Playing with Shadows

I’ve lived in this city for almost four year.  Not a very long time, but plenty long to see most of the major museums around town.  That my first trip to the New Museum was just last week is not something I’m the most proud of, especially when you add that I lived less than a ten-minute walk away for several months.  Regardless, I could have hardly been luckier to have visited this past week, as there were a number of exhibitions that have had my mind spinning ever since.

Fly Paper, 2017
Of everything currently on display at the New Museum, the piece that’s stuck with me more than any other is Kahlil Joseph’s Fly Paper, a sort surreal film that comments on everything from nicotine addiction to memory to race.  I can’t really say what it’s about, but Fly Paper is so visually striking that extrapolating meaning from it is easy to do.  Perhaps the most evocative scenes in the film are those that see the protagonist, an aging black man, dance with and around another, younger, dancer. 

What makes these scenes so enthralling is that, on a literal level, it’s hard not to be moved by the sub-woofers placed in the room.  In writing this post I thought about re-watching the short somewhere online (which, now that I actually look into it, proves to be difficult), but I have a feeling doing so would deflate the experience.  Born in Seattle and now living in LA, Joseph has had a successful career as an artist and film maker, with his most notable accolade being a 2016 Emmy for his co-direction of Beyoncé’s Lemonade.  The connection here is certainly apparent, but Joseph has clearly taken his work in a more extreme and surreal direction.  If you like movement, sound, and gorgeous 35mm shots, go see it.

Ricerche: three, 2013
The third part of Sharon Hayes’ Ricerche series is a 38 minute documentary interview with 35 students at Mount Holyoke College.  What grabbed my attention here, as the video played out in a room filled with sculptures, paintings, phonographs, and tourists was it’s simplicity.  As a part of an exhibition on sexual and gender identity and so called triggering topics in general, a video that was nothing more than a group of college students speaking into a microphone stood out.  Hayes interviewed the group about sex, sexual identity, gender, and being young while all these topics are hotly debated interpersonally and politically.  The interview also cuts at times to solo interviews with members of the group, and seeing the contrast between the way they would behave in a group and alone was fascinating, especially given the intensely personal nature of the questions.

Weed Killer, 2017
Patrick Staff’s newest work is downright haunting.  Staff (b. 1987, Bognor Regis, UK) has here adapted a portion of Catherine Lord’s memoir The Summer of Her Baldness into a moving monologue given by actress Debra Soshoux.  The book and this film both tackle the reality of living with breast cancer and the ways in which chemotherapy effects the body like the titular garden commodity.