The dolorous tones of Mantler’s Rhodes piano form the sonic backdrop for an elaborate, oracular choreography; figures draped in white arrange and re-arrange various stages for puppet shows. Husain takes us from the prosaic plot outlines of his script pitch to the surreal puppet choreography as gently and easily as slipping into a dream.
Andrew J Patterson’s proposals are a bit more jarring and perverse: in “12×26″, a series of alphabedecary word poems, involving the exploits and adventures of people with names like “Peter Queer” and “King Louis-Marie” are interrupted by jarring abstract animations, as if Patterson’s proposed universe is cracking under the weight of its own nonsense logic.
Ending the program is my proposal for Most Perverse Media Artist Anywhere Ever, Steve Reinke, and his “Boy/Analysis: An Abridgement of Melanie Klein’s ‘Narrative of a Child Analysis’”. Set against a diarrhea-brown background, bits of acrid-yellow and semen-white (don’t look at me — Reinke’s the one with his head in the toilet, I’m just describing) text float on and off screen, each one a particularly grotesque bit of transcription involving phrases that I’m sure will end up lodged in the fundament of the Reinke Universe: Hitler penises, mothers, genitals, genitals touching genitals, genitals stuffed inside other genitals, genitals being ripped off by Hitler penis-wielding mothers…all to the histrionic operatics of a Benjamin Britten score (what might Reinke be suggesting by all this juxtaposition? That little boys who fantasize about being castrated by dictatorial mothers with megalomaniacal phalluses will end up as excrescence-obsessed gay opera composers? Am I being too literal, or do I just know Reinke’s work too well?) And, with a jarring cut like speeding over a pothole, Reinke announces that his pitch has a storyboard; the intertitle “COLOUR PLATES” introduces the illustrations to all this quoted text: a quick, stilted procession of children’s drawings.
Filthy. Just filthy.