By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Matthew Barney is no ordinary filmmaker and his five-part Cremaster cycle is no evening at the multiplex.
The cycle is the centerpiece of this year's annual InterMedia arts festival, running Wednesday through April 4. Organized by the Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center, InterMedia IV showcases fresh, cutting-edge and avant-garde work, with a heavy emphasis on moving pictures and live performance.
Movies in particular dominate this year's event, with Cremaster the best known entry on the event calendar.
Multimedia artist Matthew Barney during a dance sequence from his "Cremaster 2" video.
The films, which range in length from 40 minutes to more than three hours, reflect Barney's main occupation as a contemporary sculptor interested - some say obsessed - with sex, death, technology, regeneration and mythology. His often starkly erotic works are full of eerie, disturbing, and sometimes beautiful images.
Made out of order (chronologically, number 4, then 1, 5, 2 and 3) between 1994 and 2002, the Cremasters draw sharply divided opinions. They have been described as visionary, surreal and important as well as self-indulgent, bizarre and repellent.
Artist and Miami University professor Andy Marko said his reaction tilted more to the negative side when he saw some of Barney's film work in New York. Still, he said, he intends to watch the whole cycle.
"Because I don't understand something well, that means I have to figure out why. If I look at it in those terms, I can learn something," Marko said.
On the whole, the films are less stories than dream sequences, although 1999's Cremaster 2 contains a narrative thread about the trial and execution of murderer Gary Gilmore, and features writer Norman Mailer.
The films will be shown in rotation at the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) throughout the festival. The entire cycle will be shown in sequence, beginning at noon on April 2 and at 6 p.m. on April 3. Individual screenings are $4 (for members of CAM or Cincinnati Film Society) and $6; the marathon screenings are $10 and $15.
Barney expands on the films, including explaining his symbolism and showing sculptures related to Cremaster, at his highly detailed Web site www.cremaster.net.
Also on the schedule:
Cartoons from the Culture Lab, an animation showcase curated by Jim Duesing, formerly of the University of Cincinnati and now teaching at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. 4 p.m. next Sunday, at CAM. $3 and $5.
Screens: Ohio Video/Film Artists Program, organized by Marko, featuring diverse works from around the state. 6 p.m. Friday at CAM. $3 and $5.
The Kids Are Alright: Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Student Film & Video Festival, organized by UC electronic arts professor Charles Woodman. 3 p.m. Saturday at CAM. Free.
Children's Animation Screenings, short works based on flipbooks by kids 5 to 12, organized by Wright State University theater arts professor Russ Johnson. 1 p.m. Saturday at CAM. Free.
Extended Play: An Evening of Live Performances and Improvisation, encompassing three sections - "viDEO sAVant: Real-Time Audio & Video Improvisation" with Woodman and sound artist Nicholas Economos; "Current Quartet Performance," featuring electro-acoustic improvisations; and "Spoken Word/Broken Word," organized by writer/performer Mark Flanigan. 7 p.m. Friday at Contemporary Arts Center Performance Space. $5.
Film and video showcase highlights
When Miami University professor Andy Marko set about choosing works for the regional film and video showcase at this year's InterMedia, he said he looked for diversity.
He found it, in such works as Texture Mapping II, which he described as "imagistic" work by Claudia Esslinger accompanied by original music from Yunkyung Lee, both of Gambier, Oh. Recorder 2 by Gary Setzer of Blowing Green is similar to a musical performance piece, Marko said. Stutter by Miami alum Erica Duffy was inspired by her personal struggle with speech difficulties, he said.
While some of the works are completely non-narrative and others are more traditional in structure, "I think it is all going to introduce people to the very idea of video art," Marko said.
Also on the program are Pharmacy by Bruce Checefsky of Cleveland, The Son of Samsonite by Mike Olenick of Columbus, Three Behavioral Observations by Cincinnatian Matt Coors, and The Five Inch Idol by John Parker, a recent prize winner in the 2003 Underneath Cincinnati series.
6 p.m. Friday at CAM. $3 and $5.
For ticket information on films at Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, visit www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org and click on the Get Tickets link, or call 721-2787.
For tickets to "Extended Play" at the Contemporary Arts Center, (7 p.m. Friday, $5), go to the museum's ticket office, 44 E. Sixth St., or the Aronoff box office, 650 Walnut St., downtown.
For a complete InterMedia calendar, visit www.cincinnatiarts.org/~weston/westonartgallery.htm
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