Shock of the Old, Shock of the New

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 (7:30pm)
5213 Grays Ave. Rm. 228

Walker Tsai Ming-liang

For Nightletter’s opening screening we present four films which enact the evergreen tension between the new and old. As we mark the occasion of a new space dedicated to experiencing the novel whether in recent work or in those still shocking from decades past, this program presents works which shock us by bringing the past into the present or by destabilizing our relationship to the past.

Shock of the Old, Shock of the New is bookended by two considerations of Asia, past and present. Leslie Thornton’s Adynata is a dizzying give and take between enchantment and repulsion “in which you nearly drown in exotic signifiers of femininity,” so says Yvonne Rainer. Organizing her film around an interpretation drawn from Edward Said’s “Orientalism,” Thornton’s film interrogates Western perceptions of women and the East, incorporating such disparate elements as a 19th century portrait photograph of an elite Chinese family, 1950s found footage, Truffaut, and Bow Wow Wow.

Cheryl Dunye’s Vanilla Sex is structured from polaroids and home movies that suggest archival material but whose subject matter, lesbian relationships, betray their originality as Dunye parses the racial differences between the black and white lesbian experience. Ken Jacobs’ Capitalism: Child Labor takes a 19th Century sterographic photograph of children laboring and transforms it using a strobe-like effect to create a moving 3D image.

Tsai Ming-liang’s Walker, the first in what is now a series of eight films, features Lee Kang-Sheng’s Buddhist monk walking almost motionlessly through busy Hong Kong. A figure out of step with time, his red robes stand in shocking contrast to the modernity of the city around him. Simultaneously a masterfully restrained performance, a portrait, a motion study, and an urban landscape film, Walker’s austerity counterbalances Thornton’s exuberance featuring some of the most beautiful images in Tsai’s body of work to date.

Adynata / Leslie Thornton / 1983 / 28 min / 16mm
Vanilla Sex / Cheryl Dunye / 1992 / 3 min / Digital
Capitalism: Child Labor / Ken Jacobs / 2007 / 14 min / Digital
Walker / Tsai Ming-liang / 2012 / 27 min / Digital

Doors: 7pm.
Tickets: $8-10 at the door.