Close Up

15 December 2009: Stephanie Barber: Letters, Notes


Stephanie Barber creates meticulously crafted, odd and imaginative films and videos. She has had solo screenings of her work at MoMA, NY, Anthology Film Archives, San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center, Chicago Filmmakers and many other museums, galleries and artspaces around the world.
"Stephanie Barber has one of the most original visions to emerge recently from the diverse experimental film scene. Deceptively simple at first, her work is unique in the way it alters and even suspends time." – Fred Camper, The Chicago Reader

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the artist.
Flower, the Boy, the Librarian
Stephanie Barber
1996 | 6 min | Colour | 16mm

"For those who find listing and repetition romantic. A near perfect structure. Three acts, an auditory red herring and classic love story." – S.B.

Letters, Notes
Stephanie Barber
2000 | 6 min | Colour | 16mm

"This film brings together found photographs and letters to create new mini narratives. Death and disease are set blithely beside, and given equal importance as, the sighting of a skunk or love sick scribblings." – S.B.

They Invented Machines
Stephanie Barber
1997 | 7 min | Colour | 16mm

"This film is thinking about colonialism, entertainment and love. The images are taken mostly on Disneyworld rides where one is shown facsimiles of people from faraway lands. The soundtrack a little more than half way through ceases its cricketing and, against impressionistic waterfalls, mentions love ("they have love here") which must then be thought of in the context of this same wonder, possession and amusement. The film ends with a series of flights." – S.B.

Total Power Dead, Dead, Dead
Stephanie Barber
2005 | 3 min | Colour | 16mm

"A love letter to the charm of two dimensional images and a struggle for attention. Confusion over the inequity of the mortality of images and that of humans. (slightest indictment). The spectacle awaits our adoration, gives a tender, false intimation of collusion." – S.B.

A Little Present (For my Friend Columbus the Explorer)
Stephanie Barber
1997 | 3 min | Colour | 16mm

"While referencing the explorer Christopher Columbus the film is actually a gift for my friend, the performance artist, Theresa Columbus. The short imagistic film is suggesting, or questioning, ever so gently the effects – both positive and negative – that exploring has on that which is being explored. Our most well known Columbus, now so often vilified, here stands in for a more psychological and artistic exploration and the fall out that can occur from that sort of expansionism as well. Like many of my films the piece itself works almost separately from the implications and sidelong glances of the title and the way it interacts with the, almost passive, images and often quite dominant soundtracks." – S.B.

War Story
Stephanie Barber
2008 | 7 min | Colour | Digital

"War Story is a brief treatise on the language of war and how the slightest suggestion of such words propels our imagination towards these ideas. The abstraction of language in this video references both the fascinating history of concrete poetry as well as the nature of conflict itself – so subjective, relative and open to interpretation. The second half of the piece unveils an historic and somehow lonely nationalism – the seeming mockery of this moment is softened by the duration of the shot and the rain and the truly moving harmonies through which these ideas are condensed and sold back to a nation." – S.B.

The Visit and the Play
Stephanie Barber
2008 | 8 min | Colour | DV

"A playful and dark conversational study. I am wrapping prose poetry into the recognizable conversational form and allowing both connections and missed meanings. First the ladies visit, then they go to watch a play. On a television, in a snow garden. In many ways the play references the cadence of the ladies' conversation – the tedious animosity and lack of attentive or appropriate response. In the end all I want to think about lately is the art of conversation, the various directions this art takes and the ways one's receptivity to dialog changes when the subjects creating this dialog are taken out of the equation, or suggested scantily." – S.B.

Dwarfs the Sea
Stephanie Barber
2007 | 7 min | Colour | Digital

"Small biographies and musing generalizations – men's relations to each other and their lives. There is hope and loneliness, companionship and isolation and the simplest of filmic elements to contrast the complexity of human emotions. The delicacy of the formalist writing moves the listener from intimacy to universalism and back again, swaying gently to and fro like the rocking of a ship." – S.B.

The Inversion, Transcription, Evening Track and Attractor
Stephanie Barber
2008 | 13 min | B/W | Digital

"How looking at what has become the skeletons of photographs is a visual lecture on aesthetic pleasure or emotion. And how being, almost entirely denied of this pleasure, or having the pleasure merely suggested induces a viewer to ruminate on the act of viewing and that of wanting to view. And maybe it is evolution which causes this anxiety and art form. A series of collages recreating the photographs of well known artists (Uta Barth, Kohei Yoshiyuki, Candida Hofer, Deborah Willis) and a very slight suggestion of the actual photographs ." – S.B.