CHANNELING: an invocation of spectral bodies and queer spirits
Curated by Latham Zearfoss and Ethan White | 1972-2008 | TRT 01:05:41

9 Is A Secret
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Vanessa Renwick | 2002 | 06:00 | United States | English | B&W and Color | 4:3

Renwick recounts a sad time in her life, when a friend was dying and she suddenly became aware of the presence of crows.

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9 Is A Secret
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Vanessa Renwick | 2002 | 06:00 | United States | English | B&W and Color | 4:3

Renwick recounts a sad time in her life, when a friend was dying and she suddenly became aware of the presence of crows.

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Well Dressed
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Elliot Montague | 2006 | 10:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

This experimental documentary meditates on the space between two bodies and explores three key bodies in transition: the erotic "cruising" body, the transgender body, and the pregnant body.

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Whispering Pines #7
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Shana Moulton | 2006 | 05:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

Shana Moulton's character Cynthia is confronted with a distorted mirror image that slips between the grotesque and the exotic, depending on her posture.

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Carol Anne is Dead
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Michael Robinson | 2008 | 07:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

“Robinson recycles his family's home movie version of Poltergeist, made when he was ten, into a raw look at the performative.” — Onion City Film Festival

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Somethings Gonna Soon
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EMR | 2008 | 04:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

Discordant sound and psychic image imagine a cross formation, speak from the hole, say nothing. Untie the knot and let down the pony, somethings gonna soon.

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Some Ghosts
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Aay Preston-Myint | 2006 | 02:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

Some Ghosts incorporates embroidery and stop-motion animation techniques to create a colorful dreamscape in which an unwitting spaceman releases angry spirits from a haunted medicine cabinet.

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Two Faces
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Hermine Freed | 1972 | 06:24 | United States | English | B&W | 4:3

Hermine Freed’s Two Faces is not included on the original CHANNELING compilation. The title is being shown here as a supplement to Jillian Peña’s Compromise, which due to its mature content is being made available for view on Peña’s Vimeo page (Password: compromise).

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(tell me why): The Epistemology of Disco
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John Di Stefano | 1991 | 24:00 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

This piece challenges the notion of disco as merely a "leisure activity" by positing disco as an important cultural space created as an expression of gay sexuality.

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About this program: 

2016 Curators Notes

About eight years have passed since we conjured up a strange little video screening in Chicago and then took it on the road, visiting the East Coast briefly and then driving a rented hatchback in a big loop around most of the western United States. The landscape we sped through — geographic and cultural — seems, on the surface, to have drastically changed. “The future is bright,” we wrote in the notes handed out at every screening, and it sure seemed that way as we listened to Barack Obama’s first inaugural address in a gas station parking lot outside San Diego.  While the spectrum of what is visible — and therefore legible, validated by mainstream consensus — may have shifted slightly in the last eight years, the questions raised by CHANNELING still inhabit the shadows and gray areas. The “political and historical dramas that haunt the queer experience” — i.e. the spectral bodies and queer spirits we sought to evoke in this program — have not been properly put to rest. Instead, they have been forgotten, consigned to time, further repressed, rendered increasingly spectral. The very real need for safety has manifested in many (queer) bodies as a quest for assimilation, as if participation in capitalism and electoral noise are the sole arbiters of meaning, as if representation via legislation and television shows could heal all wounds.  We are continuously in contact with the ethereal now, and privy to a whole host of new ghosts, specters beamed directly into our pockets. These quiet vibrations in the night whisper unfathomable loss: 50 dead in a mass shooting, legislative hatred, black and brown bodies under siege. Myriad injustices — and the cries of anguish they incite — mark our distance from utopian becoming as vast, cavernous. The cries may change texture, the emanations may change tone, but the specters have not yet departed, and the way out remains unchanged: Come into the light!

