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Fest showcases the experimental

25th Onion city Experimental
film and video festival

When: Through Sunday

Where: Ferguson Theater, Columbia College Chicago, 600 S. Michigan; Music Box Theare, 3733 N. Southport

Admission: $8-$12


Updated: October 7, 2013 11:46AM

Chicago Filmmakers showcases the experimental screen scene by presenting the 25th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival. Patrick Friel, the event’s director and programmer, fills a weekend with 64 works from 14 countries that will strike your eyes and ears like nothing at the multiplex. Experiments transcend escapism at this fest.

There is a history of hating the word “art” in Hollywood, where telling stories and selling tickets is the raison d’etre. Yet making art is precisely, if unprofitably the aim of filmmakers in Onion City. Their names are unknown. None will win an Oscar. Not only are the faces they put on the screen unfamiliar, there are none to see in the abstract works.

“Indescribable” is not a word a critic ought to use. Truly original films make it unavoidable, though. Reviewers and their readers already share a vocabulary for describing mainstream movies. Onion City is a vocabulary-expander. Adventurous viewers can see new visual vocabularies invented by such artists as Lewis Klahr, William E. Jones, Jennifer Reeder, Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carre.

Selected capsules:


“Wandering, Pausing” (1 p.m., Ferguson Theater) This program of nine works includes three that evoke vistas with lovely insight. Upstate New Yorker Vincent Grenier collages water in flow with sounds of trains and trucks passing over bridges in “Watercolor (Fall Creek).” Massachusetts birds on the wing, branches in the wind, and her purring cat form the 16mm film “murmurations” by Rebecca Meyers, a former Onion City co-programmer. In “Aula Magna” Andres Denegri makes a structuralist sketch through his windows on Belgrano Avenue in Buenos Aires.


“The Realist” and “Empire” (2 p.m., Music Box Theatre) Scott Stark titles “The Realist” after a stereoscopic still camera from the 1950s. He casts this “highly abstracted melodrama” with blank-faced mannequins in a department store. Blinking between left-eye and right-eye frames, this is a kinetic take on gloss and the abyss. “Empire” is a 48-minute digital video of the Empire State Building as it appears in “Grand Theft Auto IV.” Phil Solomon remakes Andy Warhol’s original 8-hour “Empire” by positioning his player in the game about where Warhol placed his 16mm camera in 1964.

Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer and reviewer.

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