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Optic Nerve XII at MOCA

Jillian Mayer, Scenic Jogging.

Last Friday night, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami packed the house twice for Optic Nerve XII, an annual festival of film and video by South Florida artists and filmmakers. Both the 7pm and 9pm screenings were so full that a satellite room was set up for the overflow and a third screening was added for the next afternoon. The strong and enthusiastic crowd – artists and supporters of all ages – was ripe for entertainment, and Optic Nerve supplied. From close to 100 applications, the jurors picked 22 short, fast and furious videos, all 5 minutes or less. And videos they were. Although it’s technically a film and video festival, film appears nostalgically in Optic Nerve as a medium of a former era, like cassette tapes or 8-tracks. These are clearly digital days.

The evening opened with Autumn Casey’s Getting Rid of All My Shoes, one of the evening’s three chosen winners (a fourth, chosen by the audience, will be announced this week at The first shot of the night showed Casey digging through her closet, throwing shoes into a plastic bin for what turned out to be quite a long time – she has a lot of shoes. The video then shifted into shorter clips, each one framing Casey putting out a single pair of shoes in a random neighborhood spot.

Autumn Casey, Getting Rid of All My Shoes.

Casey’s video was followed by Jillian Mayer’s Scenic Jogging, a frantic 1-minute shot of Mayer running through city streets to keep up with a moving projection of a landscape. Up next, Erwin Georgi’s equally concise Lines, a shifting composition of symmetrical pulsing lines straight out of the club, complete with bass-heavy sound. From here, sensory overload continued in a wild ride. Almost all of the artists featured in Optic Nerve freely mixed media to produce a collage of moving image and sound, including some combination of low-tech video, digital animation, scrolling text, found sound and footage, hand-drawn elements and ominous electronic music, sometimes all at once.

(R) Erwin Georgi, Lines, (L) Moira Holohan, Look at the Signs.

Moira Holohan’s Look at the Sign used not only live action but video montage, painted animation, green screen and found sound. Hers is a good example of the additive nature of almost every work in the show. After incorporating multiple image sources, very few of the artists used synchronous sound, meaning sound generated by the image being filmed, so the audio was yet another source of sensory information for the brain to integrate.

Even when the media was reduced to a more classical combination – single image, single audio track – the pace was rapid-fire. Two loosely narrative works, including Justin H. Long’s In Search of Miercoles – another winner, and Eve as a Young Girl, Vanessa Cruz’s Kentridge-style animation, were almost jittery.

There were few meditative moments in Optic Nerve, all instant recognition, nothing requiring a little reflection to fully comprehend. For this reason, the show seemed very of the moment, blissfully free from the burdens of what has come before, like a rebellious child smashing toys together. When references to history were made, it was generally not art history but popular culture or simply the history of technology. Susan Lee-Chun’s Let’s Suz-ercise! (Chicago Style), the third winner, was a fully satisfying dance show of the artist’s alter ego exercisers. It brings to mind the best of 90’s music video artists like Chris Cunningham. Look up Windowlicker on YouTube if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Susan Lee-Chun, Let’s Suz-ercise! (Chicago Style).

Scenic Jogging and Barron Scherer’s Wall Street Neu!, were based on containing one form of media inside another. Wall Street Neu! frames an out-of-register projection of Oliver Stone’s famous 80’s film, Wall Street. Both videos deconstruct their own technological origins, pointing to the ephemerality of any medium and the brief glory days before another medium takes over.

Many were like television on crack, including Dee Hood’s Believe, which layered a scrolling text (Twitter results for the word “believe”) over multiple stacked frames pulsing through all manner of video imagery. The sound was the ever-present morbid electronica. Believe went beyond the saturation point – it was impossible to take it all in. The same can be said for Scott Draft’s Apocalypse and Emerson Rosethal’s Pseudocoma.

Overall the works went for maximum. This went on for over an hour. After the screening finished, audiences seemed animated though perhaps too stunned to talk about the show in any depth, at least not before taking a minute to just breathe and be quiet[.]

Dee Hood, Believe.

Optic Nerve XII was on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami August 6th and 7th, 2010

For more information please visit:

Susan Lee-Chun image courtesy the artist and David Castillo Gallery. All other images courtesy the artist.

This post was contributed by Annie Hollingsworth winner of this year’s Miami Writer’s Prize.


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Optic Nerve XII at MOCA