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  • 1859
  • When Worlds Collude
  • Fred Worden: "...modern masters at mid-career"
  • The After Life
  • Here
  • Everyday Bad Dream
  • Throbs
  • North Shore
  • Time's Arrow
  • One
  • REVIEWS of Fred Worden Films:

    Reviews & Notes on Everyday Bad Dream:

    Mark McElhatten program note for 2006 New York Film Festival screening:

    What at one minute would be unfathomable and at a sixty minutes a strident provocation, is at 6 minutes still gnomic yet rich and involving. A freeze frame might suggest a detail from a Kenneth Noland or Robert Motherwell painting. In motion we see something more sculptural a wobulated Oldenberg or Koons, if you can read between the eyes.

    A belated homage to pop art or pop music? A tribute to Richie Valens? Hardly. Some strange mojo. The motion and the sound indicates a odd territory where even mundane amusement has hit a dead end. Like discarded wrappers left behind when the treats have melted. As with a migraine or bad acid we are at the mercy of our receptors picking up static or worse. A bad signal to noise ratio in the perceptual field. Everyday comments or stimulus that should be fleeting are caught on our screen. Things that should fade out to oblivion become insistent and domineering, forming some weird Congee- a Chinese Porridge in the mind. On any given day this is a place always too conveniently located nearby meant to be sidestepped. A sandtrap. A glitch. The convex depression of a failed epiphany given amplitude. Has anyone ever tried to represent this before in its proper proportion and to the betterment of an art?

    Everyday Bad Dream
    Brian Belovarac review:

    Everyday Bad Dream A hilarious and disarming piece that threatens meaninglessnessand achieves transcendence, Worden's brief video essay on the eyes of a cartoon duck (quick flickers between two circular black dots, with a batch of pixels floating between planes to the sounds of Ritchie Valens performing in a midway-cum abbatoir) felt remarkably fresh in the midst of a weekend full of recycled technique and obvious goals. I mean ... what's it all about? I have no idea, but somehow it all cametogether in a perfectly organic manner, making this work one of the most original and accomplished of the video pieces screened.

    Posted by Brian Belovarac kinoslap.blogspot.com

    Everyday Bad Dream
    Michael Sicinski review:

    In so far as cartoons do any more than accustom the senses to the new tempo, they hammer into every brain the old lesson that continuous friction, the breaking down of all individual resistance, is the condition of life in this society. Donald Duck in the cartoons and the unfortunate in real life get their thrashing so that the audience can learn to take their own punishment.

    Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception"

    After attending this year's "Views from the Avant-Garde" screenings, I was reassured that, despite some mediocre entries, experimental film (and video -- we mustn't forget video) is alive and thriving. But I find that the idea of experimental film is under fire these days. This isn't happening in any direct way; we're mostly past the age of broadsides, salvos, and manifestos, which is kind of sad in its own way. And it isn't happening through widespread neglect. That's been the general condition of experimentalism in most every artform for quite some time, and it usually doesn't do all that much damage to the work in question. No, what I mean is, "experimental film" is being replaced by a new generation of careerists and second-raters, benign, well-intentioned scoundrels for whom a new "accessibility" is the last refuge. Local and regional film festivals are full of this work, and this "movement" (more a loosely organized trend, really) even has its own emergent stars.

    I won't bother naming names, but you probably know what I'm talking about. Well-funded fashion spreads masquerading as evocative mood-cinema. Bruce Conner-style 40s and 50s found footage pressed into the service of one-note "essay films" and easy one-liners. Allegedly "open-form" documentaries on place that adopt the surface affectations of James Benning's films but none of the rigor or unnerving use of duration. Post-Brakhage painted works that substitute screen-saver scribbles for the force and muscularity of Abstract Expressionism. And even high-ticket commissions that lionize the logotypes of multinational corporations, under the guise of witty insouciance.

    Isn't there anybody out there who isn't afraid of pissing off his or her audience? Of doling out what at first may seem like "punishment," but in fact is just a forceful re-education of the senses? I can't believe I need to say this in 2006, but here goes: powerful cinema must not only address our minds. It has to engage our bodies, and while sometimes that physical challenge can be lyrical and poignant, sometimes it has to pierce our eyes with a light we simply cannot shut out. Within this aggressive modernist logic, only by diving into the wreck of our previous perceptual habits can we round the corner into a new, skull-shaking version of beauty. Brakhage knew this. So did Sharits, Menken, Harry Smith. Peter Kubelka and Rose Lowder and Luther Price and Lynn Marie Kirby still know this. And by God, so does Fred Worden.

    Everyday Bad Dream doesn't scramble the sensorium the way Automatic Writing and The Or Cloud do, but in its own way EDB is more methodical. The video begins with its title in LED dots, with a single central pulsating dot down below, like a cursor awaiting input. The screen is then dominated for the next six minutes by a quivering black form, sometimes circular but frequently distorting itself into elastic ovals. The hot-white video field surrounding it pulses as well, but the main action is a rapid flicker between two evolving states of the black form. It dilates, it expands and contracts, it recedes to allow a wavy yellow form to emerge, anchoring the bottom of the frame.

    In describing EBD, Mark McElhatten wisely referenced Robert Motherwell's paintings (Ellsworth Kelly would be another apposite touchstone), but the shape, if not the color, of this yellow anchor recalls a late Frank Stella wall relief, something optically flat but suggesting spatiality. The cursor dot appears and reappears at several points throughout the piece, holding steady in a central blinking position, like a beacon, but then starting an almost imperceptible spiral. (Duchamp's Anemic Cinema, anyone?) The flicker halts a bit at around minute three, only to build a fuller head of steam. But even in these moments of visual respite, Worden's dense, pulsating soundscape keeps the anxiety quotient very high.

    Worden employs a flange effect to make this wall of din sound abstract but physical, a washing-machine sound that envelops the individual sonic elements of the soundtrack. But part of the frustration (and excitement) of the audio track is its refusal to become an all-over din. We hear distinct bits (an overheard conversation, Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba"), but they roll in and out of earshot like the tide on fast-forward. EBD is overpowering; it impresses its overall shape on you like some kind of structuralist acid-bath. But by the time it concludes it's also strangely relaxing since, unlike most nightmares, we can use our lucidity and cognitive capacity to acclimate to it, learn its tricks, watch its assaultive forms become pretty, a fistfight evolving into modern dance. And then, as with most bad trips, we discover the Big Bad is really rather commonplace. But in this case (and here's why I see EBD as a sort of rejoinder to Anger's Mouse Heaven -- there, I said it), Worden locates a primal fear in that which is all the more sinister for being all around you, day in, day out. Cartoons used to tap into these anxieties of the world shifting its shape beneath our feet. One man made millions paring away that dread. But as the Dialectic of Enlightenment quote above makes clear, it doesn't go anywhere. It's just pressed further and further down into the image, seeping into every facet of our lives.



    Everyday Bad Dream