The live screening has been postponed until it's safe to attend the theater—if you bought a tickets, REDCAT will refund them.
Presented here is an abbreviated version of the program scheduled in Los Angeles on May 11th.
A tiny-space approximation of what would have been the
May 11th 2020 REDCAT big screening of
Dana Berman Duff: Re-productions: Short Films
Streaming here by invitation only
These were made for large screens — Please do not view on cellphones
This program is dedicated to the memory of my teacher, John Baldessari, and to the memory of my colleague Jordan Biren, who encouraged me to pursue the theme of the catalogue.
I’d like to acknowledge Steve Anker on the culmination of 17 seasons of brilliant co-curatorship of the REDCAT film series and and congratulate him on his retirement! This screening would have been Steve's final one at REDCAT.
PROGRAM (please click on each video and move to the next when it finishes)
The House Is Empty (2020, iPhone, Super 8, 16mm film, 10 minutes)
The finale of the Catalogue series: A cockroach, a woman, a dramatic encounter in a closet—from the roach's point of view.
Inspired by The Passion According to G.H. (1964) by Clarice Lispector.
A.J. McClenon (who did the sound for our 2019 project with Sabina Ott (https://vimeo.com/320370187) was commissioned to “play” the empty house by knocking, pounding, tapping, and scraping different surfaces and objects creating 14 audio tracks.
A POTENTIALITY (2020, digital, 16mm film, 16 minutes)
A POTENTIALITY is a continuation of my interest in using film to shoot printed material, as in the Catalogue series. I'm especially interested in the equivalence of the film grain to the halftone print dot at the base level of the construction of reproduced image and language.
This piece is built on a graphic project by Susan Silton in which she reprinted five pages of the New York Times from the 1930s. Her project has a disturbing resemblance to present day newspaper reports.
Note: The first 7:34 minutes are silent.
Catalogue (2014, 16mm, Silent, 9 minutes)
Catalogue is a silent 9-minute 16mm film that consider the time it takes to look at desirable objects for sale in a mainstream catalogue of designer furniture knock-offs. The catalogue presents de-saturated photographs of staged rooms shot and printed to resemble sets for film-noir era movies. This mediation hypothetically increases the objects' desirability by picturing them in a nostalgic historical moment that is, in fact, fictional. In these pictures, copies of designer furniture are indistinguishable from original pieces.
Catalogue Vol.6 (2016, 16mm film on digital scan, 11:30)
Catalogue Vol.6 was filmed using a mainstream catalogue of designer furniture knock-offs while audio clips from a horror movie that mention the words "house" or particular rooms, or "upstairs" etc. were playing in the studio, so that each shot acquired a random diegetic "soundtrack". The film clips were then organized as a "tour" through the rooms of a house: foyer, living room, dining room, kitchen, study, bathroom, and ending with the bedroom.
Catalogue Vol.3 (2017,digital, 02:47)
Catalogue Vol.3 was made using the RH "Small Spaces" volume of the 2014 catalogue with an Arne Jacobsen 1955 Series 7 chair as protagonist. This is a a computer-generated rendering of the original chair, which was the inspiration for the knock-off version in the catalogue.
Since this chair design is ubiquitous in the realm of knock-off furniture, one imagines that these offspring will be among the last remaining objects at the end of the world, popping up everywhere—making this chair perhaps the most successful object in history.
Catalogue Volume 10 (2017, Digital video and 16mm film, 05:40)
The tenth entry in the Catalogue series: a dystopia of moving text and moving image: Modernist chairs, Georges Perec’s novel Things: A Novel of the Sixties, and underwater photography using 16mm, GoPro, and DSLR.
Music by Bill Forth
What was that about? please scroll down to Q & A section below. . . .
Desire is learned. Desire is cultivated. It’s a habit formed through continuous repetition of a particular class of interactions. Desire is the most important of all industrial products.
— Gene Youngblood "Expanded Cinema" (1970)
Steve Anker, Co-curator, REDCAT Film/Video series:
Dana Berman Duff has long been a vital force in Los Angeles’ media arts. Astonishing in her versatility, Duff moves fluidly between Super-8mm and 16mm film, video, multi-channel installation, photography, drawing and sculpture. Regardless of the medium, Duff’s work is infused with her subtle wit, tactile delight and deeply reflective conceptual structure. Tonight’s program includes selections from the Catalogue Series (2014-2019), in which fantasy tableaux and objects from the pages of a designer furniture knock-off catalogue are reworked into contemplations on the control and manufacture of desire. Duff’s art is in collections of The Museum of Modern Art and New Museum of Contemporary Art, and her films have shown in the Toronto, Rotterdam, Edinburgh and other international film festivals.
