CalArts, Bijou Theater
FILM/VIDEO: A program of early and recent works by Rebecca Baron, faculty member in the CalArts Program of Film/Video, and Los Angeles-based media artist and filmmaker.
okay bye-bye (16mm film, color, sound, 39 mins, 1998)
In okay bye-bye, so named for what Cambodian children shouted to the U.S. ambassador in 1975 as he took the last helicopter out of Phnom Penh in advance of the Khmer Rouge, Rebecca Baron explores the relationship of history to memory. She questions whether, "image and memory can occupy the same space." Building on excerpts from letters, found super-8 footage of an unidentified Cambodian man, iconographic photographs from the Vietnam War and other partial images, Baron combines epistolary narrative, memoir, journalism, and official histories to question whether something as monumental as the genocidal slaughter of Cambodians during the Pol Pot regime can be examined effectively with traditional methodologies.
"In treading a very fine line between documentary and personal diary, okay bye-bye suggests that treating history as a discourse different from other forms of memory is misleading.
Following the photographs of the victims of a Cambodian political prison from their status as mug shots to their commodification as part of a gallery exhibition, and comparing Richard Nixon's cult of personality to Pol Pot's utter lack of one, Baron proposes that what is worse than forgetting the past is, 'forgetting the relationship between the past and the present.'" ---2000 Whitney Biennial exhibition catalogue.
Lossless (series) collaboration with Douglas Goodwin
“In Baron and Goodwin's Lossless series the “materiality” of the digital becomes the source-code for experimental execution. The artists' renditions of appropriated films are certainly not “lossless” (i.e. a copy of the original in which nothing is lost), but rather gainful: through various techniques of digital disruption – compression, file-sharing, the removal of essential digital information – the artists reveal the gain of a “new” media, full of material forms ripe for aesthetic sleuthing.” -Braxton Soderman
Lossless #2 (b/w, sound, digital video, 3 mins)
"Lossless #2 is a mesmerizing assemblage of compressed digital images of Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s 1943 masterpiece Meshes of the Afternoon. Baron and Goodwin play heavily with Teiji Ito’s 1959 soundtrack, making the film’s lyrical ambience feel more astonishing than ever before." - Neil Karassik
Lossless #3 (color, sound, digital video, 10 mins)
"Removing keyframes from a digital version of John Ford's The Searchers, Baron and Goodwin attack the film's temporal structuring to render a kinetic “painted desert” of the West. The dust kicked up by the movement in the film is pure pixel, unanchored from the photographic realism that used to constrain it. “Truth, 24 frames a second!” is rewritten according to the odd clock-times of digital processing, splaying movement and transition into the void of machine temporality. In the Lossless series, the artists themselves are the searchers, seeking to uncover differences between the bitstream and the celluloid strip. These differences might be blurry at our historical juncture, but Baron and Goodwin's work leads us closer to the over-coded heart of the digital video image, dissecting its anatomy to expose its entrancing mechanisms.” -Braxton Soderman
Lossless #4 (b/w, silent, digital video, 14 mins)
Derived from Ernie Gehr's Serene Velocity (1970, 35mm, color, 23 mins), Lossless #4 is the result of a digital file's debugging routine that reveals vectors describing apparent movement in the frame. Having removed the picture, thereby isolating these vectors, the formal qualities of Gehr's film are detectable. The hypnotic effects of the shifts in the lens’s focal length in the original are now substituted with a purely graphical representation, creating a perverse replacement of the optical effect of the original.
Poverty Housing. Americus, Georgia (35mm, color, sound, 13:58 mins, 2008)
In the film installation “Poverty Housing. Americus, Georgia” film-maker Rebecca Baron and artist Dorit Margreiter address the subject of the reenactment and display of poverty as in the case of the “Global Village Discovery Center” in Americus, Georgia (USA), which contains a replica of an existing South African slum. The theme park which is operated by a non-profit association serves to raise money for the association’s social activities through the graphic visualization of poverty. The work raises questions about the relationship of subject and image, production and reproduction, as well as about the manipulative power of images in general, the documentary value of film, the mechanisms of art production, the process of film-making and the mediatized representation of reality. Margreiter and Baron employ technological processes and forms of presentation derived from the fields of architecture and design as well as from film and documentary.
Rebecca Baron is a Los Angeles-based media artist known for her lyrical essay films which explore the construction of history, with a particular interest in still photography and its relationship to the moving image.
Her work has screened widely at international film festivals and media venues including documenta 12, International Film Festival Rotterdam, New York Film Festival, Anthology Film Archive, Toronto Film Festival, London Film Festival, Pacific Film Archive, Flaherty Film Seminar, Viennale and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her films have received awards at the San Francisco, Black Maria, Montreal, Leipzig, Athens, Onion City, KIN, Sinking Creek and Ann Arbor Film Festivals. She is the recipient of a 2002 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2007 Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She has taught documentary and experimental film at Massachusetts College of Art, Harvard University, and since 2000 at California Institute of the Arts.