“All Souls Night” will be an evening extravaganza of experimental and avant-garde film, music, and performance art. Curated by Homer filmmaker Michael Walsh and presented by Bunnell Street Art Center, themes will include invention, inclusion, and metamorphosis and attendees are invited to join the fun by wearing costumes that celebrate transition and seasons of change.
While eager to keep the films a mostly “blind date” experience, Walsh described one he will be featuring, “Born in Chicago,” a three-minute film created in 1968/1969 by Dennis Bauer, a well-known Chicago artist at the time. The film is three minutes long, rare, was recently digitized, and has never shown in Alaska.
“Bauer took hundreds of 16mm shots, every frame re-edited, taking multiple films and creating one single strand of film, with a soundtrack by Paul Butterfield, a Chicago musician,” he said. “This film was an early music video if you will, moving image art and an explosive visual black-and-white mash up of somewhat familiar films.”
Walsh shared that event attendees can expect a 70- to 75-minute program created in the spirit of a film jam — short, experimental, and single channel works that will be projected large on one of the gallery walls, intermingled with performances by local artists. Envision moving image meets live performance meets sound art.
“I would say that most people would not be familiar with these filmmakers, and that these individuals are doing amazing work addressing issues that are current,” Walsh said. “And all the while, the films are not documentary in nature, but experimental, avant-garde, and non-traditional. These filmmakers are speaking to these issues with abstract imagery and not traditional narratives.”
Walsh described the experimental, avant-garde and non-traditional moving art forms as being similar to an abstract painter.
“An abstract painter might describe their emotions towards a political situation without guiding the viewer from point A to B to C with a resolution and where you walk away with clarity,” he said. “Instead, you view the painting, experience your own reaction to it that may or may not be explainable to you. Music, poetry, paintings, film can tap into emotions that are not always easy to get to. It’s a great way of expanding your eyes, mind and heart.”
Walsh shared that there is a long history of non-traditional forms of filmmaking, with experimental and avant-garde film taking off in America in the 1950s and 1960s, coming out of New York and San Francisco.
“Film was invented in the late 1800s and there was no such thing as storytelling, they were actualities, documentaries,” he said. “It wasn’t until DW Griffith, a pioneering American film director came on the scene that the narrative structure was created and is still used today. He was the first to take risks and incorporate many techniques of contemporary film, like subtitles, close ups, still shots, and more.”
An adjunct art instructor for the University of Alaska Anchorage and assistant curator and archivist for the Moving Image Department at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Walsh has been making and curating moving image art for more than 25 years. His work has been screened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in California, Nam June Paik Center in South Korea and Anthology Film Archives in New York City, among others. With an MFA in Film/Video, New Genres and Performance Art from the Peck School of the Arts at UW-Milwaukee, Walsh works in digital video and celluloid film, as well as painting and installation.
During his most recent curation work at the Walker Art Center in Minnesota, Walsh had access to view hundreds of films created by both national and international filmmakers. Inspired by his return to Homer, “All Souls Night” was Walsh’s way of re-engaging with local artists, re-invigorating the medium since COVID-19, and sharing his passion.
“I had a great time working with Minnesota artists and international artists and I’m excited to be home and re-connecting,” he said. “It has also been challenging for many to lose the energy and intimacy of live performance and film in recent years. There is so much amazing archival and obscure film out there and I’m eager to juxtapose and highlight it alongside Homer’s expressive performers.”
The title “All Souls Night” was inspired by the time of year, so a celebration of the timeframe, but also the idea of inclusivity of all souls, Walsh shared — equity within community and getting along through inclusion verses exclusion, for example.
The evening will provide an opportunity to view surprising and bizarre short films interspersed with curious performances by local artists. Mandy Bernard will present a live performance piece integrated with video projection. Susannah Webster, Peggy Paver, Miranda Weiss, and Kammi Matson will showcase short performance pieces. Quentin Simeon, an Indigenous Anchor Point storyteller will share a spoken word piece that he has been working on all summer, with Jacques Longpre backing him on guitar. And Walsh and Susannah Webster will debut a collaboration of short videos, 30 seconds to one minute in length.
“My passion is to expose Homer to art that you can’t really experience outside of a few major American cities, to bring these moving image art experiences to my town,” he shared. “This program is my attempt to create what you might see in New York’s lower East side, or San Francisco. My hope is that people will have a great night and walk away thinking, “I don’t know what that was, but it sure was fun.”
“All Souls Night” is Saturday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. at Bunnell Street Arts Center. Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 discount and $20 pay-it-forward. Purchase tickets at bunnellarts.org and at the door.