Control Group: Observing, Measuring and Attempting to Control the Natural World

This program of experimental videos presented by the Video Data Bank explores the natural world around us and how humans attempt to measure and control it.  The artists turn their cameras toward natural environments and human built spaces to explore the intersections between the two.
This event was curated by Tom Colley.

Program Runtime: 69 minutes

20 Hz, Semiconductor, 4 minutes, 2011, HD
20 Hz observes a geo-magnetic storm occurring in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Working with data collected from the CARISMA radio array and interpreted as audio, we hear tweeting and rumbles caused by incoming solar wind, captured at the frequency of 20 Hertz. Generated directly by the sound, tangible and sculptural forms emerge suggestive of scientific visualisations. As different frequencies interact both visually and aurally, complex patterns emerge to create interference phenomena that probe the limits of our perception.

The Wake, Dana Levy, 5 minutes, 2011, HD
The Wake was filmed at the Invertebrate Zoology department of the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh. In this department there are old cabinets full of categorized butterfly specimens, neatly ordered in drawers.  I released into this space 100 live butterflies that flew among the dead specimens.  The result is as if these dead specimens have now come to life.The work explores themes such as resurrection, life/death, release from captivity to freedom, and the transition from sleep to new consciousness. Leaving behind old memories and ideas to explore new ones. Conveying hope for a new discovered freedom

Naked, Pawel Wojtasik, 11 minutes, 2012, HD
Naked shows a colony of naked mole rats living in a laboratory. This rare and highly socialized species demonstrates modes of behavior that in uncanny ways seem human-like. The mole rats are the most inbred species on the planet, and have the longest life span of any laboratory animal.  The film zeroes in on aspects of their existence (overcrowded conditions, violence, tenderness) that have parallels in the life of human society.
Dust Studies, Michael Gitlin, 9 minutes, 2010, HD
A domestic portrait rendered at miniature scale, Dust Studies brushes along the edge of what can be seen. Staying close to the ground to collect what gathers there, the film looks deeply for everyday things and finds them drifting in the pleasant, meandering headwaters of a young child’s language.



Track One, eteam, 2 minutes, 2011, HD
The time is now!  The present can be replaced in real time. Not quite yet by the future, but very easily by the past? eteam’s video Track One is a replay of such time disjuncture. As they keep following the memory of a yellow cab that keeps driving through the now deserted streets of Taipei, their pastime augments itself with a mesmerizing sense of reality.


Remote, Jesse McLean, 11 minutes, 2011, HD
There is a presence lingering in the dark woods, just under the surface of a placid lake and at the endof dreary basement corridor. It’s not easy to locate because it’s outside but also inside. It doesn’t just crawl in on your wires because it’s not a thing. It’s a shocking eruption of electrical energy. In the collage video Remote, dream logic invokes a presence that drifts through physical and temporal barriers.


Manhole 452, Jeanne C Finley & John Muse, 12 minutes, 2011, HD
Despite assurances from local municipalities, a fact of life is that Manholes blow sky high more frequently than most people realize. Manhole 452 directs the viewer’s attention to the shapes, sizes and patterns of manhole covers on Geary Street in San Francisco, and then plunges deep below into the manholes themselves to explore the hidden threat that lies below.The fictionalized film is a first person narrative, drawn from documentary interviews and research, that follows the reflections of a middle age man who’s car was hit from below by an exploding manhole. He is now forced to ride the 38 Geary Limited bus for the entire length of the street (from the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay) to his job fitting prosthetic limbs. His narrative explores an obsession with calculating odds and the possibility of miracles, amid the presence of random violent occurrences.

Heliocentric, Semiconductor, 15 minutes, 2010, HD
Heliocentric uses timelapse photography and astronomical tracking to plot the sun’s trajectory across a series of landscapes. The entire environment seems to pan past the camera whilst the sun stays in the center of each frame, enabling us to gauge the earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun. As the sun’s light becomes disrupted by passing weather conditions and the environment through which we encounter it, it audibly plays them as if it were a stylus. It is usually all but impossible to visualize how the earth moves around the sun, even though we know it to be true. Instead we ‘see’ the sun move around us. The ‘heliocentric’ view of the universe was debated from the Third Century BC onwards and remained contentious into modern times. Shooting into the sun creates many intriguing artifacts; lens flares and glare spill over the landscape, whiteouts burn the image, and colors bleed into one another, creating aureoles. The power of the sun exceeds what both the human eye and the artificial eye of the camera can bear. And whilst our knowledge of the universe is ever-growing, we can only encounter and know it from our humble vantage point.