“This black-and-white silent triumph makes explicit both [Duff’s] and our own dilemma of consumerism: the remove at which we position ourselves when favoring affordability over authenticity.”
— Harriet Warman, on Catalogue in Sight & Sound Magazine | BFI
“Watching these films is an experience of the pleasure of looking at images, rather than objects, and looking in time.”
— S.E. Barnet, “Semiotics of the Living Room: A Catalogue of Desire”
“Introducing a shifting textural temporality… the films of the Catalogue series ask us to consider where and how we locate ourselves within the fictions of the things that surround us.”
— Deborah de Boer, Director, Antimatter Film Festival
Dana Berman Duff’s film work speaks to an abiding curiosity for image-making. In films such as the Catalogue series, and more recently in films such as A POTENTIALITY, Duff cinematizes images from other media—catalogue photographs, newspaper headlines, the very texture of print stock—to bring focus upon the visual, and upon visual reproduction, as a function of consumption.
Exploring interplays unique to the cinematic apparatus—that between image and sound, between objects and their reproduction, between the found and the composed – Duff’s work makes the viewing process conscious. Closeups of rugs, furniture, objects of manufactured desire, are less abstract than they first seem, offering just enough information for us to decode their construction.
As such, Duff’s images are not merely found. Their careful juxtaposition, the way in which they guide a sequential understanding of space (words on a page, the arrangement of itemised goods in a false home), underscores their status as constructed. Such editorial interventions are further served by the repeated deployment of analogue film, whose photochemical properties reveal a constructedness: blemishes, flaws, the identifying features that affirm the irreproducibility of a particular kind of image.
—Michael Pattison, Creative Director of Alchemy Film & Arts in Hawick, Scotland. Pattison has written for Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Reverse Shot, MUBI, Playboy and others.
Thank you so much for watching! Please ask questions or leave comments below.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH THE FILMMAKER
Q: How did you cut the frenetic first section of The House is Empty?
A: That first section isn't actually cut, it's "scratched." That is, I shot a long pan around the room, a circle, which was quite dull—maybe the way I'd look around a room, but I thought not at all how a cockroach would look. Once I had it in the editor, on the timeline in Premiere, I did a screen recording while I scrubbed back and forth on the timeline to the beat of a waltz, just like a DJ.
Q: Who is Clarice Lispector and why did you use this novel for The House is Empty??
A: Lispector was a Brazilian novelist of the 60's, a favorite of the theorist Hélène Cixous, who was influential to me as a young artist. Lispector's novel, The Passion According to G.H., describes at its climax a moment of fellow-theorist and feminist Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection, where the inside crosses the boundary to the outside—the guts of the smashed roach ooze out—and cross another boundary when the woman puts the mess into her mouth.
I'd never used narrative fiction before, but I needed a structure for the empty house shoot. I remembered that the novel took place entirely in an empty maid's room, which worked with the empty house idea. I wasn't intending to illustrate the novel and that is evident, it's pretty loose in relationship to the story.
Q: How did you arrive at the editing structure for Catalogue?
A: I've always been interested in how long it takes to look at something. When I was coming up as an artist and studying post-structuralism and structuralist film, subjectivity was a negative word and choices were derived from chance or predetermined systems, never from feeling—which would be sentimental. I shot the catalog as it was already organized by the retailer Restoration Hardware but the duration of each shot is derived from my own subjectivity, my desire for the image or the object in the image. Now, this choice is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it’s meant to be funny, for according to Gene Youngblood, there’s no such thing truly subjective desire: desire is a matter of capitalist conditioning. Hence, the catalogue at which the camera gazes is producing in me the feelings from which the structure of cutting is derived, feelings, it turns out, which are not really mine. It’s a tautology, a loop, a hamster wheel.
Q: What was your aim in using extreme closeups on printed type in A POTENTIALITY?
A: I'm mulling over something the Canadian filmmaker Mike Hoolboom said not long ago in an interview:
"The perhaps ridiculous assumption was that if one could look closely enough at the materials of cinema, one could find within them encoded the mechanisms of capitalism itself. We would disarm capitalism by exposing the operations, and we would do that by creating different models of attention, which was what fringe cinema was busy producing. Each small movie created a different model of attention. Through sometimes heroic acts of duration, we would practice different modes of consciousness together in the cinema, and these would be sites of resistance, they became models for how we might live collectively outside of capitalism."
Q: Anything to add?
A: Yes, a couple of "Easter eggs": The third sequence in "The House is Empty has a nod to two favorite filmmakers. the swishing clothes is a direct lift from Chick Strand's Artificial Paradise" and the fire alarm sound in that sequence is borrowed from John Smith's Girl Chewing Gum. Oh, and there's a photo of the sea in Catalogue Vol.6 that resembles the image in the culminating shot of Micheal Snow's Wavelength.