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Que(e)ries: Talking To The Organizers Of MIX NYC, The Queer Film Festival That Does It Like Nobody Else

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 12, 2013 at 9:21AM

MIX NYC is unique not only in that it focuses on experimental film, but also by presenting small and large-scale installations (this year around 18 pieces, occupying about 12,000 square feet!) and all of it in a completely designed, immersive environment where people come to hang out as well as go see films.
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The MIX Factory in progress.
The MIX Factory in progress.

Why don't you tell us about the very unique MIX Factory, where all the screenings and installations (and more) are housed. What should we expect?

SKJ: As soon as you walk in the door, you’ll see a 20 ft tall inflatable breathing lung suspended from the ceiling. The design theme is The Body - and our design head Diego Montoya and our installation coordinator Andre Azevedo have busted their humps to make the festival feel like you’re walking inside a breathing and blood-pumping organism.

DM:
We aim to offer a complete experience -- there’s food, there’s everything -- to create cozy, hyper-visual wonderfully wacky space for people to view art, make art, have conversations, process the work. We aim to put people in a different mindset so they can be fully in THIS experience.  It changes people’s perception of the work if they’re in a hypervisual, fully imagined environment. To encourage playfulness.

The venue surrounds you and puts the audience in a better place to receive the work around them and make their own work, and experiment in the space with what they want to to do. People who have not come before being given a huge hug by their surroundings. It doesn’t end. Everything is treated and considered. Make you feel comfortable, stimulated. Each year is a different concept that informs the entirety of the space. We’ve made a space nest out of multicolored string, fantasy planets with hot pink fleshy space caves, and this year we’re imagining the organization as a giant master organism. Designing the space’s interiors to look like giant organs, skin, blood and breathing. This years space will be alive!

SKJ: Partially through design and partially because of happenstance, we’’ve had a different venue each year. That means that we get to create a new site-specific environment from scratch in a new space every year.  That’s hard but it’s also exciting and keeps things interesting -- the audience never knows what to expect.  So we’ve used abandoned department stores, but also warehouses, disused theaters, and new retail construction.  Each have their own possibilities, and help shape the festival - we have to respond to the architecture. This year we’re in a gigantic warehouse, which allows for large-scale sculptural work, and a more generous setting. At the same time, the walls and floors are a little grody, and that’s going to inform the feel of the festival.

On an aside, I'm also very excited about extending MIX's commitment to artistic freedom into the realm of fashion.  This year we have 3 different festival t-shirts, designed by Karen Finley, Scott Treleaven and Stephen Lack.

We also have skin-tight solid colored staff outfits (I wouldn't call them uniforms!) designed by Mike & Claire, a young design duo whose film,"The Gem Sisters," we're also showing. Their write-up in our catalog gives a good feel of what they're all about.

They've brought a lot to the festival's feel and fun. Having these other extra-filmic elements adds to the exuberant energy we aim to provide.

"Things Are Different Now"
"Things Are Different Now"

There's certainly a growing state of difficulty for artists supporting themselves as they make experimental, non-commercial work in New York City. What's your take on that, and how do you think that has affected the work being presented at MIX?

SKJ: I do think that there’s less of a single experimental film community, where people are lending each other equipment and working on each other’s films. Yes that happens, but New York is also more fragmented.  In the first festivals, the artists were more local and simply dropped off their 16mm prints at Sarah Schulman’s apartment! I also think people have less time to make work because it take so much effort to live here, so people spend more time working to pay the rent.  We also see less and less analog film, although we try to encourage more of that.  Our trailer has been made on 16mm for the past several years. I also think there are so many options for how people can present work, and for many putting something on Vimeo is just fine with them.  So there’s not always the drive to have a festival screening. But I argue that even when MIX might show the same work as another venue, the experience here is still different, from the atmosphere.

CC: One of the saddest things we’ve seen is that most of our submissions come from outside New York. It’s just too hard to be a working artist here. The cost of living is too high and there’s still a massive recession going on. We see a lot of Canadian submissions, German submissions, because both of those countries have a much a more robust grant system to support artists. We also have to draw on more established makers more often than we would like to, because those are the folks who have already figured out how to support themselves and can keep making work.

I’ve joined only recently but I’ve noticed a huge number of animated submissions this year. The basic, cut and past kind of flash animation that most people can learn how to do. We’ve also seen a lot of high quality digital video submissions, which is changing our aesthetic somewhat. A little more slick and a little less grungy. Cameras that shoot high quality video are getting cheaper and more accessible.

What are five things we definitely should not miss at MIX?

