September 26, 2008 - University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) - MATRIX 226: Bending the Word
September 26, 2008

MATRIX 226: Bending the Word

Tris Vonna-Michell:
Finding Chopin, 2008; performance still, Reykjavik Experiment Marathon, Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik, 2008;
courtesy of the artist and Cabinet, London. Photo: Karl Petersson.

Bending the Word
Martha Colburn, Patricia Esquivias,
Olivia Plender, and Tris Vonna-Miche
September 28, 2008 – February 8, 2009

2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley CA 94720

Each story told is an act of shaping the world. Bending the Word brings together four artists who actively reinterpret larger shared narratives, from ancient fables and religious texts to official histories and current events. These artists inflect a documentary sensibility with deep subjectivity by commingling fact and fiction, recovering lost histories, inserting the deeply personal and anecdotal, connecting disparate narratives, or collapsing time and space. Their acts of storytelling run counter to dominant narratives, weaving new meanings, opening up critiques, and making space for the multivalence of individual experience.

Martha Colburn’s truly fantastical filmic collages layer found and original imagery into animations that rarely feature words, but are so densely packed with colliding and combining fragments that the narrative is advanced visually. Myth Labs (2008) marries images from biblical sources, the current war on drugs, and U.S. social history to weave a parable on poverty, vice, drug abuse, and power to “visualize fear, paranoia, faith, salvation, and loss of faith.”

In the olklore videos, Patricia Esquivias plays with the conventions of explanatory narrative in the presentation of certain “facts.” These are carefully constructed lectures replete with visual evidence in the form of photographs, hand-drawn charts, and ephemera. Esquivias is writing her own hyper-subjective, narrowly focused, twelve-minute history of Spain, challenging the notion that history and culture are best understood through major events.

Olivia Plender is interested in telling stories, but also questions how historical narratives are socially constructed. She researches obscure historical moments, producing comics, installations, performances, and videos that chronicle the intersection of social movements and individual agency. Plender employs a populist vocabulary to narrate Modern Spiritualism’s incomplete story, a modern myth told from fragments, by channeling the Spiritualists’ own ethic of anti-didacticism, offering multiple narratives that challenge the authority of any single account.

Tris Vonna-Michell’s performances capitalize on the energy of a live situation to shape each telling and retelling of a narrative. Seizure: hahn/huhn, evolving since 2004, is delivered rapidly and densely, with a barrage of visuals, to weave intricate fusions and confusions of identity in the biographies of three individuals in postwar Germany: Reinhold Hahn, Reinhold Huhn, and Otto Hahn. In both live performance and installation he engages with the complex relationship between resolution and dissolution of form and content, sound and image, narrative and structure.

Public Programs
Opening Day Performance

Tris Vonna-Michell
Seizure: hahn/huhn
Sunday, September 28, 3 p.m.
Museum Theater
Reception follows in the Bancroft Lobby
Admission free!

Film screening with Martha Colburn
Tuesday, December 2
7:30 p.m.
PFA Theater

Special Event
Evening of Confabulations with writer Kevin Killian and special guests

Saturday, January 31
7 p.m.
Museum Theater.

The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis.

Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Joachim and Nancy Bechtle, Maryellen and Frank Herringer, Noel and Penny Nellis, Roselyne C. Swig, Paul L. Wattis III, Paul Rickert, Iris Shimada, and Jane and Jeff Green.

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley CA 94720

Gallery Hours:
Wednesday to Sunday, 11 to 5.
Closed Monday and Tuesday.

t. (510) 642-0808
f. (510) 642-4889
TDD: (510) 642-8734

Press contact
Jonathan L. Knapp

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
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