Thursday, May 10, 2012


Early next week, Cinema Project is bringing a 2-day presentation of video works by New York-based artist Dani Leventhal to Portland.  Harnessing an approach to moving images that points to a background in sculpture and illustration, there's a transparency of origin present within her videos that speaks to strategies based in additive and subtractive processes.  Leventhal gathers materials constantly; the piece 54 Days This Winter 36 Days This Spring for 18 Minutes is the product of an extensive period of videotaping, culling from life the raw materials of her art.  It's the manner in which she then collages these elements into resolutely non-narrative and constantly shifting finished works that makes them uniquely her own. 

A still from Draft 9

Can I tell you specifically what any of the three videos of hers I've seen is about?  Not really; again, we're talking about aggressively non-narrative work here.  But the confounding paths traced within each piece achieve a lot more than just holding one's attention.  Draft 9, for example, inspires both recoil and fascination, offering up disquieting images of taxidermy and roadkill stitched together with visions of geese taking flight over snow covered ground, blended with dives into dense fields of hair and skin, etc.

A still from 54 Days This Winter 36 Days This Spring for 18 Minutes

Maybe it's best to just jump in and experience the works for yourself.  Or defer to Leventhal herself for explanations of intent.  Here's a very good interview with Leventhal about her background, process, and the how the connections that she identifies within the images she films help guide the shapes of the finished pieces.

A still from Hearts are Trump Again

And here's the press release from Cinema Project:
Dani Leventhal’s videos are the result of a commitment to constantly recording her immediate world, carrying her camera with her every­where, often mounted on her bicycle. From this process she stitches images together in a loose essayistic or diaristic style—a montage that takes us on a journey, but with a destination that is anything but clear. The individual shots seem mundane, but together become hyperreal, giving fresh insight into a personal contemporary world. In the award-winning Draft 9, Leventhal cuts between skinned animals, well-fed pets, her grandfather’s Holocaust-tattooed arm, and her own romantic liaisons to create, in the words of critic Genevieve Yue, “something that is extraordinarily immediate, both fresh and painful, hard to watch and yet impossible not to watch.” In Show and Tell in the Land of Milk and Honey, Leventhal juxtaposes bucolic shots of farm life with tales of sexual harassment and sick chickens while living and working in Israel while in 9 Minutes of Kaunaus, she captures the fanta­sies of a wide-eyed boy whose older brother serves in the Israeli army. 

"While Dani is often tagged as a diary filmmaker, the works as a whole complicate that term so much that it becomes ultimately rather unhelpful for understanding her project. At times, her videos can recall the way that Nathaniel Dorsky’s films spin the majestic from the mundane. Like Dorsky, Leventhal seeks out images with singularity and weight, alive to the imme­diacy of the moment—a moment that will never return."
 —Chris Stults 

Cinema Project presents Show & Tell: The Work of Dani Leventhal at the Hollywood Theatre on Tues., May 15th and Wed., May 16th at 7pm.  With the exception of Draft 9, which plays both nights, Tuesday and Wednesday night's programs are made up of entirely different material.   More info on the program available here.

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