New Works in a New Space: Experimental Film

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Once upon a time, film was a decidedly communal experience. Audiences would gather in dark auditoriums, eager to be dwarfed by the spectacles flickering across the screen, from narrative studio epics to avant-garde shorts that would press the definitions of what film is capable of. 

Today, from the comfort of your smartphone, it’s possible to spend an afternoon with works by Kenneth Anger or William Greaves in a way that would make previous generations of impatient cinephiles apoplectic with envy. But for filmmakers and audiences alike, convenience cannot supplant the importance of the communal experience of film. 

Fortunately, New Works, Baltimore’s own showcase of experimental, adventurous short filmmaking returns this week to bring together filmmakers and cineastes alike. Featuring—what else—new works by 15 filmmakers, including Jeff CareyMarnie Ellen Hertzler, and Selina Doroshenko, New Works will begin at 8 p.m., Friday, September 30 at 2640 Space

“It’s going to be a wonderful mix of several generations of Baltimore image makers, lifelong artists, and new voices all together in a killer program highlighting the rich depth of what Baltimore has to offer,” series founder Jimmy Joe Roche says. 

Roche launched New Works in 2016 and the series enjoyed a long run at The Red Room, programmed by a team that included Roche, Gillian Waldo, Lydia Milano, and Helen Jackson-Adams. The series was so popular that it would often sell out two screenings each night. 

As with most art activities, the series took a pandemic hiatus for a couple of years. In the interim, the collective evolved and recognized that a larger space was a necessity, And when New Works started up again earlier this year under the programming guidance of Roche and Matthew Sullivan, the audience returned in droves. “I really enjoy events at 2640, and it felt like a great space for New Works,” Roche says. “With these big, high ceilings, it felt like the right space, and I was hopeful that with the new space we could broaden the audience.”

To round out the communal experience, New Works asks all filmmakers to attend the screenings. “It’s a really important feature. When I ask people to screen work, my first question is, can you come to the screening?” Roche says. “We always emphasize presence, because presence is very important and valuable. Artists being present and together makes for a certain kind of energy, and a really good show.”


Selina Doroshenko, "The Strip"

While New Works does not curate its screenings thematically, Roche says that themes almost inevitably emerge. “Strange elements often run through different threads of each screening,” he says. “I love that because it’s very surrealist; it engages this sort of Zeitgeist type mechanism—or a milieu, an energy that is permeating everybody in some way, and that’s cool.”

Avant-garde animator Karen Yasinsky, whose films have screened in multiple editions of New Works, returns this time with a new music video for “Mess Mend” by Baltimore semi-expatriates Horse Lords. For this new work, Yasinsky, whose practice focuses on deconstructing older films, turned to vintage 16mm medical films about men having seizures. “The films are upsetting in many ways and I wanted to fragment them into something removed from the source. I also wanted to experiment with pure automatism which was really fun,” Yasinsky says. 

Phil Davis, an animator and founder of the Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Festival, will also screen a music video for Small Sur’s “A Clean Patch of Ground.” “The song is meandering and richly layered with sound so I wanted to match that feeling in the video by stacking sometimes up to 10 different video elements drifting in and out of one another,” Davis says. “The lyrics reference a walk through a forest, so I gathered shots on hikes at the Prettyboy Reservoir and the Gunpowder River. Trees, leaves, grass, sunlight, rippling water, and footage of Bob [Keal] singing all blend with gentle fading movement.”


Karen Yasinsky, still from video for Horse Lords' "Mess Mend"

Composer and sound artist Jason Charney makes his video art debut with “bodies immutable,” a collaboration with composer LJ White and saxophonist Noa Even that started in 2018. “It began as a commissioned piece for tenor saxophone and interactive multimedia, with LJ writing the score, me programming the electronics, and Noa testing and providing feedback as she rehearsed,” Charney says. “I captured Lynne Price and Devon Ertel’s interpretive movement to a mockup recording using an infrared depth camera, and made animated versions of their movement to be composited on-screen during performance.” 

Charney, who is also a member of the nonprofit collective that runs 2640 Space, is thrilled about the success of the series. “It’s been great to work with Jimmy and Matt and it’s been a treat to see every chair filled at the previous editions of New Works this year,” he says. 


Matthew Sullivan, "I Require a Ball"
Allen Moore, "Bo Nesselrodt Car Yard"


The next New Works screening event is Friday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m., at 2640 Space. Participating artists: Marnie Ellen Hertzler, Becca Brooks Morrin, Ellery Bryan, Allen Moore, Lydia Milano, Jack Hoffman, Corey Thuro, Matthew Sullivan, Jason Charney, Karen Yasinsky, Phil Davis, Jeff Carey, Aidan Spann, Selina Doroshenko.

Header image: Phil Davis, still for Small Sur’s “A Clean Patch of Ground”


Film stills courtesy of the artists.

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