An experimental film presentation has been part of the monthly MN Made film series at the Main Cinema, 115 Main St in Minneapolis. The series is presented by MSP Film Society, FilmNorth and Minnesota Film and TV.
Two films, “The Great Refractor” and “Vostok, Faretheewell,” directed by Andy Graydon, were shown and discussed recently.
Graydon describes himself as an artist and filmmaker whose work is concerned with natural and social ecologies and with sound and listening as creative practices.
His film “Vostok, Faretheewell,” follows a Japanese designer as he bikes and walks around Berlin, where he is vacationing. But he has also just received notice that he is to design a space ship, the Vostok, for a Korean science fiction movie. Throughout the film, he is on his cellphone talking to the faraway producer about the project and its increasing absurdities. He is also taking camera close-up shots of surface details and materials.
“‘Vostok, Faretheewell’ is intended to be followed from beginning to end,” Graydon said. “It has also been shown in installation form, but it is preferable that it be watched.” The film is described as being about vision as forms of power, and about the formations and re-formations they endure on encountering the material world.
“The Great Refractor,” according to Graydon, was very much an exploratory process for him. It is a collaboration with Irish poet and neuroscientist Laurence Dwyer. The film charts the undulating terrain of our attempts to understand the world through both scientific and poetic inquiries. “‘The Great Refractor’ was built to be an installation and loop around with the expectation that someone will not see the whole thing,” Graydon said. “I’m trying to make a map of the world figuring out what the environment is doing with a chorus of voices. The film reaches the end of one little chapter, and instead of progressing to the next chapter, it turns 90 degrees to something that is markedly different but resonates.” He said the work tries to understand the universe. He described characters vocalizing and also listening to the environment, sometimes sitting in rooms and mimicking with their voices.
“I always have two hats on when I am editing a film as to whether it will work as a sit-down screening versus how it is going to be read in a gallery or installation environment,” Graydon said. “It can be like a sculptural tableau, with someone walking by or someone sitting and soaking it in or someone coming back three times to view it.”
Graydon claimed it is a great mistake to think the most important part of a film is what is in the director’s head that should be transported (to viewers). “The most important thing is to conjure something so the audience can engage in the satisfying task of putting the pieces together,” he said.
Graydon has spent much of his career creating and directing experimental films. He was born in Hawaii, but has lived in Berlin, New York and Cambridge, Mass. before moving to Minneapolis in 2020 when his partner obtained a job as chief curator at the Walker.
“I got into film early on,” Graydon said. He recalled that between elementary and high school he became interested in creative writing, and during his high school years worked on light and sound. “I went to college to get a critical theory degree, but I was always interested in film. I got an MFA in radio, TV and film from Northwestern.
“I found myself working on imageless sound tracks. I got more interested in installation art and environmental production and interacting with live video performance. I was working with music and performers and did a lot of collaborating with musicians and other video artists interested in these processes.”
Graydon did a narrative film for his master’s degree. “It was a typical Indy film, and it was deeply unsatisfying. It took five years to complete, and it totally bankrupted everyone involved with it.”
At that same time, he had just moved to New York. “I realized I could get 20 people in to see anything I could do. I started working more consciously with things that in school were minors rather than my major. I flipped that around and did not make another feature,” Graydon said.
Graydon has presented his films in visual arts exhibitions in a black box and running through a loop. They have also been shown on monitors, and at art festivals and in screening programs such as the MN Made series.
According to Graydon, Susan Smoluchowski, the director of the MSP Film Society, and Kelly Nathes, programmer and public relations manager, have a real vision for bringing different kinds of film to the Main Cinema. He said they offer an interesting invitation for audiences to rethink where they start off.
Graydon said the recent presentation of his films at the MN Made series was wonderful and a pleasure to present. “There is a lot of richness in the Twin Cities with artists working with film and sound media. The goal is to see what kind of initial conversations we can get going.” He said he is hopeful there may be quarterly programs in experimental or other forms of film-making.
MN Made films are shown monthly with a reception and discussion, as well as the film. See mspfilm.org
for more details.
Graydon has received a McKnight grant to help make a new film, a feature. He will be making the kind of film he has not worked with since 2001. “It will be in the vein of Vostok,” he said. “It will have to do with listening. The film is called ‘Echo’s Answer.’”