Experimental Cinema Stakes a Claim on Austin's Art Map
University of Texas student group The Mad Stork Cinema started offering shows this fall, and this spring UT's Visual Arts Center kickstarts the series Focus Group, also dedicated to experimental film and curated by members of ERCATX.
Started by Ekrem Serdar, Caroline Koebel, Scott Stark, and Rachel Stuckey, dedicated artists all, ERCATX has kept a nomadic lifestyle since its inception, showing at Domy, 29th Street Ballroom, Salvage Vanguard Theater, and now at Tiny Park Gallery where, on Dec. 14, they'll present a show focusing on local "moving image artists."
The 45-minute program features eleven short pieces, ranging widely in theme and technique. (See full program here.) With few exceptions, the program has a claustrophobic feel, with most pieces trapping you in some sort of confined space, or making you a witness to entrapment. In the innocently titled “Still Life 1 (Flowers),” for example, Metrah Pashaee unexpectedly treats us to a rather creepy view of still life, making the mundane feel unsettling. In the program’s opener, Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin's “Interstate (Part 1),” you are forced to stare at trapped circus animals pacing while listening to the hubbub of I-35.
Not to say that every short film is moody; in Rachel Stuckey’s “Materia Medica: Ocularium,” the filmmaker uses a narrow focus macro lens to get extremely close to flowers and ophthalmological diagrams. With rapid cuts and camera moves, Stuckey is able to create an intimate, if jarring, moment – one that made me want to recall the smell of freshly cut blue sage.
In perhaps the most memorable piece, “ASH” (initials for the Austin State Hospital, formerly known as the Texas State Lunatic Asylum), Nathan S. Duncan pairs images of the medical facility in all its beautiful decay with a narration of actual 19th-century doctors' logs that provide a glimpse into the lives of former residents of the asylum. The combination of the abandoned and forgotten building with the robotic narration creates an eerie space, one where you can’t help but imagine ghosts still roam. The film not only succeeds as a haunting and superbly made piece of visual art, but also as an historical document worthy of further study.
This presentation marks ERCATX's first program to showcase local artists exclusively. Although organizers called on friends to fill the lineup for Friday's show, they'd like to open up submissions to the community at large for future shows. If you’re an artist interested in this medium, head over to Tiny Park and introduce yourself – ERCATX is certainly hoping you will.
Experimental Response Cinema's newest show takes place Friday, Dec. 14, 8pm, at Tiny Park Gallery (1101 Navasota St., Suite 2). The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited. Artists will be on hand to present their work and answer questions.