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Saturn Returns
Fri 10 Apr 2009 9:00pm - 10:00pm

Saturn Returns

The Saturn Return is an astrological phenomenon that occurs every 27-30 years in a person's life; coinciding with the time it takes for Saturn to orbit the sun. As the planet "returns" to the degree it occupied at the time of our birth, we cross over a major threshold and into the next stage of life. My generation is currently undergoing its first Saturn Return, the time when we leave youth behind, re-evaluate the past, and solidify plans for the future.

Growing up in the 80s, we shared virtual experiences via Atari and networked using payphones and post offices. We changed identities often, slipping in and out of styles and subcultures, a novel concept at the time. Music videos turned sounds into images, and TV framed our social exchange. Mix-tapes and VCRs put recording and juxtaposition into the hands of individuals, and sampling expanded the field of re-production further, enabling new music to emerge from the old and the overlooked.

In the 90s, adolescent affiliations began to fade. Technological shifts paralleled personal changes. We traded in our tapes and bought CDs. Some found value in rigor and guidance from the avant-garde, especially in its pursuit of challenging form and anti-consumerist stance. To reject popular culture and embrace the art of the 60s and 70s was to retreat from the contemporary world. For a while, structural film and noise rock were the bomb.

Now, in the new millennium, we've lost our patience for durational aesthetics and jam bands. Even Michael Snow re-made Wavelength for those who don't have the time. YouTube has ushered in radical brevity: nothing over 10 minutes (the new "Don't trust anyone over 30"). We want our media to be concise, vertical, and portable. Compression, condensation and simultaneity are the new moves. At the same time, subcultures have gone mainstream and become search terms, tags. In this meeting of margins and center, music is the passageway, offering a readymade vocabulary of shared experience and shorthand emotional cues.  

Absorbing inspiration from both underground histories and mass culture, the works in this screening sublimate the sound and image the music to reach transcendent expression. Leslie Supnet's The Animated Heavy Metal Parking Lot illustrates her favorite scenes from the 1986 documentary classic, remaining faithful to its no-budget style. Marisa Olson's Performed Listening: H, Oliver Laric's Message The, and Tara Mateik's PYT (Pretty Young Thing) re-vision quintessential songs from the 70s and 80s, internalizing, rearranging, and acting out their respective lyrics.  Michael Robinson's And We All Shine On and Jacob Ciocci's Don't Worry Be Happy (stressful mix), meanwhile, weld ambiguous signifiers to a pair of familiar hit singles for expressive affect. Seth Price prefers a silent treatment for his NJS Map, using animated diagrams to outline the historical development of  "New Jack Swing," a forgotten but influential genre.  

Others employ music as a means to compose and structure images.  In Black and White Trypps Number Three, Ben Russell distends time, transforming a rock audience's collective freak-out into a trance ritual, while Michael Bell-Smith layers it to the point of visual erasure in his dense adaptation of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet.  What you hear is also what you see in Tasman Richardson's The Game, a video-audio concrète that deploys 80s icons in its mash-up of video games, remote warfare and military recruitment. Takeshi Murata explores similar terrain, transforming footage from the 1982 film Rambo: First Blood into a seething morass of electronic abstraction. The program ends with Xander Marro and Mat Brinkman's 01/06, a single-frame barrage/whiplash "rewind," set to the artists' discordant, improvised squall.

Curator: Brett Kashmere


The Animated Heavy Metal Parking Lot
Leslie Supnet
(2008, 2 min, Video, USA)

Black and White Trypps Number Three
Ben Russell
(2007, 11 min, 35mm, USA)

Performed Listening: H
Marisa Olson
(2007, 7 min, Video, USA)

Message The
Oliver Laric
(2007, 2 min, Video, USA)

And We All Shine On
Michael Robinson
(2006, 7 min, 16mm, USA)

Don't Worry Be Happy (stressful mix)
Jacob Ciocci
(2005, 3 min, Video, USA)

Seth Price
(2001, 2 min, Video, USA)

PYT (Pretty Young Thing)
Tara Mateik
(2004, 4 min, Video, USA)

The Game
Tasman Richardson
(2007, 4 min, Video, Canada)

Untitled (Pink Dot)
Takeshi Murata
(2007, 5 min, Video, USA)

Xander Marro, Mat Brinkman
(2006, 13 min, 16mm, USA)