I scripted, directed and animated this piece for the Marin Community Foundation, who wanted a short video making the case for the importance of arts education in a vibrant, fully-rounded curriculum. It serves as an entry point to the website artsedworks.org, which includes short documentary videos and other resources for integrating the arts into schools.
I was contacted by Lynette Hunter, Professor of the History of Rhetoric and Performance at UC Davis, to adapt one of her lectures, The Face, the Mask, and Classical Tragedy in the Household, into comics form. The adaptation was published in a book of her lectures, Disunified Aesthetics, from the publisher McGill-Queen’s Press. This particular lecture was about the writer Alice Munro, and my adaptation weaves elements of Hunter’s performance with the Munro story itself.
A series of video loops of appropriated footage, with an audio narration that recontextualizes the images, telling stories that are quite different from the original scenes. The loops cycle continuously, and the narration is written to loop back on itself as well, so that the viewer may find it difficult at first to discern where the story begins and ends. These videos play with the idea of “eternity,” and the way film can fix a fleeting moment or image so that it attains a feeling of permanence. In the narration, the characters in the videos are stranded or hiding out in some ceaseless experience or space; some are resigned to their fate, others push against it. Various loops have been exhibited from 2009-2014 at the Reference Gallery, Incline Village, the Holland Project and Reno Art Works, Reno. The below loop, The Pearl, won the Jury Prize at the 2012 “Three Minute Video Festival” at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, as well as screening on KNPB.
Text of the voice-over:
Someone who could fully succumb to the momentum of pursuit, and the urgency of the chase. From one room to the next, she continues with a fierce forward gaze, though the person or thing she is pursuing is somewhere beyond her field of vision. She can’t see it, but she feels in her belly that she is almost upon it, it is in the next room, or maybe the next after the next, in this series of rooms that open one into the other in an endless corridor of egresses and ingresses.
The urgency she feels is persistent, not subject to diminishment, but she has been in pursuit for so long, deprived of the actual object of her pursuit for such a prolonged span of time, that she has to admit to herself she’s lost track of the precise nature of what she is pursuing. Person or thing? Shouldn’t it be clearer than that? Lately she’s been entertaining the possibility that, in fact, she’s not engaged in a pursuit. Perhaps her urgency stems from a drama of arrival. Perhaps she is on the verge of arriving at the place where she has been scheduled to appear. But if that is the case, she has forgotten the point of the arrival, and the occasion of the rendezvous. The one thing that is clear to her is that it would be futile to go back. She knows that she is incapable of attaining the speed of light, but she entertains the possibility that she might be able to reach the speed of thought. If she races fast enough, she could arrive at the originating thought that set her in motion, arriving at the memory of where she is going. In this case — and it would be an intolerable conclusion — what she is actually pursuing is the idea of arriving somewhere.
She is aware of the pearl of light that flickers in the corner of her right eye as she passes from a darker room to a lighter room and once again to darker. If she turns her eye to look at it, she loses it. Her eye is an oyster constantly secreting a pearl of light. In the inevitability of its arrival, it seems to take on the solidity of a real pearl, before being banished by the shadow of the darker room. She knows she must stop paying attention to these sorts of details. They will slow her down. If the pearl of light becomes a genuine pearl, it will take on substance and weight — everything that is fleet and immaterial will take on heaviness, concreteness, and she will have to carry the burden of it, even the air will become a burden she must carry on her shoulders from room to room, until she won’t be able to bear it, and will come to a full stop, and then there will be no hope of escape.
Although — perhaps there could be another kind of salvation, a retrospective one, if she could shed a pearl from moment to moment, leaving them behind her, a series of precious punctuation marks strung along the thread of her traverse. They would provide a trail for someone to follow her, to find her.
An instagram account (@chrislanier) with a linked tumblr, this began as a visual experiment in the daily documentation of images that arrested my eye. It has become, among other things, a catalog of visual echoes (images that remind me of other images), an askance look at the peculiar visual culture of children (from the point of view of a parent), and an index of the borderlines between natural and constructed spaces. It has also become a re-framing of my memory, shifting it from a sequence of events to incidents of light.
Started in 2012, there was a hiatus in 2013, then a return in 2014. When I resumed in 2014, I began adding mostly quixotic hashtags, enjoying the way hashtags function as sub-Joycean portmanteaus. The tumblr can be viewed at chrislanier.tumblr.com
A suite of diptychs about the development and experiences of a baby, and the parents who are raising her. On the left part of the diptych, a digital painting of the baby is overlaid by dialogue or monologue from the parents as “talking heads”; on the right part, the image of the baby is unobstructed. The format of the diptych is intended to foreground the connected, yet often parallel, experiences of parent and infant – the former existing in a world of language, the latter in a world of experience and sensation that precedes language. Exhibited at the Hobson Gallery, Reno, 2011.
At the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, 2010, and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, New York, 2011. The two pieces of featured artwork in the below gallery are by Eric Drooker.
I co-curated The Art of Howl, a multimedia exhibit featuring animation art from the film Howl (2010). From the exhibit’s press release:
“Translating Ginsberg’s incendiary, oracular, stream-of-consciousness language into moving images was a unique challenge. The animation, like the poem, conjures a world of outcasts, ‘deviants,’ outlaws, poets and prophets digging for scraps of connection and enlightenment under the shadow of ‘Moloch’ – the overpowering industrial cityscape that demands submission, conformity, and ultimately annihilation.
“This multimedia exhibit includes character design drawings, animation keyframes and concept art, photos by Allen Ginsberg, storyboards, animatics, and images from Drooker’s graphic novel version of the poem.”
Howl, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film about Allen Ginsberg’s seminal beat poem, was the opening feature film of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It features James Franco in the Ginsberg role, and takes an experimental approach to documenting the creation and performance of the poem – as well as the obscenity trial that followed when, after undercover policemen purchased copies of Howl and Other Poems from San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore, the state tried to suppress its publication. The film blends glimpses of Ginsberg’s personal life, recreations of the obscenity trial, and animated sequences that accompany Franco’s performance of the poem, riffing on its ideas and images.
Graphic novelist and New Yorker cover artist Eric Drooker was the designer of the animation, and animation veteran John Hays was the animation director. I worked on storyboards for the third section of the poem, which is addressed directly to Carl Solomon, a fellow inmate with Ginsberg at the Columbia Psychiatric Institute (Ginsberg spent several months at the mental hospital). My storyboard animatic is below:
Multimedia Dance Theater Performance, at the Performática Festival, Peubla, Mexico, 2009, and at the Redfield Theater, University of Nevada Reno, 2009.
The Mirror Has Six Billion Faces was a collaboration with Kristin Heavey, Artistic Director of Element Dance Theater, and the dancers Cari Cunningham and Rick Southerland. It was inspired by the article How the Mind Works: Revelations, by Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff, published in the New York Review of Books. The article discussed mirror neurons:
“The importance of body image and motor activity for perception, physical movement, and thought is suggested by the recent discovery of ‘mirror neurons’ by Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues. They observed that the neurons that fired when a monkey grasped an object also fired when the monkey watched a scientist grasp the same object. The monkey apparently understood the action of the experimenter because the activity within its brain was similar when the monkey was observing the experimenter and when the monkey was grasping the object. What was surprising was that the same neurons that produced ‘motor actions,’ i.e., actions involving muscular movement, were active when the monkey was perceiving those actions performed by others.”
In the performance, the two dancers mirrored and refracted each others’ movements. A large video projection both showed prior footage of the dancers’ bodies, their symmetry tweaked by interlacing the image with its own flipped reflection, and live footage of the dancers, interlaced so that at times the two bodies seemed to inhabit each other.
Drawings and Projections, at the Tahoe Gallery, 2008.
