On View: June 17
This Video Viewing Room features excerpts from Amit Desai's film Cross Eyed (2021), alongside an introduction written by Lumi Tan and additional text written by the artist.
This presentation is organized by Lumi Tan, Senior Curator, with thanks to Sentient.Art.Film.
“Formless” is a word which is repeatedly used to describe not only the structure of Amit Desai’s 2021 film Cross Eyed, but the performances, exchanges, and relations within it. We could see the film as a documentary about the making of a play, an expansive rehearsal for adulthood, or a tentacular mode of storytelling where every performance has a divergent strategy. In many ways, it feels like a love letter to the boundlessness of an age on the cusp, when self-awareness and world-weariness are bound up with intangible desires. At its core, the premise is simple. A few years ago, Desai wrote a coming-of-age play entitled The Highway. When Desai asked New York City teenager Jack Salmon to direct the play, Salmon enlisted a group of peer performers—a group already accustomed to working together in hybrid, “non-ambitious” ways— to star. You can sense that everyone’s comfort with the camera stems from never believing it could be used as a tool for veracity. The expected template for rehearsal, behind-the-scenes footage, performance, and confessional interview do not flow seamlessly into each other. Instead they are as porous and temperamental as memory. For ANTHRODRAMA, Desai shares a “polyrhythmic” iteration of the material stemming from Cross Eyed, introducing another level of collaboration, interference, and remix. Tim Watson, the film’s editor, returns to the material to recut the footage into “songs,” denoting new bridges; Salmon shot and edited iPhone videos that continue the film’s opacity, intuitive energy, and personal throughlines. The positions behind, in front, and beside the camera become restless. These additional authors divert the possibility of recursion, perpetuating the joy in formlessness.
— Lumi Tan, Curator
to say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, is true
ANTHRODRAMA (by A.D.)
Our culture now demands a drama that is more than just mimesis.
The public demands a theater whose proscenium is placed firmly in real life.
It is no longer enough to break the fourth wall; the fourth wall must be forgotten about completely.
Before any experiment begins there is observation.
Before any story begins there is exposition, in which the given circumstances or facts of the story are revealed to the audience.
These things exist in stasis, following their own natural rhythms.
Polyrhythm, also called cross-rhythm, is a technique used to create rhythmic conflict.
Cross Eyed is a documentary that attempts to draw out simultaneous frequencies within the illusory container called a film.
Then comes the crisis.
Every crisis, like every experiment, depends on two variables: one that stays the same throughout, and one that will change.
Typical plot structure moves in one line like this, no matter how many times you watch it.
Polyrhythm offers up many possible sonic tensions that each lead to a different resolution.
Storytelling requires a new type of script, in which story events do not lead to a single predetermined action.
Every film contains a multitude of untold stories.
Where most stories attempt to spear the human heart, anthrodrama is the web that is woven by the audience itself to untangle experience.
Like the negotiation between truth and lie animates human life, the game of watching a film is played by arranging puzzle pieces of story in endless combinations without winner or loser.
Who calls final cut for a climax that can never be realized?
Does the director or the actor or the watcher dictate what actually happened?
Isn’t the rehearsal of a play as complete as the final performance?
When the proscenium is finally destroyed, the art of projection makes anthrodrama possible, using flickering lies to elicit a fleeting truth.
Amit Desai is a filmmaker and sound artist. He has new works in production in Hong Kong and Brazil that explore the crossroads of vision, myth-making, and dissolution.
CREDITS & FOOTNOTES
Videos: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, and 9) Excerpts from Amit Desai, Cross Eyed, 2021. HD videos. Director of Photography: Gabriel Noguez, Editor: Tim Watson. Courtesy of the artist. 3, 5, 6) Footage shot and edited by Jack Salmon, 2022. Courtesy of J.S. and A.D.