Visited a screening of Mediums (2017) by James N. Kienitz Wilkins & Kodak (2018) by Andrew Norman Wilson at Union Docs – Center for Documentary Art yesterday. Wilson was supposed to give a talk after the screening but he cancelled. After the films we heard Wilkins (who also co-authored Kodak) interviewed by Aily Nash.
Kodak was an media archeological analysis of film (both as a material and technology). The movie centered on Kodak as a company, looking at the ideological premises which fueled its development. The story is tied to Wilson, whos father worked for the company. Some of the footage was from their family archive. The film made a critical examination of Kodak’s key innovations (how cow brain gelatin was introduced as an emulsion and how processes were streamlined for efficiency) and an analysis on the development of the culture of photography. Photo-culture was presented as a cult of newness, which is trying to combat death, by collecting (and worshiping) fragments of time that technocratic superstructures enable mortals (consumers) to freeze (“You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” – Kodak slogan). The story was narrated by a man who suffered from some kind of amnesia (mad-cow disease?) and tried desperately to piece together the story of inventor George Eastman (sometimes believing himself to be partially Eastman). The movie ended up in a portrayal of virtual reality, which was presented as a hell were all of the residues of peoples (captured in frozen moments), were re-animated and doomed to live in the past.
Mediums was a faux-sitcom located at a courthouse staircase. The actors were faking to be people who were called for jury duty. The people were trying to make sense of each others and their roles as possible jurors trough intentionally clumsy dialogue. It was a classic Brechtian educational theater as a movie experience. Occasionally the actors started mind numbing monologues, which provided the audience with very specific information of very specific matters (Such as: Franchising legislation, model-faults of specific cars, organization of NYC health insurance organizations, copyright legislation, actors unions missions etc.). The monologues felt very lighthearted, but I imagine people dealing with the specific issues learned a lot. The discussions after the movie didn’t engage with the movies cynical take on art as a vessel of social change (the director explained that the monologues were only meant to highlight the actors as vessels for the text the director had written). People were more interested in contemplating the relations which the actors had had with the obscure dialogue.