John Smith at Conversations at the Edge – October 16th, 2014


Thursday, October 16th – 6:00 p.m.

Gene Siskel Film Center

164 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60640

In his playful and thought-provoking short films and videos, UK filmmaker John Smith explores the language of cinema and reflects on the role of the image in politics, war, and the global economy. The 2013 Jarman Award winner presents a selection from across his 40-year career, including the seminal The Girl Chewing Gum (1976), an absurdist fantasy applied to the banal setting of a busy London street; Throwing Stones (2004), a personal and political meditation on ongoing conflicts in the Middle East; Dad’s Stick (2012), a surprising personal history; and the Chicago premiere of Dark Light (2014), among others.

Presented in collaboration with the Video Data Bank, Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory and Practice, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, and the University of Chicago’s Film Studies Center. Smith presents his work at the Block Museum of Art on Wednesday, October 15th and at the Logan Center for the Arts on Friday, October 17th.

Conversations at the Edge (CATE) is a weekly series of screenings, artist talks, and performances by compelling media artists, organized by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Film, Video, New Media and Animation in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center and Video Data Bank.

CATE is FREE to SAIC students with a valid student ID
$11 General Public
$6 Film Center members
$7 Students $5 SAIC faculty and staff and Art Institute of Chicago staff

VDB Presents a Tribute to Harun Farocki – Festival du Nouveau Cinema, Montreal


The world of cinema lost a comrade in July with the sudden passing of Harun Farocki. Video Data Bank Director Abina Manning will present a tribute to the artist at the 43rd Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal.

Harun Farocki (1944–2014) was born in German-annexed Czechoslovakia. He began making experimental essay films in the mid-1960s, eventually producing more than 120 works, many of them using found images – educational films, equipment demonstrations, video games, war footage. Farocki’s longstanding social engagement was reflected in his work, whose primary concerns were society and the ways that images are used to shape a population. Video Data Bank is proud to represent Harun Farocki’s film and video work, and to present this retrospective in collaboration with the Festival du Nouveau Cinema.

October 10th, 2014 – 7:00 pm
Pavillon Judith-Jasmin annexe

Workers Leaving the Factory, 1995, 35:00, Germany

Inextinguishable Fire, 1969, 25:00, Germany

Interface, 1995, 23:00, Germany

In Workers Leaving the Factory, with nods to Chaplin, Pasolini and Lang, Farocki examines the factory gates as site of social upheaval. Perhaps his best-known film is the agitprop essayInextinguishable Fire, an examination of the production and use of napalm during the Vietnam War, the complicity of U.S. manufacturers, particularly Dow Chemical, and the role of labour. Commissioned by the Lille Museum of Modern Art to produce a video self-portrait, in InterfaceFarocki contemplates his own working methods, using gesture and montage to examine his changing production processes.

— Abina Manning, Video Data Bank

October 12th, 2014 – 3:00 pm
Salle J.A. De Sève (Concordia) 

In Comparison, 2009, 1:01:00, Germany

I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts, 2000, 25:00, Germany

Parallel I, 2012, 16:00, Germany

Bricks: all around us, perpetually unnoticed. In Comparison visits brick production sites to examine how increasingly mechanized modes of production have changed the ways that communities relate to their work and to each other. I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts uses surveillance footage from a Californian maximum-security prison to expose the chilling cruelty of the panoptic prison yard. When inmates fight, they are shot, and sometimes killed, by their guards. The Parallel series explores the image genre of computer animation; Parallel I focuses on trees, water, wind and clouds.

— Abina Manning, Video Data Bank

October 11th, 2014 – 7:00 pm – Salle J.A. De Sève (Concordia)
October 19th, 2014 – 3:10 pm – Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin A

What is now Farocki’s last “film-word final” is a sad reminder of what has been lost. An architectural firm is the type of workplace that is not often explored, for unlike what we see with other Gods of Faustian dimension (doctors, not warmongers), doubt often haunts the very actions of the language used to describe the decision-making process. Farocki eschews the impulse to invest in a query of scale, or an investigation of the miniature versus the mechanics. His camera finds the colours and the kids – the Sauerbruch Hutton team, based in Berlin since 1989, renowned for their fondness for hues and contours of colour applied to buildings and backgrounds. In the course of the visit, they embark on a bit of Meta, a virtual reality centre in Laval, a project that allows the user to engage with the fluidity of text as blueprint – the words “digital canteen” combined with bright sketches are spoken almost giddily, and Farocki’s gaze seems to greedily delight in this child’s play of ideas and the manual dexterity of the brainstorm.

– Madeleine Molyneaux