Inherent Mystery with Rajee Samarasinghe

Filmmaker Rajee Samarasinghe discusses creating a cinematic world from portraiture and landscapes in our ongoing conversation series for McEvoy Arts at Home.

Guest curator and San Francisco Cinematheque director Steve Polta speaks each Wednesday with artists in the Screening Room exhibition certainty is becoming our nemesis, which was interrupted by McEvoy Arts’ temporary closure due to the coronavirus. The program is now available to view online in its entirety.

Steve Polta: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current artistic concerns or projects? Where are you answering this Q&A from?

Rajee Samarasinghe: My name is Rajee Samarasinghe, writing from California. I am a filmmaker currently working on a feature documentary called Your Touch Makes Others Invisible which examines tortured interactions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War. I also have a new short film called The Eyes of Summer which was released earlier this year and has to do with my mother’s interactions with spirits during her childhood.

SP: How does your film in this program relate to your ongoing practice or body of work?

RS: The Queen of Material is one of my earliest films and I see traces of it in a lot of my subsequent work. It demonstrates, in it’s very brief runtime, a lot of my curiosities as a filmmaker in terms of hybrid forms and exploring certain aspects of Sri Lankan culture.

SP: As you know, certainty is becoming our nemesis is inspired by McEvoy Arts’ exhibition Orlando, itself inspired by Virginia’s Woolf’s 1928 novel and Sally Potter’s 1992 film adaptation starring Tilda Swinton. What, if any, is your prior relationship to the work of these artists?

RS: I have no prior relationship to the book nor the film adaptation, though I like the idea of exploring these works after the fact especially (perhaps unfairly) in relation to my own piece. I am, of course, familiar with those artists and have tremendous admiration for their work—I’ve been a Tilda Swinton fan forever!

SP: The program explores themes of transformation, self-invention, and gender performance and suggests that ambiguity of identity can operate as an emotional survival strategy and act of defiance. Are these themes something you consider in your artistic process or as central to your work exhibited here?

RS: These concepts certainly do speak to The Queen of Material and some of my other work like everyday star, for example. Often my works reveal themselves to me later in the process of creation, so these are themes I obviously care about innately and that pop up constantly throughout the things I make.


Rajee Samarasinghe The Queen of Material, 2014, 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 2 min. Courtesy the artist.

SP: In what way has your inclusion in this program (or in conjunction with the larger Orlando exhibition) impacted your view of the work itself?

RS: I think it’s unavoidable to not see my film through the scope of this program or any other program it’s in. The Queen of Material remains an inherently mysterious piece to me. I made it with the intention of not knowing too much about it. I started with the idea of creating a world using what I felt were the primary rhetorical devices in cinema: the portrait and the landscape—though in making landscapes out of saris that also reflected inward. So, over the years, works around the piece have certainly clued me into its inherent mystery but it still remains elusive and perhaps these clues are better left unsaid.

SP: How are you coping with the current public health crisis? How has it impacted your approach to art making?

RS: I just feel extremely lucky to have the basic things I need to survive like food and shelter. I should be editing a new short film of mine but I haven’t felt the urge. I’ve been more engaged with other people’s art and simply reflecting on my own practice. Though I hope to get back into it sooner than later.

SP: Lastly, what’s the last piece of art, media, or culture that exerted a profound impact on you?

RS: Very recently, This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese and films and writing by Kathleen Collins. Quarantine honorable mentions to Moving On by Yoon Dan-bi, Prisoners by Denis Villeneuve and The Strange Case of Angelica by Manoel de Oliveira.


Rajee Samarasinghe

Rajee Samarasinghe is a filmmaker born and raised in Sri Lanka. His work tackles contemporary sociopolitical conditions in Sri Lanka through the scope of his own identity and the deconstruction of ethnographic practices. 

Karly Stark Considers Intimacy and Universality

Experimental filmmaker Karly Stark discusses lyricism and diaristic reflections in her work the problem is that everything is fleeting as part of our ongoing conversation series for McEvoy Arts at Home.

