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Caroline Koebel

Incursions Into Cosmic Fear

June 5-Augut 1, 2015

Works in the exhibition:




Found War Porn & Navy Seal Trident First Gallery



(2014, 10:00, HD video, 16:9, color/b&w, sound)

Viewing Blind: Sniper’s Burial confronts the legacy of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, “America’s deadliest sniper,” in a search for deeper understanding of geopolitics and the permanent war phenomenon. Like Bruce Conner’s Report (1963-1967), it is a “meditation on violence.” Sniper’s Burial is part of Viewing Blind, an ongoing project which experiments with how the encounter between politics and aesthetics in cinema can express new ways of speaking critically about issues of power, representation, subjectivity, and democracy. Sniper’s Burial features a single take shot by the artist on HD video of the SEAL ritual of pounding Tridents (official emblem) into the fallen soldier’s coffin. The proximity between artist and filmed subject remains key to the concluded video even though the image was eventually approached in the editing process as if it were found/archival material. To grasp and possess such an intensively masculine scene (of some of the globe’s best-trained warriors), especially as a female filmmaker, bespeaks transgression. Sniper’s Burial riffs on the formalism of the military uniform (and culture and ethos) and is cognizant of the visual languages of Third Reich director Leni Riefenstahl on the one hand and minimalist/structural/flicker/avant-garde film (e.g., Peter Kubelka, Paul Sharits, Tony Conrad) on the other. It straddles conceptions of the image as both document and freestanding expression, representation and abstraction, all the while riding the inherent power of the image to signify in contrary directions. The picture track of Sniper’s Burial is akin to a musical composition; the optical pulse and overall rhythm are intended to be apprehended both viscerally and intellectually.The soundtrack samples eclectic sources, from the Village People and Daft Punk to Kyle’s widow’s National Rife Association speech and US military promotional videos. Like postmodernism in general and hip hop in particular, free license is given to placing the fragments in new contexts, to forming new expressions by the reordering of disparate sonic references. Curtis Mayfield’s “Get Down” from a 1971 Soul Train episode poses a utopian counter-narrative to the dominant theme of the military industrial complex.




2) Hole or Space

(2006, 3:23, 16mm and digital video, 4:3, color/b+w, silent)

Pricks, gaps, dots, openings, hole or space takes its cue from contortionists of the early screen in spiraling out from conceptions of the body as whole.The film uses early cinema and avant-garde classics as its compositional notes: Luis Martinetti, Contortionist (Edison Manufacturing Company, 1894); Crissie Sheridan Serpentine Dance (Edison, 1897); Ballet Mécanique (Fernand Léger & Dudley Murphy, 1924); An Optical Poem (Oskar Fischinger, 1938); Tarantella (Mary E. Bute & Ted Nemeth, 1940).


Second Gallery


(LCD flatscreen to the right)



(2013, 4:31, HD video, 16:9, color/b&w, sound)

This composition of repurposed images and sounds posits contemporary American aerial war technology in the context of the Cold War pursuit of ever better weaponry as self-protection, despite the reality that it was the US that dropped A-bombs on civilization. 1950 sources: Rabbit's Moon (Kenneth Anger), The Flying Saucer (Mikel Conrad), and Flying Disc Man from Mars (Fred C. Brannon). The video was commissioned by the Magmart Festival (video under volcano) for its global project 100x100=900 (100 videoartists to tell a century). Each filmmaker was randomly assigned a year from the 20th c.—in this case, 1950


Mid area 1


(Large 4:3 screen)



(1997, 13:00, 16mm, 4:3, color, sound)

"Inflorescentia takes the traditional association of female sexuality with nature and through a sensorium of taste, touch, sight, and sound fragrantly explores and divinely disrupts this relationship." –Jennie Klein

Attempting to fissure prevailing relations between spectator and screen, between sight and touch, desiring subject and object of desire, Inflorescentia uses poetics, humor and erotics as means to voice "the body" and to take stock of cinema as one of the multiple transgressive sites for female pleasure. Its influences are productions by gay men, including Sergei Paradjanov, Derek Jarman and Jean Genet.Scenes include a boy fingering a pomegranate, a woman plucking a pineapple while being caressed, and another in an auto-erotic frenzy rubbing herself with vibrant flowers of a perverse order.Featuring a cast of poets, filmmakers and performance artists: Gloria Alvarez, Noelle B., Mila Chistoserdova, A.J. Escobar, Angelica Garza, Kate Haug, Nadja Muzhik, and Beverly Tang.


