In Kingdom Come, the first of two programs for Images' Monday (April 18) lineup, moves into the realm of the fantastical, breaking down and rebuilding languages of coding, digital animation and the material aspects of celluloid film. A theme of surveillance and technology runs through these shorts, looking at the forces of power that inform how worlds are constructed, and how we see the world.
Vika Kirchenbauer and Martin Sulzer's Kingdom Come: Rituals uses groundbreaking lightweight digital cameras to evoke flickering animation and raise questions about complicity and subjectivity. Small cameras are attached to pigeons as they rapidly change direction mid-air, soaring high above and down towards the ground. This results in the briefest impressions of imagery, and through these flickering images, we realize the pigeons are inadvertently capturing some form of protest outside a government building. It's a thrilling short, and one of the best of the program, ending with the perfect final note of bitter surveillance and technology.
Digital video is broken down into dazzling abstract colour and sound in Amanda Dawn Christie and Leandre Bourgeois' HiFi Normal. The film captures an old, ominous radio tower standing in the middle of a town, almost bearing down on it. The video slowly takes on new forms, as the coding emerges in this medium-specific artwork. Partway through, the video becomes entirely hallucinatory, devolving into dancing hues of pink, a swirl of signals and noise that transforms this work into something beautiful.
Johannes DeYoung's Ego Loser is an ultra-wide animated spin on how technology tries to sooth our minds, a two-part dialogue between two distorted, ugly characters. While one head speaks about self-help, the other appears to be singing/moaning with the help of a little Auto Tune, a candy-coated vulgar sugar rush that remains consistent with the rest of the program.
Natee Chewit by Phaisit Phanphrkaschat is a chilling reminder about the effects of technology in nature and the ways our footprints can have dangerous consequences. A cow becomes stuck in a man-made hole, and the community comes together to try to free the animal, a task that grows more and more complicated as they try to lift the heavy cow out, while trying to enlarge the hole so their tools can fit. The longest of this program, the film becomes more emphatic throughout its duration, and the amount of time and effort needed for the community to fix their mistake reveals the true scope of it.
Mike Stoltz's Half Human Half Vapor is the only work in this program to be shot on film, and uses the 16mm film stock to reflexively comment on processes of documentation, archaeology and the material aspects of history. The film begins in darkness, bringing to light a society that has just died out, and opens the investigation into how to go about recovering artefacts from a society. It's a strong film that evolves and mutates throughout its runtime, from text onscreen to images of ruins to abstract animation.
Finally, Ellie Epp's Here suggests post-human cinema, without incident or action, but suggests the infinite possibilities of things to come. Overall, the In Kingdom Come lineup moves away from the more personal elements of the other nights so far, but remains among the most exciting of this year's festival.