Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist whose work encompasses film, video, installation, public performance, and sculpture. Drawing from the rich lineages of structuralist filmmaking and Third Cinema, since the late 1980s Smith’s short films have touched on the many concerns of our times—systemic racism, class, gender violence, and colonization among them—with a rigor and intrepid formal experimentation that has become all too rare.
Occasioned by our release of Drylongso (NYFF60), newly restored in 4K, we are pleased to present two programs of Smith’s short films: including works such as Chronicles of a Lying Spirit by Kelly Gabron (1992) and The Changing Same (2001), both screening from archival film prints, as well as her post-Katrina sci-fi, The Fullness of Time (2008).
The Changing Same
Cauleen Smith, 2001, USA, 35mm, 10m
“Your scuzzy downloads are fragmented.” Interweaving science fiction, noir, and tragic romance with touches of documentary naturalism, Smith imagines a disorienting vision of Earth on which two extraterrestrials are stationed to assimilate with unseen “incubators.” The Changing Same is a brief but intricately layered commentary on the boundaries impressed on race, and between the natural and the alien. 35mm print courtesy of the Cauleen Smith Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
T Minus Two
Cauleen Smith, 2010, USA, 3m
The countdown audio footage from the Apollo 11 launch date is heard over a flamed-out, iridescent landscape. Appropriating and reframing the historical moment in its present site, Smith creates small disruptions and proposes, finally, the intent to truly represent the past might be as misplaced as a green screen in the desert.
Sine At The Canyon, Sine At The Sea
Cauleen Smith, 2010, USA, 8m
Remixing original 16mm footage and appropriated film and audio clips, Sine At The Canyon, Sine At The Sea is a vertiginous montage of disruption and protest of history repeating itself. The patterns, examined and fluctuated by the sine wave, points to the disorienting real-world manifestations of relentless imperialism. “Once the capsule lands on the comet, then there’s more—more what?”
Songs for Earth & Folk
Cauleen Smith, 2013, USA, 11m
Flowers, outer space, “Africa,” birds, and bicycles. Commissioned by the Chicago Film archive, and scored by the Chicago-based band The Eternals, Songs for Earth & Folk scores a dizzying amalgamation of archival footage—from Castle Films newsreels to speculative imagery of outer space—exploring the human impulse to waste, exploit, and destroy in almost every context.
The Fullness of Time
Cauleen Smith, 2008, 49m
Blending the aesthetics of documentary, musical, science-fiction, and video art, Smith maps the post-traumatic geography and collective resistance of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by following an alien from a far-off point in the Fireworks Galaxy who has made contact with Earth “two years too late.” But what emerges is an uncanny portrait of a metropolis devastated yet humming with survivors—Mardi Gras Indians, churchgoers, and Dixieland musicians—challenging a city built on a legacy of exploitation, and whose infrastructure has become absorbed by a disaster-capitalist ideology.
Cauleen Smith, 2014, USA, 12m
Smith returned to New Orleans six years after The Fullness of Time with H-E-L-L-O, which observes a single musician’s improvisations on the instantly recognizable five-note theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind—music connecting the past and present, body and spirit, Earth and the cosmos.