The Nightingale and White Light Cinema Present

The Voyagers – A Double Feature
Work by Penny Lane and Brian Frye

Saturday, November 13, 2010
7:00pm (Lane) / 9:00pm (Frye)
At The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.)


The Nightingale and White Light Cinema are pleased to present a special double-feature evening of work by Penny Lane and Brian Frye, with both artists in person. The Nightingale hosts video artist Penny Lane at 7pm and White Light Cinema welcomes Brian Frye at 9pm.


The Nightingale Presents:
The Voyagers: Part One
Video Inquiry: Work by Penny Lane
With Penny Lane in Person!
Saturday, November 13, 7:00pm
The Nightingale  (1084 N. Milwaukee)

For details on this show, visit The Nightingale website.


White Light Cinema Presents

The Voyagers: Part Two
The Anatomy of Cinema: Films by Brian Frye

With Brian Frye in Person!

Saturday, November 13 – 9:00pm

At the Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.)


For roughly a decade (from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s) Brian Frye was one of the best and most original experimental filmmakers around. Before heading to law school, Frye crafted a body of work that demonstrated a keen awareness of form, a sensitivity to his materials, and a careful understanding of history – both film history and history in the broadest sense. His films ACROSS THE RAPPAHANNOCK (a portrait/landscape work of Civil War re-enactors) and MEETING WITH KHRUSCHEV (which excavates a short fragment of a famous meeting) explore two very different eras of American history in vastly different ways.

Frye is also frequently drawn to the idea of performance, again treated in a multiplicity of way. Two early films, 6.95: STRIPTEASE and 9.95: THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT IN MY LIFE (INFINITE SET), have Frye both as maker and as his own “performer” of sorts. He also foregrounds elements of performance in his found footage work: amateur actors in THE ANATOMY OF MELONCHOLY; the man called to serve God in footage from an unfinished documentary in THE LETTER; even Nikita Khruschev and Jack Kennedy in MEETING WITH KRUSCHEV and the “soldiers” of ACROSS THE RAPPAHANNOCK are positioned within a performative framework. In almost all of his films, Frye is interested in that intersection between truth and illusion, between fact and fiction – in that middle ground where one is not certain which is which.

As rich as Frye’s films are in their thematic, historical, and social delvings, they are even more remarkable for their formal concerns. The early films (6.95 and 9.95) are minimalist exercises situated somewhere between Fluxus and Andy Warhol. MEETING WITH KHRUSCHEV is as finely attuned to the possibilities of found footage as is the work of Bruce Conner. ACROSS THE RAPPAHANNOCK showcases Frye’s excellent eye for composition, color, and texture. And, perhaps above all, KADDISH, THE LETTER, and THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY demonstrate Frye’s understanding that often what is most important is to just let material speak for itself. Judicious editing (and knowing when not to cut) allows the resonant footage of these films to shine, and Frye’s subtle manipulations create disquieting tensions to develop.

Given the breadth and curiosity of his work, it is not surprising that Frye came to filmmaking after receiving an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Nor is it surprising that he, at least temporarily, gave up filmmaking to pursue a law degree. Recently, he’s returned to film and video making, between his lawyerly duties. He’s currently at work on a feature-length project with his wife, video artist Penny Lane.




6.95: STRIPTEASE (1995, 3 mins., 16mm, b&w, silent)
“6.95: Striptease might have been titled "Brian Frye Fails to Strip." We see Frye disrobe, but when he gets to his white undershorts, the roll ends in white flare-outs. There's also something strange about his movements, especially when he drops his shirt - because in fact he ran the camera in reverse while putting his clothes on. As a result, the work is much more than a joke about not doing what so many other student performers are quite happy to do. The unnatural-looking movements and the expectation set up by the title in effect comment on conventional narrative cinema, in which the film's end is supposed to resolve the plot's overarching "issue": Will they have sex? Will they get away with the crime? Here, once one realizes that Frye's movements are off, every instant seems peculiarly nonlinear, anticipating the final reference to the material realities of film. Further, 6.95: Striptease often has a splotchy yellow tint that's the result of home processing. Frye minimized the tint in some of his other films but intentionally did not do so here. The image's occasional yellowish field combines with the reverse motion to denaturalize Frye's figure: he seems trapped on the surface, in the emulsion. […] The splotches and scratches and dust contribute to the sense of film as an object rather than a transparent window onto some reproducible "reality." Frye's point in 6.95: Striptease, as in all his work, is that we cannot directly know the world by seeing it.“ (Fred Camper)

