Walk down a side street off of Bedford Ave, S 3rd street to be exact, and you will stumble across a door along an otherwise plain and fairly common strip, no restaurants or bars just some apartments maybe a laundromat. But behind this door, conspicuously carrying the label of “spectacle,” and covered over in stickers and graphic posters lies the absolute pinnacle of bizarre, sophisticated, subversive and endlessly sub-cultural, independent-art-house-film experience. Their films always range from the absolutely socio-culturally significant to the bizarre and fascinating, one can see on any given day a wild Kung-Fu movie marathon or stunningly poignant, experimental short films from director Ngozi Onwurah. Spectacle is an absolute diamond in the rough, it consists of one theater, a small intimate space where one walks in to directly confront the singular ticket salesperson, who is also, always, an expert and authority on the films that you are about to watch. One then peels back a curtain and is placed directly in the seating area facing the screen. A complete experience, watching a film at Spectacle effectively breaks you away from the routine malaise and isolation, which larger corporate theaters and films create.
Here at Spectacle, I had the privilege of viewing a distinctively rare and thought provoking collection of animated shorts titled Head Space, what the theater has rightfully dubbed an “animated showcase.” The stylistic range and even the various mediums used by the artists created a depth and breadth that left one dizzy with a curious combination of mirth and introspection. Versatile animators like Leah Shore, used the a full media range within her animated short Meat Waffle, this was a meta-narrative that divided segment through the use of clay-mation, stop-animation, black and white ink drawings and full color animation. This was certainly a powerful piece, the central character through which the other various narratives were launched was an elderly flesh pile surrounded by his tight living room confines.
In a strange voyeuristic play that hints at the possible joys of sinking into a vision filled dementia, the character could call upon surfaces, TV tables, books, the arm of his chair, to spontaneously produce narrative scenes that would jump to life, as if every surface had the potential to become a digital screen. These were all intimate scenes that reflected on our vanities, insecurities and the paranoia that accompanies an interaction with others, always wondering: how do they view and what are their impressions of me? In an interesting twist at each scenes end, we return to our voyeur to find that the vision has affected him corporeally, as he takes the vanities and insecurities onto his person. Further, there is a truly impressive list of artists here, others include Wend Congzhao, Amy Lockheart, Lisa Crafts and an old classic from the late 70’s: Sally Cruikshank’s Make Me Psychic, 1978.
Congzhao with her animated feature Rocks in My Pockets, presents an extremely bare, simplistic dream space, a white washed world where forms are delineated through minimalist contour lines. The figures move in strange repeating motions as if manifestations of psychic trauma, torment and anxiety, accompanied by a soundtrack that captures burbling dripping percussive rhythms: a jarring, destabilizing and genius execution. In combination with the entire list of amazing artists featured, over 10 different artists with their own unique perspectives and approach to the art of animation, this work leaves deep impression on the viewer. Also worth noting, this is a fairly comprehensive list of innovative women animators that all contribute immensely to their chosen artistic discipline and form a direct challenge to the boys club of established animation crews, such as Disney’s Pixar animations crew.
Go out and support Spectacle and see this fantastic collection, Head Space will only be on view for so long but the theater continues to show the greatest independent film selection around at a far lesser price than established art-houses like IFC.