Tom Colley – Collection Manager of the Video Data Bank
Tom has worked at the Video Data Bank for almost 14 years.  He manages technical services at the VDB, and is responsible for fulfilling orders and organizing the collection. His regular activities involve cataloging, preservation, digitization, dubbing, and maintaining new and obsolete equipment.  Tom has a master’s degree in library science and is active in the Association of Moving Image Archivists.  Outside of archiving video art, he also runs an artists’ workspace called the ButcherShop.

eteam (Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger)
Since 2001 Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger have been collaborating under the name eteam.  Many of their projects are based on random pieces of land they buy on ebay or in Second Life. eteam’s projects have been featured at many venues, including Art in General, P.S.1, and Eyebeam in New York, MUMOK in Vienna, Neues Museum Weimar in Germany, The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Spain.  Eteam’s videos have been screened at the Transmediale in Berlin, The Taiwan International Documentary Festival in Taipei, the New York Video Festival, and the 11th Biennale of Moving Images in Geneva.  For their work Moderegger and Lamprecht have received funding from Art in General, NYSCA, Rhizome, the Experimental Television Center, the Henry Moore Foundation and an Emerging Artist Fellowship Grant from Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens.  They have been awarded residencies at The Mac Dowell Colony, Yaddo, Smack Mellon, Eyebeam, Harvestworks and the Center for Land Use Interpretation.  Most recently they have been awarded a Creative Capital Grant for their project open source Grabeland. Winners of the Videoförderkunstpreis Bremen, 2008/09.

Pawel Wojtasik
Pawel is a filmmaker and video artist born in ?ód?, Poland and currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Wojtasik lived in Tunisia before immigrating to the U.S in 1972. He received an MFA from Yale University in 1996. From 1998 until 2000 Wojtasik was a resident at Dai Bosatsu Zendo Buddhist monastery. Wojtasik’s films and video installations are poetic reflections on our environment and culture. Referring to his film Dark Sun Squeeze (2003) Holland Cotter of The New York Times said: “Pawel Wojtasik delivers the final word on the absolute value of news, money, politics and just about everything else.” Wojtasik’s work The Aquarium (2006), a collaboration with writer Ginger Strand,  deals with the destruction of the oceans; while his 360° panoramic video installation Below Sea Level (2009) concerns itself with the plight of New Orleans. Next Atlantis, a collaboration with composer Sebastian Currier, had its world premiere at Carnegie Hall on January 29th 2010. Also in 2010 Wojtasik had a solo exhibition at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, NY, featuring a five screen video installation “At the Still Point,” with footage shot in India and with soundscape by Stephen Vitielllo. The Village Voice, naming it “best in show” commented: “this five-channel project cycles through a series of startling images, shot in Wojtasik’s long, mesmerizing takes.” Wojtasik’s Pigs was included in the 2010 New York Film Festival, and at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival. The film had its Asian premiere at the 2011 Hong Kong International Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prize in the short film category. Wojtasik was a featured artist of the 2009 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. In 2012 he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to make a feature-length film on the theme of labor in India. Most recently Wojtasik has been named a 2012 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fellow in Video/Film. His work is represented by Video Data Bank.

Michael Gitlin 
Michael Gitlin’s work has been screened at numerous venues, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Full Frame Documentary Festival, the New York Video Festival at Lincoln Center and the 1997 Whitney Biennial. His film The Birdpeople is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. He is the recipient of a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has also been supported by the Jerome Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Gitllin received an MFA from Bard College. He teaches at Hunter College in New York City.

Dana Levy was born in Tel Aviv and Lives and works in New York. She completed her Post Graduate in Electronic Imaging at the Duncan of Jordanston College of Art (Dundee, Scotland) and holds a BA from Camberwell Art College (London). She participated in various artist residencies in the such as Art mOi NY, Triangle Arts Association Ny and LMCC workspace. She’s been awarded prizes  such as the 2008 Young Israeli Artist Award, 2010 Dumbo Arts Festival studio award, and the 2006 Hamburg Short Film festival jury award. Her work has been screened and exhibited at various venues including:  The Bass Museum Florida , The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Herzlyia Museum of Contemporary Art; Bass Museum, Miami; MOCA, Cleveland; Tate Modern, London; Loop Art Fair in Barcelona; Musee du Luxembourg, Paris.

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