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Shaking the Frame: Experimental Film from the AgX Film Collective

  • Johnson Auditorium, Sackler Science Center - Clark University Worcester, MA 01610 USA (map)

An evening of experimental film from AgX, Boston's artist-run lab and film collective. Talkback with attending filmmakers following the screening. Including films from: Kathryn Ramey, Susan DeLeo, Robert Todd, Wenhua Shi, Douglas Urbank, Brittany Gravely, Peaches Goodrich, Stefan Grabowski, Nicole Prutsch, Tim Wojcik, Kimberly Forero-Arnais and Sarah Bliss. Hosted and programmed by Sarah Bliss.


Location: Johnson Auditorium, Sackler Science Center
Clark University. Worcester, MA


1. Pressed. 5:02. 16mm to HD. Sound. 2018.
Kimberly Forero-Arnías

An animated self-portrait where the body speaks through contact with the paper.

Referencing myself for the drawings, the drawn figure is nude and her body shifts between mimetic, cohesive images of the body to tracings, imprints and abstract movements.
Pressed is structured on four different approaches to drawing that shift over the course of the film. The first is representational. I use soft gestural, strokes to describe the exterior of my nude body moving through space. My eye traces my form as my hands rub the pastels into the paper trying to create the illusion of form. The second style involves me laying my body over the paper and tracing the contours of my body with graphite. Any part of my skin that is in direct contact with the paper is colored with pastels leaving a semi abstract image. The third style involves me putting pastel on my hands and rubbing my hands into the fibers of the paper to create subtle textures and abstract marks. The final approach to drawing is frottage. I push the paper against various parts of my body and use the pastels to imprint the texture of my form onto the paper. The majority of sound work was also generated using the body and echoes these distinct approaches.

Kimberly Forero-Arnías is a filmmaker who works in 16mm film and hand drawn animation. Her work has screened at festivals including Flex Fest, Ann Arbor, Chicago Underground, and Big Muddy, Images Festival, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. A recipient of Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant and an SMFA Traveling Fellowship, she currently lives and works in Boston, MA.

Kathryn Ramey

An unfaithful remake of Man Ray’s 1926 "Emak Bakia" made without the use of a motion picture camera, ELONA EM EVAEL/LEAVE ME ALONE is a nonsensical response to brutality alongside a celebration of silver process. Whereas Man Ray alluded to death with a rending of collars (a funereal tradition in many cultures including Ray’s, Judaism), ELONA EM EVAEL/LEAVE ME ALONE chooses from a surplus of tragedies the recent Amnesty International Report “Will I be Next?” on US drone strikes in Pakistan and a list of the 101 children killed by them as of April 2015. Juxtaposed with footage of the filmmaker’s young sons (standing in for Ray’s muse and mistress Kiki of Montparnasse) the film obliquely points to the privilege inherent in the banal peacefulness of my family’s everyday life.

The film uses a variety of unconventional image making and hand-printing strategies to achieve its hi-contrast jittery style including contact printing with a mag-light taped to a sync block and hand-processing in a bucket. No conventional motion picture processes/tools/labs were used. The film is meant to be played/looped at 24fps with the soundtrack provided by the image.

Kathryn Ramey is a filmmaker and anthropologist whose work operates at the intersection of experimental film processes and ethnographic research. Her award winning and strongly personal films are characterized by manipulation of the celluloid including hand-processing, optical printing, and various direct animation techniques. Her scholarly interest is focused on the social history of the Avant-Garde film community, the anthropology of visual communication and the intersection between avant-garde and ethnographic film and art practices. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including the Social Science Research Council on the Arts fellowship, the LEF New England moving Image Grant and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship. She has published articles in Visual Anthropology Review and The Independent as well as the anthologies Women’s Experimental Cinema (Duke), Made to Be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology (U of Chicago), Anthropology and Art Practice (Berg), and Experimental film and Anthropology (Berg) has screened films at multiple film festivals and other venues including the Toronto Film Festival, the TriBeCa film festival, MadCat Women’s Film Festival, 25fps Experimental Film Festival in Zagreb, Croatia and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC. Her book Experimental Filmmaking: Break the Machine is a thinly veiled experimental ethnography on the contemporary experimental film scene masquerading as a textbook on experimental film techniques written in the freehand voice of a zine.

