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nnJeremy Blake was murdered by Scientology. OK, that may be a bit over-the-top, but he and his girlfriend Theresa Duncan were harassed by CoS, and they both committed suicide within a week of each other. This was a great loss to the art community, both the gallery art world, and the art gaming world. This was a massive blow as both were doing innovative work.
The two Jeremy Blake films I have the most affinity for are both deeply connected to my life. Winchester uses the Winchester Mystery House as the structural support for a video canvas upon which Blake creates Abstract Expressionist-inspired paintings that pulse, drip, and fade. The forms are highly organic, while his treatmment of the images of the House is much more formalist. Anyone who knows me well is aware of how deeply tied my life is to the house. My Pops took me there ofter, and I have been there literally hundreds of times. My wife and I attended the grounds on our first date. THis is not a film about the House; this is a film about the sensation of place being beyond that which we see, the grounds we walk, the buildings we tour. The few moments where there are 'ghosts' walking across our few are disquieting, not because they are scary, but because we are forced to see them and consider them as fundamentally 'creations' mingling among the art pieces. These, for certain, are 'created works' and thus we must at least attempt to understand the visions of ghosts as created as well, which forces us to confront our own belief systems. It's a powerful message.
Century 21 is far deeper, and perhaps a bit less accessible. Let's face it, Blake did not create these pieces to be binge-watched over Netflix. This takes the former Syufy Century theatres, the 21, 22, and 23, the finest theatres in the history of San Jose, and uses them as the starting point for a film that uses images derived from Westerns, while mingling them with his art works, though instead of creating the Abstract Expressionist style works, he is more working in a Abstracted Pop Art style, adding and mimicking images from Westerns and using an incredibly wise soundtrack. The giant domed theatres, which sit right next to the Mystery House, would have shown Westerns, but in truth they are much closer tied to Science Fiction film, as they were the most profittable theatres in the country for films like Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and The Matrix. The design of them screams Mid-Century Science Fiction as well, but only hard cores like me really understand that, so I'll let it mostly slide.
As a whole, these two films explore the architecture and emotional presence of these buildings in an incredibly detatched way. There is no loving connection to either place, but there is a spirituality to the presentation that comes through. These two films explore a location by abstracting it far away from encountering them, which makes them even more distant, but at the same times draws you in to the art these places inspire. The Century 21, having closed a couple of years ago (and breaking my heart) inspired dozens of young people to consider filmmaking (or Film Blogging...) and the Mystery House has created generations of artists and writers who infuse their work with themes of ant place, spirituality, and ghosts. It is an important part of the evolution of American Horror, coming at a time when Lovecraft also broke.
These are both held by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, reopening next week. I don't believe they'll be on display, but they are to be found on YouTube, and while they are niche, for certain, they are exactly what we should be giving the National FIlm Registry as incredible examples of American Installation film of the 2000s.
Klaus at Gunpoint
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