Yes, Virginia, there is an underground. It’s real. And it consists of creative individuals making films outside the military-industrial complex of production and distribution forging ahead with technological limited means and making audiences squirm and squeal by fomenting discomfort, laughter, renewed vision, and love.
If you want living evidence, Virg, check out the “Welcome to Normal” shorts program making its repeat showing tonight at 8:45pm (you don’t have a seder to attend tonight, right, Virg? The Mets have a day off, so there’s no conflict of interest there, either). Kelly Oliver and Keary Rosen’s First Firing is a play of associative and rhyming terms rattled off in British deadpan over some matching and non-matching images that’s fun and strangely inspiring, especially if you, like me, enjoy words. In fact, language is the symptom the films and videos of “Welcome to Normal” wish to cure. Check it, Virg: For a Blonde… For a Brunette… For Someone… For Her… For You… by Mike Olenick appropriates James Stewart’s run-in with the second incarnation of Kim Novack in Vertigo as an interactive karaoke for himself (acting as Stewart) and the audience (following the bouncing ball of Novack’s dialogue). David Butler’s Untitled Film, No. 9 is a little more obvious, but still good for a chuckle — a Shatner-esque “serious” actor intoning with gravitas a collage of pop music lyrics (“Hey, little sister. Shotgun.”) in front of green screened flowers and astral footage; Marianna Ellenberg’s Welcome to Normal — the title track of the program — is, quoth the filmmaker, “An Exquisite Corpse compendium of hypnotic sounds, symptoms and neurological disorders. Instructional video meets psychedelic Haiku — treatment is just around the corner! ” Yes! But wait! Michael Bell-Smith’s Battleship Potemkin Dance Edit (120 BPM) might very well recross the circuitry of Soviet montage and MTV without any recourse to the cheap thrills of ironic suture. And Ryan Trecartin (he of the Experimental People) has fashioned the ridiculously demented (Tommy-Chat Just Emailed Me which, while not thorough in its mindfucking as A Family Finds Entertainment, will surely provide some eerie memories for a future moment filled with awkward tension, Virg, I promise you. This isn’t a warning but an enticement: distorted voices, disembodied tit-for-tat, the screaming heebeejeebees of a world unraveled through new collisions and destabilizations of sound and vision. The underground is the dark unconscious of a repressed, over-civilized medium.