Scott Stark kicks-off a new Avant Cinema series, with “Getting Nowhere Slow”

It was a great day for Austin when Scott Stark decided to swap San Francisco for the capital of Texas.

And it was a great day yesterday when a small crowd gathered at the Austin Film Society for the bold kick-off of a bimonthly Avant Cinema series, Getting Nowhere Slow by Scott Stark.

Stark is a brilliant filmmaker with a long list of movies and a Guggenheim award to his credit. For last night he put together a repertoire that treated us to a whole plethora of emotions: from the nostalgia of the 70s (with ‘Angel Beach’ that we watched to the sounds of the Beach Boys); to plain laughter (with ‘Chop’ – how a man learns to cry – where we realize that the artist’s flood of tears is due to chopping onions); and the uncomfortable sense of actuality with his ‘More Than Meets the Eye: Remaking Jane Fonda’, where sequences marked by striped leggings and tank tops – from Fonda’s 80s videos of her aerobic classes – are intertwined with her memorable statements against the Vietnam war. Those statements are disturbingly relevant today.

(2003, digital video, color, sound, 4 min.)
What it takes for a man to cry.
Angel Beach
(2001, 16mm film, color, silent, 18 min.)
Found 3D photographs of bikini-clad women from the early 1970s are compressed into a two-dimensional cinematic space, triggering an exuberant visual dance and revealing a troubling and elegiac voyeurism. (Shown in the Whitney Biennial, 2002.)

Those who are privileged to know Scott can’t stop wondering how this introverted and gentle man likes step out of that character to challenge himself in front of the camera. He defies security, surveillance, and convention by filming as he enters Las Vegas Casinos (filming is forbidden there) with the sole purpose of determining how far he can go before being stopped by the Casino guards. I see a connection between his attempts of breaking through the rules (particularly in public spaces such as airports – ‘Air’ – and malls – ‘To Live or to Die ‘) and his early movie ‘Degrees of Limitation’ - where he cranks up an old camera by an increasing number of turns and leaves it running as he climbs up a (typical) steep S. Francisco street. Each time we see him going a little bit further away: in some of the sequences there is some movement in the street : a couple watches, curious… a bus starts its descent…a plastic bag dances in the breeze…

Last night, I also liked Stark’s unpretensious answers to the questions (and there were many) from the audience. There was a mention of a Jean Luc Godard here, of a Michael Snow there… but these comments came from the audience trying to dissect Stark’s brilliance.

Stark makes the fear of letting yourself go, crumble and leaves you “naked” with one thing: the stimulation of your retina through beautiful stereographic images and unsettling shifts of perpective.

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