Guest curator and San Francisco Cinematheque director Steve Polta speaks each Wednesday with artists in the Screening Room exhibition certainty is becoming our nemesis, which was interrupted by McEvoy Arts’ temporary closure due to the coronavirus. The program is now available to view online in its entirety.

Steve Polta: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current artistic concerns or projects? Where are you answering this Q&A from?

Karly Stark: I am an experimental filmmaker and lecturer currently hunkered down in my apartment in Oakland, CA. I lecture in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State and teach courses that mostly focus on experimental filmmaking/production and queer/trans film theory, and my creative practice focuses on essay and diary filmmaking. I’m also currently working to incorporate hand-drawn rotoscope animation into my film practice, so that’s been taking up a lot of my time recently. 

SP: How does your film in this program relate to your ongoing practice or body of work?

KS: I made the problem is… as part of a larger collaborative project in an MFA class at San Francisco State back in 2015. The project was a filmic translation of a renga poem—a member of my cohort made a one-minute film then passed it along to the next person, who made a one-minute film commenting on that film, etc. I was chosen to make the tenth and final film, so it was tasked with encapsulating all that came before it. I’ve always gravitated towards poetry in my films—in essay or diary work I always include a poetic mode of address either through voiceover or text on screen. So, I wrote the problem is… as a way of drawing together the themes I saw at work in the piece as a whole, and for me it always makes sense to have it come from a single voice, to try to be intimate and universal at the same time. 

This film is probably the only thing I’ve made that doesn’t have an overtly queer voice, so it also feels really affirming to have it screen within a program and exhibition that facilitates that lens or reading.

Karly Stark

SP: The program explores themes of transformation, self-invention, and gender performance and suggests that ambiguity of identity can operate as an emotional survival strategy and act of defiance. Are these themes something you consider in your artistic process or as central to your work exhibited here?

KS: These are definitely huge themes in my work, and of course in my artistic process in general. I’m a non-binary queer filmmaker who makes really personal, lyrical films. My early films have all been vehicles to explore my relationship with my gender and sexuality—my first queer sexual experiences, my position as the first openly queer member of my family, etc. I also feel that queerness, ambiguity, transness, in all its forms and intricacies, is such a core part of who I am that it’s the filter through which I see everything. 

SP: In what way has your inclusion in this program (or in conjunction with the larger Orlando exhibition) impacted your view of the work itself?

KS: I feel so honored and humbled to see my work alongside artists that I’ve admired from afar for so long and whose work I find wildly inspirational, and also just so many queer artists. This film is probably the only thing I’ve made that doesn’t have an overtly queer voice, so it also feels really affirming to have it screen within a program and exhibition that facilitates that lens or reading. It’s a film I made five years ago, when I was in a very different place than I am now, so revisiting it in a context that centers my current positionality has opened up a kind of diaristic reflection for me. 

SP: How are you coping with the current public health crisis? How has it impacted your approach to art making?

KS: I’m remarkably privileged in that I am healthy and have secure housing, a few months of employment, and the ability to stay home and wait this out. Honestly, the first week I spent a lot of time furiously animating to keep myself really busy, but as the weeks have gone by I’ve taken a step back and focused on slowing myself down. I’ve mostly been journaling more, playing guitar and making music. 

SP: Lastly, what’s the last piece of art, media, or culture that exerted a profound impact on you?

KS: A few things: Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud. Katie Crutchfield and Marlee Grace performing together on instagram live, especially in the first week of social distancing. Watching mutual aid at work. 


You can watch Karly Stark’s the problem is that everything is fleeting (2015) here. For more from McEvoy Arts at Home, click here.

Karly Stark

Karly Stark is an experimental filmmaker, educator, and curator based in Oakland, California. Their creative work focuses on experimental modes of cinema that explore human experience and memory through a queer lens.

A Phantasmagorical Point of View with Pere Ginard

Illustrator and filmmaker Pere Ginard muses on poetics, smallness, and vampirism in our ongoing conversation series for McEvoy Arts at Home.

Guest curator and San Francisco Cinematheque director Steve Polta speaks each Wednesday with artists in the Screening Room exhibition certainty is becoming our nemesis, which was interrupted by McEvoy Arts’ temporary closure due to the coronavirus. The program is now available to view online in its entirety.

