Take the red pill

Pub date November 25, 2008
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

PREVIEW/REVIEW After a foray into the spirit-swindling zines and quilts of Olivia Plender that provide the other highlight of Berkeley Art Museum’s latest installment in the MATRIX series, it’s best to venture into the exhibition’s darkened back room, sink into a beanbag chair, and soak up the kinetic collage animation of Martha Colburn. Those beanbags, so different from the hard, backless blocks that art spaces and artists usually offer as places to sit, are an invitation to watch Colburn’s looping short film Myth Labs over and over — a worthwhile endeavor, since you could notice new things on your 20th dance with its blitz of religious, historical, commercial, and (oh yeah, before I forget) human imagery.

Rain clouds rain yet more rain clouds within just a single second-long burst of Myth Labs, which charts a tempestuous world where cops continually threaten to shoot whomever they encounter — cute kitties or Christ-like black men — in the face. Gunfire isn’t the only shooting going on, since the title of Colburn’s movie puns off of meth labs. The pairing of that literally explosive material with her animation is an apt one: as ever, her images erupt across the screen in rightward pans that no live action camera could capture. Beginning with battles between pilgrims and justifiably outraged and confused Indians, Colburn’s eight-minute version of American history is cinema as convulsive as its subject matter.

In an extension of the Berkeley Art Museum show, Pacific Film Archive is presenting a night with the artist and filmmaker. Though Colburn is most associated with Baltimore these days, it’s a homecoming of sorts, since she did time in the Bay Area in the 1990s, forging ties with fellow filmmakers at Other Cinema and collaborating since with Deerhoof. Spanning from 1995 to 2008, the hour-long program should be a decent representative look at the work of one of the best collage artists and animators in a post-Harry Smith world.

BENDING THE WORD/MATRIX 226 Through Feb. 8, 2009, free–$12. Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft, Berk. (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

MARTHA COLBURN’S COLLAGE ANIMATIONS Tues/2, 7:30 p.m; $5.50–$9.50. Pacific Film Archive, 2575, Bancroft, Berk. (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu