Jake Barninghams narrative, glimpse (2013)
  • Jake Barningham’s narrative, glimpse (2013)

Tomorrow night at 6:30 PM Chicago Filmmakers will present a program of recent video work by local artist Michele Smith and former Chicagoan Jake Barningham at Columbia College’s Hokin Hall. The event is but one highlight in a month full of noteworthy avant-garde video screenings and exhibitions. On Friday at 6:30 PM Jesse Malmed, a multimedia artist and programmer at the Nightingale, presents a program called “UNTITLED (JUST KIDDING)” at the U. of C. Film Studies Center. That event is cosponsored by the Hyde Park Art Center—where, incidentally, a new multichannel video installation by professor and filmmaker Melika Bass, The Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast, is running through April 19. Next Wednesday the 26th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival kicks off at the Gene Siskel Film Center, with additional programs next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Columbia’s Ferguson Theater. And don’t forget the Siskel’s ongoing run of Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language 3-D, which certainly qualifies as an experimental video.

These programs speak to the wide range of video art currently being made. Consider the radical differences between the Barningham and Malmed works playing this week. In the shorts of his I’ve seen, Barningham uses video to impressionistic effect—his texturally vivid images appear and disappear unpredictably, as they might in a rush of memories. “I want to build palpable worlds for people’s thoughts to exist in,” he said in a recent interview, adding that he prefers to work with video technologies that are at least a few years old, since he’s had time to consider their unique formal properties.

The Chicago Filmmakers website notes that Barningham’s recent work, though still abstract, has gotten slower and more contemplative, which suggests a continuity between avant-garde video and older forms of visual art. By contrast Malmed’s pieces are very much about our current climate of information overload. His 2013 work Supernym, for example, shifts between different permutations of onscreen text, sound bytes from daytime TV, analogue video snow, and images of melting ice caps. Thimblerig (2012) is even more daunting—much of the soundtrack consists of two songs played simultaneously, and whenever Malmed appears, his prerecorded speech never aligns with the movements of his mouth. He also draws from mainstream movie comedies and academic verbiage for the linguistic content of his work, the various components forming a sort of uber-gibberish. To add to the morass of stimuli, Malmed will stage “performative interventions” between the shorts on Friday’s program.