2008 Curators Notes

CHANNELING is an entryway into the spirit realm and the queer body politic: a program of experimental moving-image work that summons the ghosts of the past and the specters of the future. If we imagine the technologies of film and video as occult mediums rather than technological ones, then perhaps we can make a kind of spiritual contact with the emotional and physical realities that are often invisible (ghostly) in everyday life. In this sense, both the camera and the ghost stories it captures can serve as powerful instruments in the act of queer world making. The artists in this program use their bodies and stories as conduits that channel the political and historical dramas that haunt the queer experience: the AIDS pandemic (RenwickDi Stefano), the body in transition (Montague), the idealized nuclear family (PeñaRobinson), and the cultural conventions that shape desire and desirability (EMRMoulton). CHANNELING is more than communing with the dead: it is a method of accessing the living. The stories we share together in the flickering light are not disembodied records of the past, but rather, bewitching presences that speak to us here, in this very darkened room. In using moving images to propose the phantom as a fundamentally queer body — a liminal manifestation, floating between two worlds — we open the possibility of entering into a spiritual dialogue from which queerness is often excluded. Like the process of filmmaking itself, CHANNELING is a reinterpretation of light and shadow; a new form of alchemy that can guide us through sorrow, pronounce our desires when we lack the language to do so, and conjure utopias that re-vision — and therefore reshape — the political present. The future is bright. Come into the light, Carol Anne!

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Program Note: Hermine Freed’s Two Faces is not included on the original CHANNELING compilation. The title is being shown here as a supplement to Jillian Peña’s Compromise, which due to its mature content is being made available for view on Peña’s Vimeo page (Password: compromise).

 


 

About the curators: 

Latham Zearfoss is an artist and cultural producer living and working in Chicago. Their creative inquiries center on remixing historical and mythologized texts in order to highlight hidden subtexts of radical potential. Their commitment to art and activism has also manifested in the creation of sporadic, temporary utopias like Pilot TV and Chances Dances. Latham graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA in 2008 and the University of Illinois at Chicago with an MFA in 2011. They have exhibited their work both across the U.S. and Internationally.

Ethan A. White is an artist, writer, DJ, curator, and professional cat lady whose work presents a constellation of performative approaches to the queer voice and artistic production. Using humor and playful critique, he aims to make the invisible but resolutely fabulous work of the marginalized and forgotten haunt mainstream consciousness. He is a member of Chances Dances, a queer dance party collective in Chicago that also administers a micro-grant for queer artists.

Featured titles

9 Is A Secret

"Renwick recounts a sad time in her life, when a friend was dying and she suddenly became aware of the presence of crows... [Renwick] craft[s] a lyrical and moving essay that works its magic through poetic accretion rather than narrative logic."
— Holly Willis, L.A. Weekly

Well Dressed

This experimental documentary meditates on the space between two bodies and explores three key bodies in transition: the erotic "cruising" body, the transgender body, and the pregnant body.

Whispering Pines #7

In this episode of the Whispering Pines series, Moulton's character Cynthia is confronted with a distorted mirror image that slips between the grotesque and the exotic, depending on her posture.

Carol Anne is Dead

A family embraces the heart of evil in this Poltergeist re-make/drag show, circa 1992.

Somethings Gonna Soon, EMR
EMR

EMR has created a sigil, a magic sex symbol abstracted from the words TRUST ME (NOT) TO HURT YOU that is spread across rituals of the beast.

Some Ghosts

Some Ghosts incorporates embroidery and stop-motion animation techniques to create a colorful dreamscape in which an unwitting spaceman releases angry spirits from a haunted medicine cabinet.

Two Faces

In her oft-cited essay “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” Rosalind Krauss says, “self-encapsulation — taking the body or psyche as its own surround — is everywhere to be found in the corpus of video art” (October 1, Spring 1976). This certainly applies to this early work of Hermine Freed. Utilizing a split and reversed screen, Freed faces herself, caressing and kissing her doubled image.

(tell me why): The Epistemology of Disco

(tell me why): The Epistemology of Disco is an often humorous, at times sarcastic and poignant look at the role that disco music has played in the formation of gay male identity.

Compromise

Compromise is Episode 1 of the video art trilogy, This is More Than Love I Feel Inside, in which Jillian Peña traces a queer relationship from inception to demise.

Resources

channeling notes