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Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014

Filmmakers Examining the Actor's Craft

INOVA’s 'Enacting Acting'

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This winter, UW-Milwaukee’s INOVA presents “Enacting Acting,” a novel exhibition of work by filmmakers Robert Arndt, Vishal Jugdeo and Alix Pearlstein, examining the craft of acted performance. Striving to combat the disappearance of nuance from “pop culture’s spectacular entertainment,” the exhibit delivers a close and rather dark vision of its subject.

Arndt’s contribution is a series of three short films featuring a single actor in various locations. Lines for the Next Exhibition finds him waiting in a studio and is shot from slightly above, suggesting close self-observation. In Telegraph, he sits alone in an apartment obsessively focusing a camera but never taking a picture, while Scene One sends him walking down a wooded path, his increasingly frustrated inner monologue conveying, as Arndt puts it, “recognition of the [audience’s] gaze and disdain for the gaze.”

Jugdeo’s Stage Design for Disassociation and Violent Broadcast deconstruct the insidious clichés of mainstream interview programs. Stage Design’s interview is a torrent of platitudes delivered at fever pitch forcing us to consider the very commercial basis for televised “therapy.” Violent Broadcast pits two interviewers against one interviewee. Evoking the constant danger and shaming endured by people of “deviant” identity, the work is awash with complex symbolism. At one point the interviewee is made to kiss a globe affixed to the end of a rod (kissing the world’s ass?) and the interviewers are frequently shown in cutaway giving one another sensual massages while the interviewee speaks.

Shot on a bare white stage, Pearlstein’s The Drawing Lesson and Moves in the Field closely examine performative group dynamics. In the former, she dissects the variable roles between observer and observed by moving a camera around and around a group of actors who alternately scrutinize each other and the viewer. In Moves, the performers follow the simple directions: “Stop, move, look at the camera and look at each other.” Power plays between actors are prominent. A “leading man” quickly emerges, magnetically draws the camera’s eye and points to the unsettling idea that expressivity is born, not just of an actor’s comfort and understanding, but of his sense of power.

“Enacting Acting” is on display through March 9, at INOVA, 2155 N. Prospect Ave.