CHICAGO—Beginning October 12, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) critically acclaimed series Conversations at the Edge will host a distinguished lineup of screenings, performances and talks by groundbreaking artists who exemplify the boundary-blurring nature of experimental media. Artists include Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist Coco Fusco, whose work has explored race, identity and power through video and performance for more than 30 years, animator and filmmaker Jim Trainor, whose films explore the grim and realistic habits of animals, and media artist Sondra Perry, whose videos and performances dissect power relations that shape black representation in the digital age.
This fall, SAIC’s Conversations at the Edge, SAIC, a global leader in art and design education, will feature screenings, performances and talks by the following artists:
- Jim Trainor is a Chicago-based animator and filmmaker whose films explore the grim and realistic habits of animals in their natural habitats. “The Pink Egg,” his first live-action feature explores the complex and curious lives of insects. Casting humans in the starring roles, “The Pink Egg” follows life-cycles of "The Seven Sisters,” a group of evolutionarily related wasps and bees. Unitard costumes and candy-colored props set the stage for the feeding, mating and hunting rituals of a civilization as successful as our own, yet founded on utterly alien principles. The narrative advances without dialogue or narration, leaving the audience to puzzle out its mysterious goings-on, evoking a Mother Nature who keeps her cards close to her chest. Trainor will introduce and discuss the film in person.
- The Real-Fake brings together 23 artists working with 3D simulation tools to produce a new aesthetic and ethic of the fake. For example, the Russian collective AES+F turns geopolitical hierarchies upside down in an uncanny digital trompe l’oeil; Morehshin Allahyari creates an imaginary space to explore the communication breakdowns caused by limitations to internet access; and the avatar and virtual artist LaTurbo Avedon explores the internet’s physical manifestations in a new work commissioned for this show. Curated by Claudia Hart, Associate Professor of Film, Video, New Media and Animation and Low-Residency MFA at SAIC , Rachel Clarke, and Pat Reynolds, the program is part of a much larger and ongoing project, including additional screenings, gallery exhibitions and writing. Hart and Clarke will introduce the program and be joined by Avedon for a discussion afterward.
- Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder are New York-based artists known for performances that transform films into stunning sculptures of light. Their latest live work unites the Gene Siskel Film Center’s two theaters by cycling the reels of one feature-length film through each of its four 35mm projectors. The artists introduce glassware and other diffracting media to bend, scatter, distort and redefine the film’s image. Joined by Chicago-based musician Brian Case, who builds darkly ambient soundscapes from tape loops and lock grooves, the three guide the audience between the two spaces to produce a spectral montage in three dimensions.
- Alex Gerbaulet is a Berlin-based filmmaker whose works unearth the complex narratives hidden within personally and and collectively repressed memory. Utilizing both archival material and footage filmed by the artist herself, Gerbaulet’s documentaries bridge the gap between analysis and poetry. Buildings, space and the body serve as sites that bear witness to past crime and trauma. Questioning voiceovers dissolve the idyllic facades of these structures, as her films examine the consequences of passively forgetting. Through political and biographical frameworks, Gerbaulet quietly confronts the lingering vestiges of a problematic history. She will introduce and discuss a program of short works, including “Schicht (Shift)” (2015), “Depth of Field” (2017), “Tattooed Prisoners” (2007) and “Datterode” (2005).
- Ana Mendieta, the late Cuban-born artist, forged a radical practice that explored primal themes of displacement, the body, violence and transformation. Known mostly for her earthworks, photographs and performances, Mendieta also created numerous short films. With these works, she both captured her ephemeral performances and further transformed them through trick photography, staging, or video synthesis. In “Silueta Sangrienta” (1975) the artist’s body is suddenly replaced with a pool of blood; in “Butterfly” (1975) the artist’s body morphs and pulsates with the electrons of a video monitor. Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, film archivist for The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, presents a selection of these films, many which have been recently rediscovered and restored. The program will be followed by a discussion with Cecilia Mendieta and scholar Rachel Weiss, who is a professor in the Departments of Arts Administration and Policy and Art History, Theory and Criticism at SAIC.
- Sondra Perry is an interdisciplinary artist whose work whose videos and performances dissect power relations that shape black representation in the digital age. Her performances and multimedia works use video games, glitchy 3D avatars, and computer desktop windows to express and explode biases built into the code of everyday life. She presents two works: in the video-performance “Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One” (2015-17), she layers footage of family members acting out real and fabricated familial lore, inviting audiences to consider the shifting and mutable threads of identity in the digital age. In “IT’S IN THE GAME ’17 or Mirror Gag for Vitrine and Projection” (2017), she focuses on her brother—who, as an NCAA college basketball player, had his likeness used without compensation in popular videos games—and contemplates the ways images of black men and women have long been exploited for profit and prestige.
- Coco Fusco has explored notions of race, identity and power through video and performance for more than 30 years. In recent years Fusco has examined a number of legendary stories that lack pictorial representation due to institutional censorship or an absence of governmental documentation. She presents two intimate artist portraits centered on concepts of the body, state control and expurgation, investigating their effects on artistic production and political discourse in Cuba. Both created in 2015, “La confesión” explores the public confession of poet and accused counterrevolutionary Heberto Padilla, while “La botella al mar de María Elena” focuses on the state intimidation of political reformer Maria Elena Cruz Varela. These portraits examine the relationship of art and artists to our contemporary political moment while charting a legacy of regime power and control of information.
Each year Conversations at the Edge highlights groundbreaking media artists through its weekly series of screenings, artist talks and performances. Conversations at the Edge is organized by SAIC’s Department of Film, Video, New Media and Animation in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center and the Video Data Bank.
Conversations at the Edge Schedule
Programs take place Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., unless otherwise noted.
Jim Trainor: The Pink Egg
Jim Trainor in person
The Real-Fake (curated by Claudia Hart, Rachel Clarke, and Pat Reynolds)
Curators Claudia Hart, Rachel Clarke and artist LaTurbo Avedon in person
Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder —Tense Nature: The Changeover System (with sound artist Brian Case)
Sandra Gibson, Luis Recoder, and Brian Case in person
Presented in collaboration with Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago
Alex Gerbaulet: Digging Deep
Alex Gerbaulet in person
Presented in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Chicago
The Films of Ana Mendieta
The Estate of Ana Mendieta film archivist Raquel Cecilia Mendieta and scholar Rachel Weiss in person
Sondra Perry: Performance and Video
Sondra Perry in person
Coco Fusco: Cuba Portraits
Coco Fusco in person
Presented in collaboration with SAIC’s Video Data Bank
Persons with disabilities requesting accommodations should visit saic.edu/access
About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
For more than 150 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program consistently ranking among the top programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries and state-of-the-art facilities. SAIC’s undergraduate, graduate and post-baccalaureate students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world—as seen through notable alumni and faculty such as Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, Jeff Koons, and LeRoy Neiman.