. Conversations at the Edge (CATE)

March 3-Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Otros usos

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | March 2, 2016

Thursday, March 3 | This week artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz kicks off our Spring 2016 season with a screening and discussion!

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, still from La Cueva Negra, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist

Puerto Rican artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (MFA 1997) draws from anthropology and experimental theater to craft exquisite films about the physical and symbolic histories of the Caribbean. She often collaborates with her subjects—through interviews, reenactment, and play—to uncover the ways the past lives on through the present and the spirit contends with both. Santiago Muñoz presents a selection of recent films shot in Puerto Rico and Haiti, including a portrait of the Orocovis homestead of eco-pioneer Pablo Díaz Cuadrado, who transforms the city’s trash into sustenance and shelter; an exploration of an ancient indigenous burial ground and recent highway site in Vega Baja; the post-military naval architecture of Vieques; and the busy open air Marché Salomon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In Spanish and French with English subtitles.

2012–15, Puerto Rico / Haiti, multiple formats, ca 70 min + discussion

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (San Juan, Puerto Rico) begins her projects through research into specific social structures or events, which she translates into collaborative performances, archives, and films. Recent exhibitions includeMATRULLA, Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros (Mexico City) and Under the Same Sun: Art From Latin America Today, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York). She is a recipient of a 2015 Creative Capital Visual Arts Award. Her work isin the collections of the Guggenheim Museum and Bronx Museum. Santiago Muñoz is a cofounder of Beta-Local, an arts organization in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She received her MFA from SAIC in 1997.

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz Program Notes

On Claudia Hart

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | November 18, 2015

This week I am delighted to welcome graduate student Veronica Sines to write on our final show of the fall 2015 season featuring Claudia Hart! Sines reflects on the complex virtual worlds that Hart has constructed throughout her career. 

Claudia Hart, The Swing, 2006.

Claudia Hart, The Swing, 2006.

Since the late 1980s, Claudia Hart has used computer generated images (CGI) and 3D simulation technology to construct and alter virtual worlds.  In the last two decades, she’s consistently used the technology to produce artworks that counter this male-dominated arena. Where Rockstar Games produces worlds of adrenaline-fueled rampage, Hart creates set-pieces of reverie and reflection—meditating on time and sensuality by way of the female body.

Hart’s use of these technologies attempts to alter the grand system in which they function.  Her response to first-person shooter games includes reintroducing empathy for the avatar. This strategy can be seen in a 2012 piece titled On Synchronics: Song of the Avatars, produced in collaboration with twenty-four students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Using the exquisite corpse method, Hart disseminated animation files to her students utilizing “rag doll” physics (a technology also used by the gaming industry)—a method of manipulating character movement so that it realistically responds to other forces and materials in its virtual surroundings. Her instruction was to have the imagined character attempt to break free from its virtual confines and come into being in the material world.

Claudia Hart, Song of the Avatars: Dark kNight, 2013.

Claudia Hart, Song of the Avatars: Dark kNight, 2013.

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November 19-Claudia Hart: Simulisms

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | November 13, 2015

Thursday, November 19 | This week SAIC artist and faculty member Claudia Hart will join us for a live performance and a discussion! 

Claudia Hart, performance shot from The Dolls (2015). Courtesy of the artist.

Claudia Hart, performance shot from The Dolls (2015). Courtesy of the artist.

Since the late 1980s, artist and SAIC faculty member Claudia Hart has used commercial CGI and 3D simulations technology to produce sensual and subversive works on identity, representation, and experience. In recent years she has recast these themes in a series of collaborative performances that project 3D animations directly onto participants. She presents a selection of videos based on these works and a new live staging of the media ballet The Dolls (2014) which combines dance, sculpture, and animated mathematical algorithms to meditate on the philosophical idea of “the eternal return” in our digital age. With Kurt Hentschläger, Kristina Isabelle, and Liviu Pasare.

