Kelly Egan’s Athyrium filix-femina

From Soil, Sand, and Salt Crystals: Films and Natural Processes

Virtual Exhibition, May 15-28
Friday, May 15, 2020 - 12:00am to Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Virtual film exhibition, May 15-28 at

Fri, May 15, 7pm
Panel discussion with Kelly Egan, Jennifer West, and Lei Lei, moderated by Sophie Lynch
RSVP here for Zoom link

Wed, May 27, 1pm
Panel discussion with Karimah Ashadu, Sasha Litvintseva & Graeme Arnfield, and Tomonari Nishikawa, moderated by Sophie Lynch
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With the widespread closure of movie theaters and screening rooms, online experiences of film and media works are increasingly facilitated by digital devices. Material relations and components enmesh these objects within earthly cycles and natural processes as matter is mined, assembled, used, discarded or recycled—the aluminum that provides a polished shell for many laptops is also an abundant metallic element found in the Earth’s enveloping crust.

This program brings together a selection of films that emerge from material interactions between moving images and natural processes. Coated with chemicals and exposed to sunlight, Kelly Egan’s Athyrium filix-femina reveals the impressions of delicate botanical specimens against cyan blues. Strips of film have been dragged along a mud and salt crystal encrusted spiral on the shore of Utah’s Great Salt Lake or a pink beach off the coast of Sardinia in works by Jennifer West. The rhythms of sand merchants laboring on the outskirts of Lagos are reflected by the movements of images that lurch towards the ground before rolling back up for air in Karimah Ashadu’s Lagos Sand Merchants. A video essay by Louis Henderson presents the extraction of precious metals from enormous piles of obsolete computers across electronic waste sites in Ghana, grounding cycles of recycling and decay to tangible exertions. Acid green specks flicker like fireflies across brilliant ultramarine hues in an unearthed film exposed to radiation contamination by Tomonari Nishikawa, while Sasha Litvintseva and Graeme Arnfield’s Asbestos foregrounds the effects of a fibrous mineral that is toxic but invisible to the naked eye, revealing the persistence of matter across bodies, materials, and environments. Fluxes of matter substantiate the reverberations of the earth.

Featuring works by filmmakers from around the world including Jennifer West, Kelly Egan, Tomonari Nishikawa, and Karimah Ashadu, this virtual film screening is presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. Co-presented by the Smart Museum of Art and Wrightwood 659, the exhibition showcases how artists working in China have experimented with various materials, transforming seemingly everyday objects into large-scale artworks. When the venues closed temporarily due to the covid-19 pandemic, the website was transformed into a hub for digital content that builds upon the exhibition, including digital extensions of cancelled on-site programs

This program was developed as part of the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and Smart Museum of Art’s Graduate Curatorial Internship, and is co-sponsored by the Film Studies Center. It was curated by Sophie Lynch, Smart Museum Curatorial Graduate Intern for Media Programming and PhD candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.

Film Program

Athyrium filix-femina, Kelly Egan, 2016, color, handmade cyanotype emulsion, 5 minutes.

Salt Crystals Spiral Jetty Dead Sea Five Year Film (70mm film negative floated in the Dead Sea and given a healing clay bath in extreme heat in 2008 - stuffed in a suitcase, placed in studio buckets, covered in clay and salt for five years – dragged along the salt encrusted rocks of the Spiral Jetty and thrown in the pink waters in 2013 in below 10 degree weather - Dead Sea floating and mud baths by Mark Titchner, Karen Russo and Jwest - Spiral Jetty dragging and rolling by Aaron Moulton, Ignacio Uriarte and Jwest - DIY telecine frame by frame of salt covered film by Chris Hanke), Jennifer West, 2013, 70mm film negative transferred to high-definition, 54 seconds.

Tar Pits Film (16mm film negative thrown in the La Brea Tar Pits, ridden over hot tarmac by a motorcycle, soaked in kitty litter, lighter fluid, mayonnaise and body lotion), Jennifer West, 2006, 16mm film negative transferred to digital video, 2:21 minutes.

Pink Beach Red Desert Dream Sand Film (Russian 35mm film print of the dream sequence of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, Red Desert - won on Russian Ebay - taken to Pink Beach off the coast of Sardinia, Italy where the film was shot in the early 60’s and dragged along the pink sand beach cove sand, rocks and bushes - sandy film transferred to HD by hand frame by frame), Jennifer West, 2017, 35mm film print hand-transferred to HD with sound, 3:21 minutes.

Lagos Sand Merchants, Karimah Ashadu, 2013, HD digital film, color, sound, 9:21 minutes.

Zillertal, Jürgen Reble, 1991, color, sound, 10:00 minutes.

Tree of Consumption, Dana Claxton, 1993, b&w, sound, 11:47 minutes.

Sound of a Million Insects, Light of a Thousand Stars, Tomonari Nishikawa, 2014, color, sound, 2:00 minutes.

Asbestos, Sasha Litvintseva and Graeme Arnfield, 2016, HD digital film, 20 minutes.

Mountain Castle Mountain Flower Plastic, Annapurna Kumar, 2017, HD digital video, 3:07 minutes.

Landfill 16, Jennifer Reeves, 2010-2011, b&w and color, sound, 9 minutes.

All That Is Solid, Louis Henderson, 2014, HD digital film, 16 minutes.

Recycled, Lei Lei and Thomas Sauvin, 2013, HD video, 5:32 minutes.