3. Unless You’re Living It. 8:23. 16mm to HD. Sound. 2019.
Sarah Bliss

An edgy, unsettling portrait of place and power in rural Ontario that challenges the correlation between seeing and knowing, and the ravages of late-stage capitalism. Hand processing, optical printing, tinting and toning engage the film as a body that, like the residents of Mt. Forest, sustains injuries, wounds and burdens, but also has the capacity for delight, revelatory pleasure, and transformation. With special thanks to Phil Hoffman and the 2016 Independent Imaging Retreat (Film Farm) where Unless You're Living It was shot and hand-processed.

Sarah Bliss is a filmmaker, artist and educator whose hand-processed films and expanded works create deep encounter with the sensate, desiring body. Her work is often three-dimensional, immersive, and site-specific. It is screened and exhibited internationally at museums, galleries, and film festivals including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan; Transient Visions; Montreal Underground Film Festival; and Anthology Film Archives. She has been recognized with fellowships from the Flaherty Seminar, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Scotland’s Alchemy Film Festival, and is an Independent Imaging Retreat alum. Current projects include a personal doc tracing her family history of desire; and production of film tints/toners made from mushrooms, lichen, bark and nuts. She received a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a member of Boston’s AgX Film Collective.

4. Cuts and Shifts - after Potteau. 16mm to HD. 2:15. 2018-2019.
Nicole Prutsch

In Cuts and Shifts - after Potteau, portraits from a series of ethnographic photographs collected by French anthropologist Jacques Philippe Potteau at the Museum de Paris between 1855-1869 are manipulated by digital cuts and shifts. The cuts are randomly chosen in the image and then displaced so that actual shifts in the image occur. Each state of the shifts is filmed with a 16mm camera. So doing, the image fragments move quickly around, subjecting each portrait to chaos and coincidence, making the scientific study which intends to “measure” the identity of a person by optical characteristics, practically useless.

Nicole Prutsch is a conceptual artist from Vienna whose interdisciplinary work encompasses installation, performance, photography, video and analog film. Using historical archival materials, (mostly anthropological photographs) she connects and confronts various references from the Western knowledge and culture tradition that deal with the categorization and measurement of the human body and identity. Nicole received a master’s degree in painting and multi-media art from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and studied Print and Time-Based Media at Wimbledon College of Art at the University of the Arts London (UAL). In 2018, she moved to Boston where she works with the Tozzer Library of the Harvard University Archives and is a member of the AgX Film Collective.

5. Perception Decay. 2:00. 16mm to HD. 2017.
Tim Wojcik

A test of the resiliency of aged physical material and outdated ideas. Employing found footage examples of 1970s commercialism and colonialism, the artist immersed film strips in bleach and water (and a bit of vinegar) to varying degrees, at times removing color while also ‘lifting’ granular bits off the film and allowing them to resettle and serve as a canvas for new possibilities of color.

Tim Wojcik is a maker of non-fiction and fiction film, video, and audio. His work often takes a contemplative approach that is in dialogue with the deep listening movement, avant-garde cinema, and his personal experiences with vipassana meditation. Originally from upstate New York, he is now based in Boston where he is an Instructor of Communications Media at Fitchburg State University and manages Film Post Production at Emerson College.

6. Consolar. 4:35. Super 8mm to HD. 2019.
Susan DeLeo

A short poetic piece shot on Super 8mm inspired from a line of a traditional Spanish folk song, Asturiana "To see if it would console me, I drew near."

Susan DeLeo is a multi-media artist using experimental film/sound, installation and photography to explore issues of memory, loss, and personal mythology in and out of the elemental/natural world. She has a 5th year Diploma in Studio Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and was a recipient of the Clarissa Bartlett Travelling Scholarship Award. She exhibits and screens nationally and internationally and is a member of the Boston-based AgX Film Collective.

7. Senses of Time. 5:24. 16mm. 2018.
Wenhua Shi

Senses of Time depicts the lyrical and poetic passage of time. The work reflects on time and focuses on defining subjective and perceptual time with close attention to stillness, decay, disappearance, and ruins.

Wenhua Shi, originally trained as a doctor in China, departed from the medical field and began working in radio and TV in his hometown of Wuhan. At the end of 2000, he came to Colorado, studying with the experimental film giant Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon. He started making and exploring film as a medium at the University of Colorado at Boulder (BA & BFA) and received an MFA from University of California. Wenhua Shi pursues a poetic approach to moving image making, and investigates conceptual depth in film, video, interactive installations and sound sculptures. His work has been presented at museums, galleries, and film festivals, including International Film Festival Rotterdam, European Media Art Festival, Athens Film and Video Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Pacific Film Archive, West Bund 2013: a Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art, Shanghai, Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism, and the Arsenale of Venice in Italy. He has received awards including the New York Foundation for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Juror’s Awards from the Black Maria Film and Video Festival. He is the curator of RPM Fest, an annual experimental moving image festival in Boston, MA.