The exhibition traced the contours of a mind that’s in the process of failing. There were multiple images of a frail old woman, sometimes surrounded by visions that don’t quite correspond to the reality around her. Two large-format drawings were “colored in” by digital projections, which included brief animations that provided missing elements of the drawings themselves. The old woman’s hallucinations of ghosts, and of improbable visitations by gatherings of birds, alternately seem to comfort her, and to provide her an index for her deterioration.
Multimedia Dance Theater Performance and Art Installation, at CounterPULSE, 2008.
A performance created in collaboration with Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater, Element Dance Theater, and artist Ilya Noé, staged as part of the San Francisco International Art Festival. The Mapping Project included video projection, animation, live music, and an exhibition of digital prints. The theme of the performance was the involuntary crossing of borders. Half of the dancers enacted images culled from stories from their grandparents, who suffered various displacements from the Second World War; the other half played out scenes of contemporary migration, making border crossings into shadow economies. The stage was dominated by a sculptural aluminum house, which was assembled, moved about, taken apart and reconfigured over the course of the performance.
My contributions included the creation of animation and digital projection, introducing staging and performance ideas, interviewing the dancers, creating and exhibiting digital prints based on those interviews, and running the projections for the live show.
Below is the text from one of the dancer interviews (it accompanied the print in the gallery above showing the screaming child with the elongated neck):
My family lived in Frankfurt while it was being bombed. There was an air raid and the family went down to go to the shelter. But my dad, he was about seven, he didn’t want to go. He got absolutely hysterical about it, screaming that he didn’t want to go. They gave up, and went back to their house. And found out, the next day, that the shelter had suffered a direct hit. Everyone in it had died. Dad doesn’t like to talk about this. Whenever Oma talked about it, her voice would get full of emotion, quivering, almost crying. That seemed to be one of the reasons Dad didn’t like to bring up the war – it would make Oma very emotional. He didn’t want us to learn German.
I didn’t understand all the implications. I knew my grandfather was in the army, but Oma said he wasn’t in the Nazi army, he was in the “other” army. It wasn’t until much later, somehow this came up with my boyfriend, who was Jewish. I told him my Opa was in the other army, and he said “Anna, there was no other army.” And a little light went off in my head.
New York-based arts organization Artists Space curated a series of webcasts called the YouTube Commentary Project in 2008-2009. In the words of Artists Space:
“Like ‘special features’ commentary on a commercial dvd, The YouTube Commentary Project involves injecting ideas, critique and comments recorded by artists about a YouTube video of their choice. After overlaying the recorded audio onto the video, we upload the results back onto YouTube and present it here. It’s part of Artists Space’s new WebCast: internet and computer based cultural content co-produced with artists around the world.”
I contributed a piece commenting on a video of a gun owner loading and unloading his gun (actually a toy replica of a .44 magnum, popularized by the movie Dirty Harry) against a red backdrop. It was also screened in the Video DADA show at UC Irvine – other artists included Shana Moulton, Negativland, Miranda July, and Kalup Linzy. From the press release:
“VIDEO DADA: No repeat of history, not neo-Dada, but still wreaking havoc with conventional parameters of art. Nowadays inventive, intelligent, and aesthetically sophisticated videos can be seen far afield, outside traditional art venues like museums and galleries. And artists circulate their videos on a much wider scale than that achieved by any television network. VIDEO DADA asks how these changes complicate the conceptual and aesthetic contours of art. The exhibition features 300 plus videos — playing on eight screens — by individual artists and art collectives that circulate in the hurly-burly multiverse of the internet. Some serious, some humorous, and some both at once, these works exercise manifold strategies: absurd drama, wry animation, politically astute collage, wild performance, and uncategorizable others. Some play with music; some incorporate extraordinary written or spoken texts; some prefer silence and all the noise that offers. In sum, VIDEO DADA surveys the internet’s amalgamation of popular culture and art, calling into question the difference between the two.“