I suppose this is a review of sorts, but I'd rather think of it more like a story about Stephanie Barber, her work & how I know her ( related to her recent programing in Milwaukee). Sound good?
My respect for Stephanie is immense. Her ability to focus and create diverse, raw quality work from her soul, on a consistent basis is amazing. I am in continual awe when absorbing her work, be it music, painting, installation, performance or film, for which she is most known for. She has this uncanny trait to focus on minute details. The shift of a glance, twitch of a finger, clapping, clicking, pitch or the perfect outline. I'd like to crown Miss. Barber is the Queen of the attention in detail kingdom.
I moved to Milwaukee in April of 2001, so I met Stephanie around this time. It's all a little hazy now, but I am positive that it was through music, seeing her band she sang for at the time, Competitorr, perform live. At the time, Competitorr was playing a lot of shows with Minneapolis based Tulip Sweet whom my boyfriend at the time Andy McCormick played bass and accordion with. Seeing a show with both Competitorr & Tulip Sweet was, like two servings of dessert.
So, I'm newly moved to Milwaukee, I had this amazingly huge 3 bedroom apartment in Riverwest and right down the street was the Bamboo Theater. The Bamboo Theater was Stephanie's home/studio where she hosted a lot of film and performance art related "happenings". Once time I went to some programing that a then, much less known, Miranda July presented. She showed some videos and set up a booth to film people in. I remember very specifically not being interested in participating, I'm not a fan of audience participation type things. I also don't like being pressured by a group of people to dance. Those are in the same category to me.
Out of the 1,000 of photographs I have taken of every little thing in my life, for some reason I don't have any from inside the Bamboo Theater. Which is totally disappointing. However, I did dig up a number of old photos of Competitorr performing in Milwaukee and Minneapolis (circa 2001-2004).
Like I mentioned, Stephanie was in Milwaukee visiting for the Experimental Tuesday programing at UWM. It seemed normal to see her in the Union Theater packed with a lot people, most who I haven't seen in a long while. Almost like a family reunion of sorts where we all sat and watched a collection of Stephanie's films from 1997 to present.
After the screening I was talking with Aaron about how difficult it is to be objective about friends work, in particular experimental film and conceptual art. The two creative categories I personally can find most unapproachable. I've discovered if I have a relationship with the artist (creator of anything really), I am able to give work more focus. I'm not sure at all if this is positive or not, I suppose it depends on the context, regardless the films were delightful. My short attention span struggled a bit towards the end, but not as a result of an unwatchable program, just a result of a fidgety lady.
The hour+ screening was followed by a director talk/Q&A session. I always think Q&A's are uncomfortable, so I was a bit squirmy to start. I thought the talk was interesting with intermittent interjections of confusing audience questions, including one unfocused one from myself that I quickly regretted asking, or wished I had been more specific with my wording. The most interesting thing I took away from Stephanie speaking about her work were the comments she made (in so many words) about being disconnected with the aesthetic of (35/16mm) film. How For her, she explained, it's about the words, the message within what she is making and not how it looks. She has welcomed the use of video with open arms, leaving beautiful look of film behind. Her honesty about her process was refreshing and a great way to end the night.
After the screening I waiting in a short line, gave her a quick squeeze and picked up her most recent published book "These Here Separated to See How They Standing Alone " packaged with a DVD of the six films and videos, These Here Separated to See How They Standing Alone Or the Soundtrack to Six Films by Stephanie Barber includes the narration spoken in Barber's award-winning experimental work. (description form goodreads.com). The book is available here.
Note: During Stephanie's talk she kept referring to Psychic Art Impulse as something she was aiming to achieve. More photos of films being projected are here.