Erin Sax brings a completely fresh perspective to the filming of cadavers–seen here being prepared for burial–in this 19-minute film from 1994, which implicitly argues with 1970s films by Stan Brakhage and Hollis Frampton that deal with autopsies. The earlier filmmakers poeticized the bodies and body parts they photographed, using rhythmic editing to place their images of the dead in a silence that evoked the monumental and eternal. Sax rejects those kinds of poetics in favor of a more direct, factual kind of looking. Her handheld camera moves around the bodies as she tries to see them clearly without losing the sense that they’re objective physical presences, yet she also frequently cuts to the solutions and instruments used in embalming–demystifying that activity by revealing its material facts. The idea that social context is more important than individual vision permeates much recent art writing; this film uses camera movement and editing to make that idea visible. On the same program, Dima El-Horr’s The Street (1996), a gently observational film about a Beirut street that provides its own view of social context in the interdependent activities it depicts, and Zelda Q. Lin’s Dollhouse (1996), a lush animation that creates a magical otherworld in the cliched manner of a zillion other “magical” animations. School of the Art Institute, 112 S. Michigan, room 1311, Tuesday, October 13, 7:00, 312-345-3588.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.