Monday, January 26, 2009

[225] Stirring the Agitprop Pot

In the February 2009 issue of 225 magazine

The Baton Rouge Gallery is usually a quiet oasis of contemplation. But for its 2009 Flatscape Video Series, the gallery is offering something a little more confrontational, promising “this year, the program begins with a bang—the bang of a bomb.”

Documentaries often spring from an artist’s need to tell an unflattering story, and the ensuing marginalization lends the work a sharp political edge. Flatscape opened Jan. 31 under the banner “Subversion: Anarchy Art and Activism,” and it continues this month with “Illegal Evidence: Art Against Authority” on Feb. 28. That screening includes Undeniable Evidence, which documents guerrilla artists and their public works ranging from creating a public billboard that gets wiped clean each day by the tide to protesters “in ill-fitting suits … vomiting the colors of the American flag.” Following that, Bringing It All to You explores the activities of ®™ark, an artists’ group that found infamy with their spot-on satires of Web sites for and George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. These films explore how artists subvert the accepted corporate channels of information to demonstrate how shaky those channels actually are.

March 28 sees “Statues of Liberty: Accusations of Activism” come to the gallery. This screening will feature the documentary Steve Kurtz Waiting. Kurtz creates artwork about and resembling biotechnology. After he called 911 for his ailing wife, paranoid authorities confiscated the contents of Kurtz’s apartment, fearing he was a terrorist. According to the Video Data Bank that provides much of the content for Flatscape, “Steve became the victim of this paranoia, and through the extended powers of the U.S. Patriot Act, he still awaits trial for mail fraud. If found guilty, he could face up to twenty years.” Also on the bill is Susan Youseef’s For the Least, about American Catholics marching on Guantanamo Bay, and Mohamed Yousry: A Life Stands Still, which documents a naturalized citizen wrongly arrested in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. These films offer more than a knee-jerk criticism of American society; they illuminate the places where the system has gone awry, and in some cases, what little is being done to correct it.

All Flatscape presentations begin at 8 p.m. and are free to gallery members. $5 for non-members.

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