While film festivals like Sundance and Toronto are obvious sources of films for the HCAF program, they are not the only events I attend and scour. During the past three weeks I made it to three arts extravaganzas where no feature films were shown, and where I loaded up on ideas for future HCAF’s. Two of these were art exhibitions – the Venice Biennale and the International Center for Photography (ICP) Triennial in New York, both of which were overflowing with multimedia art installations.
But the most productive weekend of my summer was spent at Creative Capital’s summer retreat in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Creative Capital is an arts foundation that supports select emerging and mid-career artists with funding and professional support. I have been one of Creative Capital’s professional supporters, providing consultations at recent retreats for media artists seeking advice on navigating the festival circuit. I’ve also been an evaluator for Creative Capital’s media artist grants, and reviewed over 500 applications (they nearly drowned me) in 2011. I never say “no” to a request from Creative Capital’s director, Ruby Lerner, because I have immense admiration for the organization…. and I want to keep getting invited back to these amazing retreats. This year, 92 artists and artist groups each gave 5-7 minute presentations on the projects for which they were funded. I was given an early peek at exciting film, performance, and community-based art that will be emerging over the next few years, including a ravishing new animation by 2012 guest Stacey Steers. As always, the experience was illuminating and thrilling.
I make terrific connections at the Creative Capital retreats, both with artists who are potential festival guests and with other curators and arts professionals who give me valuable programming tips. At the 2012 retreat, I began conversations with the pioneering queer media artist Barbara Hammer that have led to a major focus on Hammer’s work in our upcoming festival. Hammer has been feted around the world, not only by Creative Capital, but in recent retrospectives at France’s Jeu de Paume and England’s Tate Gallery. She told me last summer that she had not shown her work in Houston, but that she had begun talking with Mary Magsamen of the Aurora Picture Show about a potential visit. She hoped for more than a single screening, and so she, Mary, and I, in the months after the retreat, concocted an ambitious series of events for the 2013 festival. One of these will be a live performance at the Aurora Picture Show on November 8 of Hammer’s Pasolini-inspired Witness: Palestine, which I got to see during PS1/MOMA’s Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective last year. Another program will feature two of Hammer’s artist portraits, Lover Other and Maya Deren’s Sink. And preceding both of these shows will be a four-hour class that Hammer and I will give on Sunday afternoon, November 3 at the Glassell School of Art, during which Barbara will show selected films from each decade of her career. Privileged enrollees (tuition is $30, available now) will receive an invaluable initiation into this fierce, joyful, and inventive artist’s amazing career.