Steve Polta: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current artistic concerns or projects? Where are you answering this Q&A from?

Pere Ginard: I am an illustrator and filmmaker based in Barcelona (Spain), which is where I am confined while answering these questions. And I think I can describe myself much better by listing my three eternal artistic references: filmmakers Jan Svankmajer and Stan Brakhage, and author/illustrator Edward Gorey. Even COVID-19 has not changed that.

SP: How does your film in this program relate to your ongoing practice or body of work?

PG: It’s an important film in my career. I usually get a lot of inspiration from literature when making a film and I like to make versions of novels or stories, reinterpretations, etc., but in this one, I went a little further: I directly vampirized a silent film and slowed it down and imagined very slow-motion metamorphosis would be like…like the digestion of a snake. And then there is sound design: this is one of the first films in which I begin to take the narrative potential of sound very seriously, so much so that in this film, sound is often more present than image. 

Pere Ginard, Métamorphoses du Papillon, 2013, digital video, color, sound, 5 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Subjects such as transformation, reinvention, uncertainty, doubles (and by extension the sinister and the weird), are subjects that undoubtedly are part of my interests and obsessions…

Pere Ginard

SP: As you know, certainty is becoming our nemesis is inspired by McEvoy Arts’ exhibition Orlando, itself inspired by Virginia’s Woolf’s 1928 novel and Sally Potter’s 1992 film adaptation starring Tilda Swinton. What, if any, is your prior relationship to the work of these artists?

PG: I read Virginia Woolf’s novel many years ago, and for me it is her most interesting work (I will never forget how she narrates the transition from the 18th to the 19th century). I saw the Sally Potter film much later and I must admit that I remembered very little: I took advantage of being part of this project to review the film. 

SP: The program explores themes of transformation, self-invention, and gender performance and suggests that ambiguity of identity can operate as an emotional survival strategy and act of defiance. Are these themes something you consider in your artistic process or as central to your work exhibited here?

PG: Subjects such as transformation, reinvention, uncertainty, doubles (and by extension the sinister and the weird), are subjects that undoubtedly are part of my interests and obsessions, but always from a much more phantasmagorical point of view. Let’s say that my approach to all these themes is much more poetic than social.

Pere Ginard, Métamorphoses du Papillon, 2013, digital video, color, sound, 5 min. Courtesy of the artist.

SP: In what way has your inclusion in this program (or in conjunction with the larger Orlando exhibition) impacted your view of the work itself?

PG: Within the context of the program and the exhibition, suddenly my film seems to me much more linked to a current social issue than ever. It is strange and at the same time nice to see how the perception changes.

SP: How are you coping with the current public health crisis? How has it impacted your approach to art making?

PG: After the first days of confusion and daze, I have become accustomed to a new routine—much calmer, quieter, and more intimate—that I am really enjoying. The projects that come out, even without intending to, reflect this reflective state and focus on the small: series of tiny drawings, small animations of microscopic beings. I suppose that, unconsciously, this recent work is influenced by the constant medical news that we are all consuming these months.

SP: Lastly, what’s the last piece of art, media, or culture that exerted a profound impact on you?

PG: David Toop’s essays, and especially his book Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener (2010). His reflections on music, sound and literature are fascinating. Packed with cultural references of all kinds, Toop’s essays contain a thousand books in one.


You can watch Pere Ginard’s Métamorphoses du Papillon, (2013) here. For more from McEvoy Arts at Home, click here.

Pere Ginard is an illustrator, filmmaker and alchemist. He was the co-founder and member of the multi-disciplinary studio Laboratorium for over ten years. His specialty lies in experiments with perpetual motion and variations on Lumière’s prototype.

McEvoy Arts Picks: Staff Watching

McEvoy Arts Picks brings you a curated selection of what to listen to, read, watch, and do while at home, selected by our staff and networks of artists, curators, and partners. For more at-home activities with McEvoy Arts, click here.

