Art Imitates Art

Everyone wonders how fine artists find inspiration and become influenced through other mediums, which is why the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s Open Shelf Films program is so freakin’ brilliant. “Each artist gets a shelf, and they fill it with sources and inspirations of their work — whether that’s something that made them think or something they rely on in daily practice to keep their process going,” explains MCA communications manager Daniele Robson. Open Shelf Films screens, well, films that different artists have placed on their shelves.

Tonight’s selection is Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, a 1997 “non-fiction” film by filmmaker Errol Morris that profiles four subjects with careers most of us would consider odd: a lion trainer (David Hoover), a topiary sculptor (George Mendonça), a hairless mole-rat specialist (Ray Mendez) and a robot scientist (Rod-ney Brooks). Fast, Cheap and Out of Control is on Jane Hammond’s Open Shelf; Hammond currently has 32 digital-collage photographic works on display at the MCA. She used found images, which she collaged into overlapping storylines, systematically creating intriguing, surreal worlds colliding with one another.

It sounds a lot like how Morris made Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, which is classified as a non-fiction film (and not a documentary) because Morris used camera, editing and visual narrative techniques most commonly employed by feature filmmakers (and, as a result, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control was not nominated for an Academy Award in ’97 — simply because the nominating committee could not classify it as documentary or feature film). The subjects of Fast, Cheap and Out of Control narrate their own stories, which are cut with older films, television shows, movie clips, documentary footage and cartoons to create the final product.

Open Shelf Films is free with museum admission ($5 for students and seniors and $10 for the general public); it screens tonight at 7:30 p.m. The MCA is at 1485 Delgany Street; call 303-298-7554 or visit
Fri., Dec. 26, 7:30-10 p.m., 2008

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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen