Medusa Smack (2012)


An Evening with Vanessa Renwick
Friday, October 30, 2015 - 7:00pm

Portland-based filmmaker Renwick’s films “reveal the hidden stories & secret lives that define our great national weirdness” (Todd Haynes). These short, personal constructions demonstrate a wide range of formal approaches and subjects that include folk art, birth, hitchhiking, death, nuclear power, gentrification and migration.  Working in experimental and poetic documentary forms, Renwick's films share a restless spirit, an interest in outlaw art-making, and an unflagging sense of wanderlust.

The program includes:

9 is a secret (2002)

Portrait #2: Trojan (2006)
layover (2014)
Medusa Smack (2012)
Hope and Prey (2010)

(USA, digital formats)

Medusa Smack by Vanessa Renwick
Score by Tara Jane ONeil

“What we see before us is just one tiny part of the world. We get into the habit of thinking, this is the world, but that’s not true at all. The real world is a much darker and deeper place than this, and much of it is occupied by jellyfish and things.” ~ Haruki Murakami

Medusa Smack (2012) is hypnotic and other worldly. The title comes from the fact that over 35 different languages refer to jellyfish as Medusa’s. And the audience also turns into stone, as Medusa has the powers to do. Getting so relaxed that one doesn’t move. The Smack is a term for a group of jellyfish, and also the use for heroin, similar to the high induced by watching this tripped out piece.

Shot by Eric Edwards and Vanessa Renwick at The Oregon Coast Aquarium during off hours, Medusa Smack features Aurelia (Moon jellies) and the Chrysaora fucescens (Pacific Sea Nettles). Colored lighting was used to change the colors of the jellies during the shoot.

Tara Jane O'Neil composed and performed the score. The score was partially comprised with sounds recorded by Harry Bertoia on his own Sonambient sound sculptures, as well as a recording Tara made of Athanasius Kircher’s Bell Wheel at the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

It premiered in the 2012 Oregon Biennial. It has screened at The Centre Pompidou-Paris and Centre Pompidou- Metz late April 2012 with Tara Jane O'Neil doing a live score for it. It also has screened at Other Cinema, San Francisco, Unknown Music Series #1 in Anacortes, Wash. The Houston Cinema Arts Festival and the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, Wash.

Hope and Prey by Vanessa Renwick
Score by Daniel Menche
Cinematography by Bob Landis and Vanessa Renwick

Hope and Prey (2010) is a three-channel video of animals hunting and being hunted by each other, a slow build toward oblivion that summons the awesome grandeur and the cold horror of the wild.

Hope and Prey features stunning wildlife cinematography of animals hunting and being hunted. In composing 3 reels to play side-by-side in a panoramic view the view is like that out in nature, it’s a wide landscape where a predator could come at you from anywhere. It is also playing with the fact that predators have eyes on the front of their heads, while prey have eyes on the side of their heads. The adrenal-pumping dramatic and sometimes brutal nature cinematography is transformed and elevated through black and white high-contrast re-composition and a hyper-dynamic score by Portland’s infamous underground composer, Daniel Menche.

In the first 12 minutes we start out looking at the landscape empty and then one witnesses eagles, ravens, elk, bison, coyotes and wolves hanging out in the winter landscape. The next 11 minutes comprises many chases between them, ending with a surprise ending. The victor at the end is not who you think it will be. And then we are left with the empty landscape.

Vanessa Renwick is an artist and filmmaker living In Portland, Oregon. Since 1981, she has been working in experimental and documentary forms—writing, producing films, videos, photography, sculpture and installations. In 1996, she started her own production company The Oregon Department of Kick Ass. Renwick's art reflects an interest in place, landscape use and transformation, as well as relationships between bodies and landscapes. 

Renwick’s filmography includes over fifty works that have been shown internationally at sites such as The Centre Pompidou, Museum of Modern Art, The Kitchen, International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Viennale, and The Andy Warhol Museum. She is the recipient of numerous grants, including most recently, the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship (2014).