2004–15, USA, live performance w/multiple formats, ca 60 min + discussion

Claudia Hart (1955, New York) is an artist, curator, and critic. She creates virtual representations that take the form of 3D imagery integrated into photography, multichannel animation installations, performances, and sculptures using advanced production techniques such as Rapid Prototyping, CNC routing, and augmented-reality custom apps. She aims to de-masculinize the culture of corporate technology by inserting the irrational and the personal into the slick, overly-determined Cartesian world of digital design. Her work has been widely exhibited and collected by galleries and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Museum, and Eyebeam Art + Technology Center. She received a BA in Art History from New York University and an MS in Architecture from Columbia University. She is an Associate Professor in SAIC’s Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation.

On Martine Syms

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | November 11, 2015

This week I am delighted to write about Los Angeles-based ‘conceptual entrepreneur’ Martine Syms! Syms explores identity and the ways it is constructed, particularly blackness and black identity–through popular and everyday culture. 

Martine Syms, Reading Trayvon Martin, 2012.

Martine Syms, screenshot of Reading Trayvon Martin (2012).

Martine Syms’s highly interdisciplinary and prolific practice explores the requirements and motives of individual and collective identities in contemporary Western society. Her work often interprets the ways blackness and black identity are framed historically, socially, and institutionally. Syms’s work takes shape through a wide range of mediums including bibliographies, videos, performance, and essays. Syms has said that she’s interested in working across multiple mediums towards a collapse of boundaries, taking on whatever role she needs to get her idea into the world. This can be seen in in her book Implications and Distinctions: Format, Content, and Context in Contemporary Race Film (2011), new media projects like Reading Trayvon Martin (2012), and her recent video A Pilot for a Show about Nowhere (2015), just to name a few.

In Implications and Distinctions: format, context, and content in contemporary race film, Syms critically analyzes a number of contemporary Hollywood films–from Boyz n the Hood (1991) to Precious (2009)–to explore the ways “blackness” is depicted and performed. Through market research and her own experiences, she also examines the ways these films are identified as African American and targeted to Black audiences. The themes of performance, media representation, and cultural context run throughout all of her work.  

Martine Syms, A Pilot for a Show About Nowhere (still), 2015, digital video.

Martine Syms, still from A Pilot for a Show About Nowhere (2015).

In a piece like Reading Trayvon Martin (2012), Syms turned social media to look at the ways blackness is distributed and dissected. Syms began this project after she saw a CNN timeline of Trayvon Martin’s Last Minutes.” From there she began bookmarking articles and essays relating to the case that circulated through social media. She compiled these essays in an online bibliography of titles and links but without dates or citations. This form of manically bookmarking links mirrors the act of sharing and posting that takes place on social media sites such as Twitter. In this project Syms highlights the influence of social media in shaping the reception of news media, but also critiquing the way in which notions of black identity are packaged and consumed as news events.  Read more

November 12-Martine Syms: The Unreliable Narrator

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | November 6, 2015

Thursday, November 12 | This week Los Angeles based ‘conceptual entrepreneur’ Martine Syms will join us for a screening and discussion! 

Martine Syms, still from A Pilot for a Show About Nowhere (2014). Courtesy of the artist.

Martine Syms, still from A Pilot for a Show About Nowhere (2014). Courtesy of the artist.

The interdisciplinary work of Los Angeles–based “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms (BFA 2007) takes shape through websites, essays, bibliographies, and videos to explore the ways individual and social identities are formed. Incisive and sharp, she has addressed Afrofuturism, the life and murder of Trayvon Martin, Johnson Publishing, and the radical potential of black sitcoms. Syms returns to Chicago to present a series of recent videos on memory and self-presentation, including Memory Palace (2014, with Kahlil Joseph), an elegiac homage to LA, A Pilot for a Show About Nowhere (2014), a slippery visual essay-cum-personal-history on the politics of television viewership, and Notes on Gesture (2015), an examination of speech through screen tests of black women.

2007–15, USA, multiple formats, ca 60 min + discussion

Martine Syms is an artist based in Los Angeles. She currently runs Dominica, an imprint dedicated to exploring blackness as topic, reference, marker, and audience in visual culture. She has lectured at SXSW, Walker Art Center, REDCAT, ICA London, and MoMA PS1, among other venues. Her artwork has been exhibited and screened widely, including at the New Museum, Studio Museum, White Flag Projects, ICA Philadelphia, and 356 Mission. She received a BFA from SAIC in 2007.