Mid Area 2


(after partition)



(2011, 7:45, Super 8 and digital video, 4:3, color, silent)

Inspired by a colony of cliff swallows nesting under a freeway in Austin, Texas, Swoop considers human-animal interactions through optical rhythms and flight patterns. Birds—cliff swallows as well as thousands of purple martins on their migration path—collide with construction of new freeways to nowhere.


Large Back Gallery


The Flicker On Off Trilogy


(2008, 5:50, 16mm and web to digital video, 4:3, color/b+w, sound)

Far-ranging source materials are amassed and clashed to ponder the November 19, 2005 killing by US Marines of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq. Featured is ten-year-old Iman Walid, who witnessed the slaughter of her family. The Atlantic City massacre scene from Godfather III by Francis Ford Coppola is revisited as an epicenter of violence and its aftermath within and beyond representation. Completed during a residency at the Experimental Television Center in Owego, New York, All the House (Haditha Massacre) takes heed of the long and rich artistic tradition of seeking new forms of resistance to authoritarian paradigms. Part 3 of Flicker On Off, a trilogy applying the idiom of experimental film and artist's video to big-budget movies in order to speak about world affairs in what could be described as an alternate essay format.



(2008, 6:10, 16mm and web to digital video, 4:3, color/b+w, sound)

Former Prime Minister and leader at the time of the Pakistan People's Party, Benazir Bhutto was campaigning to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister again when on December 27, 2007 she was assassinated in Rawalpindi. Enlisting conceptual tactics and experimental sensibilities, Sunroof (Benazir Bhutto Assassination) investigates and reframes the historic event. Gun shootouts in the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing are re-shot with a Bolex 16mm camera and then hand processed and crossed with nonfiction images of rioting and a multilingual audio collage. Part 2 of Flicker On Off, a trilogy applying the idiom of experimental film and artist's video to big-budget movies in order to speak about world affairs in what could be described as an alternate essay format.



(2008, 8:12, 16mm to digital video, 4:3, b+w, sound)

Unlikely suspects converge to reflect upon the havoc wreaked by climate change, particularly global warming’s impact on glaciers. Boxing scenes from Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull are re-shot with a Bolex 16mm camera and then hand processed and juxtaposed against NPR reportage and artist Katie Paterson’s audio project. Part 1 of Flicker On Off, a trilogy applying the idiom of experimental film and artist's video to big-budget movies in order to speak about world affairs in what could be described as an alternate essay format.


Caroline Koebel is one of experimental film’s most gifted and fearless provocateurs. Often using found-footage and a visceral, contrapuntal editing style, she has developed a visual language that responds directly and forcefully to some of the most pressing issues of our times—the horrors of war, privacy issues, displays of power, feminist methodologies—while remaining conversant with the classics of avant-garde cinema. 


Her exhibition, Incursions into Cosmic Fear, will feature a concise selection of works from the past two decades including her latest effort, Viewing Blind: Sniper’s Burial (2015), which uses the military funeral for Chris Kyle (American Sniper) to explore, as the artist says, “the encounter between politics and aesthetics in cinema.” Another of the exhibition’s films, Inflorescentia (1997), is called by critic Jennie Klein “a sensorium of taste, touch, sight, and sound.” 


The title of the exhibition is drawn from the French cultural theorist Paul Virilio’s 2012 book, The Administration of Fear, which traces our culture’s move away from a “democracy of opinion” as the author describes it, toward a “society of emotion” caused in part by the instantaneity of communications.


Koebel’s work has shown internationally, including retrospectives at Festival Cine//B (Santiago), Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle (Warsaw) and Directors Lounge (Berlin), as well as at  Anthology Film Archives (New York), Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (Buffalo), Ann Arbor Film Festival, Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley), Los Angeles Filmforum, Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Camagüey International Video Art Fest (Cuba), Edinburgh International Film Festival, European Media Art Festival (Osnabrück), and LOOP Barcelona. Her essays have appeared in Brooklyn Rail, Afterimage, Jump Cut, and Millennium Film Journal. She received a BA in Film Studies at UC Berkeley and an MFA in Visual Arts at UC San Diego. On faculty at Transart Institute, Koebel teaches workshops in Berlin on such topics as “Wild Urbanity” and “Brecht’s Alienation Effect.” 


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