With all of us spending more time in front of our screens, this recommended list of what to watch compiled by the McEvoy Arts staff will help you make the most of your leisure hours.


Nion McEvoy, Founder & President

Woman in the Dunes
Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s masterpiece bridges themes of existentialism and isolation with a Zen-like sense of being and composition.

Stop Making Sense
Jonathan Demme, 1984

The great Talking Heads early-eighties concert film, directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) features the brilliant nerdy art-rock band with Bernie Worrel of Parliament Funkadelic and other funky players. If you feel stuck in your home, “Naive Melody” will comfort you, and “Burning Down the House” will expand your horizons and set you free.


Nate Gellman, Communications Manager

Paris, Texas
Wim Wenders, 1984

(One of) the German auteur’s masterpieces is an American road movie of astonishingly intimate proportions that remains unparalleled in its romantic, nostalgic depiction of life in the small corners of the United States. It also features the greatest socially distanced conversation ever captured on celluloid. Come for Robby Müller’s haunting landscape cinematography and Sam Shepard’s sparse screenplay, stay for Ry Cooder’s iconic original score.

Beyond the Visible: Hilma Af Klimt
Halina Dyrschka, 2019

The Guggenheim’s 2019 exhibition Hilma Af Klimt: Paintings for the Future will go down as the exhibition I most regret not visiting in person during the last decade. At least I can experience this new documentary on the abstract pioneer as part of the Roxie Theater’s Virtual Cinema.


Amy Owen, Exhibitions and Public Programs Manager

Other Music
Puloma Basu, Rob Hatch-Miller, 2020

In these quarantine days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the intense grief and uncertainty that accompanied post-9/11 and the things that provided comfort and stability during that time. I moved to New York City to start a new job downtown a few short weeks before the attacks, and the record store Other Music, around the corner from my Broadway office, became a safe haven on lunch breaks and after hours in the weeks, months, and years that followed. I immensely enjoyed this love letter to a place that meant so much to so many people. I can’t wait for the time when we will have the solace of coming together again around music, art, and community. Until then, you can rent this gem online and 50% of your dollars will go to support your fave local record store or theater.

Light Industry
Experimental cinema online

Brooklyn-based Light Industry is screening a different film every week on their Patreon page where you can support this amazing independent venue for film and electronic art. Founded in 2008, the brilliant Thomas Beard and Ed Halter created a space (sometimes with no space at all) at the intersection of all forms of the moving image, merging the worlds of contemporary art, experimental cinema, and documentary filmmaking. At the heart of their work is an extreme care of how film, in its many alternative modes, is presented, discussed, and shared. They have blown my mind more than a few times over the years and taught me most of what I know about experimental film today. Please check out and support their program. You won’t regret it. 


rel robinson, Gallery Communications Assistant

The Souvenir
Joanna Hogg, 2019

Joanna Hogg started making experimental films with a Super 8 camera borrowed from Derek Jarman–a life-force of an artist who supported and informed the work of innumerable contemporary artists. This film features Tilda Swinton and her daughter, playing mother and daughter and tells the story of the earnestness of failure in first love and art-making. 

A Serious Man
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 2009

A dry and dark comedy that explores a variation on the Book of Job through the story of a possibly cursed physics professor in 1960s Minnesota and the assimilation of Jewish-American identities. 


Alex Spoto, Events & Operations Manager

Safe
Todd Haynes, 1995

“Are you allergic to the 20th Century?” Eerily full of parallels to the present, Safe probes the porous boundaries between individual and cultural affliction, featuring Julianne Moore grappling with a mysterious and chronic malady. Her brilliant performance somaticizes the heavy anxiety lurking beneath a dazzling 1980s Los Angeles, and the film maintains an ambiguous and unsettling tension all the way to self quarantine. Reviewed here in The New Yorker.


From the McEvoy Arts Archives

Strange Culture
Lynn Hershman Leeson, 2007

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s genre-bending film tells the bizarre true story of how professor and artist Steve Kurtz’s personal tragedy turns into persecution by a paranoid and overzealous government, echoing strains of uncertainty and discord in society’s current moment. Streaming through Sunday, May 3 in partnership with the Roxie Theater.

