Cinema Scope

You Can’t Own an Idea

Rare these days is the filmmaker who proclaims that cinema is firstly a medium of ideas rather than of images and sounds, and few have made the case as strongly as James N. Kienitz Wilkins. For the better part of the past decade, the 35-year-old New Yorkbased artist has occupied a singular position on the periphery of American independent filmmaking. His films—four features and seven short works for cinema, installation, and even planetarium (The Dynamic Range, 2018)—fail to easily place him within any particular scene or tradition. A classmate of Gabriel Abrantes and Alexander Carver’s at Cooper Union, he has, like them, straddled the film and art worlds; within the film festival context, he has moved freely between narrative and strictly experimental sections, not quite a new member of the avant-garde establishment nor an up-and-coming fashioner of droll microbudget films. Seemingly resistant to the idea of carving out a single position for himself and maintaining it for very long, the prolific Wilkins has launched one of the more strikingly frenetic investigations into the life of the mind and the lives of artists, race, money, and technology in recent cinema, playfully and thoughtfully posing tough questions about the features of the contemporary world we tend to take for granted.

The status of language and writing within cinema and culture more broadly is a major concern throughout Wilkins’ work. His first feature, (2012), openly challenged the conventional understanding of what a screenplay can be. Starkly lit and shot on familiarly grainy black-and-white 16mm, is a filmed re-enactment of a 2006 town-hall debate in Allegany, New York, concerning whether a local Walmart should be allowed to be replaced by a Super Walmart, the cases for and against presented by a panel of speakers who are framed by Wilkins with the sort of effortless artfulness of prime Frederick Wiseman. is something of an extravagant gag: a film which superficially resembles canonical works of cinéma vérité, but unlike them, it has in fact been scripted, sourced from a publicly accessible PDF transcript for the sort of event, barely recognizable as such, that would never otherwise be represented in cinema on account of its extreme banality. If not for the skillful, visually satisfying way in which Wilkins renders the proceedings, we might almost say that , like certain films of Andy Warhol, is a film one doesn’t need to watch in order to “get the joke.” The stands apart from its staging, capable of being wrested from this aesthetic context—a tasteful, faithfully reproduced cinematic treatment—and placed in another. (Although, in later films, Wilkins will make the case for why cinema is the ideal medium for capturing our historical present in all its majesty and inanity.) The written word, readymade or not, refuses to be exhausted by the conventionally pleasing images Wilkins composes to represent it. The gesture is positively Duchampian, the porcelain urinal replaced by a PDF.

Вы читаете отрывок, зарегистрируйтесь, чтобы читать полное издание.

Похожие интересы

Другое от: Cinema Scope

Cinema Scope9 мин. чтения
Power and Fear in Park City
Sundance equals power, and for a good reason: get your movie into the lineup, and you have an excellent chance of securing distribution in the US, a better chance by far than at any other festival. This means that it’s the supreme gateway, and despit
Cinema Scope7 мин. чтения
Rabbit, Run
Explaining the rationale behind Jojo Rabbit in a recent essay for Vanity Fair, Taika Waititi spoke of how he was “getting tired of seeing World War II through the lens of the soldier” and “began to wonder what the experience was like for ordinary peo
Cinema Scope10 мин. чтения
Against Mythomania
Forty years after it made its debut at the Venice Biennale’s Austrian pavilion, Valie Export’s sculpture Gerburtenbett (“The Birth Bed”) now stands in London, where the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac has recreated the artist’s original 1980 installation. Th