'The Collections'

We are what we keep

'The Collections'

Hummel figurines, keychains, sex toys, Precious Moments, human teeth. Snow globes, rare books, bottle caps, used piñatas, evidence. Rainbows, unicorns, stories, online acquaintances, knockoff Japanese robot toys: We collect things. We acquire, dust, display, and neglect them; we organize, pack, and unpack them; we break them, curse them, and get over them. While in theory we might bemoan the crushing amount of stuff we keep piling up in every cranny of the virtual and physical worlds, most of us purposely burden ourselves with at least one category of completely optional items: the last things, it would seem, that we need.

Then again, need is a funny thing. For the 12 local citizens profiled in "The Collections," a film and performance project by artists Jill Pangallo and Max Juren, the stuff they acquire speaks to a necessary part of their identities. Commissoned by Monofonus Press instigator Morgan Coy to collaborate on a 40-minute video project and given a one-month deadline, Pangallo and Juren took as a jumping-off point Ann Stephenson's poem "The Collections," which appears in the book that accompanies Pangallo's much lauded 2009 Texas Biennial performance piece, Let Me Entertain You.

"Part of [Stephenson's] process was Googling 'collections' online," explains Pangallo. "What was interesting about it was this idea that a collection signifies some part of who you are, and that's what appealed to us." Each of the collectors performs a sort of show-and-tell at the beginning of the film's dozen segments, creating a visual refrain that allows them to define themselves and the meaning of their objects. The titular collections themselves, while by nature idiosyncratic – rainbow images, sex toys, feral cats (caught, spayed/neutured, released) – attest to an admirable restraint on the part of the filmmakers, who resist overreaching for the impossibly eccentric or painfully naive. The focus here is on the presentation of self, of identity articulated around things. The goofy animated fantasia that takes off in about half the segments – and in which the colorful sport Juren makes of the form (all cats and teeth and puff-paint) is particularly evident – along with artfully transparent re-enactments and re-enactors' film-within-a-film, leave no doubt that we're far afield of documentary filmmaking.

Both artists are at home in the nexus of film and live performance, and the United States Art Authority screening they'll host Friday will open up the field for other performers – including Michelle Devereux, Scott Eastwood, Rachel Martin, and Amanda Joy Venable – to settle in. "We're having it later on a Saturday night, and we figure people will be out drinking, so we wanted to keep it fun," says Pangallo. "It's about creating the energy for one night, so these people that are performing are kind of doing it for the spontaneity or the fun of it."

Pangallo – whose shape-shifting work inhabiting "cringe-worthy" (as she puts it) and other personae has solidified into something honest and vital and who has pushed buttons and garnered both awards and growing audiences in her brief four years here – is relocating to New York City soon. What she's accomplished here speaks to her talents, of course, but also to that kind of spontaneity to be found in the game-making, DIY approach endemic to these parts. "Max and I literally put this whole thing together in three days," she says by way of explanation. "The fact that you can do that here is pretty magical."

The premiere screening of "The Collections" will be held Saturday, June 27, 10pm, at the United States Art Authority, 2906 Fruth, with performances by local artists Michelle Devereux, Scott Eastwood, Elana Farley, Rachel Martin, Human Milk, Paul Soileau, Brannon Via, Haleh Padram, Amanda Joy Venable, and more. For more information, visit www.monofonuspress.com.

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The Collections, Jill Pangallo, Max Juren, Monofonus Press, Morgan Coy, 2009 Texas Biennial

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