Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Night in Greenpoint: The North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition presents Moviehouse at the India Street Murals

Tonight we took the fabulous G train north two stops from Metropolitan Avenue to the India Street exit of the Greenpoint Avenue stop. On India Street, between West Street and the riverfront are the new India Street murals, which were the site of the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition's first of four biweekly Monday night Moviehouse presentations on India Street.

This screening series, ending on September 21, features projections by filmmakers, animators, and documentarians - mostly local artists - on the blocklong wall on which the five murals were created. With the wonderful view of the Manhattan skyline to our left, tonight we watched several funny and poignant animated films and listened to two of the animators, Catherine Chao and Kieran O’Hare, discuss their work. (It was too dark by then to see them.)

It was a nice way to spend an hour on a sultry evening. The murals, a joint project of the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition (NBPAC) with Moviehouse, which has as its main base the great space 3rd Ward in Bushwick/East Wiliamsburg - and the invaluable Open Space Alliance, are quite striking, and they'll be the subject of the September 8 show in this screening series:

The new-painted mural will literally [sic] come alive on September 8 when six local filmmakers Lam Thuy Vo, Joshua Carrero, Sarah Pirozek, Vanara Taing, Nathan Punwar, Hiram Becker, and Chris King present the movies they created to capture the artists– Ali Aschman, Eve Biddle & Josh Frankel, Chris Soria, Joshua Abram Howard, Robert Seng, and Skewville– as they spent the month of June turning a common white wall into a master work of public art.

Each of the wall’s five empty spaces will simultaneously turn into a screen, inviting the audience into the world of the artists. After the screenings, the filmmakers and artists will speak with each other and the audience about the creative process that went into creating the mural and the films.

In the other two screening sessions, Moviehouse at India Street will feature selections from the Bushwick Film Festival and two documentaries - Up on the Roof, about our area's local pigeon-keepers

and Uncertain Industry about the decline of manufacturing in New York City, like this Brooklyn umbrella factory in our neighborhood.

We got there early enough to score one of the 18 folding chairs (three rows of three chairs each, with an enormous sinkhole filled with water in the center "aisle"). At 8:30 p.m., Chris Henderson of Moviehouse went up to the front of where the movie was projected and introduced the evening's event of animated shorts by the prolific Patrick White as well as Catherine Chao and Kieran O'Hare, and a Pterodactyl music video.

Chris also thanked NBPAC and some people who were also there: Rami Metal, the Greenpoint/Williamsburg liaison for Councilmember David Yassky, who helped make this project possible; Ciara McKeown, who also coordinated the mural project; Austin, on sound; and those of us who came.

Chris also alerted us to coming events, like the August 26 CinemaParque screening at the Sternberg Park handball courts, the last in a series of six summer events there.

(We mostly go to Sternberg Park to use the bathroom between the time we get off the J train and wait for the B48 bus, but it's really a nice place).

We have no expertise in animation except for teaching yearlong writing and literature to animation majors at the fabulous School of Visual Arts for the past three years, but we have heard of New York animator Patrick Smith, whose sly and funny Handshake was the first film projected on the wall.

Smith's hand-drawn work - he uses computer animation work for coloration only - is stylistically reminiscent of Berke Breathed's Bloom County, and Handshake's literal entanglements are a metaphor for the perils of romantic relationships. It was interesting to see the films with the cracks on the wall (visible in our pics here) as part of the "screen."

Kieran O'Hare's "3 Boys" is a memoir, though in the Q&A section afterward, Kieran did say that it was fictionalized. Three boys about ten (they think condoms prevent guys from peeing into girls) go looking in the woods for a stash of Playboy magazines.

Instead, they come upon a dead cat that looks like one owned by the protagonist's family.

And he's confronted with his own mortality amid the magazines. It's a neat, understated little film.

Catherine Chao's animated film uses Barbie and Ken dolls in real filmed settings to explore the nature of sexuality. There's a great Ken-on-another-Ken graphic sex scene.

During the Q & A, we asked Catherine if she was familiar with the Carpenters film using Barbie dolls. She wasn't. A senior moment kept us from remembering the director, though we feel less bad that even a moviemeister like Chris didn't know, only that the director went on to become famous.

Ordinarily, we're old and grumpy enough to expect artists and especially all the young writers who get credit for "pioneering" stuff that other innovators did in the, ahem, 1970s and 1920s and eighteenth century (we told you we'd end up sounding Sterne) - but Catherine had a good reason for not seeing Todd Haynes' - yes, that Todd Haynes - Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.

Mattel is so notoriously litigious that that was our inspiration during our first year of law school (we came across them in Torts) for "Twelve Step Barbie," a story that first appeared in the groundbreaking Barbiecentric anthology Mondo Barbie. (The story is reprinted in our just-published I Hate of All You on This L Train.)

And, true to form, Mattel's attorneys made Mondo Barbie's editors Richard Peabody and Lucinda Ebersole and publisher St. Martin's remove a photo of the doll from the original cover of the book. They'll undoubtedly stop further screenings of Catherine's film, so we won't tell anyone about it.

Anyway, Mattel was going to halt the distribution of Haynes's Barbie-based Karen Carpenter film, only the equally litigious Richard Carpenter (the film hints that he was gay and doesn't bother hinting that he was a horrible brother) beat them to it - though he won the suit on violation of copyright for the unauthorized use of the music. However, until Mattel's in-house counsel threatens us, here's Todd Haynes's movie:

The final film up was the Pterodactyl music video featuring a war between two boxes of matches, one with blue tips, the other green tips.

It was very nicely done. Pterodactyl, whom we admire a lot, has done other stuff with its music and inanimate objects too.

Finally, Catherine and Kieran went to the front with Chris, who asked them some questions about their work and elicited some interesting responses. An obnoxious old man in the back row also asked a couple of questions that were mostly annoying, but we hope that didn't spoil anyone's enjoyment of the event.

We're sure the next three Moviehouse screenings at the India Street murals will be just as good. Thanks to everyone concerned.

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