Be open-minded, be open-minded: That was my mantra while watching the “split bill” of three experimental videos from this year’s Exponential theater festival. Also: Don’t use dismissive adjectives like “self-indulgent” or “pointless.” This worked for me; you can watch the videos yourself below to see if they work for you.
Teresa Braun’s 12-minute video explores the intersection of online identity and queer identity through audio and performances from trans and non-binary artists. I know this because those exact words graced the screen near the beginning of the video, which impressively mimics a VR experience; we wander through 3D rooms while listening to the voiceovers. The audio and visual don’t necessarily correspond, or at least I didn’t always discern a connection: At one point when the visual is of a wall with the words “People are not fixed beings with fixed identities,” the person we hear is saying “the purpose of a party is to have fun together, and a successful party needs marijuana.” This video feels like a blueprint for a more developed project, in which we become better acquainted with the individual artists, such as the one who explains her one of her performance pieces: “I transform from a nun to a Roman soldier into a televangelist. At the end I stab myself in the chest, pour wine out of the wound, and pull bread out of my pants, and take communion.”
A Blueish Fever Dream
In this 18-minute video, Kennie Zhou presents herself in various costumes of primary colors, initially impersonating teletubbies, and greenscreening herself multiple times and multiple way into the video, framed by a cartoon TV set. About halfway through, there are repetitive samples of various TV self-help gurus saying something fatuous. I would say this could have been shorter, but it took me near to the end of the video to realize that she was riffing on daytime television, which won me over.
“Are comfort and commodities meant to soften us into compliance or restore us to keep standing up against the injustices of the world?” This is the not-quite coherent question Tina Wang poses in the blurb to this 23-minute video, which is reminiscent of the 1960s movies by Andy Warhol or conceptual art performances by Yoko Ono, although without their focus or commitment. So perhaps it’s closer to the sort of aimless solitary play anyone might indulge in on a lazy weekend afternoon. We see her exercising, mostly with a chair; laying handi wipes on her wood floor, taking offer her sneakers, and sliding the handi wipes on her floor with her bare feet; playing around with a glowing mask in the dark; standing in the shower dropping a tiny piece of soap down her back, over and over…and over…again.