Short Films and Videos by Cauleen Smith
Artist in Person!


Sunday, February 23rd at 7pm, $7-10

The Nightingale is thrilled to present this program of short works by Cauleen Smith, who will be present at a Q&A following the screening.

Cauleen Smith is a prolific interdisciplinary media artist whose projects vary from short moving image works to installations to flash mob musical interventions in public spaces. Her work has been featured in contexts like The Robert Flaherty Seminar (1992), microcinemas like Massart Film Society, museums such as Chicago’s MCA (2012), and included in major exhibitions like the Whitney Biennial (2008). This program focuses on her continued engagement in the short film and video formats that started early in her artistic career with the success of Chronicles of a Lying Spirit by Kelly Gabron. Her short films and videos stylistic range traces lines across the history of the moving image, centered around her voice and vision that often articulates and visualizes the African American experience at an intimate and thought provoking level.

After earning a BFA with Trinh T. Minh-ha at San Francisco State University she went on to earn a masters at UCLA; inspired to go there by filmmakers of the LA Rebellion in particular Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, and Billy Woodberry. Cauleen brings this unique background a mix of production style filmmaking with experimental narratives to her short films. Her interest and use of formal techniques from across this varied landscape of moving images skillfully embellishes her work. While her early short films use formal strategies from America’s avant-garde and reference moments from films associated with the LA Rebellion, her later shorts tend towards reimagining popular and commercial narratives. Her work consistently reinvents stylistic devices to the tone of her voice with a critical insight into American culture.

Program Details:

1. Excerpt One from Remix for the Ark: Fields of Color (2013, 2.5 minutes)

2. Chronicles of a Lying Spirit  by Kelly Gabron (1989, 6.5 minutes)
Chronicles sources stylistic techniques associated with experimental animators and filmmakers. Cauleen uses an oxberry animation stand, a scrapbook, a monotone male voice (Chris Brown) of narration, and presumably the female voice of the true author. In the film, Cauleen’s voice contends with the tall tales presented by both the male narration and the text of Kelly Gabron in a way that echoes Frank Film (1973) by Frank Mouris. This contention between narrators, imagery, and text investigates the credibility of authorship while simultaneously pushing circulating stereotypes in the film towards the absurd. Ultimately, the film directs our focus to her reason for being an artist. *6.5 minutes

3. Daily Rains (1990, 12.5 minutes)
Another film produced by Cauleen’s Culturequake productions, Daily Rains recalls the early experiences of African American girls with racism during their formative years at school. The films visuals remind us of moments from Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (1986) and Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977). Playful children lighten and link the dramatic content of dark interior spaces while the narration and refrain in “These daily rains of hatred…”, brings to mind Spencer William’s Blood of Jesus (1941).

4. The White Suit (1998, 4.5 minutes)
Is a subtle reflection on the materials that dominate the American mass cultural landscape and place people outside its largely white dialogue. This unassuming short unlocked by its use of shallow focus and carefully chosen title presents the audience with a simple stirring narrative.

5. Excerpt Two from Remix for the Ark: Into the Cosmos (2013, 3 minutes)

6. The Changing Same (2001, 9.5 minutes)
Cauleen’s first film investigating Afro Futurism creates and mixes many beautiful cinematic moments into a alien narrative that references the Hollywood Sci Fi experience. The film has costume moments that remind us of The Matrix, locations that recall the Terminator (James Cameron, 1984), camera choices that stir up the mysterious lurking evil of David Lynch, and raw video moments that remind us of the all “too real” from the news media popularly used by Oliver Stone. Music by David Bowie.

7. The Green Dress (2005, 14.5 minutes)
A riddle of a narrative with gorgeous color choices that could be compared to Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It is sonically driven. Its foley has a meta mysteria of being filtered into the world from another dimension comparable to Eraserhead and a soundtrack that might remind us of music by Aphex Twin. Its plot seems inspired by the writing of Georges Perec and its visual strategies inspired by early cinema’s magician director George Melies.

8. Remote Viewing (2011, 15 minutes)
This film was inspired by the story of a man who witnessed whites in his town try to erase the history of it’s black community by burying a Negro school house and frustration with the empty monumental gestures of 70s land art. Its minimalist style places the viewer in a position of contemplation as we consider the power of modern tools to perform erasure while questioning this as an alternative to reconnecting, understanding, or reconciliation.

9. Excerpt Three from Remix for the Ark: Seeds Rise to the Surface (2013, 4 minutes)

Programmed by Ian Curry.

Filed under: animation, artist in attendance, documentary, experimental, film, video