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From Columbus with Love

Tue, Nov 6, 2012

The first sentence of the Wexner Center’s mission statement is that we are “The Ohio State University’s multidisciplinary, international laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art.” We strive to meet this goal through our public programs, but perhaps the most dedicated commitment to that ideal is nestled with an area of the Wexner Center rarely accessible by the public. Our Film/Video Studio Program is tucked away in a labyrinth of corridors between the Wexner Center’s galleries and Weigel Hall. Its comparative isolation is an ideal working environment for the hundreds of filmmakers and video artists that have worked in the Studio over the decades.

Originally called the Art & Technology Studio, it was born at a utopian moment in the Media Arts community in the late 1980s. At the time, similar facilities that gave post-production support to artists existed throughout the country. Sadly, the increasingly dismal climate for arts funding and changing technologies has seen most of those facilities disappear or change their mission. So the Wexner Center’s Film/Video Studio Program, currently overseen by curator Jennifer Lange and editors Paul Hill and Mike Olenick, remains one of the few residency programs of its kind still in operation.

<p> Filmmaker Jeanne Liotta gazes at polaroids of past F/VSP residency artists </p>

Filmmaker Jeanne Liotta gazes at polaroids of past F/VSP residency artists

Even if the labor that goes on here is hidden from the public eye, regular Wexner Center patrons have surely encountered and enjoyed the work that the F/VSP has helped support. This work regularly shows up in The Box, in our cinema, and sometimes in our galleries. And the works created in the Studio travel to every corner of the globe, spreading the name of the Wexner Center and The Ohio State University far and wide. When I think of the Studio-supported projects heading out into the world, I picture a map that tracks a virus as it quickly migrates across states, countries, and continents. The work created in the Studio is just one of many ways that the Wexner Center like to participate in local, national, and global cultural exchanges. Columbus and Ohio State can be proud that the work created within these modest editing studios shows the world that this is a community that actively supports the work of artists and the creation of new work. Over the years, I’ve met many people whose first awareness of the Wexner Center was through seeing a support credit on a video that was created in the Film/Video Studio.

The two most frequent outlets for the work created in the F/VSP are galleries (or museums) and film festivals. This is a particularly lively time for experimental work within film festival contexts, so videos and films supported by the Wexner Center have become mainstays at the more adventurous festivals around the country and world. We try to show as much of the work created in our studio as possible, but Columbus residents are fortunate that a bounty of the best experimental film festivals on the continent are only a day’s drive away. It would be well worth your time to take a long weekend to explore the offerings at the Ann Arbor Film Festival (March), Chicago Underground Film Festival (March), Images Festival (Toronto – April), Media City Film Festival (Windsor, Ontario – May), Onion City Film Festival (Chicago – June), or theWavelengths program at the Toronto International Film Festival (September).

One of the premiere showcases for new work each year is the New York Film Festival’s Views from the Avant-Garde, held at Lincoln Center. This year, the Views featured five films supported by the Wexner Center: Kevin Jerome Everson‘s Chevelle and The Tombigbee Chronicles Number TwoMichael Robinson‘s Circle in the SandFern Silva‘s Concrete Parlay, and Deborah Stratman‘s The Name Is not the Thing Named. (Not to mention the many filmmakers at this year’s festival who had worked at the Wexner Center in the past, or whose work we have shown in our cinema.)

Past, present (and future) artists F/VSP artists and Wexner Center curators at the 2012 Views from the Avant-Garde. Standing (l to r): Fern Silva, Ericka Beckman, Lewis Klahr, Deborah Stratman, Ben Russell, Chris Stults, Jeanne Liotta, Marie Losier, Jeanne Liotta, Laida Lertxunidi, Michael Robinson. In front (l to r): Jennifer Lange, Lori Felker.

We’re thrilled to have supported all of these filmmakers, but this year it was a particularly satisfying to see the world premiere of Michael Robinson’s new video Circle in the Sand. Robinson is one of the defining filmmakers of his generation (and not just within the experimental film festival circuit—he was listed in Cinema Scope’s recent issue devoted to the 50 Best Filmmakers Under 50 and was included in this year’s Whitney Biennial), and Circle in the Sand is his longest and most ambitious project yet. We were very gratified to be able to make it easier for Michael to realize this project by providing financial support through one of our annual Residency Awards. He also used our 16mm Aaton camera to shoot the film (mainly at the Headlands in California and in upstate New York), and he finished the post-production work on the film during three lengthy stays in the Film/Video Studio. You can see the trailer for the film here.

<p> Circle in the Sand (Michael Robinson, 2012) </p>

Circle in the Sand (Michael Robinson, 2012)

Along with Mark McElhatten and Gavin Smith (co-curators of the Views from the Avant-Garde) and Nellie Killian (film programmer at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and founding director of Migrating Forms), I was honored to be part of a panel to decide the recipients of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s inaugural Kazuko Trust award. We decided to split the $10,000 prize between two filmmakers that screened at the Views this year: Robinson and Laida Lertxundi. Lertxundi is making extraordinary films with a unique sensibility that advances historical genres of avant-garde filmmaking traditions. There are very few prizes given in this country to experimental filmmakers, so I think I speak for all the panelists when I say that it was a great pleasure to be able to recognize these two vital artists and their already significant bodies of work.

<p> Recipients of the 2012 Kazuko Trust award: Michael Robinson and Laida Lertxundi </p>

Recipients of the 2012 Kazuko Trust award: Michael Robinson and Laida Lertxundi

And how can you see these great films that are worked on here at the Wexner Center? We try to make a point of mentioning when work supported by the Film/Video Studio appears on our calendar, so when you’re glancing through our program listings, keep an eye out for this work that you, as a patron of the Wexner Center, have helped make possible.

<p> Midcentury (William E. Jones, 2012) </p>
Midcentury (William E. Jones, 2012)

Most immediately, the first few months of 2013 will see us presenting a number of works that have strong ties to the F/V Studio. William E. Jones (a Los Angeles artist originally from Massillon, Ohio) probably holds the record for the most visits to the Studio. And, given his recent prolificacy, he definitely holds the record for the most works created here. Jones is featured in the upcoming exhibition More American Photographs and to coincide with that, we’re showing his video Midcentury in The Box, our exhibition space for video, all month and are hosting a screening of his short films on January 31. Along with Michael Robinson, one of the other artists to receive our 2011-12 Film/Video Residency Awards was the talented Columbus filmmaker Matt Meindl. Don’t Break Down, the work that Meindl created with support from the Residency Award and some post-production work in the Studio, will be showing all month in The Box in conjunction with our popular Field & Screen series. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the latest work by this exciting local filmmaker. Also as part of Field & Screen, we’re excited to premiering the documentary Covenant, a project that OSU Associate Professor Michael Mercil worked on for many months in our studio. Look for this (and a panel discussing issues from the film) on February 7. You may remember Mercil’s Virtual Pasture project outside the Wexner Center and the sheep—both virtual and actual—that periodically grazed on our grounds over the span of several years. And finally, we’re working to bring Michael Robinson back to town in early March so that he can share Circle in the Sand with local audiences. And to top it off, his fellow Kazuko Trust co-winner Laida Lertxundi will be working in the Film/Video Studio during that time, so we’ll do a combined screening of work by both of them. It’s already one of my most anticipated screenings of 2013, so I hope to see you come out and find out about the wonderful work being created in our Film/Video Studio.

PARKING UPDATE: Construction at 15th and High. For more information click here.

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