#47: Anthony Buchanan
An experimental filmmaker and film scholar in his own right, Anthony Buchanan also hosts the ongoing Cinema Contra microcinema, a celebration of little-seen work by local and national media artists that pops up at different venues around town. Westword caught up with Buchanan to discuss the future of the film avant garde; learn more via his answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Anthony Buchanan: Well, I’ve never been much of a collaborator, but I suppose Gertrude Stein and Eduardo Galeano. I’m curious to see what the cinematic equivalent of their experimental writing would look like.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
The San Francisco underground filmmaker Craig Baldwin, probably for life. He’s a whirlwind of energy and genius, and is a mentor to me as well as three generations of filmmakers and microcinema curators. I’ve been lucky enough to have been his roommate briefly, and he continues to inspire virtually everything I do.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Minimalism needs to end. Like, NOW. It’s been a bourgeois joke for thirty years. Hmm. Well, there are very few art trends I despise so much as to wish they would “die,” but I do think, on a local level, anyway, a lot of art I see could amp up the conceptual approach a bit. There’s too much hipster art out there — I don’t know what else to call it. I go to art shows in spaces in Five Points and so on, and a lot of times it’s photos of their friends skateboarding or whatever, and I’m like...really? That’s your art? You’re on your deathbed, and you have one chance to show the world what you can do, this would be it? Yeah. How people are tricked into showing that is a little beyond me.
What's your day job?
Ha! I wish I could say I made a living doing what I love in the arts, but at the moment I work odd carpentry jobs and as a barback, which is the more fun of the two. If a decent-paying gallery, film-teaching or art curatorial opportunity came up in town, I’d take it in a heartbeat.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
For starters, I’d use the fifteen 400-foot cans of 16mm color stock I have but can’t afford to process right now! I’ve never even thought about that; I suppose, in addition to funding my own experimental film work— which is quite expensive, though not terribly — I’d invest it back into the community in many ways. I’d like to have a center of some kind dedicated to the production and study of experimental/alternative film in Colorado, but in such a way that it benefits the larger community: so-called minorities, “street” people, creative youth, etc. would have a facility where they could tell their stories and express unique visions while working in moving-image media. For years, I’ve said that we ought to teach media literacy in elementary schools, the same way we teach English. Children of the previous couple of generations are educated largely by a language that they are entertained by but don’t have control of: movies, digital media and electronic devices. My feeling is that if people understood and therefore had better control of the current language — digital televisual communications, that is — we’d be in a very different situation socially. This would take a lot of funding. Also, I’d use it to get by as a poor bohemian/filmmaker/curator in the Bay Area! That’s my dream life. Someday.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Good question. Although it is certainly my plan to leave Colorado eventually, for very personal and professional reasons, I like the openness of the cultural and arts scene in Denver, and especially concerning my own activity, which is the promotion of underground and experimental film, which has very little historical presence here, as opposed to a place like the Bay Area. People and artists in Denver who are unfamiliar with this work are curious about it and are supportive. This is something I see in all of the arts here; artists are not afraid to intermingle, and I think this is fantastic! I think that’s the stuff of historically important art scenes. I’ve collaborated with many different artists from different paths, and I see it happening with many others, as well.
Now, of course, there is the inevitable cliquishness that occurs in the subcultural arts in small communities, but I’ve lived in places like New Mexico, where this was so prevalent that it was almost unbearable; I couldn’t wait to leave. Not so with Denver; artists here are unpretentious, curious and willing to support each other, as opposed to living in a state of competition. Very friendly and creative community.
Another thing I like about Denver is the pervasiveness within the DIY scene. For example, Rhinoceropolis, the primary DIY space on Brighton Boulevard, has been dealing with the fact that it will be ending soon, due to changes in the neighborhood, and then all of a sudden, Juice Church, another amazing DIY space, pops up out of nowhere, and it’s a great space! As soon as one place is threatened with closing, another shows up to carry on the tradition. It’s very needed. The reasons I will eventually leave have to do with certain graduate-school programs that happen to be located in other states. I will miss the Denver scene very much and will have very fond memories of what I’ve seen here.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
This is kind of a roundabout answer: As an intellectual, I have to admit that most of my own ideas come from theory and so on. However, it is also my firm conviction that all genuine culture — minority, underground or otherwise — and therefore art is an inevitable byproduct of a multi-ethnic, non-homogeneous cross-breeding of arts and voices of all sorts, and I feel like that is very threatened in the Denver scene at the moment.
I’m currently researching and designing a course that focuses on the massive history of underground arts, cultures and radical subcultures that blossomed throughout the country in “cheap” urban settings, and how all of those become erased as a result of gentrification and cultural colonialism. There will come a day when this will be seen as the biggest urban drama of our time, and it needs to be addressed now, in Denver as well as elsewhere. So that means that, in my opinion, galleries in districts such as the RiNo Art District, for example, should make more of an effort to showcase the creativity and culture that is already here, as well as create platforms for art that would be beneficial to the existing community, instead of some potential outside and more capital-driven enterprises.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
This is hard to say. At the moment, I’m very inspired by David Gatten, a major filmmaker and friend on the Film Studies faculty at CU Boulder since last fall. In addition to being a borderline-genius filmmaker, he’s one of the most warm and encouraging humans I know, and I’m finding myself very inspired by his work lately. Very rare combo for someone who’s hot shit in the art world.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Hopefully, lots! In addition to keeping Cinema Contra going — our next coming seasons are gonna be better than ever — I’m looking forward to getting buried in my film work again after a long time. Running this film series doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to make my own films, and I’m excited to get going on some rather ambitious ideas.
I need to start shooting a film that involves re-walking every single step I’ve taken in Colorado from birth on, taking single frames in the camera. In addition, I’m planning on getting more actively involved in the community of Denver, and in particular working directly with some of the coalitions that are rising up which are focused on some of the issues I’ve been talking about: gentrification, underrepresented arts and so on. Also, in light of that, I’m planning on doing some off-the-grid shows that I think are a little more urgent and more activist-oriented. Ideas have been occurring to me, such as guerrilla-type film screenings for the homeless — legal or otherwise — and more. Lots to do.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local film community in the coming year?
I’d like to see Kate Ewald, a filmmaker from Baltimore who’s now in the graduate program at CU, get more attention.
Cinema Contra presents L.A. polymath Karissa Hahn at 8 p.m. Saturday, November 19, at Glob, and returns at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 26, at Pon Pon with a celebration of Super 8 on the occasion of the film medium’s 51st anniversary. Call 720-545-4699 for more information.