In San Francisco in the early 80s, filmmaker Jeffrey Skoller helped found a “mobile” cinema that showed movies in different locations every week: art galleries, clubs, community centers. Some of the films were experimental, but what Skoller was really interested in experimenting with was venue. By the 1970s most screenings of any kind were arranged by salaried professionals, and Skoller’s project represented a return to the early days of avant-garde cinema, the period after World War II, when artists initiated their own screenings.

Now associate chair of the department of film, video, and new media at the School of the Art Institute, Skoller is still interested in alternative venues. “If I’m encouraging students to make experimental work, they also have to think about the ways it gets exhibited,” he says. “Artists have to teach the aboveground institutions how to show their work.”

In part to investigate the ways that film exhibition has moved out of the screening room and into nontraditional venues–raves, the Web, the sides of buildings–and in part to help stimulate the local film scene, Skoller and a group of SAIC film grad students including Holen Kahn and Stephanie Rothenberg have organized a series of screenings, panel discussions, and other events this weekend–“to create a symposium where we would merge theory and practice,” says Kahn.

Kahn, who grew up in New York, was one of the founders of the MadCat Women’s International Film and Video Festival in 1996 in San Francisco, and MadCat cofounder Ariella Ben-Dov will be one of the panelists. Also participating are the Peoples Republic of Delicious Foods, a local collective that does multiprojector shows at raves and galleries, and Paul Chan of New York’s Independent Media Center, which Kahn describes as a “Web-based activist media clearinghouse.”

The discussions should include some lively disagreements: there will be Web advocates, and while Skoller isn’t anti-Web, for him “the social experience in the theater” is important: “With the emergence of video and computers, everyone is alone and isolated.” And panelist Brian Frye, a New York curator, hates projections at raves, decrying their “subjugation of the individual to some undifferentiated mass.”

The core of “Nomads and Homesteaders: Trespassing the Boundaries of Media Exhibition” consists of two film screenings followed by panel discussions at SAIC screening room 1311, 112 S. Michigan: on Saturday, March 31, a selection of films from the MadCat festival shows from 4 to 6, followed by a two-hour discussion starting at 6:15; on Sunday, April 1, a program curated by Frye starts at 1 (see movie Critic’s Choice for “Sunset in the City of God” in Section Two), with a 3:15 discussion. Other events include an evening of “audiovisual experimentation” and dancing Saturday night at Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, and “projections in bars and pizza places and a futon store.” Call 773-929-6130 or E-mail for more information.

–Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lloyd DeGrane.