Koyaanisqatsi
Godfrey Reggio, 1982

Drawing its title from the Hopi word meaning “life out of balance,” this renowned documentary reveals how humanity has grown apart from nature. Featuring extensive footage of natural landscapes and elemental forces set to a score by Philip Glass, the film ultimately gives way to many scenes of modern civilization and technology.

Stalker
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979

One of the most immersive and rarefied experiences in the history of cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) embarks on a metaphysical journey through an enigmatic post-apocalyptic landscape. At once a religious allegory, a reflection of contemporary political anxieties, and a meditation on film itself, Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings.

Poking Around in Consciousness with Alice Anne Parker

Professional psychic, acclaimed author, and award-winning filmmaker Alice Anne Parker reflects on her practice and short film Riverbody (1970) in our ongoing conversation series for McEvoy Arts at Home.

Guest curator and San Francisco Cinematheque director Steve Polta speaks each Wednesday with artists in the Screening Room exhibition certainty is becoming our nemesis, which was interrupted by McEvoy Arts’ temporary closure due to the coronavirus. The program is now available to view online in its entirety.

Steve Polta: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current artistic concerns or projects? Where are you answering this Q&A from?

Alice Anne Parker: It seems irrelevant, but I’m thinking about all the old filmmaker friends of mine who are dead—Yikes! Bob Nelson, Scott and Freude Bartlett, John Knoop, Peter Hutton, the lurid and wonderful George Kuchar [and his equally wonderful brother Mike, still with us]—and what a great time we had making movies! I was an academic, working on my doctorate at UC Berkeley when I started teaching English at SFAI. Goodbye Ph.D. What could be more fun than making movies with these witty, brilliant pals?

I made movies of things I wanted to see.

Alice Anne Parker

SP: How does your film in this program relate to your ongoing practice or body of work?

AP: I think I was interested in seeing a lot of people nude when I made Riverbody. Maybe it had something to do with being undefended. Exposed. Years later I became a professional psychic, which I suppose means being undefended in a completely different way. Being a psychic, for me anyway, involves poking around in someone’s consciousness. Someone has a problem and they need help. You go into them and do a little reorganizing until the problem dissolves—but of course, you are undefended and exposed as well. I didn’t ever think of myself as an artist. But maybe that’s how art works. It can change your awareness of something in a seemingly effortless way. Later I wrote a few books, one still in print after thirty years.

Alice Anne Parker Riverbody, 1970, 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 6 min. Courtesy of the artist, Canyon Cinema and University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Alice Anne Parker, Riverbody, 1970, 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 6 min. Courtesy of the artist, Canyon Cinema and University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

SP: As you know, certainty is becoming our nemesis is inspired by McEvoy Arts’ exhibition Orlando, itself inspired by Virginia’s Woolf’s 1928 novel and Sally Potter’s 1992 film adaptation starring Tilda Swinton. What, if any, is your prior relationship to the work of these artists?

AP: My only connection is that I’ve known Tilda for some years.

SP: The program explores themes of transformation, self-invention, and gender performance and suggests that ambiguity of identity can operate as an emotional survival strategy and act of defiance. Are these themes something you consider in your artistic process or as central to your work exhibited here?

AP: I didn’t ever consider themes or my artistic process. I made movies of things I wanted to see. The result appears to be much of the above, certainly transformation and ambiguity of identity… I’m not so sure about survival strategy or defiance.

SP: In what way has your inclusion in this program (or in conjunction with the larger Orlando exhibition) impacted your view of the work itself?

AP: It has certainly made me very happy! That is, I’m delighted that my movies are still being shown. So looking forward to watching the entire program.

SP: How are you coping with the current public health crisis? How has it impacted your approach to art-making?

AP: My husband and myself are old, both in our eighties. We’re not terrifically concerned about our own survival, but we also have kids and grand-kids. We speculate that this mess may be the forerunner of a brave new world, more conscious, less opportunistic—there seems to be some evidence for this. My husband is a novelist and a painter, I’m enjoying myself doing very little.

SP: Lastly, what’s the last piece of art, media, or culture that exerted a profound impact on you?