Martine Syms Program Notes


On Ming Wong

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | November 4, 2015

Production still from After Chinatown, 2012. Photo: Carlos Vasquez.

This week we are excerpting Travis Jeppesen‘s Art in America interview with Ming Wong! To read the full interview see the “MORE” link at the end. 

TRAVIS JEPPESEN: Petra von Kant, Gustav von Aschenbach, Jake Gittes, Evelyn Mulwray: These cinematic heroes and heroines have little in common except for having all been re-depicted by the Singaporean artist Ming Wong, who takes what the writer Kathy Acker dubbed “pla(y)giarism” to new levels of hilarity and provocation in his videos. Usually playing all the roles, male and female, Wong performs a “yellowing” of the Western cinematic canon that is as much a critical tool as it is an excuse for dressing up and acting out.

My first encounter with Wong’s work took place in 2010 at a group exhibition in Berlin that featured Angst Essen (Eat Fear), 2008, his hysterical and moving remake of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 film Angst essen Seele auf (known in English as Ali: Fear Eats the Soul). Shot ironically in the melodramatic style of Hollywood director Douglas Sirk, Fassbinder’s film depicts the courtship and eventual marriage of an aging German woman and a young Arab guest worker. In Wong’s version the artist plays both roles—and all the others in the film—with straight-faced solemnity and faithfulness to the original script in a 27-minute transduction.

Ming Wong: Four Malay Stories, 2005, four-channel video installation. All images courtesy Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou, and carlier|gebauer, Berlin.

Ming Wong: Four Malay Stories, 2005, four-channel video installation. All images courtesy Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou, and carlier|gebauer, Berlin.

Of course, a disconnect emerges between the language being spoken—rife with the racist epithets and humiliations regularly directed toward Arab guest workers in Germany in the 1970s—and Wong’s inclusion of himself, an East Asian, in a scenario in which he is totally other. Non-German, non-black, non-white, non-Arab: the invisible man is suddenly reflected everywhere.

Before reading Wong’s work as a theater of absurdity, which in many ways it is, credit must first be given to what is ultimately the artist’s most disruptive gesture: through what he calls “impostoring,” his insertion of people traditionally excluded from cinematic representation into cinema’s traditional tropes, he endows those devices with new and often unsettling meanings.

Amid a hectic traveling schedule that frequently has the 42-year-old artist jetting between Los Angeles, Europe and East Asia, Wong met with me in his Berlin studio this past June, as he was making final preparations for a major solo exhibition at Shiseido Gallery in Tokyo (July 6-Sept. 22). His studio is situated in the predominately Turkish neighborhood of Kreuzberg, which initially inspired him to turn his attention to Fassbinder. Since I had just returned from the Venice Biennale, our conversation began with a discussion of Wong’s project for the Singapore Pavilion in 2009.

Production still from Me in Me, 2013, video, approx. 23¾ minutes. Photos Masumi Kawamura.

Production still from Me in Me, 2013.Photo: Masumi Kawamura.

TRAVIS JEPPESEN:  Tell me about the Life of Imitation project.

MING WONG:  Life of Imitation was about Singapore’s cinematic heritage. Singapore was really the capital of filmmaking in Southeast Asia during the ’50s and ’60s. This unique chapter was started by Chinese producers, who owned the movie theaters in the early 20th century. They started making movies for their region, which meant Malay language movies (for Malaysia and Indonesia). They went to India to invite directors and cameramen to live and work in Singapore. Then you had Malay and Indonesian performers. So there was this situation with everybody trying to negotiate their way around each other and make cinema. You can imagine that they’d speak some sort of English mixed with other languages. The crew would probably speak in some Chinese dialects, so there was a cultural milieu that was very dynamic. Everyone would watch these movies when they were screened in Singapore. As a child, I remember seeing reruns on television. In those early days, in the single-screen cinema halls, you’d just watch everything, whatever language it was in.


