Thoughts on “the Art of Fear”: film viewership and why horror?

The first screening of the two-part The Art of Fear series (which will hopefully become a multi-part expanded series) launched last Wednesday to great success with a collection of works by Takeshi Murata, Darren Banks, and Jamie Shovlin titled Pieces. Thanks to all who came out!

Two important strands of thought came out of this initial program (which was also, incidentally, my first foray into exhibiting artist moving images) that I’d like to explore further both in my own curatorial practice and via writing here on TGWKTM…

The first is in consideration of how artist film programs such as The Art of Fear can or should be presented and viewed. My intention with Pieces was to approach in like a gallery context – no seating, no definitive start/stop time, and flexibility of viewership. Meaning, I wanted to embrace the lobby space at Nitehawk not as a dictatorial cinematic space but rather in a manner in which you might approach a static piece of artwork. I’m very interested in an audience encountering a film in a non-time based way, choosing how much time to spend with the work and how entering in different narrative points can alter both the story-line and the audience’s perception of what he/she is seeing. I also embrace the idea of artist films entering into the cinematic sphere, especially as certain artists, like Ben Rivers, produce feature films. It’s simply a matter of context and consideration.

Still, I was surprised the the audience at The Art of Fear was interested in having seating to watch, in its entirety, a program of non-narrative films. In a way I felt as if my curatorial power had been usurped but, in another, it was exciting to see an interest in giving these works undivided attention. This of course has led me to wonder about the sematics of film programming – should this be called a screening? or an exhibition? Are there ways that we, as producers of exhibitions, can set the tone for how the audience will view the artwork or, ultimately, is it that power inherent in the audience? The next portion of the program/exhibition/screening Ghost Stories with My Barbarian, Aida Ruilova, and Marnie Weber is narrative in nature and appropriate for a proper sit-down affair. So the experiment will continue. And it’s going to be amazing so please don’t miss it, whether you sit, stand, or squat.

The other strand of thought involves the question of “why horror?” which is relevant to both my own curatorial investigation and the implementation of horror characteristics by artists. While this question is being visually represented, addressed, somewhat answered in the series of exhibitions I am doing, I believe that an essay series of why horror is of personal, cultural, and political interest is just as crucial. Stay tuned!

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