Vital Signs: Videos by Dani Leventhal
Dani Leventhal in person!
We are delighted to host, for the first time in Los Angeles, the videos of Dani Leventhal, including two world premieres, Shayne’s Rectangle and Tin Pressed! Leventhal’s work is vital: about life, her life, but moreover infused with a sense of life itself. Whether peering into the folds of an elderly woman’s neck, surveying sidewalk vendors in Budapest or the grooves of a chain-lock fence in upstate New York, or investigating the matted feathers and fur of the many animals Leventhal examines and sometimes dissects, her camera is inquisitive and ever-present, a companion as much as a tool in the artist’s unyielding search for signs of life. Curated by Genevieve Yue.
“Leventhal’s videos are not the triumph of an all-seeing subjectivity but rather an effort to reduce the barrier between her and the rest of the world, whether human, animal, or inanimate. …. Leventhal aims for immanence, for the roiling, beautiful mess of existence, documenting life from moment to moment through images both eloquent and enigmatic.” –Chris Stults
Dani Leventhal studied sculpture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and received an MFA in Film/Video from Bard College. In 2009, she received the Visual Arts Award from the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and produced a limited edition book and video, Skim Milk and Soft Wax at the Women’s Studio Workshop with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Leventhal was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1972. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Draft 9 (2003, 28 minutes, digital video, sound)
“This movie was collected for four years before being sprayed scattershot over 28 minutes of psychic mayhem. The line between living and dead is a frontier crossed and re-crossed here. The living are dead while the dead are animated, breathing, swimming, giving birth. Consumed by the animal life of the city, the artist undertakes a first person journey, producing diary notes from one of the most skilled lens masters of the new generation. The camera is her company in this duet of death, the instrument that permits her to see the impossible, the unbearable, the invisible.” –Mike Hoolboom for International Film Festival Rotterdam
Show and Tell in the Land of Milk and Honey (2007, 13 minutes, digital video, sound)
In this piece Dani Leventhal recounts to camera her experiences of living and working in Israel, the fabled land of milk and honey of childhood lessons. With time spent in a metal factory and a battery farm for chickens, her harrowing tale includes stories of sexual harassment and sick birds. Against this background, there are idyllic images of bees and flowers, cows and calves, intimate caresses, dead birds. Every thing is worthy of Dani's gaze, and is transformed by the encounter, becoming more human or sacred, and we are closer to the pain and beauty of being alive.
Hearts are Trump Again (2010, 9 minutes, HD video, sound)
"By way of lush formal and associative shifts, Hearts Are Trump Again evokes the ever-present tension between seemingly polarized states of experience. Desire and repulsion; freedom and constraint; pain and pleasure all find articulation in images of ferocious dogs and mock conversations about childbearing. Tonally complex and viscerally rich, Hearts Are Trump Again is a lyrical exploration of emotional weather." –Brett Price
“Seen in the context of Leventhal’s other work, the somewhat looser shambling structure matches many of [the video’s] themes: the milling birds, the shots of uncertain travel, the open-form use of music, and even the implied imagery of teeming sperm cells. Hearts Are Trump Again engages with the less-apparent forms of organization derived from fractal movement, multiple elements zipping around a system that is, ultimate, closed and functioning according to a logic. The bridge game is the most concise reflection of this attitude in its pre-chaotic form. What could be more logical than a card game? But our accidental narrator expresses doubts about that logic, that the law of averages is slightly off. Leventhal opens and closes Hearts with a title card that features—blink and you’ll miss it—an arm popping up from the bottom of the frame, giving a hand signal. It’s a counting sign, but it’s delivered like an offhand gesture. Is it the interpretive passkey for the entire video, or just a blip?” –Michael Sicinski
54 Days This Winter 36 Days This Spring for 18 Minutes (2009, 16 minutes, digital video, sound)
Dani Leventhal gathered material for 9 minutes each day, then condensed it down to this 16-minute video montage of impressions which has a cumulative effect, accessed and read differently depending on the mental connections the viewer makes. It is presented as short scenes: documentation of the quotidian, on-camera monologues, and performative or expressive shots that are constructed. The material, while mostly generated as a diary, is heterogeneous enough to include just about any kind of footage.
Shayne’s Rectangle (2011, 5 minutes, HD video, sound) **WORLD PREMIERE**
“In Shayne’s Rectangle, Dani Leventhal’s moving and mysterious prayer for healing, a horse farm and a casual poolside dissection are the nodes between which a series of patiently taken sharp turns maneuver through moods both intimate and detached. The camera pursues, observes, offers, reflects, and is reflected. Things clear and things indistinct interact rhythmically, resonantly, producing a volatile and haunting visual prosody.” –Jeremy Hoevenaar
Tin Pressed (2011, 6 minutes, HD video, sound) **WORLD PREMIERE**
“Opening with jarring violence, Dani Leventhal’s Tin Pressed proceeds to negotiate a balancing act between the bewildering tonal variances of daily life—with all of its unnamable and enchantingly fragmented specifics—and the gravitational urge to construct both private and shared narratives. The world discovered through these images revolves around multiple centers. The camera’s odd equanimity feels both generous and dangerous. Leventhal’s deft oscillation between elision and inclusion reveals a brief but vast taxonomy of beauty, peace, longing, and terror. “ –Jeremy Hoevenaar
This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2011 is our 36th year.
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