Walking into the artist studio in Highland Square on this Saturday night, I felt like I was privy to one of Akron’s best kept secrets. But I have a feeling it won’t stay this way for long.
The Blue Sky ceramic studio and its abundance of eye-catching sculptures seems to be an ideal home to the Rubicon Cinema, a collective that screens experimental art films monthly for a packed room of local cinephiles, artists and consumers of the avant-garde.
For the February event, we viewed a silent 16mm film by New York artist and director Jerome Hiler, followed by a movie that was “live mixed” by local artist persona Gov Naim.
Hiler’s “In the Stone House” is engaging on a number of levels, one being the elusiveness of the artist himself. Tim Peyton, president of Rubicon Cinema, told the audience that, in the past, fans would have to make a trek out into the woods to see Hiler’s work.
Shot in the ’60s and finished in 2012, Hiler’s “Stone House” is a silent movie that’s an idyllic look at the filmmaker’s life at the aforementioned stone house in rural New Jersey with his partner Nathaniel Dorsky, contrasted with shots from New York City.
The images are poetic slices of life, sometimes double exposed, with visuals ranging from ice skates, parades, nature shots, lights and billboards to a closeup of a rattlesnake. Some of the moments captured felt voyeuristic and intimate.
Hiler, who began his art career as a painter, also uses his camera to create motion effects and patterns, and the frequent fade to black between scenes adds an element of surprise. Having no sound also seems to compel the audience to pay closer attention to the imagery.
As much as “Stone House” is a peaceful time capsule of the ’60s, the second film, “Shame on Everyone” is energetic and even a bit overwhelming at times, providing its own unique time capsule of ’80s ephemera. Gov Naim, who is described as a multimedia brand run solely by Akron artist Kay DePew, creates a live performance using VCRs (remember those?) and mixers, orchestrating a swelling retro feast for the senses, switching among professional wrestling videos to unintentionally comedic dance instructionals, videos about dot matrix printers and floppy computer discs, sprinkled with snippets of early digital animation and even horror movie hostess Elvira.
Naim/DePew works the mixer like a mad scientist, piecing the sounds and clips together like virtual LEGOs.
She fervently collects old VHS cassette tapes and is admittedly obsessed with the Internet. She says she would even marry the Internet if she could. The way the ’80s videos are presented is reminiscent of today’s popup ads and Internet culture, and Naim/DePew pushes the equipment to its maximum threshold, causing the machine to throw up error messages, which itself becomes a uniquely unpredictable part of the performance.
Naim also shares bits of commentary during the film, ending with the titular phrase “Shame on everyone.”
Rubicon Cinema is run by Peyton (the organization’s president), University of Akron art professor Gedas Gasparavicius (vice president) and Emily Poor (designer). The trio have taken a grassroots approach and have carefully curated these events, which feature artists from all over the country, alongside local and regional filmmakers. Most of the movies they present are non-narrative in nature.