Debuting Channel Silver Eye


Debuting Channel Silver Eye

Author: Emi Finkelstein

PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

As a first year graduate student in the History of Art and Architecture department at Pitt, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to explore the many museums and galleries that make up Pittsburgh’s art scene. During the “Unblurred” gallery crawl night on Penn Ave, I walked into Silver Eye Center for Photography, a non-profit gallery that focuses on contemporary photography. I was immediately impressed with the space; the large glass windows and adjoining bookstore reminded me of the kind of galleries you see in New York and London. The artwork I saw, from local and international artists, was new, engaging, and beautifully displayed. 

As I worked through my first semester, I got to know the talented team behind the gallery: Executive Director David Oresick and the wonderful Communications Coordinator, Kate Kelley. It was Kate who first approached me with a new idea: wanting to get the HAA department more involved with the gallery exhibitions, she thought of introducing a micro-cinema programme, where graduate students could curate a night of short films for the community. I immediately agreed, and Channel Silver Eye, a series that aims to exchange knowledge and open lines of communication between the university and the art gallery, was born. 

My screening, to be held on March 29th, will debut the Channel Silver Eye series to the public. As such, I have chosen to combine some of the themes most dear to my heart (and my research): feminism, materiality, experiment, and affect theory. In the process, Kate introduced me to the Video Data Bank, a media archive for moving-image art founded by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Using the organization’s database, I found the first two films in my screening: Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance (1988) and Shigeko Kubota’s My Father (1973-75). I liked that both of the films dealt with the idea of family and loss through the lens of media. Kubota’s film is a mourning diary, where the artist comes to terms with the loss of her father through television and pop music. Meanwhile, Hatoum’s film deals with displacement and exile, questions of translation and distance (both physical and linguistic), through a series of letters written between the artist in London and her mother, a Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon. 

While the first two films were easy to settle on, I struggled to find a third film to balance out the evening; I wanted to find something more contemporary, with more humor, that reached beyond the idea of personal loss, and was made by an artist working in Germany, the country that my research centers on. Initially, I suggested Tacita Dean’s beautiful 16mm film Kodak, which explores machinery and workers in the soon-to-be-closed Kodak film factory in France; Kate reached out to Dean’s gallery, but the costs of printing and projecting a 16mm film far exceeded the modest budget Silver Eye had provided me. 

Although we were disappointed, the staff at Silver Eye were patient and I was flexible. I spent a couple days exploring the recesses of UbuWeb, an online archive of avant-garde film, art, and writing, and eventually came across Hito Steyerl’s film Lovely Andrea, which ticked all the boxes on my wish list: it was made in 2007 by a German filmmaker/visual artist, included moments of humor, and, most importantly, located loss in a photograph rather than a person. The film follows the artist through a search for a bondage picture featuring Steyerl herself, taken 20 years prior in Tokyo, and uses restriction, archives, terrorism, and the idea of images to think about loss, censorship, and how pictures can act on their viewer.

With the final lineup chosen, I named the screening “Imag(in)ing Loss: Media and Melancholy in Feminist Experimental Film” and began to write a short series of essays for the mini-catalogue that Silver Eye will publish alongside the event. I am so excited and honored to be kicking off this series, and to be able to introduce other graduate students and the Pittsburgh community to these amazing artists. 

As a graduate student, it is important to me to get involved with the local arts community, and to share both my knowledge and work. Silver Eye has given me the opportunity and freedom to do so, and will continue to work with other graduate students in upcoming events for this series. On March 29th, I will be introducing my screening with a short talk, as well as hosting a question-and-answer session after the screening to open up a discussion of how material and loss, feminism and experiment, are portrayed in these three films. 

I hope to see you there!

Channel Silver Eye presents “Imag(in)ing Loss: Media and Melancholy in Feminist Experimental Film,” curated by Emi Finkelstein, PhD student in the History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh.
Silver Eye Center for Photography 4808 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Thursday, March 29, 2018 / 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
More details and registration here

Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

  • Graduate Work
  • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh