EPFC | May 28th, 2020
Theme of the month: Body Politics / Digital Phenomenology
Happy Memorial Day and thank you again to Echo Park Film Center and Kate Lain for the opportunity to share this work with a larger audience. Today is my last time posting, but it has been a privilege. I will continue sharing work I love at the facebook group for AGITATE:21C . (Agitate is an all-inclusive avant-garde. If you are involved in creating or distributing avant-garde work of any kind, feel free to join and take part.)
Today I’ll be sharing the work of three great artists. In advance, however, I want to remember a young leader in the avant-garde. Eli Hayes was a community-builder, excellent curator, an emerging and extremely talented artist who could have been one of the best filmmakers of his generation. All of those things are eclipsed by his kindness and warmth and honesty. This morning I read that Eli has passed away. I didn’t believe it. He was only 26 years old, prolific and active in ways I will always admire. And though I didn’t know him well, I was expecting to meet him in Milwaukee this year before the coronavirus situation changed everything.
Eli was an artist who did more for others than himself, engaged with everyone he could, spread his love of cinema and art, and treated everybody with respect. I regret not watching enough of his work. I regret not being able to work with him. I regret not getting to know this good person enough when they were with us. Eli was the only film festival programmer in the US to pick up my feature film, Dailies from Dumpland. He introduced me to the work of one of the artists I’m highlighting today – Sylvia Toy St Louis – who has become one of my biggest allies and a cornerstone of Agitate. I don’t think Agitate would exist in the same way without Eli’s talent for connecting other artists. So today I’ll be sharing a small fraction of his work alongside the brilliant artists Michelle Chu and Sylvia Toy St Louis
Michelle Chu is an artist/theorist and one of the biggest influences on my work through the many hours-long conversations we’ve had over the course of the last decade. Her movie This is Not Paris But It’s About Paris https://vimeo.com/415706644 is newly uploaded and is one of the best pieces I’ve seen this year. The work begins as a low-grade digital camera sits on a corner and drum samples begin to syncopate with the progressively more theatrical social interactions until a stranger’s gaze looks directly into the digital sensor. The narrative that emerges is of the path of the digital file into a hard drive. What emerges is a small record of 2012 – the year of our illusory apocalypse – in multiple media formats; the comforting words of a friend reveal the images of exterior spaces to be a trove of painful memories; digital remnants of places that now reflect trauma. The piece is a poignant, emotive poem on the decay inherent in digital representation and its dysfunctional experiential and spacial memory. This is the follow up to Chu’s Septum Ring Secret https://vimeo.com/125496287 , one of my favorite video works of the last decade.
Sylvia Toy St. Louis aka Sylvia Toy Industries is a multi-disciplinary artist whose recent work has primarily involved ultra-low budget green screen and performance. She multiplies herself into dozens of characters that, through her immense talents as a performer, transcend the glitchy digital artifacts that imprison her characters. Her multitude of characters begin to express a single consciousness divided, a particularly effective way to visualize our fragmented country and collective psyche. Sylvia has over a hundred videos on her Vimeo page https://vimeo.com/sylviatoystlouis but I want to highlight the work, The Harpy, https://vimeo.com/174805336 , a cosmic, sci-fi freak-out in a pixelated sky desert. Sylvia uses the broken aesthetics of low-fi digital noise to great effect while twisting language into a hypnotic scolding.
As I wrote above, Sylvia and I met through Eli. Her feature film Creation (trailer here: https://youtu.be/astxZ88SgMQ ) was an award-winner at Eli’s online Hazel Eye Film Festival.
Lastly, I want to leave with a few works by Eli Hayes that demonstrates the aesthetic experiments he was making in digital phenomenology. Eli’s work is a kaleidoscopic, multi-layered, mandala of nuanced musical expression. At its best, its textures evoke a strong nostalgia for dream logic and landscapes, a beauty that resonates through his explorations. Eli made several feature films, and I have only watched a fragment of his work, but these two pieces standout. Pharos https://vimeo.com/261772293 and Floating Light https://vimeo.com/382985437 both made with filmmaker Alex Davies are among the most visually exuberant of his works. Join me in celebrating his work by sharing it with your friends and loved ones. Remember to cherish those around you when they’re here. Remember to support those who may be struggling but who share their immense talents with us.
Thank you again for your time and viewership.