written for Fabulous Festival of Fringe Films Festival, March 2019
Let’s say there is no beginning. No way to start to look at this artist’s work. Or worse: there is never only one movie because this artist is forever putting his hand out to add something more, to steal another picture, to record another sound fragment, in order to continue his remixology.
This program is a temporary arrangement, composed of fragments that are also ephemeral, many have been made and remade several times. The composer is also a decomposer, it seems he can’t stop himself from returning to his previous selves and trying to sharpen up a note, to make something brighter or clearer. Even when a work is finished, it’s not finished, it’s only reached another stage. Perhaps it’s a celebration of process above all, as a single movie morphs over time to wear many different faces. So many of his movies have been stretched to include, forced to admit even: foreign agents, unwanted texts, layers of pictures heaped over top one another. This construction site is a place where ghosts are welcomed, ventriloquists are waiting to put old words into new faces and bodies.
He doesn’t use found footage. He uses stolen footage. This program is a thief’s journal. He steals with joy, with delight, with an easy happiness. What image is not already part of his archive?
These stolen movies also include his own movies of course, his own footage and field recording archives. For the past half dozen years he has decided to return to each of his more than 100 movies and give them a digital polish, or else throw them away. Some of the movies in tonight’s program are from past decades, but they have been recut in the past couple of years. No doubt he will have to do it again. And again. When the argument, the agon, the struggle for meaning has grown slack from disinterest, then it will be time to roll them all out to the digital dumpster. There is no place for permanence, for settling, for the establishment of a stable body of work, or a reliable back story. It’s as if these pictures were part of a chase scene.
Found images/sound, archival images/sound, along with his own recordings become “re-mades” that are reorganized. A remixing of worlds exposes new meanings, secrets that were long buried in the original material, in the original encounters. Who can look quickly enough, or slowly enough, to catch up with these secrets?
Contrary to predictable cinemas, or even the traditions of the untraditional, the too-often rehearsed conventions of artist movies, we find ourselves immersed in a risk-taking visual experiment. Each film and the program as a whole, to quote one of Mike’s movies: “is a picture of the world where we are also pictures.”
You can see that he loves to cut. You can feel it, both the urgency and the joy. The joy of someone at work. As viewers, we find ourselves navigating porous systems of meanings that move in and out of focus. We are carried away by the unexpected, returned to our own bodies, surrendering to inconclusive narratives that morph simplicity with complexity and back again.
He makes experiments in cinema to keep himself alive. Make no mistake. This philosophical project is also the work of survival. I can see Mike’s history and the history of artist’s media in this work, the potential of artist’s cinema to build patterns that matter. Recognizing the impossibility of knowing these movies is another form of happiness, another gift.