November 5-Ming Wong

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | October 30, 2015

Thursday, November 5 | This week Berlin based artist Ming Wong joins us for a screening and discussion! 

Ming Wong, image from Learn German with Petra von Kant / Lerne Deutsch Mit Petra von Kant (2007). Courtesy of the artist.

Ming Wong, image from Learn German with Petra von Kant / Lerne Deutsch Mit Petra von Kant (2007). Courtesy of the artist.

Berlin-based, Singapore-born artist Ming Wong repurposes global cinema to explore issues of race, gender, and performance. He deliberately miscasts himself in iconic scenes from films by directors like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wong Kar-wai, Alain Resnais, and Roman Polanski, often in settings that evoke other places and histories (LA and San Francisco’s Chinatowns, Shanghai’s French Concession). At once uncanny, critical, and droll, the resulting videos highlight tropes of nationhood, otherness, and the intertwined relationship of history and media. In his first Chicago appearance, Wong shows a selection of works from across his career and discusses his ideas around performance, cinema, and the space between laughing and crying.

2005–15, multiple countries, multiple formats, ca 70 min + discussion

Ming Wong (1971, Singapore) creates videos and performances that engage with the history of world cinema and popular forms of entertainment. His work has been exhibited internationally, including at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou; carlier l gebauer, Berlin; Frye Art Museum, Seattle; Redcat, Los Angeles; Museum of Moving Image, Queens, New York, as part of Performa 11; the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and the Singapore Art Museum. His 2009 exhibition at Singaporean Pavilion for the 53rd Venice Biennale won a Special Jury Mention award. He currently lives and works in Berlin.


On Heinz Emigholz

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | October 28, 2015

This week I am thrilled to welcome SAIC student Sidney Tilghman to the blog! Sidney highlights the ways Heinz Emigholz’s film The Airstrip explores modernity through a wide array of structures ranging from airports to shopping malls from Wrocław, Poland to Mexico City, Mexico. 

Still from The Airstrip-Decampment of Modernism – Part III, Parabeton, 2013.

Still from The Airstrip (Heinz Emigholz, 2013). Parabeton, Italian Embassy (1959) by Pier Luigi and Antonio Nervi in Brasilia, Brazil.

Like many of Heinz Emigholz’s films, The Airstrip (2013) unspools in a specific juncture of time and space, bridging film, architecture, and the idea of a collective history. The twenty-first installment of a larger project titled “Photography and Beyond,” Emigholz opens with a quote describing the midpoint between the moment of a bomb’s release and its point of impact. He follows this with images of Reinhold Begas’s “Prometheus in Chains” (1899) and a discussion of the legend of Prometheus in relation to the shaping of modern Germany, narrated by Natja Brunkhorst. The story of Prometheus, like that of prewar Europe, is one of creation, destruction, and retribution, an apt analogy for the events leading up to and following the mass devastation of World War II.

Framed largely in the aftermath of the atomic bomb, The Airstrip invites audiences to trace the trajectory of Modernism on a global scale. Airports, department stores, markets, grand halls, monuments, cathedrals, a stadium and a prison comprise just a portion of the series of structures Emigholz shoots. His locations vary–ranging from nations largely untouched by the physical destruction of the Second World War to the enshrined loading pits of the Enola Gay and eroded caissons off the beaches of Normandy. Emigholz examines these structures as they stand today–some abandoned, some repurposed, a few humming with activity, others forgotten and cordoned off.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 8.45.31 PM

Still from The Airstrip (Heinz Emigholz, 2013). La Bombonera Stadium (1940) by Viktor Sulčič and José Luis Delpini in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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October 29-Heinz Emigholz: The Airstrip

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | October 23, 2015

Thursday, October 29 | This week German director Heinz Emigholz joins us for a screening of The Airstrip and a discussion! 

Heinz Emigholz, still from the Airstrip (2013). Courtesy of the artist and Filmgalerie 451.

