Previewing the [canceled] 2020 Brakhage Center Symposium

The week belongs to Stan Brakhage, a titan of experimental filmmaking and a former University of Colorado Boulder professor. All week long, I’ve been reposting old Boulder Weekly articles starting on Sunday with Brakhage’s background, a preview of the 2016 Brakhage Center Symposium on Monday, 2017 on Tuesday, 2018 on Wednesday, and 2019 on Thursday.

But today’s post never made it to print: It was pulled at the last minute when CU canceled all in-person events due to the coronavirus. It looked to be one hell of a program, and a timely one at that. From the unpublished files: “Uncertain voyages, unstable terrains.”

From those displaced by politics to those displaced by climate, one of the familiar, and terrifying, themes of the 21st century is dislocation. For some, geographical fracture manifests itself physically, endangering health, and jeopardizing safety. For others, the fracture manifests emotionally—sending the identity into an uncertain cataclysmic spin.

Yesterday it was a political conflict. Today it’s a virus. Tomorrow it will be a storm—all of which you can experience through the act of watching: Sometimes voluntarily, other times obsessively. Watch too much, and you’ll become apoplectic.

Funny thing though, the antidote is not to watch less, but more. To see more stories, experience more perspectives, and take on more identities. Only then does the mosaic take shape and greater form—the form of movement, color, emotion, and place. And it’ll unspool this weekend at the Brakhage Center Symposium.

Screening on the University of Colorado Boulder, Atlas 100 March 14 and 15, the 16th Brakhage Center Symposium focuses on the interfaces between travel and space, real and imaginary geographies, dislocation and identity with the theme: “Uncertain Voyages, Unstable Terrains” — four words that cut close to far too many.

Like previous Symposiums, Saturday’s lineup begins with “Celebrating Stan: A Brakhage Screening,” a tip of the hat to the late CU professor and experimental filmmaker extraordinaire, Stan Brakhage. Then, in the afternoon, the works of three artists will screen: Ben Russell (2 p.m.), Shambhavi Kaul (4 p.m.), and Ephraim Asili (7:30 p.m.). As a bonus, Kaul’s installation, Modes of Faltering, will be on display all weekend long inside Atlas’ Black Box (Atlas Basement B2).

The entirety of Sunday’s lineup is given over to this year’s guest curator, Jesse Lerner, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who focuses on the Latino experience in the U.S. But Lerner’s lineup of 13 shorts is concerned less with here and more with there—the countries composing Latin America.

Despite the cultural shorthand of the words, Lerner’s program comprises a smattering of digital video, 35mm, hand-processed 16mm and super 8 that tries to define “Latin America” while acknowledging imposed connections and inaccurate borders those two words imply.

Divided into two parts—Displacement (2 p.m.) and Circulations (4 p.m.)—Lerner’s program brings a thriving media industry that rarely gets shown in the U.S., let alone along the Front Range. It’s not an opportunity you’ll want to miss.

It’s also a program that would have made Brakhage proud. Always the critical thinker, Brakhage’s images turned ever more toward the abstract as his life progressed and his early death became apparent. His later works give the impression of shapes and colors whizzing by as if we are seeing the shadows of what has passed. It’s like seeing with your eyes closed.

It’s been nearly 17 years since Brakhage passed. His friend and fellow professor, Suranjan Ganguly, has been keeping the reels spinning ever since. This will be Ganguly’s last Symposium as the director of the Brakhage Center, make sure to thank him heartily for all he’s done.