Sunday, May 19

iotaCenter presents abstract cinema salon focusing on text and speech


"Dear Janice" is a 1972 work by Adam Beckett, one of the featured artists who will be covered during the iotaCenter salon Thursday at Broad Art Center.

"Dear Janice" is a 1972 work by Adam Beckett, one of the featured artists who will be covered during the iotaCenter salon Thursday at Broad Art Center. THE IOTACENTER


While Westwood attracts many mainstream Hollywood films, an entirely different genre of film, abstract cinema, is being brought to the UCLA campus.

These abstract films can be experienced Thursday from 7:30-9:30 p.m. on the first floor of the Broad Art Center. In addition to the screening of contemporary and older films, there will be discussion to introduce people to the art form and to generate new ideas for current practitioners of the art form.

The event is put on by the iotaCenter, an organization that promotes and archives abstract cinema in partnership with the Design | Media Arts department.

“It is important that we are doing these salons in conjunction with the Design | Media Arts department because we want to showcase these works not only to working filmmakers and film students, but those design and art students whose sensibilities might be a natural match for work in this realm,” said Stephanie Sapienza, the managing director for the iotaCenter.

The theme of this salon is text and speech in abstract cinema. “It is broken down as text used graphically and speech in contrast with abstraction,” said Jeremy Speed Schwartz, the Webmaster for the iotaCenter.

Text and speech act as an inspiration for the artists, some who have a background in poetry.

“I have the sense of creating something new. For a brief moment my mind is brought to another place. It is about exploring new things,” said Brian Stefans, an assistant professor of English at UCLA and a contributor to the salon.

Stefans’ piece, “The Dreamlife of Letters,” breaks down a response to a sexually charged essay and gives it new life in a visual and animated form.

“It was interesting to use language I was uncomfortable with. Animated poetry typically uses safer language. It seemed like a weird angle to take using the flash program,” Stefans said.

“Dreamlife of Letters” not only takes uncomfortable subject matter and makes it approachable by breaking it down into small parts, it also gives a fluidity to the prose through the use of Adobe Flash software.

“A lot of my friends were dancers at the time. I became more interested in beautiful movement instead of stiff movement. I wanted it to be elegant, almost like bodies moving in space,” Stefans said.

The Flash program allows for the movement of words across the screen, bringing a poem to life.

While a soundtrack typically accompanies film, this is not the case with Jules Engel’s work, which uses the absence of sound to bring attention to the experimental nature of the work. Engel will also be featured at the salon.

“Jules Engel repeats the word “˜silence.’ This hammers in the fact that there is no soundtrack. The single word gives something to hold on to,” Schwartz said.

The technology behind abstract film has dramatically changed, and this is evident in the comparison between contemporary and historic film segments.

“Hand-drawn works changed specifically. Newer ones have a process of revision, which was impossible in the past,” Schwartz said.

While most film will continue to shy away from the experimental genre, it is the belief of the artists in the salon that abstract cinema will become more pervasive in the future.

“These experimental works are slowly becoming more visible in every day life. In advertisements, airports and raves. It is a new language that can be eye candy but also terribly profound,” Stefans said..

The salon gives students who know nothing about the blossoming art form the opportunity to learn through viewing a wide range of works and a freeform discussion.

“I bring in pieces that I don’t specifically engage in to see how other people react,” Schwartz said.

This adds to the feeling of experimentation, which attracts many to this specific type of artistic expression.

When viewing abstract cinema, don’t expect an elaborate story with exciting plot twists.

“It is necessary to keep an open mind,” Schwartz said.

While the novice is encouraged and welcome to come to the salon, the audience that it hopes to benefit most is abstract cinema artists.

“The point of the salon is to help the artist expand their practice to help inform their work,” Schwartz said.

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