German director Heinz Emigholz is renowned for a series of films on the buildings of Louis Sullivan, Adolf Loos, and Rudolf Schindler. With The Airstrip (2013), he weaves architectural study into a wide-ranging examination of the “concrete culture” of WWII and modernism’s postwar embrace of the material. Touching down in Europe, the Americas, and the North Pacific Islands, Emigholz sets structures by the likes of Luis Barragán and Pier Luigi Nervi alongside the concrete remains of the Battle of Normandy, monuments to civilian casualties during the US’s brutal invasion of the island of Saipan, and the overgrown runway of Tinian, which served as the takeoff point for the planes that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Followed by a discussion with Emigholz. Presented in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Chicago as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

2013, Germany, DCP, 108 min + discussion

Heinz Emigholz (1948, Achim, Germany) is an artist, director, writer, and producer. He trained as a draughtsman before studying philosophy and literature at the University of Hamburg. A major figure in German independent and experimental cinema, Emigholz has produced more than 90 long and short films, ranging from theatrical features to experimental documentary. Described by Variety as the “most accurate observer of architecture,” Emigholz is dedicated to origins, the fate, the triumph, and end of architectural Modernism. From 1993–2013 he served on the faculty of the Berlin University of the Arts. He has been the subject of numerous surveys and retrospectives internationally, most recently at the National Gallery in Washington DC, Centro Cultural in São Paulo, Instituto Moreira Salle in Rio de Janeiro, and XV International Biennial of Architecture of Buenos Aires. His work is distributed by Pym Films and Filmgalerie 451.

Heinz Emigholz Program Notes


On Lorna Mills

Posted by | Ziva Schatz | Posted on | October 21, 2015

Tomorrow Lorna Mills will join us for a screening and discussion with artists featured in Ways of Something, a four-part update of John Berger’s BBC documentary Ways of Seeing!  I’m excited to welcome SAIC undergraduate Paula Pinho Martins Nacif to blog about Mills and her work. Nacif perceptively analyzes Mills’s ambitious series as a whole and sheds light on some of the 114  artists featured in the project.

Still from Episode 1,minute, 19, by artist Rosa Menkman.

Still from Ways of Something Episode 1, minute 19 (Rosa Menkman), 2014.

I want to look inside Lorna Mills’s hard drive and flip through all her GIFs. I would like to see the image bank that contains the subjects of Mill’s work pre-mutation, and compare them with their most recent updated selves. In the digital, everything exists as instances—analog notions of the copy and the concept of the original is redefined.

Mills’s work often appears in the spontaneity of a 30 frame loop—a second-long viewing experience from first to last frame—that leaves you entranced for multiple cycles. Her work is magnetic. Once I open her image dump on digitalmediatree.com, I can’t escape. Even when I navigate away, I can’t resist tabbing back to give her images another look.  She often builds her GIFs from sets of images that have circulated the web so widely, their original context, maker, or uploader, have been forgotten.

The work Mills produces shows an understanding and awareness of the essential collaborative efforts that takes place for online communities to grow and for content that is produced to be distributed by other users on social networks via reblogs, reshares and reposts. Her most recent project, Ways of Something (2014-15)—a massive, collaborative project featuring 112 artists remixing John Berger’s 1972 BBC documentary, Ways of Seeing—highlights this approach.

Still from Episode 2, minute 1, 2014, Kevin Heckhart.

Still from Ways of Something Episode 2, minute 1 (Kevin Heckhart), 2014.

Ways of Something episodes 1 and 2 were originally commissioned by The One Minutes at the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam, but they are no longer involved with the project. Mills’s remake utilizes the audio narration from John Berger’s original four-part series, updating it with visuals commissioned from an international roster of artists working with digital forms of image-making. The juxtaposition of the original 1972 audio and 2014-15 imagery extends and challenges Berger’s dialogue. Thursday’s screening at Conversations at the Edge will be the theatrical premiere of all four episodes.
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    Conversations at the Edge is a weekly series of screenings, performances, and talks by groundbreaking media artists.


    CATE is organized by SAIC's Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center and SAIC's Video Data Bank, Conversations at the Edge is a dynamic weekly series of screenings, performances, and talks by groundbreaking media artists.


    Programs take place Thursdays at 6pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State / Chicago, IL / 312.846.2600), unless otherwise noted.