(1995, 3 mins., 16mm, b&w, silent)


MEETING WITH KHRUSCHEV (1997, 35 mins., 16mm, b&w, silent)
“About a half hour in length, ‘Meeting with Krushchev’ is a refilming of a sequence perhaps 15 seconds long showing a meeting between the Soviet premier and president Kennedy. Frye slowed it down in reprinting, resulting in a sequence just over a minute in length, then he rephotographed it more than 20 times with varying degrees of magnification. For the final film he intercut all 21 strips, editing in a way that seems neither random nor precisely calculated. We might see shots of grain patterns, sometimes colored by handprocessing, shots of the action that are a little clearer, and occasional views of the ‘master shot.’” (Amy Beste)


THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (1999, 11 mins., 16mm, b&w, sound)
“In 1999, I bought the outtakes from a short film called ‘A Portrait in Fear’ from the cinematographer. The movie was directed by a chiropractor from Kansas City, Missouri, and shot on an Auricon. The poetry came naturally.” (BF)


THE LETTER (2001, 11 mins, 16mm, b&w, sound)
“An essay toward documenting the ineffable. I’m told that all philosophy springs from one question: why is there something, rather than nothing? Perhaps these are fragments of one man’s answer to that question. He spoke to someone once; I encountered his ghost and replied with this film. One might consider it a dialogue between a man of Faith and one who has merely tasted of the absurd, yet struggles to ingest it.” (BF)

"[Frye] aims to blur the line between completed film and unfinished experiment - many of his best pieces look like fragments or rushes. His work is relentlessly self-questioning, offering a subtle, ever shifting mix of open-endedness and structure. The Letter is composed of ‘visually interesting’ shots, he says, from the outtakes he found for an unidentified documentary. And his film looks like outtakes, with pans around a cemetery and an unexplained bald man. Later a shot of worms moving against a mesh screen introduces a different kind of imagery and motion - and as in most of Frye's best work, there's something creepy about the image and how little it explains. Watching Frye's films, the viewer often feels trapped in a box with only a few peepholes, each of which distorts the world in a different way." (Fred Camper, "Cinema of Possibilities," Chicago Reader, June 28, 2002)


KADDISH (2002, 11 mins., 16mm, color and b&w, sound)
“Here is my covenant with you, says the Lord: My spirit that is upon you, and the words I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth or the mouths of your children or the mouths of your children’s children – the Lord says – from now through all eternity.” (Isaiah 59:21)

“A fragment of tinted nitrate. An acetate recording of a wedding ceremony. Echoes of the bitter sweetness of the Spirit on the tongue of Man. As Frampton tipped his hat to Gloria, so might I.” (BF)


ACROSS THE RAPPAHANNOCK (2002, 11 mins., 16mm, color, silent)
“On December 12, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac engaged General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Before Burnside’s army could enter the town, Union engineers were forced to lay pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River under withering fire. Close combat through the streets of Fredericksburg and multiple assaults on the Confederate army entrenched in the heights behind the town resulted in heavy Federal casualties, which forced an eventual withdrawal.

In November 2001, I attended a small and relatively informal reenactment of the battle of Fredericksburg. About a hundred men and women did their best to illustrate the actions of the thousands of young men who offered their lives a century earlier. An air of absurd theater suffused the entire event, which provided the ground for its peculiar truth. Everyone played their part exceedingly honestly and well, and left something on the film I was myself surprised to find there.” (BF)

“American Civil War recreationists restage Burnside’s failed campaign at Fredericksburg. Frye’s silent, slow-motion photography provides a melancholic distance that magnifies the odd romance of a bloodless enactment of a bloody war.” (Images Festival)



These screenings take place Saturday, November 13 at 7:00pm and 9:00pm at the Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.)

Admission: Suggested dontation - $5.00-10.00 for one program; $10 for both.