Their collective answers, in no particular order:

We’ll Be Your Mirror (Tuesday November 12 at 8 PM)
This year we open with a premiere of a Super Special Secret Surprise from Tarnation filmmaker Jonathan Caouette. We are not at liberty to discuss the Super Special Secret Surprise any further. After that, we show 12 of the best short queer experimental films received by the MIX Programming Committee in 2013. From over 550 submissions we put together a slew of sexy-funky-psychotic visions better left unmentioned in print. Highlights include Jimmy Carter in the buff, a stunning 3D experiment in chromovision, and a rotoscope reenactment of Chelsea Manning on the eve of her arrest. Welcome, lover-army of fringe-dwelling geniuses! Queers building community! Welcome destroyers of mainstream mediocrity! Whatever you are, let’s come together to reflect and enjoy immersive bodily experiences.

"Valencia: The Movie/s," which is closing MIX NYC this year.
"Valencia: The Movie/s," which is closing MIX NYC this year.

Valencia: The Movie/s (Sunday November 17 at 7:30 PM)
“Valencia is the most masterful dyke-centric artsy-weirdo film I’ve ever seen.”—Autostraddle
 Twenty queer filmmakers (including Cheryl Dunye, Silas Howard, and recent Sundance award-winner Jill Soloway) combine forces to create Valencia: The Movie/s, an ambitious project/experiment from author Michelle Tea and producer Hilary Goldberg. With the book Valencia as their muse, filmmakers worked separately on their own given chapter, and their resulting short films were pulled together to form an epic feature-length adaptation of the novel. Valencia: The Movie/s is an ode to 1990’s San Francisco sex radical dyke culture that speaks beautifully about love, queer politics, and alienation, accompanied by a soundtrack of vintage queercore and alt-rock tracks by bands like Team Dresch, Bratmobile, Tribe 8, Bikini Kill and Pansy Division.

Afro-Asian Visions: 
Exploding Lineage II  (Wednesday November 13 at 7:30 PM)
Afrofuturism. The Asian avant-garde. Genderqueer love. Anarchy. Ancestral trauma. This program channels the explosive creative energies found in QPOC communities today. Prepared to be inspired and challenged by some of our most daring makers. Programmed by guest curators KB Boyce and Celeste Chan of Queer Rebel Productions, which showcases queer artists of color, connects generations and honors our histories with art for the future.

Not Me, Murphy  (Saturday November 16 at 8 PM)
The "simple” story of a man with dissociative identity disorder. It's part spiritual journey and part case study, narrated by Murphy’s caretaking girlfriend Lynn (Jason Yamas & Rebecca Robertson). A thrilling study of the very unwell mind at turns playful and at others harrowing as it renders Murphy’s reveries and terrors. Production has delivered stunning, mind-bending hallucinations, and the cast performs abley under Yamas’s one-take rule. Shot on popular amatuer medium Super VHS, Not Me, Murphy's it feels as if are watching some other family’s home movies, edited together with an avant-garde sensibility. The cuts are jumpy and disorienting while we overhear improvised conversation often vulgar, repetitive, or incomprehensible. Because Yamas’s techniques give so much over to chance, the characters feel as immediate and as inscrutable as the people we encounter in real life. It makes their violent outbursts of compassion and sex all the more surprising, and pleasurable.

From the Stom Sogo Collection: Film on Film (Thursday November 14 at 9 PM)
A dynamo whose thunderous potential was cut short by his premature death, Japanese moving-image artist Stom Sogo (1975-2012) remains a romantic rebel if ever there was one. For over two decades he created a hair-raising body of aggressively beautiful films and videos. This 70-minute program features the acclaimed film SLOW DEATH and the rest is, well, a surprise. As we type, tons of new and enticing discoveries are being made in the boxes of over 1200 films, videos and tapes that Sogo left behind. Did we just find a 400-foot reel mysteriously titled 20 CENTURY PORNO? How many abstract adaptations of Dennis Cooper novels did Stom make? We are carefully opening hundreds of envelopes of unknown film reels and you just won’t believe what we have found. This all Super-8 program will feature films projected on film, the way that Stom used to show them during his bacchanalian all-night screenings. Guest curated by Gina Carducci & Andrew Lampert.

"[A] movie's reality should be as nasty and fucked up as possible, so we want to get fuck out of the theater and hope for something better in life.... I try not to have a message or even word in my movie. But I usually have some sick stories behind each of the movies. Those are just mental eye candy that it taste sweet first, seizure second." —Stom Sogo

MIX NYC runs Tuesday, November 12th through Sunday, November 17th in Brooklyn. All the additional info you might need is here.

This article is related to: Que(e)ries, New York City, Experimental Film, Queer Cinema, Film Festival, Brooklyn







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