At the last Collective Misnomer screening (in December, at the Dikeou Pop-Up), programmer Adán De La Garza blasted the City of Denver for closing two DIY venues in the wake of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire, just before turning off the lights and presenting a program of deliciously plodding landscape movies — some wry, others philosophical — that challenge the way we see the world. After the lights came up and he'd collected money to help the shuttered venues, Rhinoceropolis and Glob, De La Garza confessed that he'd spent the screening nervously watching the audience. He had forgotten how slow almost every film he had selected was.
De La Garza must spend a lot of time watching the audience, worrying that he pushed too many boundaries. On any given day, that's what the noise musician, zinester, artist, filmmaker, programmer and critic flirts with doing: He's good at using challenging art to force audiences to think.
While his program of short films that will screen Saturday, January 28 — "The Way Things Are. The Way They Are Going to Be" — isn't slow, it takes risks. Most of the shorts in the lineup offer troubling visions of the future, present or recent past, in which technology mediates experience, the world is moving toward totalitarianism, and mundane reality is cashed in for a wash of advertisements, colors and dinging noises.
The program begins and ends with text-heavy films; it's loaded with experimental essays, montages and nominally narrative works. The collection causes nothing short of sensory overload — and anxiety about where we, as a people, are headed.
"Part of me was joking with myself, like, 'Fuck it. Let's start 2017 with a really bleak program,'" says De La Garza. And he did — in the best way possible.
The screening opens with Blanco Rego's menacing flicker film, "ame (storm)," in which white and black frames with phrases superimposed on them alternate as a noisy industrial track roars through the speakers. The messages set the tone for the evening: "destruction leads to new constructions," "follow the path of destruction" and "add beauty to the tragedy."
That's followed by Simon Landrein's debaucherous animation about the erotics of consumption, "Property," which explores the sexual frenzy people work themselves into while thinking about what stuff is worth. De La Garza says this short reminds him of Denver, a city of rampant consumption.
The next short in the lineup, Jim Swill's "Screenage Angst," offers an unforgettably chaotic montage of carved meat, cemeteries and violence, something Chris Marker might have made after shooting up meth.
That cinematic onslaught is the perfect prelude to Keiichi Matsuda's "Hyper-Reality," which depicts a post-device world that has turned into something akin to an iPhone screen, riddled with pop-up windows and incessant noise.
"Computer Visions," by Andreas Nicolas Fischer, is a terrifying and plodding look at ethical dilemmas that might arise in an age of artificial intelligence: "Is it moral not to optimize our offspring?" and "Do we even need a body?" Should we even be allowed to have children?
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The last short in De La Garza's program, Camilla Edström Ödemark's "Leitourgia," is a largely black-and-white, text-based film reciting various formulas for becoming a nationalist leader. The artist statement sums it up:
"Mask yourself. Change the premises from where you speak. Hide your true intentions and become the one who is silenced. Remember that no one likes a bully. Instead, talk about the war from an underdog's point of view. Convince the citizens of your country that they are under attack, and that they are losing. Step in as a hero. Lead your troops to the barricades. Never lose your mask. Go boldly into the future and forget about your past."
Also on the program is The Forcing (no. 1), by Lydia Moyer.
Doors open at 7:30 for an 8 p.m. screening on Saturday, January 28, at the Dikeou Pop-Up, 312 East Colfax Avenue. Admission is $10 or pay-what-you-can; for more information, go to the Collective Misnomer website.