AP: Probably Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala [1975]—I’ve seen it so many times, but it always moves me.


You can watch Alice Anne Parker’s Riverbody (1970) here. For more from McEvoy Arts at Home, click here.

Alice Anne Parker

Alice Anne Parker is a psychic, author, radio host, and filmmaker, who has taught at Rutgers University, The University of California at Berkeley, and the San Francisco Art Institute.

Siren Landscapes and Alien Shores with Julia Dogra-Brazell

Artist Julia Dogra-Brazell describes taking inspiration from the waves in the next installment of our conversation series for McEvoy Arts at Home.

Guest curator and San Francisco Cinematheque director Steve Polta speaks each Wednesday with artists in the Screening Room exhibition certainty is becoming our nemesis, which was interrupted by McEvoy Arts’ temporary closure due to the coronavirus. The program is now available to view online in its entirety.

Steve Polta: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current artistic concerns or projects? Where are you answering this Q&A from?

Julia Dogra-Brazell: For the last twenty years, I’ve experimented with narrative structure through film and video. Having moved to the south coast of England from London a few years ago, I answer you from there, close to the waves and sand you see depicted in the film. Transformed by the pandemic, it has become a siren landscape in which, we are told, no one should land and no one should linger.

SP: How does your film in this program relate to your ongoing practice or body of work?

JDB: Between Dog and Wolf is the first of a trilogy of longer works (including Past Perfect and Terra Incognita) started in 2018 for a show in London in 2021. Previous films have been fleeting (1–4 minutes in length) relying on the condensation of montage for effect. Though I once thought it impossible, for this trilogy I wanted to see if I could ‘scale up’ and slow down without losing any of the intensity or depth of the earlier works. Living by the sea has, in any case, altered the rhythm and pace of my editing. More things seem possible.

At some point the logic is in the edit, the subconscious.

Julia Dogra-Brazell

SP: As you know, certainty is becoming our nemesis is inspired by McEvoy Arts’ exhibition Orlando, itself inspired by Virginia’s Woolf’s 1928 novel and Sally Potter’s 1992 film adaptation starring Tilda Swinton. What, if any, is your prior relationship to the work of these artists?

JDB: I’ve always admired Woolf. The first book of hers I read was The Waves. I guess it was inevitable that I’d think of her again when making this film. She allows access to such provisional states of interiority. Finding a correct distance—whether making or receiving a work—seems vital to the exchange offered by such encounters. Coincidently in this regard, I first came across Tilda Swinton asleep in a glass box at the Serpentine Gallery (for Cornelia Parker’s The Maybe) in 1995. At a time when fewer people visited galleries, I found myself standing alone in the space—with Swinton potentially awake and aware of my presence or asleep and possibly even dreaming. It brought the whole question of distance to the fore quite literally.

Julia Dogra-Brazell, Between Dog and Wolf, 2018, digital video, color, sound, 8 min. Courtesy the artist
Julia Dogra-Brazell, Between Dog and Wolf, 2018, digital video, color, sound, 8 min. Courtesy the artist

SP: The program explores themes of transformation, self-invention, and gender performance and suggests that ambiguity of identity can operate as an emotional survival strategy and act of defiance. Are these themes something you consider in your artistic process or as central to your work exhibited here?

JDB: Not consciously. The starting point for this particular piece was the stranger who brings something initially alien to a shore: whether, as in this case, the Romans, Vikings, St. Augustine, artists or, today, migrants attempting to make it to the UK in precarious boats. But when making, I have to let even that go. At some point the logic is in the edit, the subconscious. I never reference anything too specific in my work.

SP: In what way has your inclusion in this program (or in conjunction with the larger Orlando exhibition) impacted your view of the work itself?

JDB: Imaginative and sensitive curation of this kind helps me to see that bearing witness—a preoccupation of much art-making today—is possible even from a slight distance and from an acute angle. I often worry about that. The balance between sustained resonance and specificity is a tricky business.

SP: How are you coping with the current public health crisis? How has it impacted your approach to art-making?

JDB: There are practical and financial issues right now, of course, but my biggest concern is what kind of world we will find ourselves in after this. We need to dream and think big, so we don’t go back to living unintelligently as a species.

SP: Lastly, what’s the last piece of art, media, or culture that exerted a profound impact on you?

JDB: Two pieces that really stay with me are Ryan Gander’s Locked Room Scenario (2011) and Tino Sehgal’s This Success/Failure (2007). They both put you on the spot when it comes to a response. More recently, the brilliant IFC series Documentary Now. It’s a great way to survive lockdown.


You can watch Julia Dogra-Brazell’s Between Dog and Wolf (2018) here. For more from McEvoy Arts at Home, click here.

Julia Dogra-Brazell
Photo: Goso Tominaga

Julia Dogra-Brazell works with film, video, sound and the still image in the context of experimental narrative. She has taught at LCC University of the Arts, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Brighton University, and ECS/IEJ Media School.

McEvoy Arts Picks: Staff Reading

McEvoy Arts Picks brings you a curated selection of what to listen to, read, watch, and do while at home, selected by our staff and networks of artists, curators, and partners. For more at-home activities with McEvoy Arts, click here.

Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and more are featured in this recommended reading list for those long quarantine days, compiled by the McEvoy Arts staff.


Nate Gellman, Communications Manager

The Overstory by Richard Powers
New York: W.W. Norton, 2019

Richard Powers’ towering, sprawling modern fable is well suited to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this week and has an uncanny ability to put things in perspective. If you want to change how you see your surroundings the next time you take your daily quarantine walk, this book will do it.

Der Klang der Familie: Berlin, Techno, and the Fall of the Wall by Felix Denk , Sven von Thülen
Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2014

This exhaustive oral history of the evolution of house and techno music in Germany is a timely reminder of how art and music can flourish when borders are open and cultural exchange is encouraged. Read it and dance.


Amy Owen, Exhibitions and Public Programs Manager

The English peasants’ revolt of 1381. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

‘The impossible has already happened’: what coronavirus can teach us about hope by Rebecca Solnit
The Guardian, April 7, 2020

Rebecca Solnit’s recent piece for the Guardian builds on tenets of her essential Hope in the Dark (2004) by bringing the transformative power of dark times to the fore once more.

John Giorno by Sebastian Kim for Interview magazine

Everyone Gets Lighter by John Giorno

The late John Giorno’s deep Buddhist beliefs allowed him to find joy in lived experience while embracing the inevitable presence of suffering that underscores all aspects of life. This, my favorite of his poems, continues to bring light, levity, and perspective to these bleak days. 


rel robinson, Gallery Communications Assistant

The Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk
London: Picador, 2016

Cusk’s prose is like a loose thread that keeps snagging until it’s unraveled to the point of obliteration.

The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair 
New York: Penguin, 2017

This reads like a collection of short stories and soothes an anxious psyche by illuminating endearing mysteries in the most familiar of things.


Alex Spoto, Events & Operations Manager

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit
New York: Penguin, 2010

For those seeking a shred of optimism, Solnit riffs on Kropotkin’s theory of “mutual aid” to illuminate positive (and sometimes utopian!) social practice in response to disaster. Bay Area locals will enjoy the deep dive on accounts from the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake!

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang
New York: Riverhead, 2020

This debut novel by San Francisco based author C Pam Zhang follows two recently orphaned siblings, children of Chinese immigrants in the time of the American gold rush, on an epic quest to bury their dead and find freedom. 


More to Read

la mère la mer, introduction by Nion McEvoy; text by Kevin Moore
San Francisco: McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, 2019

If you were able to purchase a copy of our inaugural exhibition’s catalog before our galleries closed, its presentation of McEvoy Family Collection works about family and the sea can transport you beyond the confines of your home during these times.

ZYZZYVA No. 118 edited by Laura Cogan
San Francisco: ZYZZYVA, 2020

San Francisco-based literary journal ZYZZYVA has just published their 35th-anniversary issue. The magazine’s strong selections in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are perfect for weekend reading.

Aperture #235: Orlando edited by Tilda Swinton, Michael Famighetti
New York: Aperture, 2019

Our exhibition may be temporarily closed, but Aperture’s Summer 2019 issue, guest edited by Tilda Swinton, offers a rich collage of writings, images, and interviews related to the exhibition and Woolf’s novel.

A.I. Fantasies and Beliefs with Zach Blas

Artist Zach Blas elaborates upon his explorations of artificial intelligence in the first interview of our new conversation series.

Guest curator and San Francisco Cinematheque director Steve Polta speaks each Wednesday with artists in the Screening Room exhibition certainty is becoming our nemesis, which was interrupted by McEvoy Arts’ temporary closure due to the coronavirus. The program is now available to view online in its entirety.

Steve Polta: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current artistic concerns or projects? Where are you answering this Q&A from?

Zach Blas: I am an artist living in London, originally from the US, and I’m currently on lockdown in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. These days, I am making work on the fantasies and beliefs swirling around artificial intelligence. 

SP: How does your film in this program relate to your ongoing practice or body of work?

ZB: I have a long-standing interest in the cultures and politics around digital technologies. With Facial Weaponization Communiqué: Fag Face (2012), I started to question how biometric facial recognition standardizes and reduces the complexities of the face to a calculable identity. How very un-queer! Now that facial recognition and AI are so entwined, I feel that I’m on a quite clear path that can easily be traced back to this work, which was made about 8 or 9 years ago. 

Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite. Courtesy of the artist
Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite, 2012. Courtesy of the artist

I think of my work as conceptual, queer science-fiction.

Zach Blas

SP: As you know, certainty is becoming our nemesis is inspired by McEvoy Arts’ exhibition Orlando, itself inspired by Virginia’s Woolf’s 1928 novel and Sally Potter’s 1992 film adaptation starring Tilda Swinton. What, if any, is your prior relationship to the work of these artists?

ZB: I came to Tilda Swinton through the films of Derek Jarman when I was a teenager. Her performance in The Last of England (1987) has particularly stayed with me over the years. I’ve always wanted to work with Tilda. I even tried to get in touch with her to consider producing my 2018 film Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033, which is a re-imagining of Jarman’s 1978 film Jubilee

Zach Blas’ Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033 is featured in Cinematheque’s online program, I Hate the Internet: Techno-Dystopian Malaise and Visions of Rebellion, online now through May 16.

SP: The program explores themes of transformation, self-invention, and gender performance and suggests that ambiguity of identity can operate as an emotional survival strategy and act of defiance. Are these themes something you consider in your artistic process or as central to your work exhibited here?

ZB: I think of my work as conceptual, queer science-fiction. I am interested and motivated by transformation into the unknown, the alien, the opaque. I’m not so interested in queer as an identity category. I do not think of my anti-biometric masks—like the Fag Face Mask—as simply hiding, disappearing or enacting a kind of individual privacy. I think of the masks as demanding a collective opacity through a gesture that I describe as informatically queer. 

Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite. Courtesy of the artist
Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite, 2012. Courtesy of the artist

SP: In what way has your inclusion in this program (or in conjunction with the larger Orlando exhibition) impacted your view of the work itself?

ZB: My work is rarely included in queer exhibitions but rather exhibitions concerned with digital technology, so thanks for making room. 

SP: How are you coping with the current public health crisis? How has it impacted your approach to art-making?

ZB: I’m washing my hands constantly and not going out much, like many others. For the time being, I’m focusing my energies on two books I’m writing–one is a collection of my essays and the other is an edited anthology on Donna Haraway’s concept “informatics of domination.” I’m also in the research phase of a new installation that focuses on AI and religion. In part, this work is a re-imagining of Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment

SP: Lastly, what is the last piece of art, media, or culture that exerted a profound impact on you?

ZB: Lyra Pramuk’s new album Fountain, particularly the track “New Moon.”


You can watch Zach Blas’ Facial Weaponization Communiqué: Fag Face (2012) here. For more from McEvoy Arts at Home, click here.

Zach Blas is an artist, filmmaker, and writer whose practice spans moving image, computation, theory, performance, and science fiction. He is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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