8. Passing. 4:21. 16mm. 2008
Robert Todd

Hauntings in homage to the world and lives of the Days.

Robert Todd (1963-2018) was a profoundly creative and compassionate person who expressed raw emotion through the medium of film. He was a prolific filmmaker, a dedicated mentor and educator, a painter of dark wonders, and a musical prodigy. His cinema had a profound influence on the international experimental film community, embracing the deep complexity of the natural world and reflecting his internal self, sometimes through multiple mirrors. According to Robert, making films allowed him “to wonder deeply and learn, from what ends up shimmering on the screen, about how my inner world resonates with the outer world through this transformational medium.” He would walk out of his apartment with a loaded camera while holding a feeling in his heart, and make wonderous moving paintings - an impulse he nurtured in generations of experimental filmmakers. Robert’s greatest source of inspiration was the poetry of Tessa Day. He is terribly missed by the many people whose lives he changed.

9. Story of the Dreaming Water – Chapter One. 2:00. 16mm, b/w, silent.
Brittany Gravely

Shapes developing from a primordial chemistry.

Chapters One and Two (following) were both made by rephotographing and double-exposing found footage on the optical printer. Chapter One was hand processed; some interesting sparkles showed up by surprise. Chapter Two used a method I learned in a workshop with Richard Tuohy which produces positive and negative images on the same print -- and even in the same frames, if you want -- by developing as a negative, masking areas with tape or anything sticky, then finishing the processing as a reversal and removing the masks.

Artistically, Brittany Gravely has focused on 16mm film for the past several years, but also creates works in many other media. Currently, she creates expanded and non-expanded cinema projects of a more mystical nature in Magical Approach with Ken Linehan. Recently, their films screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, Crossroads, Chicago Underground, FLEX and Antimatter. She also works as the publicist and designer for the Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, MA and is a founding member of the artist-run film lab AgX.

10. Story of the Dreaming Water – Chapter Two. 3:00. 16mm, b/w, silent.
Brittany Gravely

Maybe there was an opening, and they wandered through…

11. Portrait. 5:00. 16mm. 2018
Douglas Urbank

An imagined portrait, a handmade, stream-of-consciousness improvisation.

Douglas Urbank, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is an artist with a background in sculpture and drawing who began to experiment with filmmaking in 2008. His short films have screened in festivals and curated programs nationally and internationally. Since 2001 he has hosted a radio program devoted to experimental, improvisational, and other unconventional music and sound art. He is also a member of Fort Point Theatre Channel, an independent theater company that brings together an ensemble of artists from the worlds of theater, music, and visual arts. And he is a founding member of the AgX Film Collective. He works to promote cross-pollination between art forms on the fringes of alternative culture: experimental music, film and theater.

12. Something from Nothing. 2:32. 16mm. 2017.
Peaches Goodrich

An experimental animation where both image and sound are created by scratching into 16mm film with a boxcutter. The original film content is laid waste, playing heavily and playfully with negative visual and auditory space.

PEACHES Goodrich was born and raised in the city of Atlanta, Georgia sometime in the last century. He earned a BFA in Film/Animation/Video from RISD in 2006. Working across many mediums and disciplines, he has an affinity for 16mm film, brown inks, analog printing processes, and experimentation. His film, animation, video, paintings, drawings, installations, and music have been seen throughout New England and the continental United States. He lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

13. Distilled Motion. 00:49. 16mm.
Stefan Grabowski.

16mm animation/scratch film.

Stefan Grabowski is a Boston-based artist and filmmaker, curator of the Balagan Film Series and a founding member of the AgX Film Collective.

14. FLYING A (WEST #1). 3:45. 16mm, bw, silent. (2010)
Kathryn Ramey

Flying A (WEST #1) is a found object rephotographed and hand-processed where horses run backwards, guns swallow their bullets and a man un-dies. Part of a series of films examining American expansionism and the mythology of “the WEST”, Flying A is a silent, terse 4 minute deconstruction of a snippet of a typical American Western film with a shoot-out, fist fight and cattle rustling. As the dramatic narrative winds up in reverse, we travel from THE END of the conflict to where it begins, with two cowboys under a tree.

--Sponsored by Clark University MCA and V&PA in conjunction with Arts 274: Contemporary Directions

-- Event image includes frame captures from work by (clockwise from top left): Brittany Graveley's "Story of the Dreaming Water - Chapter 2"; Peaches Goodrich's "Something from Nothing", Susan DeLeo's "Consolar", and Douglas Urbank "Portraits."